Website benchmark - Universities and colleges learning they need top-class websites
16 Apr 2012
When you consider most of today’s higher education students have never known a world without the internet you can see how vital it is for universities and colleges to have websites at the cutting edge to help attract the best and brightest.
New research from Sitemorse rates the websites of almost 300 further education institutions in the UK against a list of criteria including code quality, accessibility and compliance, as an efficient site provides a much better experience for its users.
Walsall College, a leading provider of vocational courses in the West Midlands, has the best site surveyed this time, scoring just under nine out of a possible ten points. The website provides the shop window for a college that offers courses on everything from beauty therapy to renewable energy and which attracts 3,500 students a year. Sitemorse rated the website highly on function, code quality and performance.
Sitemorse conducts regular surveys of the websites of businesses and organisations and has been benchmarking and publishing the detailed results for a decade. This is the third time we have audited higher education websites. The full results from this, the second further education survey this year, and other recent surveys can be seen on our website.
Other establishments at the top of our index this time include Farnborough College of Technology, Yorkshire’s East Riding College, London’s LCA Business School, which has topped the last two universities surveys, and Bishop Grosseteste University College at Lincoln, which has risen more than 90 places since our last survey was published earlier this year. There are only two universities at the top of our chart, those of Cumbria and the University campus Suffolk (UCS) at ten and twelfth place respectively.
Websites change all the time, for better or worse, so there is always a level of volatility in the survey results from our software-tested benchmarks. Climbers this time included South Tyneside College, in 33rd position with six out of a possible ten marks and a climb of 214 places over our previous survey.
The University of Stirling (+153), Exeter College (+149) Yorkshire Coast College of F &HE (+133) and the College of West Anglia (+119) were all significant climbers.
There were also some significant fallers, headed by the University of London Institute in Paris, which hurtled down 175 places from 84th last time to 259.
Sitemorse concluded: Great performances by the websites of the top-rated colleges and universities here, but as in so many of our other survey sectors the best-known establishments you would really expect to see at the top of our survey are somewhere in the middle or below.
There is clearly a huge amount of effort being put into further education websites against a background of rocketing fees, but we are still finding errors and problems that could be easily and economically fixed if the site owners put their minds to it. Given that the target audience spends more time online than any previous generation, this is more than just a shame. Clearly a website is not going to be the pivotal factor affecting s student’s decision where he or she will study, but it’s likely that poor-performing sites will put off many initial toes in the water of what is fast becoming a very competitive pool.
About our surveys, and how they work
For more than a decade, Sitemorse has been the world's only single solution for web content governance, monitoring, recording and benchmarking.
Our unique Index publications, published several times a year, provide an up to the minute snapshot of the best and brightest business websites, with insight into which are passing – and failing - vital tests in performance, compliance, and accessibility.
Our software is used to test the sites of major organisations in a variety of sectors, (for example, FTSE All Share companies, and the UK Top 500 retail companies) to compile an index of who ‘does the web’ best.
Sitemorse is now the suite of choice for organisations wishing to ensure their sites provide total, holistic web governance and a great user experience. Our hundreds of clients across major corporates, local and national government, utilities, financials and the health sector rely on us to help them improve the performance, compliance and quality of their websites, delivering control and web confidence.
Web content management systems alone cannot hope to cover major issues such as performance, compliance, brand, accessibility and quality without help. Our products integrate (including pre-live checking - within your CMS) to ensure these vital areas are constantly under control.
We offer three levels of products, from our enterprise platform 'Governisation', a blend of governance and optimisation, to a suite of tools to help web editors and managers, as well as free in-browser tools that can be used by any web user to quickly ensure pages are error-free (our web managers toolkit). All our services are SaaS based, with no set-up or management and are designed to ensure that our hundreds of clients in major corporations, the financial sector, and central and local government have total confidence in their websites.
This survey took place on April 6, 2012 and involved benchmarking more than half a million separate URLs. Poorest code quality was recorded for the New College, Stamford site, with more than 145,000 failures. Fastest overall response time from any site tested was the University of West London website. Just four sites were officially “error-free” according to the Sitemorse methodology. Highest scorer on accessibility was the University of Birmingham, with 9 out of 10 marks, though filings in other areas meant the university only ranked 28th in our survey this time.
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