Is Your Student Experience Mobile Optimized?

Students live on their smartphones and tablets—and why wouldn’t they? They can contact all their friends, browse the web, see what their friends are doing on social media, and even read a book or do their homework. In an age when mobile devices are getting more attention from students than personal computers, it’s time for college admissions professionals to rethink their mobile strategies.

It’s not to say that students aren’t watching TV anymore, or surfing the web on a desktop… but these things are all second to mobile devices. Think of it this way: a 17-year-old student just got home from school and they’re on the couch texting friends with the television in the background, glancing up every now and then if something catches their eye. Or, the student is doing homework on a desktop computer, the phone is by their side—just in case they receive a text or decide to take a quick Candy Crush break. Mobile devices come first.

A recent study examined the impact of mobile browsing on the college search process. The participants of the study were 2,018 college-bound high school juniors and seniors with a greater inclination towards attending four-year colleges and universities. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 70% say the institutions website affects their perception of the college
  • 68% of students have looked at a college website on a mobile device
    • 47% of them reported doing so within the previous week at the time of the survey
  • 51% prefer to have college web sites adapt to their mobile display
  • Top content priorities once mobile users arrive on the college site include:
    • Academic programs/majors and minors listing and details
    • Directory/contact list
    • Enrollment/admissions information
    • Applications
  • The forms that students are most likely to complete or have completed on their mobile devices are the “request information” form as well as the “schedule a visit” form.

In the retail industry, it’s projected that by 2018, 50% of e-commerce will be done on mobile devices. If you want to apply this to higher education, especially considering the current generation grew up online, it’s clear that mobile devices are a key to success. Going forward, there are a few key areas admissions teams should focus on in order to fully take advantage of the present opportunity in the mobile market and e-recruitment strategy.

Responsive design is the way to go. Responsive design offers a cleaner, more consistent interaction experience across devices, ridding smaller viewing spaces of unnecessary clutter. Designing your site—or at least the undergraduate admissions portion of your site—with responsive design in mind allows you to use a single web address that adapts to multiple experiences, giving you clearer insight into visitor analytics and their preferred viewing environment.

Responsive Design Infographic

Infographic from Instantshift’s “Why Do You Need Responsive Web Design” Article – http://www.instantshift.com/2012/09/06/why-do-you-need-responsive-web-design-infographic/

Read the full article at http://www.instantshift.com/2012/09/06/why-do-you-need-responsive-web-design-infographic/

Make pertinent, organized web content the focus of your e-recruitment. If 70% of students are looking for a well designed, organized and overall appealing web site from schools they are interested in, then 70% of students will be turned off by an unattractive site. Your site is most likely to be the first place students arrive at to learn about your school. Treat your school’s website like a campus visit – impress them with an attractive opening touch and keep them coming back!

Offer mobile-friendly form fills. Convenience is key these days – give students what they want, when they want it. Since students are filling out college forms from their mobile devices, make it easy for them to do so! More inquiries = higher yield. If students are able to fill out your school’s inquiry formfill or application materials on their iPad while sitting and watching TV, you’re providing what they want, when they want it, in the easiest, most convenient way possible. In fact, a survey across Spectrum Clients revealed that over 53% of student interactions with college marketing materials occurs after 5:00, pointing to more casual, mobile usage.

Optimize the mobile experience. Deliver a web experience that serves both PC and mobile users. The statistics prove that almost half of the students who visited mobile sites are doing so regularly. Address the needs what your prospective students are looking for when they arrive on your mobile site, and develop a page that responds to each type of mobile device used. Since mobile screens are smaller, they aren’t intended to display the clutter of information meant for PC. Offer what students want from the get-go so they don’t have to be search around – no one wants to have to squint and search!

Bottom line:
Whether you have or haven’t implemented any of these mobile strategies, it’s always important to revisit the quality and content on your school’s site across every medium in which it can (and will) appear.