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Higher education marketing: are you passing the 5-second speed test?

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Higher education marketing: Slow website = lower student recruitment performance

This past week I had the pleasure of doing a workshop at the Corporate Learning Network's conference on Effective Marketing for Online Education in San Diego. 

Before getting deep into "Speed, Simplicity, and Top Task Completion: 3 Critical Steps to Boost Online Enrollment" I asked the 25 or so people in the workshop to visit the Mobitest site and test the speed at which their "online" entry page downloaded and was ready for use on a smartphone. The goal: be operational in less than 5 seconds. As one of my slides from KISSmetrics reports, you risk losing 25 percent of your first-time visitors if your entry page is not ready to go in 4 seconds or less.

Fastest speed reported: 4.05 seconds

We had 13 people volunteer to report their results: four that were indeed under 5 seconds and nine that were not, although some almost made the cut.

Four schools showed that showed that 5 seconds is not an impossible barrier:
  • Florida International University... 4.05 seconds
  • Colorado State University Global Campus... 4.09 seconds
  • Union Institute and University... 4.8 seconds
  • California University of Pennsylvania... 4.93 seconds
Slowest speed reported: 12.42 seconds

After that, things began to fall apart. Although some were closer to the 5 second mark than others, three passed the 10 second point. Without naming names, here are the times reported:
  • 5.05 seconds
  • 5.75 seconds
  • 6.34 seconds
  • 7.6 seconds
  • 9.0 seconds
  • 9.3 seconds
  • 10.2 seconds
  • 10.4 seconds
  • 12.42 seconds
Does your website pass the speed test? And don't just test your first entry page, test the pages that come after it with special attention to pages for academic programs and others that draw the most traffic.

If you are concerned about successfully connecting with potential students in the mobile world, your website has to open and be ready for business in less than 5 seconds on their first visit. The further above that time you go, the more people will bounce off your site without ever exploring what you have to offer them.

In the workshop we only did one test. Better to visit Mobitest two or three times over one week. And we only tested for iPhone speed. You should also test on Android as well. If you can identify primary competitors, test their speed on similar pages and see how you compare.

Reducing website content to increase speed

You can design your website to open in less than 5 seconds in the mobile world. But you might have to make some difficult content reduction decisions to do that. More on that and the importance of top task decision making later.

That's all for now.

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