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Newcastle and Edinburgh Universities’ Website Design Comparison

Comparison

Look, Navigation, Structure and Graphics

In terms of visual design, both websites are quite similar, using large fonts, buttons and images to make the process of navigation and the visual appeal of their page better. The perspective is largely vertical, with no additional side bars or tabs being available, and the major categories of the page being outlined at the top. The navigation is quick and easy, with the leoading times for each section being adequate. They are divided into major categories that might interest a student, including question of study and university activities, the staff and other considerations. Newcastle’s website hides a number of its tabs under a “more” section, making the bar look tidier while accommodating more icons. Search functionality is prominent on both pages, making the process of finding the specific information one needs easier. Edinburgh University website appears to be slightly better accommodated for search functionality, as it is able to auto-fill out some of the words being typed, a feature unavailable on its competitor’s site. Another consideration is the general size of the icons and images on both sites. On a medium-sized monitor, the Ediburgh page manages to fit more images, text, and information, while making its quick overview convenient and intuitive. The space on the Newcastle University Website is tightly occupied, with a message to allow it to use cookies further obscuring the vision of the observer. While it generally takes the same amount of time to find the top row of tabs, page navigation and understanding is severely hindered on the Newcastle website. Picture and graphic quality on both are practically similar, looking minimalistic and professional.

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Covid-19 Related Information

In terms of the Covid-19 response, it can be noted that the Newcastle website has adapted more thoroughly and made access to relevant information on the subject easy. A new user first coming to their site is greeted by an image of a person washing their hands accompanying a message of preventative measures. Clicking on the banner redirects a person to an article discussing some of the measures against the virus and the need to continue a combined effort of combating the disease. This information is presented in a concise manner, and an approximate length of the article is stated in the beginning. This allows the staff of Newcastle university to effectively relay their professional stance on the topic of the virus and outline some of the measures considered to be needed for the university environment. Their direct response to the Covid-19 challenges can also be found on the website, by using the search function. Overall, the page has addressed the issue in an adequate manner. The University of Edinburgh website, however, is prepared to a bit of a lesser extent. The initial page does not appear to show any information related to the subject, or contain tabs for accessing it. To view the university position and recommendations about it, a person would need to use the search function instead.

Needs of the Stakeholders

Both websites effectively fulfill the needs of at least one of their major stakeholders – Students and Future Students. Both groups are able to find up to date and relevant information about the process of applying to the university, its main courses, the requirements one must have and the kinds of activities that are performed there. This information is relayed in part by the tabs on the top bar of both pages, or as various redirect links to the other sections of the webpage. In case of the University of Edinburgh, main page and all its subsections allow quick and efficient log in to the student platform needed to access a person-specific data on the education in the university. Other groups, such as the staff, are also able to see information relevant to their needs. The current staff, the hiring requirements and work organization are all outlined in various subsections of the website, with links both at the top and at the bottom leading to specific parts of the page needed to receive up to date information. For those interested in the scientific side of the pages, links to research published by the universities are also a part of the top bar of the main page.

Overall

Overall – both websites provide a student-centric perspective on an educational facility, giving fast, accurate and reliable information on its goals, capabilities and future development ambitions. Students are able to see the information needed through a series of big windows and sections, with many of them being accompanied by pictures. The visual experience is similar on both the PC and a mobile device, as the pages seek to deliver large amounts of information in a quick manner. Information about the Covid-19 pandemic is available no both pages, while the Newcastle page seems to display it more prominently. The design choices and the informational backbone of the websites satisfies the needs of their stakeholders, including the Students, the Staff and Academic researchers.

Further improvement to the layout and the size of some of the objects would be needed, but both sites fulfill their purpose well. In the case of the Newcastle website, a change in the size of the interface to better accommodate smaller screens would be welcome. By putting more quick-to-access information on the screen, the creators are able to more quickly assist users in finding the sections of information they need, making navigation easier. On mobile, the website is also not fully optimized, using small fonts that make the access to needed sections difficult. The size and appearance of the panels and bars should be changed to better fit the phone screen. Furthermore, to enhance the experiences of current students, as one of the core demographics that visits the website regularly, the page should be better suited to their needs. A shortcut to a user canter or a web portal on the main page of the website would be the optimal approach, as it makes the process of accessing student-specific information quick and easily understandable.

For the Edinburgh website, the first step towards improving the user experience would be to make the availability of Covid-19 related information more apparent, and offer necessary solutions to the problems that arise because of it. Other factors, such as the layout and the presentation, as well as the design of the mobile version are made with noticeable consideration, and do not require much adjustment.

Improvements and Suggestions

A variety of improvements could be made to ensure that the user experience, convenience and satisfaction from visiting the website. Firstly, it can be noted that both pages are only available in English, and no translation or language change options are present. It was noted by a variety of research that the usability and user experience can be significantly improved with the proper implementation of a multilingual system (Vázquez & Bolfing, 2013). It can allow the website to be accessible to a wider range of people and make its content understandable both for students and other stakeholders. By adopting various translations of the website into some of the most popular languages, such as French, German and Chinese, they can cater to a wider demographic and be effective in delivering information.

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Another addition that can be effectively utilized is the facilitation of the on-website communication. As shown by a study done by Dessart et al. (2015), users of a website prefer to engage with its staff as well as other users. Adding functionality that would support better communication between visitors and stakeholders could be an effective way to increase website engagement, and gather user feedback. An ability to leave feedback and comments in various parts of the page can also be beneficial to the process of better adapting to the challenges of working with users online. While it is known that data gathered by crowdsourcing can be ineffective in outlining the needs of people, by properly introducing a system of collecting data, some of the problems associated with the process can be avoided (Crowdsourcing Isn’t as Unbiased as You Might Think 2017). By making suggestions anonymous, the bias associated with people supporting ideas of people they know can be eliminated, and the process can be made more streamlined.

The changes introduced this way can better align with the principles of e-CRM, as one of the most important part of marketing within the digital space. E-CRM is a way of gaining and retaining an audience in the online sphere, a collection of methods (Chaffey & Ellis-Chadwick, 2020). The customer-oriented approach and the use of different communication channels to reach a broader audience and make a bigger impact. By establishing proper communication channels and giving the websites a method of gathering data on their users, the creators can create better two-way engagement beneficial for the longevity of their sites.

Marketing Plan

In the case of promoting the existence and development of websites connected with universities, it is important to understand the main goals sought out by their creators, as well as the circumstances of the micro and macro environment (Chaffey & Ellis-Chadwick, 2020). On the big scale, the importance of education and quality of knowledge is becoming more important, making educational institutions much more prominent than ever. With the global development and the process of globalization, the need of universities to adapt to the changes to be successful and be able to work with a larger influx of people is much needed. More and more people from all parts of the world are coming to get good education, and the facilities they use need to answer in kind. On the micro environment level, universities need to continuously introduce change and innovation into both their educational structure and organizational model to win over potential students, workers, and partners. With the change in the use and perception of the digital sphere and its use in business, it is important to recognize how modern online space can be used to effectively support organizations. Digital experience provides a variety of benefits to its users and hosts alike, making the process of receiving and delivering information much more convenient (Kannan & Li, 2017). In particular, the online platform is a great opportunity to expand a company’s reach beyond its normal area of operation, make itself known to a wider array of people (Chaffey & Ellis-Chadwick, 2020). In the context of introducing needed to change to a structure of a website, this consideration can be fulfilled by making the website more accessible to a wider population. An option of introducing multilingual settings to it is one of the more comprehensive and effective, allowing people less familiar with the English language better access. While current research emphasizes the need for more information, the move can be generally considered to be beneficial to the understandability of a page (Vázquez & Bolfing, 2013). In terms of design, this change should be introduced as soon as possible, because it can be a gateway towards further improvement. Another benefit of the online sphere is that it gives organizations an opportunity to gather user data, use statistics and amass feedback (Lamberton & Stephen, 2016). The use of features usually reserved for social media can be effective in introducing larger traffic to the pages and making people more eager to visit them, as it is one of their main features (Ngai et al., 2015). The implementation of a structured communication and feedback system can be effective in both improving audience engagement and creating plans for future improvement. By giving individuals an ability to communicate between each other, the university websites can improve the likelihood of people staying on their websites longer and providing valuable user data (Dessart et al., 2015).

Reference List

Chaffey, D. & Ellis-Chadwick, F. (2020). Digital marketing, Harlow: Pearson.

Dessart, L., Veloutsou, C. & Morgan-Thomas, A. (2015). Consumer engagement in online brand communities: a social media perspective. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 24(1), pp.28–42.

Harvard Business Review (2017). Crowdsourcing Isn’t as Unbiased as You Might Think. Web.

Kannan, P.K. & Li, H. A. (2017). Digital marketing: A framework, review and research agenda. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(1), pp.22–45.

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Lamberton, C. & Stephen, A.T. (2016). A Thematic Exploration of Digital, social media, and Mobile Marketing: Research Evolution from 2000 to 2015 and an Agenda for Future Inquiry. Journal of Marketing, 80(6), pp.146–172.

Ngai, E.W.T., Tao, S.S.C. & Moon, K.K.L. (2015). Social media research: Theories, constructs, and conceptual frameworks. International Journal of Information Management, 35(1), pp.33–44.

Vázquez, S.R. & Bolfing, A. (2013). Multilingual website assessment for accessibility. Proceedings of the 15th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility.

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