In today’s world, we are all increasingly reliant on the efficiency and ease that digital communication provides. Ranking amongst the most trafficked digital platforms, higher education websites contain vital links and information that needs to be accessible for all visitors. Indeed, the core purpose of a functioning university website is to provide access to important information, and so it makes sense that delivering a positive and inclusive user experience should also be high on the agenda.
Higher education websites remain an important channel for distributing content to students, parents, alumni, and more. And so it follows that their content should not be viewed as something static, but rather as a constantly transforming, adapting and changing interface. In order to remain up to date, accurate, and user friendly, online content requires good governance.
With thousands of students, faculty, and professionals constantly accessing sites for a variety of reasons, we wanted to take a look at the top 50 U.S. University websites to see where they currently rank on key web optimization factors. The criteria listed in this "Top US Private University Websites 2022" report is a baseline list of the accessibility, quality assurance, and performance standards that have become more and more critical as new hybrid and remote classrooms are built. The report at a glance, gives you a look at content, quality assurance, web accessibility, SEO, response time, and performance rankings for the top U.S Private Universities and Colleges.
[Download the full Top US Private University and College Websites 2022 here]
Content Quality Assurance
So how did private universities and colleagues fare when it comes to content quality?
When assessing content quality assurance, we looked at on-site errors such as misspellings, broken links, broken images, and readability issues. As higher education websites are used as a channel to access vital information and updates, taking a closer look at these aspects helped us get a better idea of how they are keeping up with content changes.
Our report revealed that 58% of our surveyed respondents had 20+ content contributors making frequent and valuable updates to the website. Since there are often many content contributors working on a site, it’s important to keep up with newly uploaded content and make sure that there is a process in place to check for errors such as missing Alt text, etc. We found Universities such as University of Richmond, Hamilton College, and John Hopkins University to all be scoring above 96%, which is great to see.
We also scanned the top 50 U.S. private university and college websites to see how they perform when it comes to ensuring accessibility for all visitors. Having an accessible website ensures that your content is available to anyone, regardless of their ability. Creating a path to compliance means making sure that your website is in line with the WCAG 2.1 standards. The Monsido platform scans websites against the WCAG 2.1 guidelines to identify areas that could become more compliant.The industry average of these top 50 private universities for web accessibility was a score of 71.5%. This basically means that they are landing in the “good” territory. At Monsido, we always say that accessibility is an ongoing process and not just a one time fix, so it’s great to see that universities are continuing to prioritize the accessibility of their content and making their websites more user friendly. Find out more in the full report how the survey respondents ranked accessibility when it came to website priorities.
Search engine optimization (SEO) continues to become more and more prominent as organizations realize the negative impact that SEO errors can have on their digital presence. Seemingly small things such as missing H1 alt tags, broken links, and having too many internal links on one page can do major damage to SEO.
Since most higher education websites thrive on a demand for traffic in order to increase applicants, alumni, and others, SEO is something that should be a top priority. In this report we were happy to find the top U.S. private university websites were scoring in the “Excellent” category based on a higher than 80% score.
But what about the overall performance of your website? The overall user experience is heavily impacted by a website’s performance, which can be affected by all of the various optimization factors like response time and ensuring error free content. By maintaining good performance, higher education websites can help to ensure a better user experience. A renewed focus on performance may be a high priority for higher education in 2022, as the website benchmark landed them at 57.2, scoring the “poor” category.We encourage the use of optimization tools to help universities manage and govern their websites and to assist with compliance, accessibility, and management tasks.
Ranking Higher Education Sites
In conclusion, by scanning the top 50 U.S. Private Universities, we were able to get a snapshot of how some of the leading higher education institutions’ websites rank amongst their peers. Accountability for digital inclusion continues to be a cornerstone of their website optimization efforts, but there are other areas that need improvement. Especially as students, parents, teachers, and others alike, continue to rely on the website as the central and digital information hub for their school. Curious to find out more? Our 2022 Top 50 U.S. Private universities benchmark report shows you what’s working, what’s not working, and what could be better.