Sometimes finding a solution is as simple as sitting at the right lunch table.
As we redevelop our website, we recognized a need from the top down for feedback and input from prospective and/or incoming students. But I wasn’t really sure how to do it. Until one day I decided to sit with the good folks who run our New Student Orientation program during lunch in our Campus Center.
They were discussing an informational scavenger hunt where incoming students had to perform a certain number of tasks while competing for prizes. And it dawned on me: Hey, maybe one of those tasks could have something to do with our new website! A couple conversations later, a task involving our web redevelopment was part of the scavenger hunt, and my summer of interacting with hundreds of incoming students began.
For the first two scavenger hunts, I asked students stopping at my station their opinion on three different design protypes for the new site. An overwhelming winner emerged, with 62 percent preferring an option with a narrow pictoral (often scenic) banner on top. Which happened, fortunately, to also garner positive feedback from faculty, staff and current students. But to be able to back that opinion up with results from surveying more than 200 incoming students provides great confirmation.
The following orientation sessions involved a card sort. I asked each member of the teams of scavenging students to take a card with a topic on it and tell us which section of our website (About, Academics, Admissions, etc.) they would expect to find it. Some results held to form, while others were eye-opening … but having a couple dozen students choose each card during each hunt gave me a pretty good sample size. And the conversations made them aware that 1) we are redeveloping our website, and 2) we value their input.
Overall, the information, connections and visibility proved quite valuable … but it all comes back to that initial conversation. I think sometimes those of us working in social media get caught up in the value of conversations on Facebook or Twitter (and imaging ROI) that we forget about the importance of face-to-face conversations. Of getting out there and speaking to people from different backgrounds. Of the serendipity that can follow something as simple as just sitting at someone’s lunch table.