Methodological investigation for enhancing the usability of university websites

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Journal Article
Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing, 2019, 10 (2), pp. 531 - 549
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© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. For university websites to be successful and to increase the chance of converting a prospective student into a current student, it is necessary to increase the visibility and accessibility of all related content so that a student can achieve their desired task in the fastest possible time. The criteria for evaluating university websites are very vague and are usually unknown to most developers, which adversely impacts the user-experience of the students visiting such websites. To solve this problem, we devised a usability metric and examined the leading university websites to analyze whether these websites were able to meet the requirements of students. In this research, we applied qualitative and quantitative approaches by considering 300 students and evaluating 86 university websites (26 from Canada, 30 from the United States, and 30 from Europe) based on a six-attribute metric comprising navigation, organization, ease of use (simplicity), design (layout), communication and content. From the evaluation results, we find that the 88% of the students are satisfied with our proposed usability attributes, but that most universities fail to meet basic standards of usability as desired by the students. The findings also show that the usability evaluation score for each usability feature varies from country to country, such as for (1) multiple language support − 23% of the Canadian websites, 63% of the European websites and none of the USA websites has the feature; for (2) Scholarships/Funding/Financial Aid link − 24% of the Canadian websites, 80% of the European and the USA websites has the feature; for (3) admission link − 88% of the Canadian websites, 20% of the European websites and 90% of the USA websites has the feature. In addition, from the evaluative result we find that our proposed approach will not only increase the usability of academic websites but will also provide an easiest way to covert prospective student inquiries into enrollment opportunities.
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