Quick And Easy UX Fix For University Sites


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Let’s discuss the return on investment in user experience. As UX practitioners, we are often asked to demonstrate our “essentiality” to external and internal stakeholders. Below is a UX audit of Leicester University’s website, from a usability perspective.

Every one of us will face the unpleasant truth of receiving approval from someone higher for something we believe. It can be difficult to explain something so obvious and frustrating to others.

Furthermore, if you get a follow-up question about the value of your approach it is not something like:

We are impressed by your logic and rationality. How do you measure the effort that you put into design?

It’s not like that. It almost sounds like:

Why not do this instead of spending more money on paid marketing to attract users?

To facilitate the process and preserve our sanity while discussing the ROI of our efforts, we could focus our first steps on the usability issues in digital products.

Analyzing a university’s website

We used the well-known heuristics from Nielsen Norman Group to analyze a university website to illustrate the methodology. We tried to expand the scope of our UX audit by not only looking at the product’s pixel-perfectness but also considering the business needs of users and their expectations.

A couple of factors influenced our choice to analyze a university website. First, there are many user types.

Although it wouldn’t be classified as a digital product that has a transaction-based core it can still be considered one if there are goals (sign-ups, application, chat, etc. There are products (courses), listings, course lists, and a funnel (application process). You can think of it as a fully-fledged business with a vision, a mission, and a strategy.

This mini-report will give you an idea of what Leicester University can do to increase conversion rates and improve ROI.


To find out where and why users may experience usability problems, a heuristic analysis was conducted on the website. This mini UX audit revealed eleven findings that indicate that the main user experience in the product could be improved and optimized for better conversion rates.

These are the main conclusions:

  1. To make navigation and filter architecture more efficient, you can optimize it to provide a cleaner and more result-oriented structure.
  2. It is important to restructure the information architecture of the domain to the needs and interests of target users.

Based on the heuristic analysis it seems that the le.ac.uk domain targets prospective students first, while www2.le.ac.uk takes care of current students, staff, and alumni.

The UX strategy for le.ac.uk must be primarily focused on user acquisition and activation while also providing an easy-to-use and functional navigation system to allow users to reach their destinations. Leicester can and should strive to increase its leads by providing seamless digital experiences. Student applications

Click the button to apply and get a direct application. This seems like the ultimate goal for acquisition. However, the market is saturated with many universities using the same media to attract talent. A great first impression will help increase your chances of being selected for a higher ranking, regardless of university rankings.

If you want to be a top-of-mind option when there are many options, your experience should have two goals:

  1. It is easy to get a student inquiry or a direct application. 
  2. By seamlessly interconnecting dots (events, news & facilities), you can leave a lasting impression by making a first impression.

First Impressions of the UX audit

To evaluate the product, a subset of the renowned Nielsen Norman criteria was used.

  • Use it quickly
  • Standards and consistency
  • The system and the real world should match
  • Flexibility and efficiency
  • Documentation and assistance
  • Recognize rather than recall


You can simply group target users as students, alumni, staff, and prospective students. The header bar, the main navigational medium, doesn’t provide a tailored solution for most users.


A compact and modular layout should be used to showcase the offerings, rather than focusing on one slide.


It is full of content that converts users. The homepage’s menu and above-the-fold area don’t promote specific content types, which reduces the chances of users paying attention.

While most of the content is intended to attract students, it seems that the information architecture was not designed with this goal in mind.


The search box is a great navigational tool for a goal-oriented user or prospective student looking for a program. However, it seems that the module has limited functionality and flexibility.


The lack of hierarchy in the menu structure can confuse users. The main categories are displayed as a primary CTA button in large font sizes. However, the option can also be clicked.


The module is a quick shortcut to the most desired actions but loses its appeal because of its current location on the page and the identical button styles.


The filter structure is not designed to allow multiple refinement criteria at once, which frustrates users and causes them to spend more time searching for the right thing.


Arrow buttons can mislead users. They don’t indicate whether there is a suboption. This button, which is supposed to be a navigational element, creates visual complexity.

The homepage is reloaded by clicking the home button. However, the arrow icon indicates that there are other options. Reloading the homepage can also disrupt the user’s experience.


2019 looks active due to its visual style but is passive.


The primary CTA is a crucial action in the acquisition funnel. It directs the user to another domain, www.ucas.com without further explanation.


The general usability practices make menu behavior a little odd. Without engaging with the second-level options, it is impossible to determine if there are third-level categories.

Next Steps

UX design driven by tests allows for parties to collaborate and iterate products in sprints. This is done through A/B testing built on hypotheses. These hypotheses are derived from UX audit reports.

It is possible to design a hypothesis backlog after you have completed the UX audit. This will help prioritize your findings and allow you to start the test phase.

A detailed UXAAR report (UX Audit Report), can help you see the usability issues from a wider perspective. It will provide a comprehensive snapshot of the product quantitatively and qualitatively.

About the author

Kobe Digital is a unified team of performance marketing, design, and video production experts. Our mastery of these disciplines is what makes us effective. Our ability to integrate them seamlessly is what makes us unique.