2014 Conference

Let’s face it: We’re not 16 anymore



Let’s face it: We’re not 16 anymore, and Mark Heiman, Senior Web Application Developer at Carleton College (better known as @wyrdebeard) doesn’t want to be that age, but he knows that we need to think that way to do our jobs better.

Carleton College reworked their homepage after a series of focus groups that suggested teens view traditional college websites in an unexpected manner.

“We were surprised by how quickly teens create their first impression, how often it does not match our impression, and how that attitude carries through out their admissions process.”

A series of focus groups found that high school students do not fully read content, that they make snap decisions based on photos and that sports engagement resonates with everyone, even non-athletes. Their goal is to find the place where they are going to fit. As such, they are very selfish with how they read websites. They want to have a personal experience that has meaning to them. Many elements on college sites are confusing, such as giving buttons (is this school poor?), close-cropped photos (where is this place?), and top news (not my future major so who cares?).

Mark pointed out that highered sites are selling an experience even if that is not how we want to view our content. We often create sites that require interpretation (which parents get) but that students don’t understand. High school students are still developing intellectually and emotionally. As such we need to make the admissions process easier: no small fonts, less clutter, better photos and easily identifiable tasks.

“Empathy needs to be a part of the highered design process. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and make a site they want to visit again. A serious prospective student will come to the homepage eventually. Help them connect and eventually apply."

Read the whole presentation at

Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc

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