July Technology Report

By dirkkelly

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015

Laptop

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

July 2015 was as busy for our marketing and engineering teams as it was for all our participants arriving for their summer programs.

Only a few months ago these two teams had little to do with each other, Engineering being focussed on operational work, and Marketing on how we publish and distribute information.

Now that oversight of these two teams is under the same umbrella, we’re able to leverage the power of engineering alongside marketing’s insight, to build a more engaging experience for our users.

Primarily our efforts right now are aimed at identifying commonalities between our programs, and implementing more streamlined ways of doing business.

For July we identified three areas we could introduce greater consistency.

  • Program Landing Pages
  • Blog Redesign and Merge
  • Facebook Pages Merge

Program Landing Pages

Program Landing Pages

Screenshot of Program Landing pages.

Our current website focusses on how our different departments operate, we direct users to either one of the four U.S. inbound teams, or to the outbound department.

Unfortunately even though departments are a concept that we understand inside InterExchange, they don’t provide immediate clarity to our visitors.

In order to simplify how we talk about our exchange programs we have decided to focus our upcoming website’s navigation on Program Types and Countries. This navigation would ultimately direct our visitors to a signup page for a Program, such as Au Pair Paris or Intern USA.

We are currently running 48 different programs across the globe, it’s a time consuming process migrating relevant information to these pages. None the less, Ani and Brandon worked diligently this month to produce a set of some pages.

This work is ongoing, we’re hoping to finish it in the next month.

Blog Redesign and Merge

Laptop and Notepad

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Did you know that until recently InterExchange was running 9 Wordpress blogs? Each of these were served from a different url, and targeted towards a different audience.

Due to the amount of programs we run, our articles span a vast array of topics. The previous theory was that keeping topics relevant to the departments would ensure only relevant information got to our readers.

Unfortunately this separation merely introduced complexity around discoverability and distribution of the articles we were producing. More often we were writing posts aimed at a larger audience than the one we were limiting ourselves to.

The merge was a seamless process, migrating from Wordpress to Jekyll is a well documented process.

Jekyll Import Pull Request

Our blogs were generally multi-site installations, this hadn’t been taken into consideration by the gem, a few commits were able to rectify this for us. A great example of how open source software gets you 90% of the way, and gives you the freedom to implement the remaining 10%.

Facebook Pages Merges

Facebook 19k likes

Our social media presence is a very similar story to that of our blogs, splitting our brand up into different departments was meant to reduce noise, yet ultimately reduced discoverability and introduced a large amount of complexity when it came to getting a unified message out to all of our participants, hosts, and partners.

Prior to July we had worked with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to secure the username InterExchange across the mediums. With that task out of the way we decided the first place to start out merges would be on Facebook, the one network which moves your followers over during an account merge.

It’s not been a simple process, at no point have we been able to use the provided Facebook tools, instead having to rely on (the now removed) Facebook chat option available to those who pay for ads.

We’ve not yet merged every department, there are some restrictions we’re working through and we’ve been reduced to getting our merges taken care of over email.

Hopefully we will have Facebook sorted by the end of August, in the meantime we’ve started strategizing about how we will handle Twitter.

Team One on Ones

Getting to know the strengths and interests of the marketing team is key to understanding how we can effectively work together. This month we had one on ones for all members of both teams.

There was an overall positive attitude about the changes we’ve made in the last few months. People are more interested in the work they’re doing, and are learning new skills. The projects we’re starting to touch on (namely rebuilding the website) are both exciting, and long overdue.

That being said there is an overall feeling that because we’re fixing so many things at once, it’s hard to know what the overall goals are and how the work we’re doing now with Program Landing Pages and various improvements to app, play into the vision of InterExchange.

This is a really valid concern, one that has also been expressed by program heads and something we’re working on this month. Sharing a plan of the work we’re undertaking across both teams and all projects, will result in an InterExchange that is more collaborative and able to identify areas that need improvement.

We’re no longer reacting to the joining of the two teams and I’m confident that we will be able to implement a plan that continues to promote work that is both interesting and far reaching in effect. It’s reassuring to know that even though we’re not there yet, everyone is able to recognize the strengths of our team, and the things we need to improve.

Conclusion

Bike

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

We’re still in the early stages of aligning InterExchange’s online presence. There is a lot of work ahead of us building Program Landing Pages, writing articles and simplifying the way we communicate with the world.

I’ve found myself spending a lot of time sifting through our articles, enjoying the diverse set of articles covering different cultures, experiences and perspectives.

InterExchange is full of incredibly interesting people who love to experience the world through travel. I invite you to start having a look yourself, even in these times that we’re working to improve how you discover our content.