Websites for higher education institutions often focus heavily on attracting prospective students, that usually means there’s a lot invested in the home page admission and financial aid, facts and figures. Page’s faculty pages, which offer biographies and details about the professors and researchers at the institution, are a different story. They tend to get less attention, and I’m sorry to say they often have a poor user experience, which is unfortunate because they can be very persuasive to some students and their parents. Masters, PhD and postdoc students were the most interested in our study. They were drawn to the pages for particular labs or departments, and then they would go to the faculty pages from those sites. They wanted to see lists of the faculties, recent publications, lists of areas of interest or specialization, and in some cases where they had worked previously. Our PhDs and postdoc students also look to these laboratory pages or individual faculty bios to see if the person was open for recruiting PhDs and postdocs. And then from there they really wanted an email address to be able to talk with the faculty for younger students. Many of them didn’t care quite as much about the backgrounds or the resume of the faculty, but they did want to be able to see the faculty. So even just having that information on a page that’s easy to find and usable is a big help. Several students took to read it to look for ratings for a specific faculty member. Now, granted, your institution can’t very well control that information, but it does speak to a desire that we see from prospective students, which is they want to know what it’s really like to study at that university. And that includes getting a sense of what it’s like to sit in class with the professors at your institution. Now, maybe faculty pages could help out by including more materials that paint that picture, photos of them doing activities in the classroom or descriptions of some interesting recent projects, maybe even comments from recent graduates about how the faculty and their department made a difference. For that, parents want to know who’s going to be teaching, coaching and looking after their child. One mom that we talked to, a high school student, was pleased to see that one professor had a biography that mentioned how she’d spent a year at the United Nations, a parent of a student athlete. Look to the bio pages for basketball coaches to see where they had coached previously. Now, looking at that coaching bio page on one university, the parent explained, you know, this is the person who’s going to see my kid every single day, check in on him and sort of be a father figure.
This is important stuff to establish trust and it starts on your website. In conclusion, while it’s certainly important to address prospective students needs on the main pages, don’t overlook these faculty pages. It’s where many students go to get a true sense of who they’ll be spending their time learning from.