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The Problem
I do work on a corporate Website which displays information to users as a Marketing tool.

The issue is that we are an educational institution and sometimes need to display certain information. This makes the site a little bit bloated. E.g.:

  • A Domestic Student does not care or need to know International Student fees
  • An Undergraduate Student does not want to see Postgraduate Course fees
  • etc

Solution
I had this brilliant (albeit unoriginal) thought to have a quick pop-up dialog, where the user can set what they're looking for, and have the site tailored to their needs. E.g.:

  • I am a High-school student --> Will only be interested in Undergrad stuff (no post-grad)
  • I am Domestic --> So not interested in International fees
  • etc.

Will this make the site more usable/user-friendly?

Concerns
My main concern is that this "extra-step" to set all these settings might be distracting for a user1.


1. My initial thought would be that obviously, this would be an 'opt-in' feature - so the user doesn't have to set this every time they use the site.

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The main thing I would be concerned about in this case is if you can discretely name all possible instances of a user's status. School websites often have this type of divergent navigation at the beginning, and it can work for a majority of use cases, I.e. "prospective student" vs "current student." But what about examples where it's not so clean cut? How about for Alumni who are also international? What about parents or family members visiting the site?

If you do choose to go this route, I agree it should be an opt in feature that can be easily passed over. Another idea would be to allow the user to select multiple roles, that way they could be "alumni" and "international."

you could always build a lightweight version and track how many users close the dialog box vs check off options and hit save.

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Let me refer you to people much smarter than I am. :)

The Nielsem Norman Group recently reviewed a reorganization of Bucknell University's site. It included a top-level navigation layer called Start Exploring that broke information down by audience: "I'm interested in attending Bucknell", "I'm faculty or staff", "I'm family of a current or prospective student", etc.

Bucknell's role-based navigation. Source: Nielsen Norman Group

On the topic writer Katie Sherwin gives us the following insight:

A note about audience-based navigation: Bucknell’s audiences in the Start Exploring menu are distinct, which is good. But role-based navigation like this poses the same problems it does on other university sites. Users don’t necessarily self-identify, and they often don’t understand which audience category contains the content that they want. For example, many parents view the page for prospective students well before they view the page for parents. Evaluate whether topic-based organization might be more efficient for your users. And if you are using audience-based organization, be sure that each audience is specific and distinct, and include the information that is most relevant to that audience.

Hope this helps!

  • It does help, a lot. Thanks for showing the relevant research! – Möoz Sep 9 '14 at 6:48

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