I 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!
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.
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.
So what next…
Draft a new beta version based on student requirements and the new university style.
Back to staff with some questions. Turns out they all have different opinions, fine, that’s representative of the general population.
Try to find a middle ground around what most staff and students want.
Short consultation period via email (by now i’m pretty sure everyone is sick of it!)
We 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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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)
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!
Could 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!
We 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!
The packing crates are here and we are filling them up and generally making a huge pile of boxes to go with us.
The movers come on Friday and we are aiming to open in our new space a week later so we will be working in an empty room for a week while half our staff start setting up in our new space. It’s a little scary given it’s Welcome Week (AKA Freshers Week) next week which traditionally signals a deluge of students looking for part-time jobs.
We have a cunning plan to minimise disruption in case the builders run late (er), and are just hoping all our deliveries of guides and directories find us in our new building.
So its end of an era for us.
We have been in Crawford house since the early 1970’s and now the Information Team are flying the nest and going solo (and any other clichés you care to mention).
No more doing the post.
No more swipe barrier trying to chop people in half.
No more being the only ground floor office to help the lost souls on campus.
No more sub zero temperatures and huddling round fan heaters.
We are looking forward to:
A new bright airy space. (Hopefully at a temerature that sustains life!)
Working with new colleagues from other IAG services accross the University, a whole load of new water cooler conversations and biscuits in the kitchen emails.
Finding out the space works – we have absolutely no clue how students (and staff) are going to react to it.
In the wonderful world of Careers Information Management things are never the same 2 years running, it’s what makes it a great place to work. When it comes to making plans it can make it a little challenging!
So when we were told less than a year ago that we would be moving to a new location I never thought it would be easy.
We had a few expectations and assumptions
We would not be consulted, the architect would do whatever they wanted and we would end up with an unusable space.
We would not be trying to move at the busiest time of year – because that would be a bit silly.
Once we had a plan it would be a simple matter of packing up and moving over.
We wouldn’t move exactly as we are there would be some adaptations to make and a certain amount of slimming down of resources to fit a smaller space.
We would have some say over basic things like shelving and display units.
At least our information staff team have been here a while so the transition should be easier than having to train new staff.
There has been loads of consultation, meetings coming out of my ears – great!
We seem to have come to compromises on some things but have lost other battles. (We shall have to see how it pans out when we open.)
Yes you guessed it, we are due to move around freshers week. So not busy at all !
Packing is the least of our issues, we now need to rebrand, reformat and reprint over 40 publications with 1 month to go!
We have had to make tough decisions on what resources to keep and how we will display them.
We will have to see when we get in what shelving there is and order more if we need it, things are not set in stone and we can adapt as we go along.
Two staff have left the team and we are now in the middle of recruiting for new staff with the clock ticking!
Get a sense of humour fast! It’s not going to be plain sailing so just deal with it and laugh. (try not to laugh hysterically!)
Keep records of all correspondence so that you know who agreed to what and when.
It’s not going to be perfect immediately.
It’s not going to be like it was.
You are not going to please everyone.
Expect the unexpected.
Take small steps – you can’t do everything at once.
Stay positive and take your team on the journey with you.