Category Archives: careers information spaces

What’s in a name and do your users really care? Careers and proud!

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_ImageWe keep being told that the word Careers is scary and people don’t like it.

I get this, no-one wants to be reminded that there is a future and that they have to engage with it,  it’s uncertain, and its going to take some hard work and possibly some knockbacks.

I also get that careers advice before University can be sketchy at best, often entirely absent or just downright inadequate. Yet EVERYONE remembers it. AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY!

So we are battling against the image of something that is scary and something that could be pretty bad. OH GREAT!

So let’s re-brand, change the name, change our image and completely fool everyone that it’s a new sexy thing that they have never encountered before and that they want  to engage with it and make it part of their life.

So how many of you out there have changed your name, only to find that when people ring up the first thing they ask is ” is that the Careers Service?” Facepalm!
Careers Service, Careers and employability, Career development centre, etc etc etc WHATEVER you want to call it our users aren’t stupid they know a Careers Service when they see one.

So I’m torn – do you re-name it or reinvent it?

If you can make this “Future planning – career – thing” something that everyone wants to be involved in a that’s obviously a good idea.   This needs some kind of engagement strategy and possibly some kind of stick to make people do it  (the carrots clearly are not working!)

If you can make everyone take responsibility for their actions and take action earlier – then perhaps you don’t need so much Career Service type intervention at University? This needs a change in education generally!

So who will teach young people how to navigate the unchartered waters of the internet and to differentiate good advice from bad.  If it’s not going to happen at school then it still becomes an issue once at University and who is going to deal with that?  Oh I guess that would be the Careers Service. #circularargument

So there we have it back to the same dilemma!

There are so many issues to contend with is what you call it really the biggest issue?

Careers & proud!
Building a good reputation with satisfied customers is generally agreed to be the best thing to build your brand in a commercial environment.

Your brand is CAREERS  don’t throw it away.  Make it visible so that students associate a good experience with your brand.  If they choose to use other providers of careers information or advice it is their choice – but we can try to make our offer visible and accessible and attractive.

The down side of this is if you succeed how will you cope with the extra demand?

*No answers & no magic bullets included in this post – just some musings!

 

 

 

 

 

What do users want out of a website?

newwebjul14I started this journey earlier this year when we were told that we needed a new website by September.  With over a 1000 pages of web content not a mean feat!

Fortunately the web team had prepared some new templates to drag us into the mobile enabled world so we had a pretty good idea of what the website could do and the limitations.

So I asked students what they wanted….

“A website that gives us a job” was the overall response from the focus group.

We know students are focussed on the end goal and tend to miss out on the stages in between and this was held up by the focus group.  They tended to dive into the vacancy database and ignore the whole website.  (Groans!)

Basically they don’t want to read reams of information unless it’s the information they need.  This is why everyone googles – why bother reading the bits of the website you don’t need!

Management needs

It was suggested we produce content for year groups to talk to the students at their level.  Not as simple as you might think as people take decisions and need to know things at different speeds. BUT we implemented it.

The university style

Changed overnight a few months after we produced the beta version of the new website. Our templates can not replicate this style of website but we can make it look a bit closer to it by changing some navigation on the home page.

Staff needs

Information and guidance staff use the website in 1-1 interactions with students and they tend not to always be intuitive users, they learn where information lives and how to get there. Like driving the same route to work each day – changing the route tends to invoke panic.  So making any changes was not going to be popular.

So on to usability testing

We produced a beta version based on all the needs above and asked some usability testers to take a group of students and evaluate their experience.

It was pretty much what I expected – that doesn’t mean it was good, just expected!

  • Too much information
  • Change to action based navigation not year groups.
  • Change the names of things.
  • and a whole load of things that are not possible to implement in the templates we have.

Happy days!

So what next…

  1. Draft a new beta version based on student requirements and the new university style.
  2. Back to staff with some questions.  Turns out they all have different opinions, fine, that’s representative of the general population.
  3. Try to find a middle ground around what most staff and students want.
  4. Short consultation period via email (by now i’m pretty sure everyone is sick of it!)
  5. Make the changes on the live website and wait….

and then what?

  • Monitoring usage using google analytics
  • Looking at SEO

…. but in the mean time before we all get too obsessed 5 tips for librarians using web metrics is a good place to start!

 

 

 

 

Is it Geeky to use your careers service?

Recently a student was overheard calling another student a geek for talking to Careers staff.  It was probably a lighthearted comment amongst friends but it rather illustrates a PR problem.

It’s just not cool to be seen getting help from Careers, or probably from anyone amongst certain demographics.

Stealth tactics are needed!

This year we were asked to put on an employability week, no problem!
Apart from the fact that the research showed that students don’t like the words employability or careers.  The word future though, was apparently less dull or scary!

The upshot was MyFutureFest, a week of events around looking at future options centred around a giant Teepee.

Cunning isn’t it, no mention of careers and the lure of a festival vibe.  Marketing was primarily done via social media but to be fair you could hardly miss the Teepee!

The Teepee was packed, the freebies went like hot cakes and the lure of free coffee and cake in exchange for a few conversations with the people in the tent seemed to work a treat.

We had a # tag for the event to monitor chatter – though to be fair it was mainly us chatting. We did get a few nice comments though:

  • FREE CAKE 😀 and a cool teepee x
  • HAPPINESS : defined ! @ organised by I appreciate my Careers Service efforts at Uni. 🙂

The fringe events did well too and we saw a steady trickle of referrals up to Careers.

Overall effectiveness, well it’s hard to tell any long-term effects, but we hope the “do something” message came across.

Now we need to apply some creativity to our other marketing to make students take careers information, and even more importantly read it and take appropriate action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile enabled sites – chicken and egg!

websiteWe are in the process of moving all the content on our website to new templates which will enable mobile device users to have a better experience of our website.

There is no denying that every year more people buy smart phones and use tablets so we need to ensure that they have easy access to our web-based information. However, our surveys and analytics tell us that very few of our users actually use the careers website on a mobile device actually only about 15%.

Is this because it’s currently not mobile enabled so it makes it harder to use? Or is it because information rich websites are not best viewed on the bus!

Our users tell us that they may pick up alerts or look up quick bits of information while out and  about but when they want to look at in-depth information, researching a job or career etc they do this on a laptop or desktop at home or in the library.

It’s a bit of a quandary….

To write a mobile enabled site takes a lot of rewriting and consideration. But if actually 85% of our users are using our website on a desktop or laptop how much effort should we put into writing in a completely new way that might actually be to the detriment of desktop users?

It made me realise why many commercial sites create mobile sites and apps to perform specific functions, while giving you the option of the desk top site for the full experience (or the bit they hadn’t thought anyone would want to do on their phone!)

It’s not an option for us to have multiple websites or apps so how do we strike the right balance?

  • It’s got to be google friendly – people use navigation less and rely on search results
  • Make it obvious what the page is about from the title – mobile users might not even see your navigation so they are going to google in and quickly assess if they are in the right place or not.
  • Get to the point quickly.  But if its in-depth information that needs to be delivered it’s ok to be lengthy just make sure its clear so that users can decide whether to read it or not.
  • PDFs can be useful for lengthy user guides or e-books but your mobile users may curse you if its taken 10 minutes to download and doesn’t deliver what they wanted.
  • Get rid of unnecessary images your mobile users may not see them anyway.
  • Think about what your mobile users see on their device, if sidebar information all gets removed or shoved to the bottom then anything vital here may be lost.
  • Think about whether new pages should open in a new window or tab or in the same page.  Different devices will handle this differently. On the whole do users of your site need to flip between several pages at once?

Once usage of your site gets to 50/50 then It’s probably another story but by then i’m sure there will be new software, devices and protocols for us all to take on board.

So if we make it mobile friendly will more people be tempted to engage?

It’s oh so quiet! Time to reflect and plan.

starsIt’s the last day of opening today (although not the last working day) and it’s pretty quiet!

Time to reflect on the year so far and plan ahead.

This last year has all been about physical space.

  • The rumours of a move on the horizon, and the frantic months of planning that followed.
  • Managing expectations and the realities of the process.
  • The physical transition to a new space and understanding its benefits and limitations.
  • Working with new colleagues and new staffing structures.
  • Exploring new ideas to make students aware of the new location and what it offers.
  • Change, more changes and a few suprise changes.

Next year is all about the web and online services.

  • Producing a new website
  • Looking at digital publications ebooks vs Pdfs
  • Managing our intranet presence
  • Looking at our options for appointment booking systems and events & vacancy systems
  • Talking to our users to see what they want
  • Marketing, marketing, engagement & marketing.
  • Plus i’m sure a few more suprises.

It seems information staff are going to be very busy, plotting scheming and writing! Hopefully we will get out and about on campus and talk to students too.

Whats on your agenda for the year ahead?

Have a great break info folk.

Virtual information spaces – is yours fit for purpose?

websiteStill getting used to our new physical information space and resolving issues and the spotlight turns to our virtual spaces – the website and our client management system.

  • All our web content needs putting into new templates which means completely re-writing it (at over 1060 pages this is no small task).
  • To put the icing on that cake we also need to come up with new ways of presenting the information to make the website more engaging.
  • So that means restructuring and redesigning the website too.
  • Our client management system that deals with events, vacancies and appointments is also up for re-evaluation. Do we stick or twist? We are looking at CareersHub as the alternative option.

Loads of exciting work for our careers information staff to get involved in!

Our investigations will involve surveys, focus groups, user testing  and talking to colleagues at other institutions about their experiences.

Do you have any tips / research you can share on what students want from careers websites and intranets (as it appears we are all doing pretty much the same things!)?
Tweet me @MallenSarah

The debrief… 6 weeks on

Overall students seem to love the look of the new office and the building we are in is a focal point on campus.

The Atrium consists of two zones: An open area filled with comfy seating and a “business” area where the services, libraries, and appointments happen. Archways lead from one to the other.

We and the students are learning how to use the two spaces effectively.

Easy wins

  • It’s easy for students to find, we don’t have to have lengthy conversations giving directions.
  • There are lots of lectures in the building and a large refectory so there is passing trade.
  • We have a display area on the ground floor for employer directories and guides – they go like hot cakes!

Challenges

  • There is nothing on the outside of the building telling students we are here so we are still relying on students seeking us out.
  • Many students don’t need to use this building.
  • We are on the 1st floor so you need to be motivated to find us.

Changesdesk

We have more involved conversations – the low desk and seating make it conducive for students to sit and chat to us.

The casual icebreaker conversations have disappeared. We no longer get masses of students coming in asking about part-time jobs and national insurance numbers.   It’s odd because we were not exactly on the main thoroughfare before (or so we thought) but it seems that casual conversations are not worth going up stairs.

We have swivel screens so we can now demonstrate the website and booking systems, it makes it so much easier to explain how to do things.

The future:

  • As the other services we share the Atrium with ramp up their offer and get into their peak seasons we are curious to see how much spin-off trade we get as a result of functional adjacency.
  • Conversations about signage both inside and outside the building are happening.  It will be interesting to see what happens if the signage is successful.  If more people on campus can see where we are, will they come?
  • We are looking at having staff on the ground floor in the information zone to tie the 2 areas together and encourage the transition upstairs or answer those passing questions that are not happening now.
  • Defining the purpose of the space – this will undoubtedly evolve over time as we try out activities and see if the open space works for group work or small workshops. In time we may even be able to book adjacent classrooms to run events.

It’s still a work in progress, learning and developing new systems and procedures but I think we have made good progress.  We are even talking about christmas decorations so looks like everyone is settling in!