Mongoose Research

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Responsive Design: Pros and Cons

February 6, 2013

Responsive design can certainly help students navigate your .edu Web site. In fact, if done well, it is fair easier than a site designed.. well, non-responsively (is that a word?).  


  • No pinching. Students are not forced to squint and pinch to figure out where they want to go.  The site will also be gracefully degraded according to their individual screen size.
  • Visual appeal. Graphics appear large and very visible.
  • Future friendly. Varying sizes of tables, phones and other appliances are appearing all the time. What will the future hold? A screen on your refrigerator? A screen built into the back of a tray table on an airplane?  Responsive design will allow you to sleep well knowing your content will render well on all these devices.
  • Easier management. Institutions struggle as it is with keeping content up-to-date.  Responsive design allows you - in theory - to use a single CMS and have one single source for all content that is rendered. This certainly is easier than having to "remember to update the mobile site".


While all the pros and certainly nice to have; we feel this does not effectively suit the needs of prospective students.

  • Navigation flows. Responsive design does not allow for different navigation structures for mobile as opposed to desktop or tablet. Best practices for mobile navigation calls for significantly fewer links on a page (different navigation).  With responsive design, navigation tends to be more complex and time consuming.
  • Too long-winded. Copy-writing for mobile is VERY different than desktop sites. Jacob Neilson put is best.. something like “when it comes to copy-writing on mobile, short is too long”. Ideally, your full .edu site would be responsive AND you have a separate dedicated mobile site for prospective students. 
  • Barriers to top tasks. Creating a mobile site allows us to effectively eliminate all the “garbage” content and only focus on critical information and top tasks. For example, it would be a mistake to include a message from the Dean on the mobile site.

At Mongoose, we develop both responsive sites and mobile sites.  We try our best not to be biased. Responsive design is a much more zen concept.. but, in it's current form is not best for external audiences - especially prospective students.

Rethinking the mobile redirect

February 14, 2012

A mobile redirect automatically directs a user with a mobile device to the site.  The issue is that many different audiences are being redirected.  While, this might be good for prospective students, it can be quite annoying to the existing campus community... or vice versa depending on the content that is on the mobile site.  Our clients have been pleased with what we call a "mobile banner".  It ONLY appears to users with a mobile device and gives a certain audience the ability to jump to a mobile site build specifically for them.  Please see the screen shot below for an example:


To try this for yourself, use your mobile phone and visit:


"All Of This Texting Helps A Lot"

January 25, 2012

Yesterday, St. Mary's University sent out a text campaign inviting students to Sleeping Bag Weekend (a key recruiting event).  Many students responded 'thank you' or asked simple questions.  The student below engaged in a conversation about the admissions process, transcripts, application and transportation to sleeping bag weekend.  After all his questions were answered, he replied "..all of this texting helps a lot..".

So nice to hear positive student reactions!

I've included a screen shot (with personal information hidden) of a section of the conversation. 


(click for larger version)

Text Messaging and the Future of College Recruitment

September 22, 2011

More and more highly interested prospective students are asking for text updates from their institution of choice.  Texting allows institutions instant access to this highly elusive audience. Yesterday, The Chronicle highlighted one of our clients and their innovative use of texting in the admission process.

Read the full article on

St. Mary’s U. Finds That When It Texts, Students Come

Texting Teens: Typing Replaces Talking

July 5, 2011

Lab 42 polled 500 social-networking Americans aged 13 - 21 regarding their use of texting.  Among the fidnings: 71% of the respondents preferred texting to calling

For the full story:



Mobile Sites Gaining Ground Over Apps

June 28, 2011

Some colleges are realizing that investing in apps is proving costly.  To cover the smart phone market, one would absolutely need an app for iPhone and Android - and should have one for Blackberry and Microsoft.  That totals 4 platforms to support.  The mobile Web is exploding and is supported by all Web enabled devices.  HTML 5 provides for a rich presentation as well.

Read the full story:
As Mobile Devices Multiply, Some Colleges Turn Away From Building Campus Apps

As the Web Goes Mobile, Colleges Fail to Keep Up

January 24, 2011

"..many colleges still treat their mobile Web sites as low-stakes experiments. That attitude risks losing prospective applicants and donors through admissions and alumni portals that don't work.."

David R. Morton
Director of Mobile Communications
University of Washington

Read the full story at

The Expectation of Instant Access

December 1, 2010

Students and parents now have an expectation of 25x7 self service.  They want to be able to complete tasks on their mobile device. They do not want to call a sales person or boot up their laptop.  They want instant access via the mobile Web.  Excellent 4 minute presentation by Christina Kerley at Rutgers University.

“Social Media and Mobile Marketing: Gaining a Competitive Advantage”


The Average Teenager Sends 3,339 Texts Per Month

October 20, 2010

If you needed more proof that texting is on the rise, here’s a stat for you: the average teenager sends more than 3,000 texts per month. That’s more than six texts per waking hour.

Read the full story on

Chronicle Confirms: Prospective Students Do Not Tweet

July 2, 2010

In March 2009, I posted "prospective students do not tweet".

July 2010, The Chronicle confirms: Admission Officials' Tweets Fall on Deaf Ears

Abe Gruber, director of marketing at Bloomfield College, found in a recent study that while 40 percent of college admissions offices are active on Twitter, only 15 percent of prospective students expressed interest using in Twitter to learn about colleges.

Mr. Gruber surveyed 200 prospective freshmen and 70 admissions offices in his study.

“Twitter scores high for the admissions officers, but not for students,” said Mr. Gruber.

High school students are not tweeting.. but they sure are texting.