Website benchmark (Universities) sorts the Dons from the Dunces
17 Jul 2012
University websites play an important role on the lives of students before they get to the seat of learning and while they spend several crucial years there. But new research from Sitemorse shows many key UK further education establishments score poorly in vital areas – and are perhaps limiting their own prospects as a result.
Choosing a learning establishment is mostly done online now, given how web-savvy the younger generation area. But University and college sites with errors and problems may well discourage students from applying, in favour of those that work well.
Equally, university sites that are not accessible may well exclude people with disabilities from participation in educational, social and professional activities.
The results of our benchmark show a huge variation on performance in key criteria across nearly 300 further educational establishments all around the UK.
The words ‘postcode lottery’ have been over-used, yet our survey – the fourth time we have benchmarked FE websites in the last 12 months – shows hardly any London-based universities or colleges in the top 20 places. Lincoln’s Bishop Grossetest University College heads the survey, with the best performance, while Lincoln University appears in 16th position. Colleges based in Cheshire, Leicester and Walsall also feature highly.
Sitemorse surveys the websites of businesses and organisations in a number of sectors, and has been benchmarking and publishing the detailed results for a decade. The full results from this and other recent surveys can be seen on our website, www.sitemorse.com. Testing is undertaken by Sitemorse using our specialised automated software that reads the first 125 pages of each site to generate a ranked table.
Established in 1862, Bishop Grossetest University College enjoys a long-standing reputation as an independent higher education institution, offering courses at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate level, in addition to a variety of opportunities for professional development. In our testing we scored their website at eight out of a possible ten marks, the highest score of all the websites tested.
Second in our league table and a riser of 45 places since the Q2 survey is Leicester-based De Montford University, which claims its teaching boosts the UK economy by £389 million each year and creates more than 12,000 jobs. Our benchmarking scored them at 7.6 out of a possible ten marks, and they were scored one of the most highly in the table for accessibility.
Third, fourth and fifth in the survey were South Cheshire, Walsall and West Cheshire Colleges respectively, with scores between 7 and 7.5 out of 10.
Organisations rising significantly in our league table include Wirral Metropolitan College, up 136 , Liverpool Hope University and Croydon College, both up 153 places, Worcester College of Technology, up 161 places to 42nd place overall, and the biggest riser, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, up 162 to take seventh place overall.
We expect a certain amount of volatility in each of our surveys because of the large number of changes happening across hundreds of websites in a sector, and this one is no exception. The largest faller this time is Duchy College, down 158 places from the last survey, but others dropping down the table include Blackburn, North Lindsey and Havering Colleges, and London’s Richmond University, which dropped 147 places to end up in 272nd position overall.
The lowest-rated universities in our table are the Swindon and Norwich City colleges, which both score less than two out of ten marks overall. Swindon College also scores zero on accessibility, like many others in this survey.
Most university websites score poorly on accessibility
The 'digital inclusion' of disabled people is important for many of the sectors we survey, as well as being backed by the force of the law. If someone with a disability, such as sight loss, can't access the information on a website then it could be seen as discrimination.
The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales. Like the DDA, the Equality Act was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face.
Highest scorer on accessibility, rated none out of ten, was University College Birmingham. The college was rated 22nd overall in the table. Good scores of eight out of ten were also recorded by De Montford, the University of Birmingham and University Campus Suffolk (UCS)
A total of 52 university and FE College websites scored zero on accessibility, however, with a large number of ones and twos out of ten.
While we congratulate the top performers here, we have to say the fact that 231 out of 262 university and college websites surveyed scored less than five out of ten is not encouraging. More attention needs to be paid to improving the quality of FE sites, especially as they have such a crucial role in attracting potential students. The accessibility results are particularly disappointing as they point out a risk of litigation in the future should a website viewer not be able to navigate a site properly.
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 July 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 150,000 failures. Fastest overall response time from any site tested was the University of West London.
• For further Information: Geoff Paddock, Head of Communications on +44 1525 375057, gpaddock@Sitemorse.com
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