Redesigning a university talent platform
Interaction design, wireframing, user research
When Wellesley College replaced MyCWS (our previous career site) with Handshake,
our entire student body collectively happy danced when we found out. Handshake is much more user-friendly and robust that our previous system,
and I’m excited about the platform’s future potential. I saw some opportunities to improve Handshake’s student user experience, and wanted to
offer some possible solutions.
Disclaimer: This is a design exercise. I am not affiliated with Handshake.
Handshake is a college career network that aims to transform the recruiting experience for college students, career centers, and employers. The platform gives students access to job opportunities and career resources, helps career centers better serve their students, and provides employers with more efficient access to a broader range of talent. Handshake currently serves 3+ million students, 170+ universities, and 100,000+ employers.
After reading more about the company from their website and getting a better understanding of their mission, I jotted down some quick notes about the product and different user groups.
A few questions I considered:
Next, I spent some more time exploring all of Handshake’s main features, and did a design critique of the home page, notifications, job search, job listings, and events.
Learning how to use Handshake takes a little time initially, but I was glad to discover that the most important pieces
of the puzzle are there — you just have to find them. As a new user, it’s easy to get lost in the navigation scheme.
The home page would be better leveraged if it were completely personalized to the student, provided more relevant
recommendations, and summarized everything that’s new since their last visit. Notifications would be more helpful if
they were simplified and didn’t force a student to navigate away from their current activity.
Keeping in mind that college students are extremely busy, and that recruiting adds a significant amount of stress to their lives, Handshake could better serve their students by reducing complexity as much as possible.
To gain a better understanding of how students are using Handshake, I conducted a simple survey, several interviews,
and some online research. The people I surveyed/interviewed were a mix of Wellesley College students and undergraduates
at other schools around the country. You can view all 56 survey responses here.
Here's what I learned:
“It is pretty easy to use overall, however, there is so much stuff on handshake that it can be extremely overwhelming.”
“I don’t feel that handshake is personalized for me, there are a lot of things that show up that are irrelevant to my interests.”
“I thought I applied to several internships, but later realized that I only submitted my resume through Handshake, and then needed to additionally go to the internship URL and do more application steps.”
“I still have a hard time figuring some things out, like when I favorite a job post without applying to it, how do I find it again?”
Based on user feedback, I defined goals for my redesign:
I began exploring the direction of my redesign by considering the website's information architecture.
I always like to start out my wireframing process with sketches and low-fidelity wireframes, in order to focus on organizing information rather than visual aesthetics. Here are a few of my low-fidelity explorations:
In my final designs, I decided to focus on the home page and job search page, which are two very frequently visited pages. I aimed to create a simple, functional, visually elegant, and intuitive design solution.
Easily check notifications and dismiss them without leaving the Home page. Notifications are color coded based on different categories.
Hover over a job, event, or resource to add it to your favorites. A toast notification with a hyperlink to the user's favorites appears, making saved favorites more discoverable.
To learn how users would respond to my designs, I conducted in-person user tests with 15 students (10 Handshake users and 5 non-Handshake users).
I started by asking 10 students who were already Handshake users to compare the Home Page and Jobs Page of the original design and my redesign. The students I surveyed came from 3 different schools, represented all four class years, and had a wide variety in their areas of study. They had varying frequencies of use and familiarity with Handshake.
"Usually I get kinda overwhelmed when I check Handshake, but this looks clean and organized, and it still feels like I'm getting the same information."
"I would be excited to check back for new jobs because they're personalized for me and right there on the home page."
"I like that it says whether the job is paid or unpaid - that's a really important factor for me. It's nice to see it upfront without having to go to another page, sometimes only to be disappointed to see that a position is unpaid after getting excited about it from reading the job description."
"Whoa I never knew you could save searches! This makes it really easy to save a search and pull it up again later."
"I love the top bar. The categories are easy to understand and I can find the page I'm looking for much quicker (compared to the sidebar layout)."
Comparing the two designs:
For the following set of questions, I found 5 college students who were not Handshake users so that prior experience with the platform
wouldn't influence the results.
1. Testing the discoverability of "Favorite Jobs": "Imagine that earlier this week you saved some internships you're interested in. Start from the Home page and try to find your saved internships again."
Result: On average, it took 7 seconds for students to find "Favorite Jobs" in the redesigned version, compared to 11 seconds in the original design.
2. Testing the discoverability of "Save Search": On the Jobs Page, how would you save a search?"
Result: On average, it took students 3 seconds to find the "Save search" button in the redesigned version, and all 5 students were able to find it. In the original, it took 4 students an average of 11 seconds to find, and 1 student wasn't able to find it at all by the time a whole minute had passed.
I was super excited that the feedback on my redesign was overwhelmingly positive! Overall, students found it to be more user-friendly and visually appealing than the original.
However, even if a student had a positive reaction to the redesign, I still asked them if there was anything they didn't like or thought could be better.
A few of the Handshake users admitted that since they were already used to the original version, it might take them a little time initially to get used to the new design. 3 students mentioned that the blue navigation bar reminded them of LinkedIn (1 student liked this, and the 2 others were neutral).