Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief


Career Planet

Let's go online! The trials and tribulations of developing websites and other online solutions to reach those in need.

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Information and guidance services | 3 November, 2012 - 17:34

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Career Planet is committed to bringing together those who seek life-changing opportunities with those who have life-changing opportunities to offer. The preferred medium for this is via websites on PC’s and mobile phones, and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) for those who do not have access to the internet.  We host relevant and up-to-date opportunities ranging from jobs to bursaries, learnerships, apprenticeships and more. These are sought out by a number of Opportunity Seekers like learners, parents, school guidance councillors, graduates, students, etc. The Career Planet site also boasts hundreds of articles that support learners in making career decisions, as well as articles aimed at workers and entrepreneurs alike. Each of the individuals who visit the Career Planet site are looking for opportunities, answers, guidance, support, advice or information. All of which is available for free.  Opportunities are usually provided by corporates, government, HR managers, recruitment consultants and private individuals. These organisations and individuals seek access to good-quality candidates who can be filtered by relevant fields in order to closely match selection criteria. Also at no charge.
 
OVERALL OBJECTIVES
Career Planet required a website that would cater to the above two target markets, and deliver the functionality of being able to match opportunities offered with those who seek them, as well as provide candidates for those who have opportunities to offer. The website had to cater to those who surf using mobile devices, as well as those who use the website. It was decided that these two be split into two different sites, www.careerplanet.co.za for PC-based users, and www.careerplanet.mobi, for mobi-based users. This route was chosen with speed-to-market in mind, as it was imperative that the mobi and USSD sites be live and testable by 31 January 2012, and that the web, USSD and mobi sites be operational with full content by 1 June 2012.  
 
USSD mobile technology was used for the bulk of the target market who do not have web-enabled phones. It is old  technology fraught with technical and user constraints, not to mention the exorbitant cost to the user. However, for those who have no access to web or mobile-based internet, it is a solution that will bring hope and light to many rural people’s lives. 
 
OVERVIEW OF THE PROBLEM
Career Planet has undertaken the task of creating a website, mobi site and USSD mobi site in response to the national mandate to increase jobs and access to opportunities for the unemployed youth. As stated under, Basic Thrust and Focus of the MTSF, in A Framework to guide Government’s Programme in the Electoral Mandate Period (2009 – 2014), ‘‘Given the new challenges arising from the dramatic changes in the global economic environment, the main focus in the current period is to minimise the impact of the economic downturn on the country’s productive capacity as well as jobs and poverty-reduction measures, to identify opportunities for new areas of growth and economic participation, and progressively to set the country on a new growth and development path“.  
 
As described in the Career Planet Learning Brief dated December 2011, youth unemployment is at an all-time high.  The National Treasury’s, Confronting Youth Unemployment: Policy options for South Africa, ‘‘Employment of 18 to 24 year olds has fallen by more than 20 per cent (320 000) since December 2008.“  Unemployment is the biggest challenge facing South Africa  today, ‘‘The number of young people in Africa will double by 2045. Many jobs have been created over the last decade, but the pace needs to accelerate significantly to match the demand of Africa's next generations” . The Global Economic Report of 2011 cited poor eductation in South Africa as one of the leading contributors to the failure of South Africa to rate as a nation that develops sustainable employment via entrepreneurs . Career Planet is endeavouring to bring together those who have opportunities to offer (Opportunity Providers), with those who seek life changing opportunities (Opportunity Seekers)  through the medium of technology. It is also aiming to provide basic skills development lessons with assessments on-line and on mobile phones.
 
OVERVIEW OF THE SOLUTION
Mobile technology is the most widely used of all platforms by the youth of today in South Africa. A study revealed that South Africans spend more time on their mobile phones than any other media channel and MXit is the top social site for South Africa and Africa. Over 29 million people in South Africa own cellphones, firmly establishing this technology as the best platform for reaching the youth for the following reasons:
  • Availability of handsets amongst the rural, disadvantaged and dissatisfied
  • Low cost of non-smartphone handsets and charges
  • Quick expansion to the smartphone market: The Nokia Lumia 610 is the cheapest smartphone on the market at only R1,800.  Some of MTN’s smartphone Internet Service packages is billed at 50c-60c per megabyte for going over the allotted 75MB.  According to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media, the smartphone market will see a huge shift from premium devices towards cheaper, mass-market devices
With this in mind, Career Planet decided to use the following platforms for their new and improved interactive websites:
 
1. USSD Site
USSD is understood by nearly all rural Opportunity Seekers as they regularly purchase Pay As You Go airtime in this manner. USSD was selected as the technology of choice for the rural unemployed who don‘t have access to smartphones or the internet. It does not cater for opportunity providers, which is explained in the USSD learnings following.
 
2. Mobi website
The mobile phone website (mobi site) is nearly identical to the normal website, however it has taken into account that most users, even if on a smart phone, will be browing using smaller screens.  The mobi site will have all the functionality of the full website however it is slightly reduced in that it lacks the ability for the upload of documents like certificates and scanned CV's, and has less rich graphics which tend to be data-hungry. The mobi website is also targeted at Opportunity Seekers and Opportunity Providers who can upload opportunities here. 
 
3. Website
The website seeks to match oppertunity seekers with opportunity providers and will offer job matching, job searching and candidate matching.  The website has been built for the opportunity seeker who has access to a personal computer or laptop. It is also the preferred site for opportunity providers and it is assumed that most opportunity providers have access to computers or laptops via their employers or at home.  
 
ANALYSIS OF THE IMPLENTATION EXPERIENCE
 
Graphic Design Learnings
 
The Challenge
Establishing the overall look and feel was a challenging process. Four graphic designers were briefed with disappointing results before the fifth one was found who interpreted the brief accurately. 
 
What we did
Initially, a third party (specialists in web marketing) attempted to project manage and mediate between the designers and Career Planet, assiting the designers in interpreting the brief. However, it was clear that they were not aligned with the required outcome as no matter how many times they were briefed or shown examples of similar work, the work was not up to standard. A ´visual brief´was then prepared and this was given to the fifth designer who went on to create the final look and feel that is what we can see on the live site today (www.careerplanet.co.za).  The third party organisation also stepped aside as middle-man between designer and Career Planet, and Career Planet proceeded to interact directly with the designers, which helped to speed up the process
 
The Learnings
  • Write a detailed creative brief for the graphic designers, including a wireframe, colour palette, and examples of work as references.  
  • Find a designer who matches your personal style, in this case Career Planet needed someone who was prepared to work with them in a hands-on fashion, who was not sensitive to criticism and who wasn't under a lot of work pressure from other clients.
 
 
Project Management Learnings
 
The Challenge
Initially, a third party (specialists in web marketing) project managed the project on behalf of Career Planet, however this led to frustrations as messages were carried between Career Planet and the web developers, and Career Planet´s work was not prioritised as desired.
 
What we did
The third party organisation stepped aside as overall project managers of the site and Career Planet began to engage directly with suppliers. This ensured that messages weren't 'lost in translation', and that the developers understood the requirements at all times.
 
The Learnings
It is important to remain close to high impact projects, especially where the risk and reward are significant and not have a third party acting as go-between partners or suppliers as this adds an additional layer that is not effective to communication or delivery.
Small Business Resources for the Entrepreneur, states that there are tasks that shouldn’t be delegated.  "Small business owners need to take care of basic strategic and planning issues themselves and other management duties—conflict resolution, performance evaluations, etc.—should be delegated judiciously". 
 
Front and back end web development learnings
 
The Challenge
The web developers insisted on preparing a requirements document and quoted accordingly. Unfortunately a few key items were ommited from the document, which they then wished to charge extra for. The project also took longer because they would not allow their developers to directly engage with Career Planet at testing time when a lot of revisions were required. These revisions happened very slowly because Career Planet passed them to the development Project Manager who passed them to his team and so forth.
 
What we did
Additional specifications that were not quoted for initially were specified and additional quotes obtained for them. They were then prioritised and the most critical additions selected for delivery.  Career Planet also negotiated direct contact with the developers working on the project thereby speeding things up.
 
The Learnings
  • A percentage of the quotation needs to be open ended, for items left-off of the brief. When it comes to technical projects, it is impossible to specify all requirements off the bat, and the project should budget for up to 10-15% 'scope creep.' This will allow for unforseen expenses.
  • Alternatively, more time needs to be spent specifying the project in great detail. Best practice project management for web development projects, from TechRepublic, states that the time spent properly planning the project will result in reduced cost and duration and increased quality over the life of the project. 
  • Ensure you appoint developers who understand your preferred style of working. As with graphic designers, they needed to be flexible, accomodating and very importantly, they need to take your project seriously.
  • Also, the developers should ideally be located at your offices so that there can be a greater cohesion between the developers and the client, especially when it comes to testing the site. 
 
USSD LEARNINGS
 
First Challenge
Initially USSD was a mystery to all involved on the project, including the web development agency. We found a digital company who appeared to have developed the same type of functional USSD site as required and negotiations began for a possible partnership. This fell by the wayside when it became apparent that they wanted to make money off of the disadvantaged individuals who so desperately need their service, while Career Planet wishes to offer the service at the lowest cost to consumer as possible.
 
What we did
Career Planet discontinued discussions with the USSD developers and instead commenced to create our own USSD site based on our requirements and mandate.
 
The Learnings
Make sure that you know up front what the goals and objectives are of companies you wish to partner with, and don´t ´get into bed´with partners who have a different objective to yours. 
 
Second Challenge
The platform is limited to 3 minutes per interaction and 180 characters per screen, meaning that longer lists would stretch onto three pages or more, forcing the user to engage with the system longer than the system allows. Plus, it is 18c per 20 seconds using the USSD , which means that consumers could spend between R10-50 per session, depending on how long they browse for. The technology is also very unstable, frequently shutting down the session mid-way, forcing the user to log back in and start from the beginning each time. It became apparent that USSD is an expensive and unsuitable platform, however it is the only way Career Planet can reach those without internet connections or smart phones. We hope that people who want a different life are willing to pay the price to get access to life changing opportunities. 
 
What we did
Career Planet reduced the functionality on the USSD site to only cater for opportunity seekers and removed most of the steps in the process that were deemed to be non-essential. With extensive usability testing this process was eventually seamless and users are now able to sign up and search for opportunities in their area within a few seconds.
 
The Learnings
  • When working with a simple technology like USSD, make sure that you keep the functionality and input required from the user to a minimum.
  • Test the site with users, on their handsets and preferably at their place of work or home.
Jakob Nielson states that best practice with USSD websites is, when developing, avoid the “works for me” statement as the chances are that the user will click or input something you would’ve never thought of, and the system must be prepared for it.  
 
Mobi site learnings
 
First Challenge
The web developers disregarded the wireframes and developed the flow according to what they thought was best. This led to countless user issues when user testing was done as users were lost, confused, frustrated and the abandonment rate of the site was very high. The developers did not notice these problems as they were testing the site from their PC´s and knew where to click each time. When users are frustrated or confused they abandon the site within 5 – 15 seconds. If users arrive on the site and do not see the desired content after a quick scan, they will move onto another site, plus only around 20% of words on a web page are read. 
 
What we did
Career Planet and a specialits web marketing organisation did extensive user testing and created detailed lists of fixes that were required to the flow of the mobi site before it got to the point where users could use the site with minimal frustration.
 
The Learnings
  • Ensure that mobi sites are wireframed, that the wireframes are tested with users, and that the developers follow these wireframes.
  • Conduct extensive user testing until users are able to sign up without frustration or difficulty.
Second Challenge
The size of mobile phones´ screens are very small, meaning that users have to scroll when content is long. Mobile site development best practice states that mobi sites should not scroll left and right, and that users don´t mind scrolling, but seldom read past the first paragraph . 
 
What we did
Career Planet began a process of creating summaries for each content page which will assist mobi phone users in scanning the gyst of the page and deciding whether they would like to read further by clicking a 'read more about this' link.
 
The Learnings
  • Seperate content should be developed  for mobile sites and for websites. Mobi site content needs to be shorter with introductory paragraphs and links to ´read more´.
  • Mobi content should also never scroll left and right.  This was avoided by designing the site to dynamically adjust to the users screen size.  
Third Challenge
Because the mobi website´s content does not match the content of the website 100%, google will see this as duplicate content, especially if users are foreceably redirected to the mobi site based on user device type. This means that if a users lands on the website using his or her mobile phone, we cannot take him automatically to the mobile site without google seeing this as ´cloaking´and possibly deviant behaviour by the site. The best way of avoiding this is for the content of the mobile site to match that of the website 100%. 
 
What we did
We will create a div pop up that asks mobile phone users who are on the website whether they would like to be redirected to the mobi site. If they click on the link then, google will not see this as duplicate content nor penalise the website.
 
The Learnings
Ensure web developers are au fait with the latest google SEO requirements before they commence development, and have them sign a statement to that effect, attaching penalties for lost ranking or penalisations picked up against the website.
 
Fourth Challenge
The web developers did not initially test the mobile site on old phones. This meant that when user testing was done, it was picked up that the mobile site didn´t work on certain older Samsung phones.
 
What we Did
We requested that the developers address the problem before proceeding, as many of our market use older Samsung phones. The developers found there was a problem endemic to this handset and a fix was initiated.
 
The Learnings
Make sure that mobile websites are tested on all makes of phones, as when doing this, you find many problems that you would not have noticed if testing from a PC, or a newer phone or smartphone.
 
Website Learnings
 
First Challenge
The current website content had not been optimised for Google, and many long hours needed to be spent ensuring each page on the site is ready to be indexed. All links, alt text, title text as well as targets for external links need to be specified as well as a number of front end dev issues like missing H1's and page desicriptions.
 
What we did
The bigger SEO issues were dealt with before the site was made indexable by google, and the content issues will be managed based on the priority of the page.
 
The Learnings
When writing for the web, ensure that all content editors are trained in Search Engine Opimisation (SEO) and that keyword analysis is done on all pages. This is to ensure the site has the best chance of ranking in Google.
 
Second Challenge
The web developers hired for the job assured Career Planet that they were familiar with SEO best practice, however it quickly became apparent that they did not know the basics of SEO. Many web developmnent agencies claim to be familiar with SEO but do not know the fundamental basics contained in the Google Webmaster Guide. 
 
What we did
Career Planet brought in a third organisation who specialises in web marketing to assist with consulting on SEO on the project. This meant that the site will have the best chance of ranking in Google once live.
 
The Learnings
  • Ensure your web developers can show you a number of websites they have developed that rank on page one in google for non-branded search terms. These should include websites that have been redesigned.
  • Appoint an SEO mediator to act as go between between you and your developers to ensure they are managing your project with google (and end users) in mind.
Third Challenge
Migrating a site from an existing destination to a new url destination is one thing, however changing an entire website´s look, feel, page names and structure, and replacing an existing site with this new content (a website migration) is a science on its own, one that very few web developers are skilled in. The biggest impact of doing this poorly is that the site can lose all its Google equity, and will be classified by Google as a new site, and forced to regain all its lost rankings. A process that can take months or even years.
 
What we Did
Career Planet and our SEO consultant, carefully documented each new page´s name, plus the old page title, and prepared a 301 guide for google. This basically tells google that each page has moved and where the new page is to be found. We also went through the site and meticulously noted each SEO gap and presented it to the developers, who are now able to improve the site´s structure, wording and design to ensure it is optimised for Google.
 
Learnings
  • You can't simply switch your old site off and switch your new site on. Hire a consultant who is skilled in web migrations to oversee the management thereof.
  • Create the required 301s in the Htaccess file.
  • Ensure 404 page errors are monitored and managed. 
  • Smooth transitions between sites requires careful attention to the details, including ensuring that potential customers aren’t greeted with error pages during the transitional period and that SEO rankings and credentials are maintained for the new site. 

Career Planet


PO Box 337 Cape Town Table View Western Cape South Africa


 082 562 7834


 www.careerplanet.co.za/


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