Category Archives: Resources

Social media what’s new, what’s working and how do we evaluate it?

It’s been a while since i’ve been here in musing mode so you can guess we are reviewing something at the moment! Yes you guessed it Social Media!

We started with a blog many years ago (and then a revamped blog), then ventured into Facebook and jumped into Twitter.  They all seemed to have a purpose and be used, but fads come and go (as do students). Perhaps we need a bit of time to assess what we are doing and why?

Young people seem to be all snapchat and whatsapp, intagramming like their lives depended on it. Is facebook old hat?  Was pinterest a passing fad? What’s around the corner?

What do students use and do they want us there?

When you ask students what they use they say Facebook and increasingly Twitter.

Using, as far as a student is concerned seems to be seeing the information in their news feed, not actively participating much.  If you are lucky they may click on a link.  For us that doesn’t really help – no nice metrics to evaluate, if you don’t like our posts or talk to us how do we know that you are even looking!  We feel unwanted and might even give up using something if we can’t measure its use!

So we ask students again what do you use and the answers are the same, and yes they seem to value what we post there but it’s not cool to interact with us. (Fair enough!)  Secretly I bet they are all snapchatting but don’t want us getting involved!

So here’s where you my information colleagues come in!

  • Has anyone done a social media review – were there any findings or trends you could share?
  • What is worth evaluating?
  • Is anyone using Twitter lists successfully?
  • How are you working with recruiters who want you to post on social media about them?
  • Do you have one Twitter or Facebook account or many for different purposes?
  • What’s new? Anyone using something that really seems to encourage students to interact with each other and you?

Any intel leave a comment here or on the LinkedIn discussion or Tweet me @MallenSarah




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!





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?

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

Relocation, relocation, relocation

So we have finally moved into our new location on campus, the Atrium , 1st Floor University Place.

This is the careers area and library – shot past the pods used for interviews down to the careers desk. (avoiding students)

 shelving zone

As with any move these things are never simple, but we are getting there. Students seem quite impressed with our new snazzy furnishings, the word nightclub and disco keep getting used – not sure that was exactly what we were looking for, but hey!

signageCould it have something to do with the use of neon signs?

Our colour palette is black, white & grey with accent colours of blue , aqua, green and lime.  It’s actually quite tasteful.

It also lends itself to taking arty shots for fun!

cushions SONY DSCreflections

infozoneWe have also secured an information Zone on the ground floor near the welcome desk and visitors centre.

It will be interesting to see the interaction between the 2 areas.

I’ll let you know how usage and feedback is going when we have been in a bit and my back has recovered from heaving packing crates about!

Information Centre or Makerspace

Guest post from Darren Jones  @darrenmjones  

RIPThe Information Centre is dead.

Many services have reduced their files and books, or got rid of them altogether, and more emphasis is rightly being put on online resources. Yet we wonder why footfall has dropped? However, if we want students to come to the Centre for anything other than careers adviser appointments or events (or to use the PCs because it’s the quietest place on campus), we need to give them a reason. We need to reinvent the Information Centre.

Makerspaces have been getting a lot of attention in the library world over the last couple of years. I was reading Ellyssa Kroski’s A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources a few months ago and it occurred to me that there is a natural fit with careers centres too. A makerspace is an area where people can come together to create things, experiment and learn together. In libraries they often include 3D printers, tools, software/electronics and an array of physical things to help people make stuff. Creativity, learning together, engagement. These are all things that careers centres try to encourage in students. However, I often wonder how practical our encouragement is. Instead of career workshops, how about an actual workshop?

Think of the practical skills development we could actually be a part of. Also, it plays perfectly with the enterprise agenda that most services (I suspect) are engaging with now. Offering monetary support, getting entrepreneurs in to talk and providing encouragement is great. However, having a practical space for people to experiment and develop their ideas in a collaborative environment could provide a solid foundation for these other levels of support to build on. It could also help develop a student enterprise culture in a more organic way than we are doing at the moment. Careers centres should get in there now, and think about providing this space. Funding seems to be there for enterprise activities at the moment, so perhaps this isn’t too outlandish a possibility. It could be a chance to link up with departments on campus, too. Engineering, IT, Product Design or Fine Art? And maybe it’s time to be at the heart of something, rather than on the outskirts looking in.

Here’s another thought. Making things can be used as part of the career exploration process. In the Chaos Theory of Careers, Robert Prior & Jim Bright talk about collage and other arts-based techniques from the world of art therapy, as well as kinetic sculpture. I have also been reading the work of David Gauntlett, who developed ways to use LEGO as a social science research tool. Basically, getting people to build things out of LEGO to represent their ideas, feelings, experiences and to reflect on this and move on. To me this has always felt like an untapped area for careers centres to develop. The LEGO Group has developed LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a way for organisations and businesses to use these methods. There is no reason why careers centres couldn’t develop similar approaches to help students navigate the careers thinking process in a physical way. And linking this to a careers makerspace would be a great way to do it.

Creativity, working together, developing skills and learning about yourself. Makerspaces are a great example of what careers services stand for. Why not put them at the centre of what we do? In the Centre…

The Information Centre is dead. Long live the careers makerspace!

Online booking – to be or not to be?

online bookingYou can book a restaurant, a gym class, a hair appointment and a holiday online. So why has it taken so long to get online booking systems for Careers Services?

I hear all the time, surely it can’t be that difficult? I bet you do too.

We have just started trialling our online appointment booking system this week, this is our story…

There have always been 3  issues

  1. Unlike restaurants and holidays, careers appointments are only open to a subset of the population, so you need a method of checking that only eligible users can use the service.  Usually a unique ID of some kind.  So you need a data set which is always up to date and a way to access it.
  2.  We have different appointment types with different rules thus making it hard to set  any online booking system.
  3. Our online system would not allow the student to make any notes about what they want to discuss, thus no research or preparation could be done by the Careers Consultants in advance as they do now.

There are also some dilemmas to overcome

  1. Supply and demand. Our appointments are usually oversubscribed, so if staff are not checking with clients that they are at the right stage to have an appointment will it be a waste of time and just add to waiting times?
  2. Will online booking mean more no shows, less committment to the process?

The booking system we use (Interfase from CSO) uses data from student records so we have a secure data set and already had online capabilities. We have been allowing students to sign up for events for years, the online appointment booking system was quite simple it was our procedures that were not!

Like many services we offer guidance appointments and shorter appointments for applications advice and quick interactions.

  • Our guidance services use a caseload system so each careers consultant specialises in different career areas and degree specialisms.  It’s complicated enough for information staff to unpick a students needs and interests and match them to a consultant who has availability the one hour of the week the student is free. We would have to drastically simplify this system and possibly reduce the student experience to allow online booking.
  • Our Quick Query service however offered possibilities, 90% of Quick Query interactions were applications & CVs thus no advance preparation is required.

We decided to …

  • Launch a new service Applications Advice for applications only.
  • Change the booking from on the day to 1 working day in advance.
  • Mop up the other enquiries using a duty adviser – a discretionary service for urgent questions where there are no guidance appointment available in sufficient time.


  • There was initial resistance to change, it sounded like a lesser service as the information staff would no longer be there at point of booking to give the student guidance on their CV before making the appointment.
  • We needed a reasonably quiet time of year to implement the system & train staff.
  • We wanted to trial it when it was likely to be used but when demand was not too high. So we decided on the period after Easter.
  • We also changed our phone system so that students get a message about booking online before they come through.
  • We decided on a soft launch via the Facebook groups, blog and twitter on the day of the launch just in case it all went wrong and we had to delay.

What have we learned so far?

  • Students seem to love it, on day one we had people booking online for that day and before long the next day was already full.
  • Some students who booked in advance did ring to cancel the next day, but at least they rang!
  • Phone bookings for this service have really reduced. It’s freeing up a lot of staff time.
  • Students have an allocation of 4 appointments in a 30 day period, and we advise 1 / day. It has not stopped some from booking 3 in a day.

What next…

We are going to be monitoring:

  • Numbers of no shows to see if it goes up or down.
  • Whether students are suitably prepared and have followed the instructions.
  • Whether this increases usage so that we have to provide more sessions.
  • How many students try to book multiple appointments in a day, and the impact this has on the service they get and the impact on availability.

If you want to look at what systems other services are using or add some details about your own – check out the resources register.

Why not tell us about your experience?