Engaging accepted students through WordPress – WPCampus 2018 – WordPress in Higher Education

(audience applause) – [Joel] All right, so
I’m gonna be projecting. If you can’t hear me in the back, let me know, because that means probably the computer’s not picking me up either. Thank you for coming. It’s the last one of the day. If you feel like you
should give a good stretch because I’m gonna try
to keep the energy high, but it also, you know, you had food and all kinds of stuff earlier, so. Thanks for coming. We’re gonna talk about engaging accepted students through WordPress. It’s specifically a case study on a project that I
worked on end of last year and into, up until two
months ago, actually. I do own a service, design, and product agency called Bravery. We’re based in Austin, Texas, (audience cheer)
short little, thank you, yes, there
are Texans in the room. Short little blurb about what we do. Up until about six
months ago, we were doing web design and redevelopment
for colleges and universities. And I’m trying to shift that a little bit because you all know how
fun the politics are. But
(audience laughter) and they’re fine, but, if you
wanna at me, please at me. It’s also gonna be up on
the white board here, too. Bravery.co is the website, and @braverymedia is also Twitter, but me directly is @joelgoodman, and I’ll be happy to
answer questions later or just retweet your
insights that you pick up or whatever else, so let’s get going. A quick roadmap for today’s presentation, just so you know where we’re going. First, we’re gonna start
with framing the conversation that we have and tell you what led me to doing this project. And then we’re gonna get
into how the product planning process went, and kinda
the thought processes that we had to go
through, kinda turned out as we were working with our client. We’re gonna talk about
some political intrigue that happened, you know,
the real juicy stuff, where we had a vice-provost really excited about something we couldn’t do, and didn’t make any sense and
how we had to deal with that. And then we’re gonna get into
our realized good intentions at a very stupid, large scale. And then finally, I’ll pepper
you with some learned lessons. There’ll be some of
those littered throughout the rest of the talk as well, because all of this was a
lot of learning in general. Sound good?
Yes, awesome, great! So framing the conversation. What’s the one thing that
every admissions office fears from their accepted students? (audience member speaking off mic) Summer melt, exactly, oh I missed it. (audience laughter)
There, a popsicle. This is what happens. It happens everywhere. And so this is my definition:
melt is the phenomenon wherein a student accepted
by your institution disappears during the lead-up
to registration (and deposit), never to be heard from again. You don’t know where they went. They may not exist anymore. They may have just kind of
like melted on a sidewalk and gone into some
cracks and down a gutter and who knows where they’re at. And so we try to figure
out, how do we stop the melting process? Because what really happens is that most of our prospective students
haven’t only applied to our institution, right? They usually have two or three or five, or 15 if their parents
are really overbearing, that they’ve applied to. And they’ve probably gotten
into a few of them, hopefully. I mean, hopefully they’re smart enough to have gotten into a few of them. And so melt is what
happens and what we call the somewhat slow
diminishment of our accepted incoming student population as they decide to attend other institutions
or decide not to go to college or maybe just forget to
take care of all the things that they have to take care of to actually get to the point where they’ve enrolled. So for us, our first question was, how easy is your registration process? Because it’s a big hurdle. I mean a lot of times, you’ll
have an accepted student come in, like great, I’m gonna register, and then they get into
a flow and they realize they have like 30 steps,
they don’t really know, they’re already a little
bit, maybe not afraid, but they’re trepidacious,
it’s a new experience going into college, and
they’re faced with this massive registration
process that’s unfamiliar and a lot of times, don’t
really have a lot of help, and a lot of times those
registration processes aren’t, shall we say, modern, or simple, or they’re actually on paper, which does still happen these days. So Loyola Marymount University is a Jesuit university in Los Angeles. They have a gorgeous campus. It’s absolutely stunning. And we’ve been working with
LMU for quite a few years. So our relationship with
LMU, leading up to how they asked us to help
them with this melt issue, started in 2016 when we
took a print viewbook that they had and converted it into something that was digital
that they could use. There are a couple
things they wanted to do with their digital viewbook. The first reason they
wanted something digital wasn’t, they didn’t
want like the flip book thing for one, they
wanted something native. They wanted it to cut down on the number of print pieces they were
having to ship out to Asia, and thus help them save
a little bit of money. So they wanted something
that was going to be highly portable and highly easy to share. They had also, earlier,
I think we’re actually over-lapping a little bit
with the end of this project, they had redesigned
their university website. They’d worked with mSonar, who’s actually one of the sponsors of
this conference to do that, and mSonar actually came to me and said, hey, they wanna have this thing on. We don’t have the time to do it. Can you help us out,
can we give this to you? I was like, yeah, sure,
that sounds like fun. No one wants to do these
kind of cool things, or no one gets to do these cool things is probably really what it is. So we worked with them to
convert an already designed print piece into this digital piece. We designed it mobile first. We went from phones up
to tablets up to desktop. And then in 2016 they allowed
us to actually redesign the whole thing completely ourselves. And so we went, we took an approach of doing a digital first, mobile first, to get all the way through to the point of actually developing
a print piece for them. So this is just an example, let’s say. And if you go to viewbook.lmu.edu you can see sort of what we did. They’ve changed a lot of photography that I don’t think, they need
some better art direction on that, but
(audience laughter) overall, the overall piece
is built the same way. And we did this all in WordPress. Their main university
website is on TerminalFour, I think, yeah, it was on TerminalFour. They needed something lightweight
to get it up and running, I was like, well WordPress is an obviously great candidate for this. They had people that needed
to manage the content. And so this is what we
ended up with for them. Another couple of examples. We tried really hard to take this piece and tie it in with their
new university site, so we were deep linking
into a lot of the content that was already there. We didn’t want to create
this kind of separate walled garden experience, where their incoming
prospects couldn’t actually get back to the actual admission flow, which I think is what
happens a lot of times when we build these sorts of things. It’s like, oh, yay, micro-sites. Everyone gets really
excited, but they don’t think about how a micro-site
actually has to lead into the goals of the rest
of the university process. So we were very intentional about whenever, say like the LMU facts page, whenever we were bringing in
different facts and figures, we were linking these
deeper into their website in the hopes to capture the interest that the student or the parent
that was viewing this piece might have had in whatever
that specific thing was and get them into the
actual admissions flow. After that, in 2016, we worked on an outcomes piece for them. Does everyone remember when outcomes sites were all the rage? Yeah,
(audience laughter) so when they came to us wanting
to do this outcomes site, and they gave us a bunch of examples of these just really,
really ugly websites, and we’re like, we’re looking at them and we’re saying this
isn’t gonna help anyone, and you’re just kind of
like putting a bunch of data on the page and it looks ugly, and it’s just a web page. It’s not gonna do anything. And so we wanted to do something that was a little bit more interactive. So we have animated pie
charts that we built into it. We did a bunch of weird
layered SVG parallax stuff as you scroll through the page. There’s a really light
motion graphic across all the photos on it. We dynamically loaded a lot of stuff in. Also built on WordPress. Basically all, actually all the stuff that we’ve done for them
has been built on WordPress. And so during all of
that, we had been working on this other piece that
they had called Future Lions. LMU came to the realization that after we had addressed all of
these kind of incoming type of parts, like, oh yes, here, we have all these students
that are coming in and we want to sell them on this process, and so we have a gorgeous viewbook piece. Now we need to sell their parents, and so we need to kind of back it up with a little bit more data, so we wanna do this outcomes piece, and we also need to
sell that to our alumni and our donors so they give us more money, see where our students are actually going. There’s that middle portion that they had not really addressed or thought about where their students are
just kind of disappearing. And so originally they had contracted with an agency in Los Angeles
to build a product called Future Lions, and it was this accepted students portal. But it wasn’t great. It was really the sort of thing where the student would get an email or letter and they’d type in an URL and they would get automatically logged into this website via some
cool token handshake thing, and they had literal digital
confetti like burst in. (audience laughter)
Which, I mean, have you heard that? I think this is something
that leadership likes and thinks is helpful,
but to me it just felt really juvenile, and it’s like, you know, it’s not a 12-year-old
that’s getting accepted to your college. You treat them like at
least almost adults. And what happened was it kept breaking and they didn’t have a relationship
with the agency anymore. But they had a relationship with me, and I had to support this steaming pile, it was terrible. (audience laughter)
It was the worst. The absolute worst, and it got so bad, we were at a point where I was talking to George, who’s my contact there, and I said, George, I love
working with you guys, but there is no way that I can
work on this project anymore. If you really want me to
help, I’m happy to do it, but we need to rewrite this thing. And so they were receptive to it, and so we started this
project planning process. What’s to come is basically
summed up in this. This is a direct quote from them as I was meeting with them
doing product planning. Said, “The idea is to incorporate this,” all the things that we want to do, “into the system in a way
that is unique and fun “so students will want to come back “and see what updates have been done “and to check their lists.” And check off the tasks they have to do, that sort of a thing. Which is kind of lofty, ’cause I mean, only certain types of
people like to check off, my wife loves to check off lists. She makes lists of lists
and that sort of thing, which is great, but I
just don’t care that much. But they wanted to do that, and in product planning you actually do have to create lists. So as we got into the product
planning portion of it, we needed to find their requirements. So I flew out to L.A. from Austin, sat down with them, and
had actually a really, really great meeting. We spent a whole day on
LMU’s campus in their offices just talking through
exactly what they wanted. Met with their vice-provost,
met with the people that were gonna be responsible
for managing the content with this, and when I
do those sorts of trips, and those sorts of conversations, my goal is to take what they’re thinking and try to make it a little bit better and suggest that we, you know, suggest alternate ways of accomplishing the same thing, but hopefully
in a more effective way. So we’re gonna look a little bit at the requirements that they had here. ‘Cause it’s a long list. So first was sign in
and data sync via Slate. Does anyone know what Slate is? Anyone use it at your institution? Okay, Slate’s basically a, it’s basically an admissions CRM, it handles
the application part of it. They have loftier goals for it. It’s interesting. It’s not great, it’s okay. It’s better than some
of the things out there. My main issue with Slate during
the process of doing this is I found out that
whenever something needs to be changed or isn’t
quite working right, the CEO goes in and rewrites it. And that’s not a way to
manage a product, but okay, it kinda worked for them
and it was a better option. LMU had already been
using Slate for gathering their applications and their applicants and communicating with
them, and so we needed to find a way to work with Slate with the WordPress site that
we were gonna be building on. Second, they wanted a video
greeting from the president, because
(audience laughter) of course, you want a video. This was the second thing on the list when I was talking to them.
(audience laughter) So you know how important
the video greeting from the president was. It’s actually a very good video. They produced an excellent video for it. Then they wanted a letter
or video from the dean that was going to be
targeted to the student based on what college
they were going into. So the dean of the business college was going to be creating a
letter or a video for them. They already had this
in their previous thing. It was just not done very well, so we knew that, and I was like, okay, targeted, cool, we can do that. The ability for a
student to see what tasks that they need to do had been completed and which ones were still outstanding. Next, oh, so within that, I’m sorry, within the tasks, we
had a survey completion, which they had this giant questionnaire, which we will talk about in a little bit because it was a monster. This giant questionnaire
that every college and sometimes specific
programs or departments would have the students fill out to kind of gauge where they were at. Which makes sense, it was just, they over-complicated it
and we tried to find ways to make it a better experience. Second, placement tests, you
all have those, I’m sure. Registration for actually being registered to the university. Orientation RSVP for
whichever orientation session they were supposed to be in. And then any international
documents required for their international students. So from there, they wanted a method to distribute a survey
unique to each college and for those completed surveys to be transmitted to the
college representatives. That’s the questionnaire I was saying. It’s a little complicated,
it sound easy enough, like, okay, sure, we can
just grab these forms and they would be great,
like you can do it. It should be so easy. Next, they wanted a how-to
video tutorial to display, showing people how to use this thing. And so my argument was, if
we’re doing our job right designing this thing,
we won’t need a tutorial to figure out how to do it, and if you screw it up, like,
just talk to us about it, we can find ways around that. But they wanted how-to videos. Luckily, they didn’t want
me to make those videos so I kinda dodged that bullet. Next, they wanted a notifications section that allows us to communicate with a targeted group or people. Okay, cool, notifications
seems pretty progressive, that could be pretty cool. Next, a social media page that can use a student’s Facebook login
to show the class of page so that those students
can then communicate without having to go to Facebook. (audience laughter) This is the first political intrigue, ’cause bosses gonna boss, y’all. Oh, my dear, it was, this was the one where I sat down, I was
having the conversation within the list, and they brought up, and I was like, oh, now that’s a bad, we know, and I love the
people I work with there, ’cause they understand
their bosses are crazy. They’re like, we know,
but the VP wants it, and we’re gonna have to either do it or find a way around it. So luckily, that afternoon,
we had a meeting with the VP and the AVP for admission,
and I explained, or I tried to explain,
(audience laughter) but I explained that, for the most part, students aren’t gonna want
to be chatting on Facebook through your website. Like, what we should do is just find ways to use the data we could get from Facebook at the time, we’ll get
to that in a minute, to connect them with other students that are maybe from their hometown, or maybe are registered
for the same program and then allow them to friend those people on Facebook elsewhere
and also just push them to their class sub-page. Like plenty of ways to do it, but don’t make them jump through a hoop to go and do the thing
they’re already doing. It doesn’t make sense. They’re not gonna use it. It’s a waste of time, it was
going to cost them more money. I think that kind of
convinced them a little bit. So, maybe a little bit, so what we did was we replaced number eight with a method for students to opt in
to share certain data, like their hometown,
so that they could find other students from their
areas to communicate with, either on Facebook or Twitter, however they wanted to do it. At least they would
know who this person is and they had something in common and they could start making
bonds before they actually got to the university. Next, a method for a student to return to where they left off in the processes and not have to start over
each time they log in. Which makes sense, and
obviously, it needed to be WCAG-compliant, and it is. And that was actually my,
I pushed that on them. I was like you gotta be successful guys. So as we were doing this
product planning process, first thing we did was identified
all the student role types that needed access to this product. There were a lot. Next, we identified
static reference content. This was content such as stuff
about like financial aid, housing, stuff that actually
lives on the real web site that they also wanted to have here. And so I encouraged them
to try to make it simpler, like give them bullet points
on how to do the stuff they actually need to do. Think about the content. Think about how you’re
gonna actually do this and make it work for your students. So it was financial aid,
housing, registration, you know, kind of the
bulleted list type of stuff. And this content was largely universal with a few caveats. Like the financial aid
information was almost, it was pretty much the same for everyone except transferred have a
little kind of different process and international
students have a little bit of a different process,
there were extra things they had to do, but for the most part, that content was the same. So we rigged up a targeted
content short code that got super complex and I’ll
talk about that later, too. Similar, I wouldn’t use
the members plug-in ever to manage, okay, so… Basically, I just extended members to, well, I re-wrote some
of members to give us a, (audience laughter)
it was an easy way extend it, rewrote part of members to give a short code so that they could wrap a short code around a block of text and say, oh, it’s what we want to target, there’s some people in this college, or we want this text to only show up to people that are international students, or that are transfer students. We had to apply that to a
lot of different places. It was pretty cool. And then we also set up a tab interface for just normal page content control. This isn’t the most elegant way to do it, but it worked well for them. I think, I’m interested in re-implementing something like this in Gutenberg or in another use, so some other way, but it works pretty well. We basically knew that
they had freshman domestic, freshman international, freshman
domestic student abroad, transfer domestic, transfer international, transfer domestic student abroad, and then they added no
degree at the last minute, which we’ll talk about scope creep later. But that happened later–
(audience laughter) So essentially what we said was if you’re gonna do this,
like, for some things you can just use your short codes, but if your content’s
gonna be wildly different, what you would do is just go in, add the content for
each one of these tabs. This is all built with
advanced custom fields. Obviously you can’t tell
that from the interface. And then I built this
little tab filter thing on the front end so that their admins could go in and check
that the right content is gonna be showing per student. I wanted to build in easy ways mostly so that they didn’t call
me every five minutes to say they couldn’t figure it out, but also, it’s really, really difficult to go through and add
a role and capability to your user and then go
to the front end and look, and then go back and change that again. It’s a waste of time. I wanted to give them a
way to quickly and easily find this information out and make sure that the changes that they did looked the way they thought they were going to. Partially ’cause they,
everyone wants to see that. They don’t wanna trust it, they don’t wanna trust the technology. I like numbers and computers. So next we really started designing. And what we did in this process, we pitched kind of a storyboard to them. So if you’re not, if you
haven’t really picked out what you have, this is kind of just a product development
cycle that you can use. It’s just plan the product
and then design the product and then build it and test
it and all that stuff. But I wanted to give you a sense of some of the intricacies of how we had to fight and talk some of this stuff out. But we started out with doing this sort of storyboard flow. We had already done a
ton of design internally. I don’t really wire frame often, so I just kind of like hit sketch, went in, started designing the stuff. So we started first
with this login screen. It’s nice and simple,
like they’re gonna use their LMU logins. Well, they already used
CAS, so we kinda tanked that and we’ll talk about CAS in a minute. And then remember how they
wanted the president’s video to, their president’s
greeting video to show up? This is the very first thing. We’re like, okay, cool.
(audience laughter) So on first login, you’re
gonna see it one time, and then we had to build the functionality to basically drop a
flag in their user meta that said, okay, we watched the video, don’t show it to them again. Because it would really
suck to get in there and see that video every single time. (audience laughter) One of the things we
really talked about a lot when we were developing this was this concept of an onboarding flow. Because they wanted all
these tutorials and stuff. It’s like, you know what,
there’s a lot of things they need to set up immediately. Like we’re grabbing a lot of
stuff from authentication, which we’ll talk about in a sec, but there are a lot of things they needed to just kind of set up. And so we decided to go with
this kind of card interface. So first thing we want,
was connect to Facebook, then we can tell you who your friends are, or what other people
have similar hometowns to you or whatever. These were swipe-able on touch devices, and also, as you completed a task, it would auto-progress to the next card. We wanted to play around with doing notifications at first. There were some things
we couldn’t do with it, so they’re not really there. I mean, browser
notifications are one thing, but this was one of those things like when you have tasks, having push notification
capabilities can be really helpful, especially if they’re not
done in a super intrusive way. But we wanted to get this easy method for their students to move
through these initial steps of things they had to
set up or should set up before they actually got in. And the nice thing with
this is that we also used some of the targeting logic that we had written to make it so that the admissions folks could go in and create new cards, add new things. I’ll show you something
later that they want to put in a card that was terrible, (audience laughter)
we’ll see it. And they could re-order these. Maybe you just want people to connect on social media first, or we wanna test to see if that’s gonna perform better, they’re not really at that
point yet, but we’ll get there. And then we designed what we
called the user trackboard, ’cause I didn’t wanna say dashboard. That’s the only reason why
it’s called a trackboard. (audience laughter)
But, essentially what we did was we, you
can see on the left side there’s a list of tasks, and if the task had been completed, we
put a check mark there, we grayed it out, we made
it a little bit smaller. If the task hadn’t been completed, we made it bold and blue
and a little bit bigger. And then in the middle,
we wanted to reinforce some of these things. So there’s a dean’s welcome, like I said, and the nice thing is
if they click on that, they don’t get shown that again. But there are things, for instance, where if you had a task that said you need to pay your deposit,
we wanted to reinforce how do I pay my deposit. Like, that’s great, pay my deposit, but what if I don’t know how to do it. So in the middle, in
the new for you section, we were able to give them
these sort of line cards to target that content. So we tied them to each other,
it’s really complicated, but it worked, and if they
hadn’t paid their deposit yet, we were able to say, okay,
here’s how you pay your deposit. And they would click on the thing, takes them to a page that
has the instructions, and then another button out to actually take the action and do it. And this was really about taking actions. We wanted conversions,
that’s really what it was. Like, you’re on this
site, we have things that you need to do, how do we
get you to just do them? We didn’t necessarily
want them to hang around and read a bunch of stuff. There were people that did want that, but the real goal was get them in, get them to take the
action, get them to convert, get them deposited, get them on campus. And those actions are the
things that reinforced that sort of stuff. So, good intentions, stupid scale. (audience laughter) And a lot of trial and error,
’cause there was a bit. So, no one’s ever shot from the hip and have like this great
idea and then you know it just works perfectly, right, all the time, every time? We over-promised on some things, probably. And then we had to walk them back. Because really, when you don’t
own the stack end-to-end, you end up kind of iterating,
’cause you run into issues. There’s always going to be problems. We didn’t own Slate. Slate was owned by LMU, by their devs, by their IT support team,
and so we were stuck a little bit trying to
say, no do it this way, and then being, like, no,
but we’re doing it this way, and then us trying to figure out how we were going to integrate,
make that integration and kind of massage it into
the stuff that we wanted. ‘Cause we wanted a very
specific experience for these students. It wasn’t just like,
cool, we’re gonna write a bunch of cool code. It’s, we’re gonna make
something that looks good and functions really well,
has a good user experience, and that they actually wanna look at, ’cause the old one was ugly. And the new one was not gonna be ugly. So one of the things was our
troubles with authentications. Loyola Marymount uses CAS,
anyone use CAS on their campus for single sign-on? Few of you, okay. So, they use CAS. They do have an active
directory internally. There’s a lot of stuff
we could do with that. Problem is, prospective
students aren’t in that system, they’re in Slate, and Slate
is not connected to that. So we had, we basically had this pool that we had to use. They were using CAS single
sign-on for everything, but we had this pool of email addresses that were not LMU email addresses and were not connected to any of the active directory services. So we were a little bit worried about it, and then I was reading through
the Slate documentation, and there’s this great article. Slate has a drop-in CAS replacement. I was like, yes, this is gonna be amazing. I don’t have to do anything
with authentication. It’s just gonna work. It’s gonna be amazing. It was not amazing.
(audience laughter) It was not. So, we had this very specific need. So Slate is, honestly,
Slate’s truly pretty flexible. What we were able to do to the whole thing was to take a bunch of user attributes that were sorted in Slate,
tie them to the user, when we ran a query against that user, all that stuff came back to us. It was cool. It didn’t come
back to us in the way we thought it was gonna come back to
us, and that was not cool. With CAS, CAS in recent years has added all these extra attributes so
you can pass with a handshake. So you do the authentication, they go in, you go to the ugly landing login page, ’cause I have never seen
a nice one first thing, so I hope yours looks
nice if you have CAS. But you go to the CAS log-in, you type in your stuff,
and when you log in, it sends a token out to the CAS server, authenticates, brings it back. Basically just brings back an XML readout with a bunch of content, and you can add extra attributes now. So you don’t have to, it
used to be like you had to do CAS and active
directory or L-dat to get all the roles and stuff. You can just pass those roles along with the CAS authentication. It’s great. If I’m getting too
nerdy, just let me know, but it’s a great, great thing. Except that the plug-in
that we were using, and actually all of the
plug-ins that we tried to use, did not accept Slate’s formatting of those extra attributes and
we had no way to move them. So, yeah, so it was a
really difficult thing, and side note, if any of
you are plug-in developers, opportunity for a premium plug-in. Go build a CAS plug-in that will deal with Slate’s extra user attributes, ’cause there are a lot
of Slate users out there that will buy it, just sayin’. So what did we do? We (laughs) first, we sought out a CAS dev that could extend the
plug-in we were using. Actually, Paul Gilzow was
one of the guys I talked to, and he was like, I think I can, he’s like, I don’t have time, I was like, oh, great. So we’re done.
(audience laughter) So we tried to find a
plug-in that supported the extra CAS attributes
and we found some. Like actually the one
we’re using supports them, just not Slate’s version of it. Because we would’ve
just overhauled the one that we liked, well, we
would’ve just extended the one that we liked, but
the ones that we were finding that did this, we would’ve had
to completely rewrite them. They were just actually poorly coded once we got under the hood, and we didn’t have that
time or that budget. So we did what anyone does,
and we found a workaround. And so basically, Slate allowed us to make a call to adjacent web service against a user’s email address. So a person would log in via Slate/CAS, the WordPress CAS plug-in
that we were using would get their first name,
last name, and email address, so that was about all we could pull out. And then we would then
make a call back to Slate with that email address, import
all that user’s information, add it as user meta to the user’s account, and it kinda worked. It was kinda hacky, but it did work. And there was only one issue that we had, and it was that we couldn’t find a way to actually import that data on log-in, because the hooks fire at the wrong times, and so we had to do that
basically every time a page refreshed and we
noticed someone was logged inn, we updated their data. And that’s not the most
efficient way to do it, but it worked. So, all of that led us
to do these targeted, personal tasks, or generate
these targeted, personal tasks that we needed to. That
thing in the left-hand side that I showed on that mock-up. And these were pretty tricky. We actually had to refactor
our method a few times. This is another one of those
trials and error things. We did it one way, and
we’re like, yes, it works! We’re amazing, and then it broke, and then we had to rewrite it, and then it broke for another instance, and we had to rewrite it again, and we just had to keep doing this. But it really came down
to, originally, we thought, cool, we’re gonna have
these tasks right here in this task list, we’re
gonna have these things in this new for you feed,
it’s gonna be great, and then, they disappeared. And then we needed to
put them other places and we couldn’t because we did it wrong. So these were the initial
places that we wanted them. Cards, task list, the new for you section. But when we wanted to
apply them to other areas of the site we couldn’t do it. So remember when Facebook
had that data breach? So that was another one, it
was shortly after we launched. We had developed this really nice little, social media grab, there’s
a video, list video, couple of these Instagram
posts we pulled in. And then Facebook deprecated
the Instagram API, after we had already been
done with this project. We didn’t really have any more budget, and we didn’t really
wanna work on it anymore, and all those images disappeared. They were gone, because we would’ve had to go through their whole co-auth issues and that’s just, that was a pain. So, good intentions, stupid scale. Fly too close to the sun, y’all. Here’s another example. Anyone notice something
about, what is this? What is this supposed to do? So, we know how to do
these cool notifications so you’d get in, you’d see a
little notification indicator up by the menu, and then you’d go in, you’d have all these notifications. Yeah, we didn’t do that. (audience laughter) It was very difficult. That was one of those
big ones, we’re like, you know what, they’re already
getting on the home page, or getting into their trackboard area, and they’ve got three different things telling them what they need to do. They’ve got a menu,
they’ve got this section in the middle, and they’ve
got their task list. Do we really need notifications? Like, just bombard them with them? That’s how I rationalized
it to myself, anyway, so I really hope they don’t need them, ’cause it just didn’t happen. So, this is essentially where we ended up. This is what it looked
like when we launched. Except I’m not a student there, but we developed some stuff to give them a YouTube video embed on there. They can do a future, we actually, we got into scope creep,
which was the worst. So, here’s some lessons learned. Scope creep kills. (laughs) One of the ones with that last thing was they kept coming
back to us with things like, hey, we want to,
we really want to have a default video showing there in case there are no new notifications for them or no things they have to do. All right, great, good idea, cool. Here’s some, like placeholder whatever. And they wanted a bunch of random videos, and I wasn’t very good,
’cause I should’ve said no. But I kept writing these things. But really what it was was as we decided to pull back on certain
things, to scale back on certain things, we found ways to make other things
bigger, and then we also made the project a little
bit larger at the same time. One of the examples was
what I talked about earlier with the questionnaires
that were super complicated. And originally, I thought,
oh, the questionnaires are gonna be great, it’s just gonna be like a multi-page gravity
form that we can do, and they’re just like, fill it out, and go next, just great. But this was kind of the initial set of things that we needed for it. Some of them were pretty easy. So it’s like okay, a
little tricky, not hard, and then we realized that they needed, ’cause they needed to put giant, and I mean, like the longest pages of copy you’ve ever seen in your life, in between these forms to
explain how to fill out the form. Couldn’t persuade them otherwise. We had to build, well, we
built a custom post type and an ACF repeater. And this was after, we’d already
done like the gravity form, so we’re like, cool, we’re almost done. We actually had to go in and re-do that, which was not fun. They also asked us to
integrate an image generator. (audience laughter) They wanted this in one of
those onboarding parts, too. I mean, it’s super cute,
right, it really is. But, guess how well that performed. It was bad. So unknowns also kill. This is the other lesson that I learned. We discovered close to
the end of the project a bunch of edge cases the
client hadn’t thought of at all and hadn’t bothered to tell us about. And because we weren’t super familiar with everything they were storing in Slate and how that integrated
with their banner systems and all the, they had a
bunch of different like, certain placement tests had to be taken on other applications that they had. There was just a whole
lot of different things. We found ourselves scrambling at times, either rewriting or modifying or extending the plug-ins that we had written to handle a lot of this stuff, or just
writing new code entirely to handle all these edge cases. That wasn’t great. All in all, we built
something that’s really cool, and the metrics show, they
had tons of repeat visitors. They haven’t given me any numbers on if it actually helped student melt, but I assume it did because
they’ve been very happy with it. And all the other metrics that we track were really, really good. The other thing is that there’s a lot of room for improvement. There are things that we
can do to kind of push this along a little bit more, especially as new
technologies come into play. So yeah, any questions? Yeah, anyone? – [Man] I’ll ask a question.
– Yeah. – [Man] Right at the end, you mentioned the tools, sort of the
tool set that you used to put everything together
how you were building it. Mentioned, too that every
developer here knows, advanced custom fields and gravity forms. – Yeah.
– Was there an evaluation of other tools that maybe do
the same-ish kind of things while doing that? Or did you just pick
it up and run with it? – [Joel] For me, because they were tools, because I’ve done evaluations of those, they were the ones I wanted to use. They were already using ACF
for a lot of other sites when I came and started working with them. So for them, from a management standpoint, the UX continuity I think was important, ’cause they were able to get
in, knew what they were doing. I built a lot of like
cheat sheet notes for them in the back end, like
these are the short codes you can use and this is how you do this, this is how you do the
targeted content sort of thing. But, yeah, overall, I
had already evaluated a lot of them previously, and so it was one speed to market, so to speak. And yeah, otherwise, they were just what we were familiar with. – [Questioner] So that sounded amazing. I took a whole bunch of notes as to what the requirements were.
– Awesome. – [Questioner] Pitching
some of the things that, I was like, we need that. – [Joel] (laughs) – [Questioner] Then you got to the point where it was all, it was
a nightmare to implement, it was scaled back. Have you heard anecdotally or
do you have any hard numbers on did this actually help with melt? – [Joel] I don’t have
hard numbers on melt. Anecdotally, yes. I don’t know how much the
anecdotes are based in numbers. But it’s, like the clients
were very happy with it, and kept saying, we’re
getting a lot of responses from students, like they told us, at least the
orientation/registration was up, like all the RSVPs, so
there are specific metrics that definitely did help. I think also they changed their, they also changed a little
bit of their email cycling, their email cadence alongside of this, to help draw people back. And so I think there are a
number of different things. Like we built this thing for them, and we said, there are
things we’re not gonna do, like we’re not handling your emails, we’re not handling this stuff, but you’re gonna have to find other ways to try to push people back
to this product as well. ‘Cause they’re not
gonna remember, oh yeah. It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how
cool it looks or whatever. They’re not gonna be like, oh yeah, had some things I needed to do, or I wonder if I have anything new that I need to do on that LMU thing. They need to be prompted for it, and any of us are like that, I think. Anyone else? Cool, well, thank you all for coming. Thanks for staying awake in
the last session of the day. And I hope you had a great conference. Remember to do your evaluations. – [Man] Dude, that’s my job.
– [Joel] Sorry. – [Man] Do your evaluations.
(audience laughter) Give Joel Goodman a good hand. (audience applause)

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