The Student Room (TSR) is the world’s largest online student community attracting over 5 million unique visitors per month. The website aims to open discussions between students and is comprised of forums and guides covering a wealth of topics. Each month there are over 3 million forum posts created by students from across the world.
TSR approached PRWD to review existing customer data, recommend a robust data configuration, conduct user research and improve engagement on the site through learnings from A/B testing. The primary objective of the optimisation programme was for TSR to understand their users so that they could learn how to target and engage with them more effectively.
The optimisation programme focused on increasing new visitor sign ups, forum posts and gaining a true understanding of how TSR’s users behave on the site; their motivations, concerns and what is important to them.
What we did
Following PRWD’s Growth Optimisation MethodologyTM, we start every optimisation programme with an in-house discovery workshop, and so this was our first step with the TSR optimisation programme. Working closely with the TSR team from the very beginning of the partnership helped us to build a strong relationship and also allowed us to quickly understand how the business worked, collaboratively work through any business challenges and plan out programme activities that were most suited to the team and the way in which they work.
PRWD then gathered insights which would go on to support hypotheses for testing. The following activities were carried out to gain vital, new business and user insights:
- A Full Day In-house Discovery Workshop with the TSR team
- In-depth Moderated Research using PRWD’s 1-1 User Research Methodology
- PRWD Conversion Evaluation Walkthrough
- Deep dive Google Analytics Evaluation
- Onsite User Feedback Survey
The research uncovered:
- TSR weren’t currently communicating to new and returning visitors the depth of content and advice available on the website
- TSR weren’t fully communicating the most influential and persuasive elements of their value proposition, in addition to how quick and simple free sign-up is
- There are significant issues which negatively influenced user behaviour and engagement, such as the experience new visitors had when they choose to sign-up
- What are the most important and revenue generating user journey’s, including how visitors are currently responding to and interacting with the primary landing page within the forum
A/B Testing programme
Following PRWD’s Growth Optimisation MethodologyTM, we then triangulated the data, research and behavioural insights along with potential impact, to identify the tests which should be moved to the top of the testing schedule.
Here are just a few of the iterative and innovative hypothesis for tests we ran during the first six months of the TSR optimisation programme:
- Providing persuasive messaging on the sign-up overlay that new visitors are presented with we will encourage a higher % of new visitors to sign-up
- Clearly communicating the TSR proposition on the homepage and providing immediate access to sign-up, will encourage a higher % of new visitors to sign-up
- Simplifying the layout of the primary page template that 90% of visitors see, will mean visitors will be able to consume content more efficiently and will in turn increase the % of visitors who post comments on existing threads
Design & Build Test Concepts
Irrespective of how strong a test hypothesis is, if the design execution isn’t handled carefully, the test is far less likely to deliver the projected improvement in the primary conversion metric. To create high standard design executions and encourage shared learning, we collectively evaluated ideas and designs for test executions with different levels of stakeholders from TSR by completing the following activities:
- We ran team ideation sessions and collaborative sketching workshops to ensure we created innovative test concepts
- Paper prototyping, wireframing, prototype development and visual and UX design
- Copywriting and neuromarketing expertise were harnessed to optimise headlines, content, page layout, persuasive techniques and user focus
Optimisation programme results
- 106% increase in post conversion rate in four months* (from 0.71% to 1.46%)
- 8% uplift in home page registration conversion rate
- 6% increase in thread creation from newly registered users
“Working with the PRWD team on The Student Room presented a brand new challenge. Up until this point our focus had been on e-commerce sites, whereas The Student Room is a free to use student community site. The programme identified key areas of potential and from this we began to focus on the home page as a registration driver, introduced the option for guest users to post, and overhaul our registration process to include new user engagement. The programme had a very positive impact on site wide engagement and registration.
Our company culture has changed from zero optimisation to running 10-15 tests a month over the last year.
Is optimisation a continuous strategy at The Student Room Group? I’d say it’s more part of our DNA!” (Pete Taylor)
How would you describe working with PRWD?
“In two words, world changing. Prior to working with PRWD we had briefly worked with others in this space but had seen little to no impact on the core business KPI’s.
“PRWD’s techniques and thorough process’s not only opened our eyes to how CRO, done with integrity, can improve bottom line KPI’s, but also improve overall site engagement and user experience.” (Pete Taylor)
What are PRWD’s main strengths?
“For The Student Room Group, the openness of PRWD’s shared learning ethos, teaching our team the processes and helping in-bed a culture of measure test and learn, was invaluable and therefore their greatest strength. However if you couple that with the breadth of knowledge held in their multi-disciplinary team, and their main focus and specialism in user research and data analysis makes them true experts in the field. PRWD have been a pleasure to work with.” (Pete Taylor)
Test Case study: TSR homepage
Increased new visitor registration conversion rate by 72%
- The hypothesis for this test came from PRWD’s Conversion Evaluation Walkthrough and user research.
- The rationale being, for new visitors arriving on or viewing the homepage, there is little space dedicated to promoting the benefits of registering and showing how easy it is. By making registration much more prominent on the homepage we expect that a higher percentage of new visitors will sign up.
- In user research we saw that once users saw the sign up form and how simple it was to register they tended to be happy to complete registration.
What we did
- Designed a short and simplified registration form which was placed on the right hand side of the homepage
- Created messaging which highlighted how quick and easy it was to register
- Added an area to promote three USP messages communicating the benefits of signing up
- Increased the visibility of the persuasive TSR explainer video
- Promoting the Student Room proposition and providing an early opportunity to register increased registrations by 72%.
- By placing the form boldly on the homepage and providing a simple form to register we saw that more users were motivated to sign up.
- Persuasive and transparent messaging gave users more relevant information about the proposition and supported user intent to register
* from Sept to Dec 2013