College of Arts homepage

A UX case study

The College of Arts pages needed to be moved into the new University web design, to be consistent with the rest of the University website and to be fully usable across devices.

This migration was an opportunity to ensure the pages we brought across were in line with our key users’ needs (prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students, current students, funders, academics, staff).

Data from Google Analytics and Hotjar showed that popular content and key tasks (such as finding postgraduate funding, programme pages) were not easily accessible from the College of Arts homepage. As the homepage was one of the top three pages visitors entered the College pages from (the others were landing pages for pay-per-click campaigns), we needed to make user journeys from this page as clear and as easy as possible.

Since making the changes, we continue to monitor performance of the home page, and we’ll be testing it through observational usability testing with students and staff in the next few months to check our assumptions from the data and make any further changes. 

Step 1: Google Analytics

We used Google Analytics to look at a year’s worth of data on pages with the URL path /colleges/arts.

We used a year’s worth of data to allow for peaks and troughs in visitors. Spikes in visits can be caused by a marketing campaign, news story, or popular times of year such as registration and enrolment and can skew your data.

The setup in Google Analytics allows you to choose to segment your data by internal IP, external IP and all views. For this project we mostly looked at external IP data only, as one of the objectives was to make sure key external audiences such as prospective students were getting the information they needed. (We did occasionally look at internal and both IPs to see if there were any major differences, and this would be something to return to at a later date).

Google Analytics data showed us that a lot of our top content was aimed at postgraduate research students, so the homepage is now redesigned to reflect that, and we’re now about to embark on a revamp of our Graduate School pages as well to ensure we’re meeting the needs of this user group.

Table 1:  Top 11 College of Arts pages by unique page views, external IP, 7 Feb 2017 to 7 Feb 2018
 Page titleUnique page views 
 Degree A-Z (used as landing page for online marketing campaign) 28,091 
 College of Arts (homepage) 17,486 
Postgraduate funding opportunities 9,387
Graduate School 6,523
 AHRC Doctoral Training Programme Scotland 2018/19  3,975


 Research Subject Areas 2,311 
Transfer Policy  2,266
Undergraduate students 2,107
 Registration and Enrolment 1,666
 Taught study 1,657

We looked at unique page views rather than page views, because page views include if a user has returned to the same page more than once in a single session.

We also looked at the previous/next pages from the homepage to identify where users are going and had been. This can be found through the Navigation Summary link in Google Analytics.

Table 2: Top 10 previous pages, external IP, College of Arts homepage, 7 February 2017 to 7 February 2018
Previous page titleURLPage views
Colleges /colleges/index.html 4159
Schools /schools/index.html 1942
Funding your studies /postgraduate/feesandfunding/fundingyourstudies/index.html 968
School of Culture & Creative Arts /schools/cca/index.html 782
School of Critical Studies /schools/critical/index.html 674
Academic units A-Z /academic/index.html 618
School of Humanities /schools/humanities/index.html 559
Staff /colleges/arts/staff/index.html 341
College of Arts: Schools /colleges/arts/schools/index.html 307
School of Modern Languages & Cultures /schools/mlc/index.html 288
Table 3: Top 10 next pages, external IP, College of Arts Homepage, 7 February 2017 to 7 February 2018
Next page titleURLPage views
School of Culture & Creative Arts /schools/cca/index.html 2260
School of Critical Studies /schools/critical/index.html 1397
School of Humanities /schools/humanities/index.html 1355


Looking at the Google Analytics data had some added uses for the migration project as a whole. It also allowed us to:

  • Identify pages that weren’t being visited, and remove them from the site.
  • Prioritise and focus on the most viewed and entered pages to ensure content on these pages was clear and onward user journeys from these pages were straightforward.

Step 2: Hotjar heatmap data

Hotjar allows you to create heatmaps of where your visitors are scrolling and clicking on a particular page. It takes a snapshot of 1000 (or more) visits to that page to create the map.

A screenshot of a section of a heatmap demonstrating clicks on the old College of Arts homepage

Through analysing the click data from the heatmap alongside the Google Analytics data, we could identify key bits of content that users weren’t getting to from the current homepage layout.

Step 3: Develop a prototype page

We used Mockingbird, a wireframing tool, to create quick mock-ups of the homepage layout before putting it together in T4.

From our data analysis, we decided to:

  • Place popular content such as Funding opportunities, Schools, Graduate School and Registration and Enrolment near the top of the page.
  • Delete the ‘Study with us’ page and replace it with direct links to, or on a Study with us tile, therefore reducing the number of clicks users have to take to get to these pages.
  • Remove the left hand navigation menu and replace with navigation tiles, to be consistent with similar pages on the University website. Data helped us here in ensuring popular links from the left hand navigation would be placed near the top in the new design. 

One design used headings to groups similar content, but we decided to go with the one without heading to avoid pushing content further down the page and below the fold. We also made the change from the mockup to change the last few tiles into a two-column rather than three column layout,  as we thought the Twitter and News feeds (where content can change) needed to be separated from other tiles. 

One thing we could have done here is run some guerrilla testing with the mock-ups of the homepage to see if people found it easier to use.

We then chose one of the two mockups to implement in T4, based on our own analysis of where users wanted to go from the data.

A mockup of how the new College of Arts homepage might look

Step 4: Evaluate changes

Hotjar data shows higher number of clicks on the links aimed at prospective students since the redesign. In the previous design, this content was on a tile named Study with us which was a further two clicks away from taking prospective students to either, or

Through the redesign, we separated links out onto a list on this tile, reducing the amount of work it takes to get from the College homepage to these pages and increasing click-throughs: the old Study with us tile got 1.65% of total clicks on the College homepage in December 2017, compared to 11.8% in total in June 2018 and 13.97% in July 2018. 

Searches from this page also seem to have decreased since the redesign. In December 2017, the Search bar was the second most popular place to click on the page with 7.20% of clicks. In June 2018 this had dropped to 3.83% and remained around that number in July 2018 (4.30%). This suggests that hopefully the layout and content changes have made onward user journeys clearer from this page. 

A screenshot of a section of a heatmap demonstrating clicks on the new College of Arts homepage

What’s next?

  • Continue to evaluate the homepage performance using Google Analytics and Hotjar data, making small changes where needed
  • Carry out moderated usability testing on the homepage to see if key tasks can be completed easily
  • Use similar data-driven analysis and the lessons learned to revamp the Graduate School pages on the College website