As Head of Product, I was responsible for completely overhauling a 4-year old website and web application for education seekers. The old site was filled with information (much of which was out of date), but the overall user experience was disjointed at best. Starting in early 2018, the company brought in a completely new team from the CEO down, including asking me to lead a product organization in reimagining the way that users search for educational opportunities online. This project entailed collaboration across a variety of companies and functions, as well as challenging me to learn new skills.
While the Noodle.com legacy site had a great flow of traffic (~500,000 UVs/month) thanks in large part to its strong base of content, it wasn’t making any money. From a user perspective, there was a ton of great information, but it couldn’t be easily navigated, nor was there any personalization. The board of directors “hit reset” on the company in December of 2017, hiring a new CEO with the mandate to make the company profitable and create a strong user experience in the process, and I was hired in May to turn Noodle into the “TripAdvisor of education.”
The question is: how do you build a platform around such an incredibly fragmented space and make money doing it?
The first step I took was narrowing down our target market to higher education. That’s where the CEO had already focused our revenue efforts, and it made sense that the site would bring to the fore those individuals who were seeking the levels of education that worked with our model.
Step two was user-centric design. This consisted of interviewing dozens of prospective college and graduate school students, as well as numerous service providers (admissions reps, marketers, tutors, etc.) to understand the market and shape the product into something that could truly help education seekers find the right opportunity for them at that moment. Another component of this phase came later: using sites like usertesting.com to allow prospective users to navigate a clickable prototype of the site and provide feedback on its functionality and usability.
From there, my team (product and design) worked with the head of engineering to build a product roadmap, first in Google Sheets and then in JIRA. We focused on paring down the features to an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which would allow us to get enough user metrics to improve the site while also scaling revenue quickly. Ultimately, I focused the team on three cornerstones:
In order to build a strong SEO base and provide a reason for users to return, we needed fresh content that was relevant to a wide swath of education seekers.
Many sites offer the ability to search a database of schools, but Noodle is the only place on the web that offers high-quality suggestions of schools that match the user’s profile – and improves those offerings with each interaction between the user and the site.
Engagement with Experts
In order to truly be a “one-stop shop” for all things education search, Noodle needed to provide something completely unique: a direct connection between prospective students and education experts in a variety of areas.
With the roadmap in place, we
The new Noodle.com launched in
- +250% registration rate from visitor to account
- +40% conversion rate from account to lead (revenue)
- +75% time on site
- +50% pages/session