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Ethnographic Research: Envisioning a New UT Dallas Website

44b54d2ffcb7857004071cc6795dde11?s=47 Cassini Nazir
December 04, 2006

Ethnographic Research: Envisioning a New UT Dallas Website


Cassini Nazir

December 04, 2006


  1. Cassini Nazir & Haywood McNeill December 2006 Proposal for a

    UTD Parents Page
  2. Table of Contents 2 2 3 4 5 6 7

    8 9 10 11 Contents Overview The Big Picture All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go A Destination for Everyone A Look at Other Colleges A Sample Page Bricolage, or a Happy Accident Information by Audience The Decision Making Process 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 In Their Own Words Common Questions Factors in a Parent’s Decision Calculating the Cost What’s Valuable Parents’ Page Prototype Colluding for a Cause Rolling Wave Planning One More Thing...
  3. Overview 3 This project began with the intent to improve

    and expand the About UTD web page, making a more immersive, experience-driven website. However, early in our research it became clear that the entire UTD website overlooked an important audience: parents. Every student we spoke with said his or her parent had an influential role in their college choice. Every parent we spoke with felt that they didn’t know enough about UTD. We adjusted our project focus. The UTD website needs a page that addresses parents directly. It should answer their questions and speak to their concerns. This document details our thoughts and findings. The creation of a page for parents is just a start. We uncovered other opportunities and needs on the UTD website. A recommended plan of action can be found at the end of this document.
  4. web pages directed at parents web pages on the UTD

    website The Big Picture 4 h Includes Southern Methodist University, The University of North Texas, The University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Women’s University, University of Dallas, and UTD. Other smaller colleges and medical schools, such as Dallas Baptist University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, are not included. 3,500 Colleges in the United States 20 Community colleges in the DFW area g 105 Colleges and universities in Texas f e 6 Major universities in the DFW area h a b 448,000 9 19,810 average number visits to the UTD home page per day a According to Google, as of November 1, 2006. b As of October 26, 2006. These pages were on the Career Center, Counseling Center, and New Student Program websites. None of these pages aggressively go after parents for their vote for UTD. c Website statistics from November 30, 2005 to November 25, 2006. 1 min 52 sec median visit duration d The average (not median) visit is 8 minutes 49 seconds. We chose the median instead of the average so as to not the skew the statistic with outliers. e An approximation, not a precise count. f www.utexas.edu/world/univ/state/#TX g An approximation, not a precise count. c d
  5. All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go The opportunity for

    an experience-driven website 5 This chart describes traffic from the UTD home page to the five main audience pages. The audience pages function like an airport terminal: they are a layover point on your way to your destination. These pages are full of links. The Current Students page, for instance, has 59 links. The UTD home page and the five main audience pages make up nearly 40% of the traffic through the website. Our original idea was to leverage the popularity of these audience pages where we could invite visitors to explore another website where they could learn more about the university. UTD Home Page Rank 1, 30.4% 11,426,706 views Other pages Alumni & Friends Rank 44, 0.1% 47,445 Visitors Page Rank 28, 0.3% 105,520 Faculty & Staff Page Rank 9, 1.3% 475,812 Prospective Students Page Rank 8, 1.6% 591,331 Current Students Page Rank 2, 5.7% 2,134,649 views 37,611,513 total views from November 30, 2005 to November 25, 2006 Information provided by WebTrends Analytics Leverage the popularity of the home page and the five audience pages 61% 9% 30% Home Page The Five Audience Pages Other Pages
  6. A Destination for Everyone The Discover UTD page 6 Discover

    UTD We propose a new Discover UTD website. Here is a visual representation of the possible traffic from these pages. We changed the name from About UTD to Discover UTD — this is basically what we wanted visitors to do. We envisioned the Discover UTD website as an engaging website, full of pictures and information. Focus on experience and discovery, engage the senses Focus on tasks and information, send users allow for discovery UTD Home Page Rank 1, 30.4% 11,426,706 views Other pages Alumni & Friends Rank 44, 0.1% 47,445 Visitors Page Rank 28, 0.3% 105,520 Faculty & Staff Page Rank 9, 1.3% 475,812 Prospective Students Page Rank 8, 1.6% 591,331 Current Students Page Rank 2, 5.7% 2,134,649 views
  7. A Look at a Other Colleges Looking at other colleges

    we realized that most colleges had a home page that was less engaging and less dynamic than their interior pages. We conducted a quick examination of our competitors. Most home pages were less engaging and dynamic than their "about" pages and prospective pages. Put another way, their home pages were generally more boring than these other pages. Which made us ask the question: why? 7 Most other colleges had better “About” pages than their home pages. Engaging Content Disengaged Content Traditional Print Approach Dynamic Web Approach Texas Tech Rice Princeton UT Austin Cal Tech Texas A&M Texas Women’s Stanford Home page About page Prospective Students page Harvard SMU Princeton Texas A&M Stanford Harvard UT Austin Texas Women’s UT Austin Texas A&M Cal Tech Texas Tech Stanford
  8. A Sample Page Here is a sample of a redesigned

    audience page. The important visual element and a personal touch has been added. 8 The personal touch A picture of a current student. This picture would rotate each time the page loads. The image will be clickable, taking them to the Discover UTD site. Cut it out Rather than a rectangular photo, the individual is cut out, creating visual interest and making the focus on the individual. Better use of space The page still has 59 links -- but now with attractive use of white space. Let me tell you Quotes from the pictured student draws the visitor in. The quote will be clickable, taking them to a student profile in the Discover UTD site. The Current Students Page
  9. Bricolage, or a Happy Accident Chaos theory triumphs once again

    9 Not every answer is a key, nor is every problem a lock. These were the ideas brewing about in our heads. With a vague idea of how to approach the five main audience pages, we went looking for ideas on how to approach the Discover UTD website. Until bricolage. Bricolage refers to a shot in billiards which doesn’t turn out as intended but is nevertheless successful. We experienced a similar phenomenon when we analyzed the many audiences of the UTD website. We aimed for the proverbial corner pocket and got it — just not the one we aimed for. It was a fortunate happening, because until then we suspected that we had a key. But if the only tool is a key then every problem is a lock. * Alan Fletcher (2001). The Art of Looking Sideways. New York: Phaidon Press, p. 151. Intended pocket Actual destination *
  10. Information by Audience What are they looking for 10 Value

    Campus Life Enrollment Parents haven’t gotten much attention on the UTD website. Approachable faculty Safety Security Drugs and Sex Affordable Communication Values Grades/GPA Career Control Community Where are they now Connect Give back Career Networking Transcripts Involv’mnt News Events Jobs Hire Fund Subsidize Research Collaborate Collaborate Volunteer time Donate money Share stories Awards Personal/Prof. Dev. Timesheets Policy and Procedure Pay stubs Benefits Jobs Training Community Involvement Planning Empty Nest History Traditions Notoriety Recognition Pride Pride Distinguished faculty Development Campus Enhancement Notable alums Notable alums Give How to help Community support Make a breakthrough Prove something Matriculation How can I help? Support Groups School Pride News Safety Grades/GPA Visits Child’s growth Career choice Campus job Child helps pay Internships Child’s progress Graduate on time Scholarships Proximity/Distance Cost of Education Admissions Academics Housing Student Life Making friends Fitting in Cost Scholarships Freedom Campus Status The Future Job Prospects Goals Comforts Tools for success Parent’s buy in Campus size Sports/Athletics Memories Environment Diversity Support Safety Security Class size Int’l study What’s nearby? Surrounding community Surrounding community Faculty info Campus visits Research Gifts Economic impact Success Stories Scholarly Contributions Awards/Recognition Outstanding Faculty Scandals Notable alums Uniqueness Talking heads Events Entertainment New Hires Expansion Competitions New buildings New programs Global impact Appointments Breakthroughs Grants Tenure Salary Benefits Notoriety Research Campus size Fitting in Family Opportunity Collaboration Funding Workload Workload Current Faculty Donors Prospective Parents Prospective Students Prospective Faculty Alumni Media and News Businesses Current Students Current Parents Current Employees Researchers Publish Teach Class Size Tenure Retirement Conferences Journals Tax breaks Interns Specialization Tax breaks Funding Facilities Research Libraries Access Conferences Equipment Publish Job satisfaction Fitting in Freedom Student Life Grades Grades Our perspective changed when we examined the different audiences of the UTD website. We arbitrarily separated them into twelve different categories and explored what is important for each. It became apparent that we were neglecting one very important category: parents. We discovered that there were only nine pages on the UTD website devoted to parents and none of them explained to parents why they and their child should choose UTD.
  11. The Decision Making Process 11 Donor Alumnus Enrolled Admitted Applicant

    Prospect Student Student Decision Making Suspect Parent Information Gathering Influencer UTD Parent Persuader Influencer Informed Uninformed Alumni Any prospective student. The student has high enough GPA, SAT scores, etc. to apply to UTD. The student is deciding on which colleges to apply to. The student is deciding on which college to attend. The student experiences college. The parent may not know much about UTD. The parent researches and acquires info about UTD.. The parent shares knowledge with his or her child. The parent thinks UTD is a good fit for his or her child and encourages them to choose. The parent is interested in his or her child’s progress and displays school spirit. The parent tells other parents about their child’s college experience. We also considered the path to college, focusing first on students. These student classifications are used by Enrollment Services, UTD’s admissions office. The process is admittedly a generalization and applies mostly to undergraduates. We realized that parents have a similar path concurrent with their child. This too is a generalization, but helped us to examine how influential parents can be – both to their children and other parents. Parents can influence their child if they are informed. The student has a lifelong interest in his or her alma mater. The student gives back to the university.
  12. In Their Own Words Parents and Students Speak 12 “I

    like the campus and the apartments, and I feel UTD would be a safe environment for my daughter.” Flower Mound father “My perception of UTD has gotten better since going on this tour. I feel better about Lauren going here.” Houston-area father “My parents are paying, so it [the final decision] is up to them. My parents are really involved in my college choice.” Rowlett-area student “UTD is promising because it’s far enough away from my parents, but close enough for them to visit.” Greenville-area student “My father did all the Internet research in search of a university for me. We are looking at schools in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.” Carrollton high school senior “Proximity was what got UTD on the table, and academics kept it there. My daughter is academically inclined, so academics really matter." Lindale, TX father Parents are eager to find out more information about UTD. Almost all of the parents and prospective students we spoke with confessed that they knew very little about the university. Their observations were enlightening. “I like that UTD is located in Richardson instead of Dallas -- the transition won’t be rough.” Fort Worth-area family “I’d like to have direct contact and conversations with people who have real information about UTD and what it’s like.” Carrollton-area mother “UTD looks like an open campus. I wonder what the crime rate is like around here.” Dallas-area father “There’s not a lot of press about UTD. I don’t know much about it. My first daughter never even considered UTD.” Dallas-area father We listened to what parents were looking for.
  13. Common Questions The Pareto optimal: 80% of what’s needed is

    in 20% of what’s asked 13 From their questions, we formed an image of what parents were looking for in a school. Like a 35mm film negative, this only gave us an outline — the final picture needed to be fully developed. Patterns emerged from these common questions. Is UTD part of the UT System? Is there a study abroad program? How do UTD’s apartments compare to dorms in terms of cost? Does UTD have much school spirit? What is UTD’s crime rate? Tell me about UTD’s academics. What’s there to do on weekends? Are there intramural sports? Is tutoring available? Does UTD have mostly night classes? Is UTD a public school? Where are most students from: in-state or out-of-state? What is UTD’s strong suit? How does UTD’s job placement compare to other colleges? Does UTD have small class sizes? Do most students work during the day and take night classes? Describe the typical UTD student. Are there religious clubs and organizations at UTD? Will my child fit in? What kind of students will my child be studying with? Tell me more about the faculty. I’ve heard UTD is just a commuter school. How much financial aid and scholarships are available? What is UTD’s relationship with Texas Instruments? How old is UTD? What’s UTD’s role with sister schools (Austin, Arlington, etc.)? What is Dallas like? “Typical” Parent
  14. Factors in a Parent’s Decision What is important to parents?

    Putting together comments and questions from parents and students we emerged with a clearer picture about what factors go into the college choice. We realized that the primary concerns (in blue) were the same for most parents, with a unique mix of secondary concerns (in green). The six top factors we found include: Academics How good is the university and its programs, and how well respected is it? Cost Can I afford this university and is it a good value? Housing What will my child’s accommodations be like and how much freedom is there? Location/Proximity What is close to the campus, and how far will I be from my child? Safety Will my child be secure at the school and in the surrounding area? Size Will my child have the Goldilocks syndrome: this campus is too big; this campus is too small? College Choice Academics Housing Cost Location/ Proximity Safety Size Traditions Campus Growth Notable Alumni Athletics History Fitting In Ability to Communicate Experience Control Well-Rounded Surrounding Community Athletics 14 We differentiated primary and secondary concerns.
  15. Calculating the Cost The difference between an informed and uninformed

    parent 15 Many parents confess that they don’t know much about UTD. Parents can steer their child’s college search and provide insight and information. The Metroplex has six major universities and numerous community colleges. Uninformed Parent + + = Parents’ Role as Major Influence Number of other college choices Uncertainty Ceteris paribus, people gravitate to a known risk rather than an unknown. Cost is often cited as a major factor why parents like UTD. For example, 15 undergraduate hours at SMU costs around $13,000 while UTD costs around $4,000 — a difference of $9,000, or the price of a used car. However, the cost factor may be overridden by whatever scholarships, grants, or loans the student has or also whatever resources the parents possess. A parent whose concept of UTD is outdated (“the commuter school in the middle of Richardson that lacks a social atmosphere”) might gravitate towards SMU, all other things being equal. The real power of the parent is influence. Telling UTD’s story to parents enables them to inform and also persuade their children, who likewise might have an outdated idea of UTD. An informed parent who knows more about UTD would be more likely to give it proper consideration. Parents can steer their child’s college search and provide insight and information. This part of the equation does not change. Informed Parent + + = Parents’ Role as Major Influence Number of other college choices Influence An informed parent can exert influence on their child’s college search. We realized the amount of influence parents have in their child’s college choice.
  16. What’s Valuable 16 Converse Share Act and allow parents to

    Inform The page should Inform As we have demonstrated, information is crucial to the college choice. As a result, this is a primary objective of this page. Act According to Enrollment Services, most parents and students make their final decision soon after a campus visit. Getting prospective parents and students to the university help both the university and the parent. Converse A Carrollton-area mother mentioned that she wanted to have "direct contact" with people who know about UTD. Enabling current parents to talk to prospective ones allows current parents the opportunity to contribute and gives prospective parents the information they desire. Share The internet makes sharing information easy and we wanted to leverage this, and maybe even grease the wheels a bit. What should this page do?
  17. Parents’ Page Prototype A vision of what the page could

    look like Call to action Parents can sign up for a tour, request information, get a newsletter, or email a friend— all without leaving the page. The personal touch A picture of an actual parent with a student. This links to a profile, detailing the Kimosabe’s story, allowing a current parent to speak to prospective ones. Address concerns A small list of “talking points” addresses parents primary concerns and speaks to UTD’s strengths. Give me more A large amount of space is allotted to detail each of the “talking points.” We can link to other pages within the text, but only if they provide additional information. Set the tone A short introductory paragraph sets the tone of the page. 17 A visual description of our research. Converse Act Share Inform Inform
  18. Colluding for a Cause Other campus offices would benefit or

    can add value to the parent audience. Enrollment Services As the campus’ recruiter, this office has the most to benefit from this page. They would presumably experience an increase in campus tours (perhaps something that we can use to measure the success of this project). Parent and Family Association The newly created PFA would also benefit from this project with an increase in membership. Alumni Association Getting alumni to speak with parents would satisfy the parent’s desire to know more about the school. Police Department The very presence of policemen and women enhances the safety concern. Perhaps a routine patrol could be coordinated during a tour so that a policeman is ready to speak with parents and students. Communications The newly created communications office would need to create print materials, websites, and write content for parents. 18 A value proposition for stakeholders around campus Potential benefactors of this page Newsletter Message Directions Police Patrol Safety Campus Tours Info Coordinate Connect Connect Parent and Family Association Alumni Association Police Department Enrollment Services Communication Parents Page Newsletter Printed Materials
  19. Rolling Wave Planning By slowly creating new pages or focusing

    current ones, we can better tell UTD’s story PARENTS’ PAGE Pages to be created Pages to be focused UTD HOMEPAGE NEW UTD HOME PAGE Informs an audience that we currently are not addressing DIRECTIONS PAGE Make it as easy as possible to get to UTD VISITORS PAGE Address the concerns of visitors and our public image ABOUT UTD PAGE A robust website that tells UTD’s story by way of student and faculty profiles, addresses our audiences’ main areas of concern, and speaks to our core competencies AUDIENCE PAGES A redesign of the “green bar” pages to allow for profiles Profile Profile Profile NEWS SERVICES A daily campus news service that tells UTD’s story to the news media 19 We describe a practical path beyond just a page for parents.