Gathering more useful feedback about your website

I’m guessing that most of you who are reading my blog posts have developed or at least utilized email-deployed surveys as part of your job at the university. But have you also been looking at data from your website (or as I like to call it “the digital front door”) to understand the needs of your audiences?

If not, it's an important approach to consider. A recent article on stated that “A university’s website is the single most influential resource used by prospective students to hunt for a higher education institution.” And in their list of best practices for university websites, the number one item on their list was to start with user research:

“Instead of relying on assumptions, carry out research to figure out who is actually using your site and understand their unique needs.”

While research on website users can be conducted via email, recall bias will prevent the data from being 100% reliable. If you send out a survey a few weeks (or even a few days) after someone is on your site, they may not remember all the details or difficulties during their site visit, or they may even combine the experience of multiple site visits into their survey responses. While this method is better than nothing, it’s far from ideal.

To get the most accurate and useful feedback about your website, the best practice is to gather it at the time of the experience. What does that method look like? Well, if you’ve visited at least two pages on the SMB site and been on the site for more than a minute, odds are you’ve seen an invitation pop up from the bottom of the screen, asking you to take a brief survey about your site experience (and if you could do that when you’re done reading this blog post, that’d be AWESOME!). There’s also a persistent feedback tab on the right side of the page that allows in-page feedback if a visitor finds a broken link or has a comment about page content. Both of these collect feedback in the moment and continually provide data that can be used to improve the site experience.

If your unit is interested in setting up either a feedback badge or an intercept survey on your website, reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help you with a strategy for collecting website feedback. Collecting data on your website is the first step to making your digital front door more welcoming and providing your visitors with the information they need to further engage with your unit.