5 Experts Critique a University of Phoenix Landing Page

by 10 11/14/2012

The University of Phoenix enrolls over 300,000 people into degree programs each year.

They are one of the largest for-profit universities in the world.  They are, in large part, a virtual university with the majority of their students meeting online.

This school is big business.  Let’s take a look at their use of Pay-Per-Click advertising.

The following landing page was displayed after clicking on an ad triggered by Google Adwords for the term ‘get mba online.’

Click here to visit the live landing page


University of Phoenix Landing Page

Here’s what our conversion experts had to say about this landing page.

 

Tim Ash, Site Tuners

Tim Ash

 

What I Like:

Decent production quality.

What I would change or test:

1) Change or remove the giant graphic.

This graphic is gratuitous “business porn” that can be bought cheaply at any stock photo website. It does nothing to support the call to action and draws way too much visual attention. The person in the image is looking upwards and makes the visual attention go into the header and not into the call-to-action box.

2) Match visitor intent with better headline

A clear spanning headline that supports the “get MBA online” keyword would be best. “Get Your MBA Online at University of Phoenix” would be much more powerful than some marketing happy-happy talk about “Become a Phoenix.”

3) Make the call-to-action box compelling.

The current box is a basic outline and essentially white-on-white. The headlines for the two steps are very weak, and the “Next Step” buttons are uninspiring.

~Tim Ash, Site Tuners

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Brian Massey, Conversion Scientist

Brian Massey

 

What I Like:

MBA? Done! Man was that fast! I liked how the 5 steps didn’t really feel like steps thanks to the short forms. These can be dangerous, but I think U of Phoenix has gotten this one right.

The call to action in the form is good, offering a free consultation. Repeat this again on the “Last Step” for extra conversion goodness.

What I would change or test:

Overall the design draws the eye to the important parts of the page. I would test the following:

1. The copy is functional, but not inspiring. Inspire me! Overcome my natural fear that an online degree won’t be taken seriously.

2. There are two calls to action in the form: “Learn More!” and “Get your personalized consultation”. Pick one and stick with it through each step.

3. Reconsider the “Business Porn” image. Where is the devilishly handsome young man looking? Is he a student? Use a picture of a real graduate and put a caption on it. “Emma Beeyay, Graduate and employee of BigCo, Inc.” That’s an image and caption that is truly sexy.

4. “Five steps” sound like a lot. Try four, three, two and one.

5. Try something other than red for the page’s color palette. It communicates “danger” and “error.”

~Brian Massey, Author of The Customer Creation Equation

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Justin Rondeau, WhichTestWon

Justin Rondeau

What I Like:

This is a nice looking landing page, they’ve removed any navigation and hyper-focus the user on completing the form. Some other noteworthy aspects to this page (I will go more in depth about these below) include the form progress indicator, dynamic content, and boxing off the form.

1) Form Progress Indicator

I have seen plenty of tests between single page step forms vs. multi-step forms. Whenever I see a  multi-step form I applaud the form’s creator for adding a progress bar indicator. As soon as I hit the landing page I am informed by the form’s headline that I will complete this form in ‘Two Easy Steps’ (the screenshot provided says 5, but when I visited the live landing page I was given a 2 step process).

However, from a design standpoint, the visual cues are not consistent with the headline copy. For example if I am on step 1 of 2 and the progress bar indicator is only a 1/4 full, I am not receiving visual confirmation of the length of the form.  Updating the progress bar, to reflect a two-step process could help re-enforce the message in the copy.

2) Dynamic Content

I really liked the dynamic insertion of the City, State, and Zip. However, from a usability standpoint it said I was located in Auburn, MA when I am in fact in Brighton, MA. Since it got the city and ZIP wrong, I had to click a small text link to update my information. Dynamic content is one of my favorite things to see used on a page, but make sure it is working correctly before sending your PPC traffic to the page.

3) Boxing off the form

I also really liked how the form was separated from the page via a red outline. This is a great way to draw attention to the form and get visitors to complete the desired action. One thing I would suggest trying in addition to having the form in its own box, is to make the background of the rest of the landing page a little darker than the form. This would drive the eye to the form even more than a 1-2 pixel red outline.

What I would change or test:

I discussed above some of the downfalls of this page, specifically the dynamic content being a little off and the progress indicator’s design being insufficient as a visual cue for the form’s headline. So on top of tweaking those two issues, I have one more suggestion for this page:

Tighten up the copy and highlight your benefits!

Firstly, I feel there is a lot of text on this page, and that the particular headlines in use are fairly generic.  I can’t stress how important copy is on a landing page, and none of the copy provided makes me feel confident that I will benefit most by going to the University of Phoenix for my MBA. The reason I don’t know the benefits is because NONE of the benefits are highlighted properly, they are listed below a long paragraph of text.

On first glance I thought the University didn’t include any benefits oriented text because I started reading the long paragraph and got distracted. If I am that easily distracted writing a review, think of how distracted your consumers will be.

~Justin Rondeau, WhichTestWon

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Naomi Niles, Intuitive Designs

Naomi Niles

What I Like:

This one is difficult because I know that the University of Phoenix extensively tests their landing pages and this solution is probably the best one they’ve tested.

One thing that I think they do differently and likely works well for them is dividing the form up into several steps. This helps keep the form from feeling overwhelming.

The message of the page is also clearly in line with the search term, which is great.

What I would change or test:

Again, difficult! I believe what I would do would be to run small variations since the overall layout has probably been optimized (not that it couldn’t be optimized further as well).

So, I would test small things including the hero shot, the messaging and headlines, and combining form fields when possible.

~Naomi Niles, Intuitive Designs

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Ryan Poznikoff, Wider Funnel

Ryan Poznikoff

What I Like:

1) The prominence of the call-to-action button

2)  The headline, which serves to anchor the eye

3) How the imagery influences gaze towards the CTA and form

What I would change or test:

There are few things that I would recommend testing for this 2 step landing page process, namely the following:

1) Improve the prominence of the form by applying a border / background treatment only to the form

2)  Moving the placement of the form to be directly under the headline to improve eye flow

3)  Provide the top countries of enrollment at the top of the “What is your Country of Residence” for easier selection

4)  Improve headline relevance by including the terms MBA and Online

5)  Provide subheads for each step in the form to manage visitor expectations

6)  Include a privacy policy and anxiety reduction messaging regarding information security

~Ryan Poznikoff, WiderFunnel Marketing

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Did you notice some trends in these comments from our experts? Here are three:

  • The “hero shot” is a generic image.  Test replacing it with a real graduate from the University of Phoenix with a caption that quickly tells that graduate’s story.
  • The headlines are weak or are generic.  Test including the keywords ‘mba’ and ‘online’ in the headline.
  • Test variations of the form’s background color and contrast with the rest of the background of the page.

Of course, the only way to know is to test.

What are your thoughts on this landing page for the University of Phoenix?

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10 COMMENTS

Jared Smith

What I like:
1: I like the graphic. Yes, it is a little generic, but it hits the target market squarely. Most MBA candidates are men (~55%) 24-30 (45%) who are interested in personal wealth [GMAC 2012 report]. Stock photography or not, people like to see themselves enjoying a product before they buy.
2: I like the live chat option. If you are unsure whether you’re truly interested, there isn’t any where to browse, but the live chat can help push you to fill out the form to get more marketing materials. (hover color claches with the red though)
3: I like the short forms that are broken into steps. It makes it easy to complete the first step. I also like that they keep the picture (or at least the important parts) through the entire process.
4: My test was a little different (proving they are constantly testing these things and more). The last step for me was almost a full page form, but I like that they use javascript to let me know when I’ve made a mistake before I even get to the next field.

What I would test:
1: Put a small paragraph or at least an [i] hover that tells the user why you need their name, address, phone, email, etc. etc. on the last page. Something like: We will send you a complementary brochure and one of our expert career counselors will contact you for a personalized consultation to help you select the best path for your career goals. This helps set the expectations for the person filling out the form.
2: The GMAC report also shows that home life is very important for MBA candidates, especially those looking for an online degree. I think the page could benefit from some copy or bullet points that highlight how University of Phoenix lets you take courses online or on campus, and this flexibility makes it easy to ballance work, life, and school, all while achieving your goal of an MBA.
3: If you were to test changes to the picture, I would NOT test a student graduating. (I didn’t attend any of my graduations). I would test a picture of a guy playing outside on a nice day with his family. That’s what an MBA is all about. Get a degree to make more money to spend more time on the stuff that counts.

November 14, 2012 Reply

Nigel

Interesting that none of the experts picked up on the live chat option, I wonder if this is because they didn’t feel it was important or it didn’t stand out enough.

November 14, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Not sure Nigel. What are your thoughts about the live chat option?

    November 15, 2012 Reply

Linda Bustos

I love how the experts start off with what they like. As I jotted down notes looking at the screenshots, I never thought to include something positive :)

My first impression was that my eyes were deadlocked on the hero shot. It’s a very strange head position. I can see what they’re trying to do here, use the model’s gaze to point to the call to action, but the way the page is designed and content is chunked, I doubt it has the guiding effect. I agree with Tim that the gaze is upward. The call to action is downward.

The gray progress bar may also be hindering eye flow to the dropdown menu. My eyes got stuck on that as well.

I don’t like the 2-column blocks of text. The paragraphs, though including bullet points, look longer because they are squished down, my brain has to separate these sentences from the peripheral text on the other side.

But my biggest challenge was the headline. “Achieve your goals with an MBA.” Well I assume if an MBA was the ticket to realizing my goals, any old online MBA program would do. What makes U of Phx better than any of the other online options. Why should I stay on this PPC landing page and not jump back to search results to see what else is out there.

I agree with the comment that showing a real graduate (who works for a Fortune 500 or better) with a testimonial would trump the stock photo.

November 16, 2012 Reply

Angela Cason

From a branding perspective, Phoenix is walking a thin line here. Yes, it’s a clean, sanitized layout, but that also underscores the clinical, depersonalized nature of the educational ‘product’ they are offering. Whether the admission selection process matters, whether in-person interaction contributes to learning (or networking), is the crux of the argument about the future of education. This approach — including a guy who is so disengaged he can’t even look at us — leaves me stone cold. Further, it doesn’t match their television message at all.

November 19, 2012 Reply

Stacey

It was very interesting the see the number of varying things the panel picked up on. Especially when Naomi said, she knew they would have already tested extensively. It’s amazing what persepective a fresh pair of eyes or 5, can offer.

November 19, 2012 Reply

Visueel Advertising

The picture is totally not inspiring. Typically stockphotography without emotions. The landing page misses emotion.

November 23, 2012 Reply


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