• Issue #5

Hospitality at Scale

Image of an escalator looking down.

Hi there.

This week, hospitality at scale, answering questions with data, and a better option for bio links.

Thanks for being here.

I’m Thinking About Hospitable Organizations

This summer, I got the opportunity to lay out my framework for Hospitable Design at PSEWEB in Montreal. In October, I’ll apply that framework to one of the buzzwordiest topics higher ed marketers keep running up against — personalization — at HighEdWeb. As Bravery continues to grow in size and client base, I’ve been thinking about ways to design our agency to be more hospitable.

New for my colleagues and future hires is 100% paid health, vision, and dental insurance, including dependents. I don’t want anyone at Bravery having to worry about how to cover health concerns that come up. It’s distracting enough to go to a doctor, but to figure out how to pay for it when the US healthcare system is so anti-consumer is a detriment to everyone and the whole organization. It’s been some work to get this set up, but it’s rolling out in just a few weeks.

Internally we’ve been talking a lot about how to clarify, cement, and formalize our inclusivity practices. Especially as prospective clients start asking about our dedication to equity as a company, it’s critical that we vocally express how we incorporate that important work into what we do every day.

And that’s hard work. Bravery is a small company with only three employees, including myself. Our talent pool when we hire isn’t as diverse as it could be. As we move forward and continue to grow, we are committed to increasing the breadth and diversity of voices that speak inside Bravery. The specific challenges small businesses face are real, and we are meeting them head-on.

And on a superficial level, we are hosting HigherEd.Pizza events at conferences this year. So if you’ll be at HighEdWeb in Little Rock, keep an eye on our Twitter for the Pizza Party RSVP.

- Joel Goodman

UX Research: Collecting Data that Answers a Question

Last week, I wrote about one of the common pitfalls in UX research: collecting more data than you can reasonably take stock of and use productively. Similarly, this week, I wanted to talk about another hazard in the UX research process: collecting data you do not yet have a purpose for.

Seeing results from great user experience research, it can be tempting to organize a study just to see what happens for you. In some ways, this feels more open-minded and pure; you’re not in danger of corrupting the findings with the study’s intention. You can’t ask leading questions, misguide participants, or even design a study to find in favor of a bias or any preconceived notions.

I know this sounds good. Unbiased results?! How can that not be a good research practice? But, hear me out. If you’re not trying to answer specific research questions, you run a lot of risks with your study.

  1. You have no idea at the outset if the data you collect will be useful to you. And, let me put the mythological let’s-see-what-happens study leading to copious amounts of actionable insight to bed. The likeliest scenario is that you will collect interesting but hard-to-leverage data that isn’t worth the cost. But worse, without a straightforward question in mind, you run the risk of data that actually misleads you.
  2. Bias permeates the research process. We all have inescapable points of view. Just because you try to prevent bias from entering the data collection phase doesn’t mean you get a free pass on the interpretation side of things. As economist Ronald Coase said, “Torture the data, and it will confess to anything.”
  3. You might waste a valuable opportunity with your research participants. Research participants want to do a good job. (Sometimes, those participants have ideas of their own regarding what an excellent job in a user experience study entails, but that’s a subject for another hot take.) The analysis can feel incoherent, boring, or superficial when your research does not ask specific questions. It makes it more challenging for your participants to feel like they gave you something worthwhile.
  4. Your methods and inferences might not jibe. You may find that the patterns emerging from your research efforts cannot be confirmed by the data you’ve gathered. Maybe the data suggests something quantitative, but you’ve used a qualitative method. Or, a participant reflects on something interesting late in the study, and there’s no room to collect similar feedback. You may find that your results will require extra steps to validate them, and your process will feel overwrought and protracted.

Instead of just picking a method to see what happens, start with a goal. Look at the outputs that will help you know if you’ve achieved your goal. And then ask a few questions about how to bring about those outputs. Let the style of your question dictate your method.

And, if you don’t trust me on this, please turn to the master of hot takes, Mr. Mark Twain: “Data is like garbage. You’d better know what you are going to do with it before you collect it.”

Kristin Van Dorn

If there were a competition for the most overused phrases in social media marketing, “link in bio” and “like and subscribe” would find themselves evenly matched. But it’s the former that often causes more debate amongst Marcom teams. Long has Instagram prevented us from including links in our posts, so in order to send folks to multiple places via one link in our bios, we’ve been forced to turn to third-party tools like Linktree or Milkshake. However, there is a better way.

I suggest creating a dedicated landing page for social links on your institution’s website. This way, you can control the entire experience for incoming users (URL, aesthetics, supplementary content) and will likely have a more substantial influence on what they do next. Why send someone from Instagram to another app when you could send them directly to a branded university page with clear next steps instead?

Depending on your role’s abilities (or limitations), creating a new page might require working with someone in I.T. and involve a lengthy approval process. And if that’s your situation, I can absolutely understand the value of using these external tools. But I’d argue that if you have the ability to provide a better experience for potential students, it’s your duty to do so, and if that means dealing with some challenging internal conversations, so be it.

Curb any managerial pushback by sharing the potential cost savings (even if it’s small) of taking the landing page in-house, and explain that you’ll have clear insight into how that page is performing because it’s trackable in your website’s analytics platform.

Ultimately, there’s no getting around the corniness of saying “link in bio,” but if you present your audience with a more personalized and intuitive .edu link, I think they’ll forgive you for it. And also, corn is “in” right now.

Carl Gratiot