Saturday, October 9, 2010

this form goes to the bottom of the class

So imagine you are a sixth former - or the parent of one - and you just want to take a look at what a few universities have to offer. Let's suppose you want to take a degree in marketing but are particularly interested in online marketing. So you just want to look through the marketing programmes to make sure e-marketing is included [not all UK universities teach the subject]. So you go to the websites of the various unis hoping that in a couple of clicks and typing in your name and address [or, for switched on organizations, just your post (zip) code and house number].

Sadly, at the University of Sunderland getting a prospectus 'ain't quite that simple. Here's the form you have to complete [click here for the real thing].
I make that 15 fields that must be filled in, and another raft of options you may or may not be interested in - including requesting information that should be available on the website anyway.

But don't worry, you do get a 'personalised VIP web page' - whether you want one or not.

Neither does the page include that old-fashioned facility: the telephone number. Or maybe an SMS number? Remember, I am just making a general enquiry. I don't even know my [or my child's] A level results yet. In marketing terms, I am right at the top of the buying funnel - not half way down - which is what this form is designed for. If you disagree with my analysis, you have to disgree with this too: website usability for improving online forms.

And finally ... there is no statement on how your email address will - or won't - be used. The Data Protection Act is quoted - but does that cover using your email for other promotional purposes? Or passing it on to other interested parties? Legal requirement or not, it is good practice to include a message outlining such things.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. If you go to the prospectus page it sits on the following URL:
https://sunderland.hobsons.co.uk/emtinterestpage.aspx?ip=student16.
Two things:
1 - that form is sitting on the domain [and so, website] of a third party - Hobsons. In my opinion, perhaps a questionable move as the univsity has no control over that domain, site or page eg if Hobsons' server goes down, so does that form. Unless Hobsons agreed to hosting a fourth level domain of theirs on someone elses server - an equally poor idea even if it is technically viable, and
2 - why not host the prospectus for Sunderland University on either:
Sunderland.ac.uk/Prospectus
or
Prospectus.Sunderland.ac.uk
Of course I know nothing about these domain name issues. Oh, sorry, yes I do - I've written a book on the subject: Choosing the right domain name - a marketing perspective

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