We’ll be analyzing a website called CareerVillage (https://www.careervillage.org), which offers an online platform for posting and answering questions related to career, as well as career plans reviewing.
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CareerVillage attempts to solve a “huge global problem”: the limitation of network approach of students from low-income communities leading to a significant barrier in the charting path to gainful employment. CareerVillage’s slogan is “to democratize access to career information and advice”. They aim to help young people (especially teenagers) to create professional goals and understand their personal paths to those goals. CareerVillage attempts to achieve this by using crowdsourcing to provide the personal career guidance at massive scale.
- Serve 1,500,000+ students;
- Cover 10000+ career topics;
- Offer access to 15,000 working professional volunteers.
CareerVillage’s selling point is providing tailored advice for students, and it’s reliable, encouraging and inspirational. The product primarily works to support youth in low-income communities, students who plan to become the first in their family to attend college, students who are first-generation immigrants, young people of color, and young women interested in STEM careers. These are communities traditionally lacking the access to abundant career advice. CareerVillage endeavors to fill the gap between career role models and future workers.
On a well-marked corner on CareerVillage’s webpage, they post links to its Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram homepage. CareerVillage actively publishes on its SNS accounts, especially on Twitter – they frequently post content on career guidance events and hot questions to attract public’s attention. Apart from attracting individual users, CareerVillage pays particular attention to ‘educator’ users, telling them on Twitter how CareerVillage helps to provide better career education. The latest Twit was posted 2 days ago.
A search of ‘find a mentor’ on Google leads to an entry of CareerVillage on the bottom of the second page in search results. CareerVillage pays for Google Ads as a way of increasing visibility.
CareerVillages shows up on the bottom of the 2nd page of Google search “find a mentor” results, and on the bottom of the 2nd page of Bing search “ask career question” results. They are both mixed with “how-to” articles. Although the position of 2nd page is not perfect, when the search engine user ignores the “how-to” articles, they are very likely to find the existence of CareerVillage.
The most valuable asset on CareerVillage is the answers provided by its “volunteers”. Now, CareerVillage claims to have more than 1,5000 volunteers. Because of founders’ background, many of the volunteers are from large enterprises like McKinsey, and they are offering high-quality guidance in the business field.
When CareerVillage was founded in 2011, its target was to help high school students. Now their target users have been extended to all students above 5th grade, including college students. At the very beginning, the only few “volunteers” are the founders’ friends. This number became 500 in 2014, and 15,000 in this year.
CareerVillage’s matching algorithm separates it from other online forums. When a student posts a question, the algorithm analyzes this issue and matches it to volunteers who have relevant skill sets. Then this question is pushed to the volunteers via emails. This algorithm assures an efficient matching between students and volunteers and saves volunteers’ time in browsing questions.
A Google search of “CareerVillage” reveals scarce advertising articles targeting individual users, but a lot of investors, and a few of educators. Thus it can be seen CareerVillage makes great effort to attract investors’ attention, and their marketing strategy is to acquire student users through teachers. An educator user can create “cohorts” to give students access to CareerVillage. They also publish several guide articles for educators on a Medium blog.
CareerVillage claim to have helped over 2,000,000 people and won awards/funding from institutions like LinkedIn, Google.org, BlackRock, FFWD and MassChallenge. So they have a good public image.
CareerVillage provides a responsive website. They have no native app. The users’ behaviors on the website are mainly browsing and text input.
CareerVillage has yielded a new casual appearance to their website in April. The thick strokes, rounded corners, and Lato font face pass the information that this should be a much usable site. In fact, though some microinteractions do contribute satisfying user experience, there is still room for improvement looking from the perspective of achieving user’s goal.
For example, when the user follows a question, and this is not the first question he follows, he should not be asked to tell the website his contact information again. Because the user is already logged in, so the website knows who he is; and it’s not the first time, so the user has already told the website before.
However, the user is faced with a pop-up window asking the information, again and again, every time he follows a question. This is undoubtedly frustrating. Of course, it would be best if the user never has to type this information after clicking the follow button, because his email has already been associated with his user account. The website could just send updates to this email address.
CareerVillage adapted a grid system to help layout their webpage, but the outcome leaves a bit to be desired.
Let’s take student user’s view for example. First off, there are two main sections in the website’s content: Questions and Career Plans. But there is no obvious visual clue to let the user know the structure immediately.
Secondly, the search bar on the top of the page is too wide. Its width is almost the same with the screen, which is unnecessary and decreases the usability of the search button.
The content below the search bar is arranged in a 3-column layout, looking neat and structured. However, the user profile in the left column is not necessary to appear on this page, because user’s primary purpose here is to browse career questions, while the user profile takes up too much page space. Meanwhile, the sorting (called “Order” here) is in the right column, and it’s not so intuitive since most sortings are on the top of the content or the left.
In general, the navigation structure of CareerVillage is easy to understand, except one biggest struggle – looking for “Ask a question” button. This button does not show on the homepage (or dashboard page), but only appears when the user comes to a particular question’s page, and clicking on it means “when you finish reading this question, and you’re sure yours is different, you can now ask.” Asking questions is assuredly an important feature of the website, and a start point of creating more content for the website, so it is supposed to be strengthened.
CareerVillage puts their product on the Web, and applied responsive design, so there’s a good compatibility for almost all desktops and mobile devices.
The biggest advantage of CareerVillage is to push questions accordingly to volunteers based on the tags assigned to the questions. This recommendation mechanism is more efficient than that of Quora, because the combination of multiple tags can help calculate relevance between volunteers and issues more precisely, therefore finding the most appropriate question answerer.
However, the conversation between volunteers and question askers can hardly be called effective advice for career development. Because the career is a complex problem to talk about, and the conversation on CareerVillage is always single round. When a question is answered by a volunteer (with usually 5 to 15 lines), the issue is seemed closed, and there is no further communication between the asker and the volunteer. Not to speak of the questions that are still not answered since a long time. If the student hadn’t described his situation in detail when asking, he had no other chance to talk with the volunteer in depth.
Calls to Action
There is quite effective log-in guidance on the homepage (before logged in). A huge tagline “Have questions about your future” arrests user’s eyeballs immediately, and naturally leads the eyesights to a button “Get them answered.” When the user clicks on this button, the website asks the user to sign in or sign up.
(This article is also posted on Medium: https://medium.com/@huiqingao/marketing-and-ux-analysis-towards-careervillage-463ed52959da)