Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Part 2

Below is part two of “How to Create an Effective Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign”. To read part one, visit here.

How to Choose a Focus Group Moderator

A moderator is much more than a note taker. You’ll need one of those, too. However, your moderator will be responsible for eliciting the most from your focus group. The moderator has a profound effect on the success (or failure) of your focus group as they are expected to set a relaxed tone, keep the discussion focused, observe body language and other cues, and create an environment that elicits the most valuable input from your participants.

Moderators must be good listeners. They must be able to manage a group dynamic and facilitate the kind of environment that makes participants want to share. Moderators have different styles. However, a good moderator will adapt to the personality of the focus group. For example, a moderator may joke with student participants while taking a more serious tact with faculty or administrators.

An experienced moderator will effectively manage the group and keep everyone focused. A good listener can ask the right follow up questions and get your participants to share things they might not otherwise.

Analyzing the Results

Before any analysis begins, take a few moments immediately after the focus group leaves to recall the day’s events and fill in any gaps that may exist in your notes. If you’ve taped the session, transcribe it immediately and note any observations regarding body language or behavioral anomalies within the context of the conversation.

After you’ve got each answer grouped with the question it addresses, take a look at your data and ask yourself the following:

  • For each question, are there any responses that stand out?
  • Does the data answer your research objectives?
  • Are there any recurring themes?
  • Are these themes unexpected?
  • What insights have been gained?

Writing a Focus Group Report

A report on your findings should begin with a summary of your objectives. What specifically did you hope to learn from the focus group?

Be sure to include your methodology. How many different focus groups were there, how large were these groups and what questions did the moderator ask the focus group in the search for answers?

What stood out from the answers provided by the focus groups? Provide a bulleted list of key takeaways that can be scanned at a glance. These will serve as talking points when stakeholders gather to discuss redesign priorities and strategy.

Summarize Your Findings and Make Recommendations

Highlight repetitive themes, particularly if they directly address previously stated concerns and objectives. What do these findings mean for the proposed redesign? Based on your redesign objectives and focus group feedback, make recommendations to the stakeholders involved.

As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed., Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

This concludes part two of two. Read part one of “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign” here.

Keana Lynch
Keana Lynch is the Director of UX Design & Development at Beacon where she has provided leadership and consultation for over 35 Higher Education projects. She specializes in the analysis, design, and implementation of websites. Keana is very passionate about design and development strategies focused on user experience, accessibility, multi-device interactions, and technical best practices. Outside of work Keana enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, kayaking and volunteering with local animal rescue groups.
By | 2017-10-11T07:45:01+00:00 October 4th, 2017|Higher Education|0 Comments

Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Pt1

(This is part one of a two part article)

At the time it was created, your website may have met every online objective defined by university administrators. However, things change with time. Shifting technologies, user habits and objectives change the ways in which we appeal to our target audience. A website redesign is needed every now and then. With so many audiences to address including students, prospective students, alumni, and more, this can seem a daunting task. What works well with your existing design? What needs to be changed? You may have your own ideas however, you can’t know what every user may be thinking.

Assembling a Focus Group

There are numerous ways to collect user data to assist you in your redesign. You can send a user survey or questionnaire, for example. While this method can provide some useful information, your feedback is one dimensional as there is no way to ask for explanation. Additionally, one cannot read the subject’s body language or witness the group dynamic. There is no opportunity for give and take.

I strongly suggest conducting focus groups in person, if possible. In person groups allow for follow up questions and clarification. One can more easily identify agreement across the group, provoke thought and prompt participants to offer suggestions.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you go any further, it is imperative that you identify your target audience(s). There may be many different potential user groups you’d like to address with your redesign. However, when you try to please everyone, you often please no one. So identify the 3 or 4 major players. This ensures that your website will have the required focus to be effective. It also works to keep your focus group at a manageable number.

How big should your focus group be?

I’ve found that the best way to facilitate the desired give and take is to keep the size of each group at around 10-15 individuals. Once you get beyond 15, it’s a case of diminishing returns. It becomes difficult for a moderator to steer the conversation and ask follow up questions if there are too many voices in the room.

Inviting Focus Group Participants

Be aware of the fact that each of your focus groups behave differently. That’s why they’re here. This extends to their willingness to participate. Extend invitations to more students than any other group. Their participation levels tend to be lower than others so provide an incentive to attend. For students, free food often does the trick.

How to Develop Questions for a Focus Group

While there are a certain number of questions you absolutely need the answer to, allow for ample time to address questions that your focus group participants have. These can be as illuminating as any questions you may have. Plan on 10 or fewer questions per 60 minute session. Answers to these will very likely lead to new questions you may have not anticipated. While the questions will differ for each of your four focus groups, there are some basic guidelines designed to facilitate meaningful responses and avoid “yes” and “no” answers.

Remember to:

  • Arrange your questions in a logical order.
  • Start with higher level questions and get more granular as you go.
  • Ask open ended questions. These include questions that address design, content and intended usage and require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Encourage questions by participants.

This concludes part one of a two part article entitled “Creating a Focus Group for your Higher Ed Redesign”. As one of the nation’s premier website builders for Higher Ed, Beacon has been providing colleges and universities with redesign consultation and services for almost 20 years. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

Keana Lynch
Keana Lynch is the Director of UX Design & Development at Beacon where she has provided leadership and consultation for over 35 Higher Education projects. She specializes in the analysis, design, and implementation of websites. Keana is very passionate about design and development strategies focused on user experience, accessibility, multi-device interactions, and technical best practices. Outside of work Keana enjoys spending time with her three dogs, hiking, kayaking and volunteering with local animal rescue groups.
By | 2017-09-21T12:51:06+00:00 September 19th, 2017|Higher Education|Comments Off on Creating a Focus Group for Your Higher Ed Redesign – Pt1

Redesign Tips: Make Sure Google Analytics is in Tip-Top Shape!

With your upcoming redesign, you’ll be addressing new priorities and objectives. This will require you to rethink the ways in which you’re tracking various goals and events. You may even need to update to the latest GA tracking code type if you’re not already using it.

Google Analytics needs to be addressed from the earliest planning phase. If not, things could get ugly but quick. If you don’t have a sound Google Analytics plan in place before you re-launch, you may experience a tracking lapse and lose valuable data.

Even with the best planning, it can be easy to forget small but important details. And since I’d hate to see things go south on you, I’d like to share some tips to help ensure that your redesign goes off without data related hitch. So, here goes….

Tip #1: Assess your objectives and tracking needs.

There is no more important step than knowing what you need to track (and why). Without a tracking strategy, you can check off the rest of the items on your list and still end up with sub-par analytics. Relate website analytics to the business objectives, and allow that to drive the tracking strategy.

For many Higher Ed clients with whom we work, this means gaining a clear understanding of objectives per audience type. While prospective students are typically the most critical audience, you cannot forget to account for current students, alumni, etc.

In the world of eCommerce, the tracking strategy involves taking a look at what happens that might or might not lead to a purchase. Are the calls-to-action effective? Is the product page template driving people to add to cart and buy? The tracking must help answer such questions.

Tip #2: Create a reference of all potential tracking elements.

This is not just a simple list of what you wish to track. Rather, it is a helpful planning tool (which can also be utilized any time that tracking updates are needed). This document should help answer question such as:

  • What should be tracked as an event? Virtual pageview? Goal?
  • For which interactions will you need a custom dimension?
  • What page elements are tied to each tracking element?

If there are multiple people involved in the project including web developers, this reference document helps get everyone on the same page.

Tip #3: Use Google Tag Manager for all tracking elements.

Anyone involved in a redesign knows that web developers never have enough available time. Google Tag Manager can greatly reduce the need for web development resources and make the digital analyst’s time more efficient. In a 2016 Beacon survey, we found that two-thirds of higher education institutions were using Google Tag Manager. Based on our projects over the past 12 months, that percentage is growing rapidly.

The best aspect of implementing Google Analytics for redesign through Google Tag Manager is the independence gained by not having to submit updates to the web development team. Sync up with the redesign launch’s timing so that you can make necessary changes for the live site.

Tip #4: Utilize goals, site search, etc.

Believe it or not, we have come across quite a few websites that under-utilize these features (or are not using them at all!). Imagine not having any site search data. How would you know which content is difficult for your users to find? And what if you had no goals and were guessing at your website’s effectiveness?

These all need to be configured when building out the tracking for the redesign test environment. That allows for time to test and validate these tracking features before the redesigned site goes live. Speaking of testing and validating…

Tip #5: Test and validate all of your tracking!

The live site is not meant for testing. You are dealing with a new site that has new tracking elements. While the designers and developers are putting the finishing touches on the redesigned site, utilize the reference document to test and validate all tracking that you have implemented in Google Tag Manager. This gives ample time for you to make any necessary updates and retest.

Once the website is launched, you will need to repeat the same exercises from the pre-launch testing and validation. During both pre and post-launch, the Real-Time reporting in Google Analytics can help with pageview, event, and goal tracking. Also, be sure to check for session continuity during your testing. For the rest of your tracking instances (and to double-check behind Real-Time reporting) utilize the many standard reports provided in your Google Analytics view.

A Final Tip

Start with a Google Analytics audit. I encourage you to reach out to a Beacon team member at 1.888.995.7672 with any inquiries. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding your website redesign and proper Google Analytics set up. And once your new site is live and information is flowing with no interruption, there is one thing you simply must do. Walk across the street to your nearest watering hole and have a congratulatory drink for a job well done.

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2017-08-04T10:36:57+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Google Analytics|Comments Off on Redesign Tips: Make Sure Google Analytics is in Tip-Top Shape!

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Your Higher Ed Website Redesign

After recent experience with several higher education website redesigns, I’ve come up with a list of the top ten ways that you, as a higher education client, can prepare for an upcoming website redesign project.  Though these items aren’t technically required right at the beginning of a redesign project, they are all eventually needed and the sooner they are brought to the table, hopefully the more satisfactory the project results.

  1. High resolution .eps or .ai files of  all variants of the official logo (including reversed text, for example)
  2. An official “style guide” (preferred) or, minimally, a list of brand/official fonts and colors (with hex codes please)
  3. Considerations of all target audiences to be addressed by the website (prospective students, alumni, faculty/staff, community, media, etc.)
  4. A variety of high resolution images of the campus, students, faculty/staff and activities, in both portrait and landscape formats
  5. User id and password (read only access is usually fine) for any secure areas of the site that will be redesigned
  6. Documentation of any dynamic/database driven pages currently in use (a data-driven, searchable academic catalog, for example) as well any forms and 3rd party sites linked to the live site (a third party site for prospective students to apply, for example)
  7. Any  print or electronic marketing materials/brochures that have a graphical presence that should be considered for the website redesign
  8. Requirements for search engine optimization and analytics tracking
  9. List of websites with a similar look and feel to what you are trying to achieve with the redesign (do not have to be .edu sites)
  10. Bonus points:  review my previous blog “Terms you need to know for your website redesign

With these items in mind, I hope that your upcoming website redesign is very successful… Best of luck!

By | 2017-08-08T08:27:13+00:00 February 6th, 2015|Higher Education|Comments Off on Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Your Higher Ed Website Redesign
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