June 15, 2018
Should You Personalize Higher Education Websites?

There is a mix of feelings within the higher education market on personalized experiences. 

Higher education institutions work hard to create visually appealing experiences and provide students, faculty, and staff with important information. As a result, personalization often is not top of mind. 

So, how important is personalization really?

That’s what we aimed to find out in our 2018 Digital Priorities Survey for Higher Education. In the survey, we asked individuals from higher education institutions about personalization. Here’s what they said. 

Survey Says...It's Not Important for Most


Q: Do you plan to implement personalization (or additional personalization) in 2018?

Of those that said it was a priority, it was not at the top of the list of things that must get done this year (the average rank out of 10 – high priority – was 4). Perhaps that's not surprising because many higher education institutes are currently in website redesign phases which often include implementing a new content management system; personalization is not the most important thing they need to get done.

What were the biggest challenges for those who plan to implement personalization this year? Lack of internal resources tops the list at 77.78%, followed by budget (66%) and strategy (55%). A lack of proper internal resources might mean the institute doesn't have the people in-house with the experience required to translate student expectations into a personalized website experience, or it might be that there isn't enough budget to focus on personalization efforts.

Think About Small Ways to Personalize...

Maybe a full-blown personalization strategy isn't in the cards for 2018, but there are small things you can do with your website to make the experience better. Basic implicit personalization approaches using geolocation information from the browser is one way.

When you work on the content strategy for your web experiences, you think about creating content so that it can be re-used across all your web experiences. A content strategy can also help you understand places where you can insert lightly personalized content. For example, you show a list of interesting news or blogs on your homepage. What if you could show news and blogs that focus on students or topics related to the visitor's location? Seeing local-style content could engage them faster and make them read further into what you offer.

Too often when we think about personalization, we think we must do something big that requires a lot of effort and technology. But often, it's the small things that work best, and it's certainly the right approach if you are just getting started.

...And Grow Personalization from There

As you get more comfortable and understand audience expectation's better – not only students but parents, alumni and other website visitors – you can start thinking about additional ways to personalize the website experience.

A good example here is personalizing the website for returning students. If you already know who the student is, you can show relevant courses and other content on the homepage, in addition to “quick access” links to important information, like registration forms.

This type of personalization does require you to know the person on the website (explicit personalization), so it's a bit more involved than implicit tactics. However, offering this type of personalized experience can make students feel appreciated and important, and that can benefit your school in many ways.

Finally, although GDPR may not apply to most of your students, if you accept international students, some of the regulations may apply to how you collect and store information on those students. Hefty fines go to those who do not comply with the new regulation. Make sure you do the proper research on the new EU GDPR to ensure you are in compliance.

Discover more ways you can personalize the student user experience in our webinar on this topic: Designing for the Prospective Student

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