2014 Conference

There Are No Break Points in Your Web Strategy: Going Responsive Without Screwing Everything Up

PennState recently went responsive with their world campus website. Rebecca Pugliese and Dave Housley were recruited to help make that happen.  Their presentation, “There Are No Break Points in Your Web Strategy: Going Responsive Without Screwing Everything Up,” was a conversation about strategy.

For the website redesign, lead generation and conversion where their primary goals.  As a result, these goals directly applied to the general strategy they took.  During this process, they used analytics to help them make decisions.  On the website, phone users were:

  • Three times more likely to click a feature article
  • Two times more likely to exit to
  • Fifty percent less likely to view any main menu item

From this, they learned that items hidden in sub navigation needed to be pulled out as users were not using those links.  Analytics also gave them some great insights on their World Campus site.  The data showed that phone users click less, stayed shorter but converted higher.  Phone users on this sighted tended to be:

  • Three times more likely to click a Request Info button
  • Three and a half times more likely to click the Call to Action buttons at the bottom of the page.
  • Three times less likely click Apply Now.

PennState also gleaned inspiration from following several non profit websites, including Path, a global leader in health innovation, and The World Wildlife Fund. These organizations are dependent donations to function and are experts on getting users to click on their Calls to Action.

When considering Content Strategy, you have to rethink features.  Are they mobile friendly and what do they do.   They discussed They also looked at several universities like University of Phoenix, University of Utah and Harvard University.  They found that Emergency Notification treatments are incredibly important and should be included at the top of all responsive websites.

Next Pugliese and Housley discussed the hamburger, the relatively new menu icon that’s quickly being adopted by many websites.  They quoted research from Exis Web that showed that people are 20% more likely to click a button that says menu than the hamburger icon, showing that people still aren’t recognizing it as a menu icon right off the bat.  They also introduced the idea that when planning a responsive website, one should consider the smallest device first, before planning the largest.  When one does, one has to consider putting what’s most important up first.  They showed Happy Cog and as examples of this.  They found that the most important thing users were looking for was Academic Program information, and so they put that front and center.  They also reminded the audience that it is important to think about the device people are using.  A phone is a phone, so its a good idea to have a Call Us button.

When looking at the data, PennState also saw that mobile users are:

  • Three and a half times more likely to visit the maps page
  • Two times more likely to click the current students link
  • Three times more likely to click the prospective students link
  • Slightly more likely to click a link for visitors and neighbors
  • Three times less likely to click links for faculty and staff.

The data they saw goes contrary to current ideas on responsive design.  Perhaps the same experience across all devices isn’t the best approach.  It’s very clear from the data that users behave differently on different devices.


Hamburger image from  via a CC license.

Share this:

By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.