on Writings

Case study: Remaking Lostgrad.com

Back in the day, I made a site with a friend called lostgrad.com - the idea was to build a platform for students to discover courses, travel packages, graduate jobs, placement jobs, and a section for inspiration. It sounded great to us, we thought this was something quite unique as there wasn't a site to find all of this in one place. After building it, we found there was a reason such a site didn’t exist - it wasn’t needed (either that or we executed it wrongly). The reason we wanted all these sections on the site was because it’s what we wanted, so we assumed everybody would want it too.

However, after running the site for about a year, it was evident from our Google Analytics, and Twitter interactions with users that people were only interested in one part of the entire site - the job section. Hardly anybody looked at any of the pages apart from the Graduate jobs section - so nobody actually wanted all the courses or travel posts. Other than that, the site only had about 80 people register.

Looking at the pain points

After a while, we had to re-evaluate the situation and look at what was wrong. These were the main problems with the original site:

  • Users (students) don’t want courses
  • the site is spread too thin, so doesn’t solve any problems well
  • the job images are unnecessary, as they don’t add any extra value
  • No introduction to what the site actually is
  • The user’s journey through the site had not been thought through.

How do we move forwards?

So we'd found a lot of problems, we needed a new direction to follow, which seemed to present itself really. In a linear fashion, we stepped through each of the above pain points, and came up with a new plan. This is what we aimed to do: 

  • Give users what they actually want
  • Give the user a definite journey
  • Provide a clear introduction to the site
  • Get users to sign up

Having highlighted these actions, a bit of brainstorming around the problem was also beneficial.

Don’t get attached to what you’ve made

We learned that to move forward, it’s sometimes necessary to be drastic and throw everything except what's needed. In this case that meant getting rid of all the courses, travel, and inspire posts and pages for starters. 

These features took time to build - a course aggregator targeted to each site, giving the user custom filters such as subject, course provider, university or even course length. Then there were similar custom filters for the travel section, as well as the colour themes, and storing images. The list goes on. 

When a lot of work is put into building a set of features such as these, it can be hard to throw it away, but sometimes you have to.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden

That’s why it’s always best to start low fidelity and get as much user feedback as possible, so when you throw away your design, it matters even less.

What's next?

Having thought through the problems, the newly designed version of this site can be seen here