Admissions Launches New Website

Kris Guay, Communications Manager, Office of Admissions

The Admissions Office launched a new website last month and the response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Reader comments on the opening blog post range from “I love the new simple layout,” “The site is extremely clean,” and “I love that it remembers personal information” to “Love the best of the blogs section!” and “I also really like the hand-drawn avatars.”

The analytics on the site also show a rise in actions taken on the site, which have grown from approximately 6,500 actions a day to just over 34,000 actions a day. Actions include things such as clicking a link, running a search, or sharing on Facebook. Time spent on the site has increased as well. Comparing the two weeks prior to the launch, a user spent an average of 3:06 minutes on the site, and now spends an average of 4:44.

From studying the analytics on the old site, we found that many people searched through Google, arrived at the site, visited one page, and left. Since the launch of the new design, more people appear to be lingering on the site longer, and browsing through the Wiki and the Best of the Blogs. As a result, we’ve seen a 10% increase in the number of people who "stay" on the site rather than bouncing off of it and we’ve seen a 152% increase in the amount of time people are spending on the site.

Why we made changes

The Admissions site was getting overly text heavy and the navigation choices had grown over time to an unwieldy number. In the new design, we reduced 12 navigational buttons to five, and transitioned 100 secondary navigational links to just over 20.

We changed the...

Homepage

The homepage was redesigned to allow for the flexibility to deliver new and frequently updated featured information to key audiences. Improvements include:

  • More intuitive user interface
  • Fresh design with clean lines and more white space
  • Streamlined primary navigation
  • Room for featured video from our video suite
  • Signature blog content is updated with illustrated avatars

Interior pages

Interior pages of the site were redesigned to help clarify step-by-step directions in the application process and to allow for better organized content throughout. Improvements include:

  • Better user navigation in the form of arrows
  • Reduced and organized content to eliminate long pages of text
  • Related blog content that change on site refresh along the bottom of every page

Landing pages

Landing pages were redesigned to include additional content, feature bulletins and important dates, and include more prominent photography.

Blogs

The design of the signature blog section was also improved to give it a more accessible and fun “look and feel.” Arguably one of the best student blog sites around, this section needed very little change. But we did see an opportunity to better feature the nearly 4000 blog entries that have grown through the years. Admissions staff and bloggers handpicked a few blogs that are exceptional for a new section called “Best of the Blogs” and these entries now load randomly into the grid at the bottom of pages. Other improvements include:

  • Illustrated avatars
  • Cleaner and more prominent navigation
  • Reduced text and larger photography and media space on individual blog pages
  • A new section for “Best of the Blogs”

Wiki

The "Discover" navigation now replaces the first three sections of the old website. The integrated wiki in this section will allow the entire MIT community to share aspects of the MIT experience that far exceed the admission-related content on the site. We see the wiki as the next generation of our signature blog content and very MIT in its “open” spirit.

Here students, faculty, and staff can contribute information about the many student groups on campus, dorms, and classrooms. We're slowly rolling out editing rights to the MIT community. If you are interested in contributing to the Wiki, please visit http://mitadmissions.org/wiki/Wiki-Editors-Homepage

We will continue to monitor and improve upon the website changes in the months to come. We have a second phase of improvements planned that will include a new search, comment meta-moderation, foreign language support, and video development.