Improving Search Filtering

Please note: the changes in this blog post will only be visible on sites that have been upgraded to the New Look. If your site hasn't been upgraded yet and you'd like to upgrade, please email support@studystays.com.

Some time was spent over the last week looking at how to improve the search experience for students.

The feedback received was that students often jump into a basic search from the front page and end up with many pages of results which they were then having to go through manually. It wasn't clear to students that they could use the "Rooms" and "Properties" links to access the full array of search options to narrow their search.

Based on this feedback, there have been a number of subtle improvements made to the way search works.
  • Narrowing the search: There is now a "Refine search..." link at the top of the search page which will take students back to the full search form. Moving between the search form and back to "Refine search" will keep all their current search criteria.
  • Widening the search: Search facets (e.g. "near Hobart", "for up to $600/week") are now highlighted with grey labels and they can be removed from the search screen without having to go back and redo the search, by clicking the little cross next to each facet.

Before

After

I hope you find these improvements beneficial.

Supporting Documents for Student Approval

To streamline the approval process for Future Students, it's now possible to allow "Supporting Documents" to be uploaded along with a student's registration.

With this feature enabled, Future students will be asked to upload their supporting document (or documents) on the registration page:

The label and help text for the upload ("Certificate of Enrolment" and the "Please upload a PDF  etc." in the screenshot above) can be configured through Admin > Settings > Student approvals.

For example, if you want to allow a Letter of Offer as well as a Certificate of Enrolment, you could change the name of the document upload to "Letter of Offer / Certificate of Offer".

There is the ability to add more than one file, which can be used if there are multiple pages of a scan or if you need more than one supporting document.

You will see the supporting documents in admin when you go to approve a future student account:

The file size limit for uploads is 10MB and the upload area will accept PDF, JPEG or PNG files.

How to Enable Supporting Documents

To enable this feature, go to Admin > Settings > Student approvals and tick the box to "Ask student to upload a supporting document".

If you decide to make use of this feature, you might like to review the "Student Approval Required" follow up page that is shown to after registration to students who require approval. You can edit this page from Admin > Content > Pages, or from the Admin > Settings > Student approvals page.

You should probably also review the "Pending approval" and "Remind students when they are in the approval queue" email templates (Admin > Settings > Email templates) to make sure they are suitable.

New Look for StudyStays

I'm pleased to announce the new look for StudyStays, which is available from today.

It's a cleaner and more modern design. It has better mobile support, and provides more consistency between the mobile and desktop experience. And there are some new customisation options for banners and branding.

There's a video below with a 3-minute overview of some of the changes.

We've tried to take a fairly conservative approach in this redesign, so that not everything changes too much and all at once. This first update is fairly substantial already, so we've avoiding changing layout and functionality unless it was really necessary. We'll continue to make incremental changes to the new look going forward.

For now, you'll find the majority of admin functionality works just as before, but there are some new customisation settings to support the new look. Admin will be updated to match the new look in the not-too-distant future.

Updating to the new look is optional. So if you're busy with other things you don't need to worry about changes until you're ready to proceed. But if you are interested in using the new look, please get in touch and we'll probably be able to update your site overnight, making sure that any existing customisations and branding continue to work.

The following two video have some more detail about the customisation options that are available.

Customising the Home Page Search (4½ minutes)

Customising the Brand Header (4½ minutes)








Recording Feedback

You can record feedback on listings received from students. To access feedback, go to the Providers tab in Admin, then click Feedback.



Feedback is only visible to administrators. Providers won't be able to see feedback about themselves through the website.

There are three types of feedback: recommendations, comments and complaints. This lets you track the sentiment of the feedback, i.e. positive, neutral or negative sentiment.

New feedback is shown as "Open". If feedback requires further action from staff, you can leave it as "Open". Once you've dealt with the feedback you can mark it as "Closed", which is similar to archiving it.

Complaints against a provider will affect the approval score for new listings added by that provider.

The "New feedback" form in admin lets you lookup the provider, listing and student; and enter the feedback all in one page.



You can also allow students to provide feedback directly on listings. An administrator with "Super admin" permissions will need to enable this through Admin > Settings > Feedback, by ticking the box to "Allow students to provide feedback".

When students are allowed to add feedback, they will see a note at the bottom of listings with a link to enter the feedback.


You will be notified on the Admin Overview tab when students have provided new feedback.

New feature: Messages between students and providers

The new Messages feature for StudyStays introduces a new way for students and providers to communicate.

Using the Messages add-on, the conversation between students and providers can be handled through your web site, rather than just showing contact info and leaving it up to your users from there.

This gives your users more privacy and security. It also gives administrators increased control and accountability measures to prevent and investigate scams and any other abuse that may occur.

As you will see below, messages work hand-in-hand with normal email. So users can reply directly from their email program, or from your website, or both.

Enhanced Scam Protection

Until now, registered students have been able to see providers' contact information on listings when they are signed in. Even with security measures like email verification and approvals, there have been times when scammers have passed these checkpoints and gone on to try to scam providers. When this happens, it is difficult to try to work out who the scammer is, since there is no requirement for them to use the same email address that they used to register for the site.

Most of these scam attempts appear to be detected by providers before any money changes hands. But it's still an annoyance for providers, and the only solution until now has been to try to educate them on the dangers of online scams.

With the Messages add-on, there is no way for scammers to email providers directly. All messages must be sent through your website, unless providers choose to reveal their email address explicitly to a student. This means when a scam attempt occurs, you can identify who it was, see the message they sent, and block them from using your website again.

With built-in features for reporting suspicious messages as you can see below, it's quicker and easier for your users to notify you of abuse.

Messages In Action

Here are some screenshots showing how Messages work.















 

Like What You See?

Messages are ready to use now, for an additional annual fee of $400. This fee helps cover the cost of the significant technical requirements of routing emails through your website reliably and securely.

If you're interested in using Messages, please email Support and we can set you up as soon as you like. For the first 5 universities that sign up for Messages, we'll waive the annual fee until your next invoice.