While the bulk of our work at SmallBox centers around websites and marketing, we typically consider an organization's work as a whole in order to understand what role that website or marketing plays in their overall ecosystem — a holistic view, if you will.
Such was the case when the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University (IFSA-Butler) came to us wanting to improve the user experience of their student application. It's a complex, multi-step online application that helps IFSA-Butler advisors manage and move students through the process. They knew that students were getting hung up in parts of the application or just not completing it, but they weren't completely sure why.
We started asking questions — What was the purpose of each part of the application? How did the application process work? What was the student experience like? The advisor experience? — and we found that their team needed more clarity and shared understanding around the student application process. Getting this clarity and finding potential breakdowns and opportunities could shed light on how the online application could better support the process, as well as improve application completion rates.
We decided that mapping the process from the perspective of both the student and the advisor experience would start the road to clarity for the IFSA-Butler team. We worked with a team of their advisors and a member of the IT team to collaboratively create a process map.
During this session we outlined what advisors think, do, and feel at each stage of the process. In lieu of having direct input from students (which we'll get at a later date), we asked the advisors to put themselves in the shoes of the students and identify what they thought students did, felt, or thought as well. Using real world examples from their experience with students helped to further fortify the student think/do/feel.
After we all felt the map articulated the process, we went back and identified potential pain points, diving deeper and asking the IFSA-Butler more questions around those points. This gave us further insights into both advisor and student needs, behaviors, and motivations.
Takeaways and Value
The resulting map gave us a clearer picture of the process as a whole and found a number of inefficiencies, duplications, and breakdowns that kept advisors and students from connecting more deeply, which affected both student and advisor experiences, which thereby affected application completion rates.
We created a poster of the end-result process map for IFSA-Butler to take back to their entire team. They put it on a centrally located wall in their office in order to create shared understanding between the team, open conversations about their process, and invite iterations and improvements to the map. This exercise helped illuminate that their whole team is strongly invested in improving their student and advisor experience.
Their next steps will be to build strategies to start tackling the pain points and breakdowns and create more meaningful experiences for their students and team, which is an outcome we at SmallBox could not be more excited about.