tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:/posts StudyStays Blog 2021-03-25T21:16:25Z StudyStays tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1664067 2021-03-25T21:16:25Z 2021-03-25T21:16:25Z Accommodation Reviews

Students can now leave accommodation reviews with a rating and comment.

To enable this feature, you will need to go to Admin > Settings > Listings and tick the "Enable reviews" box.

How it works

Listings will show an average rating at the top of each listing and a link to the reviews section.

Students who have registered and signed in will be able to leave reviews with a rating out of five and comment. There's a character counter on the review form to help with the length requirements (between 50 and 5000 characters).

Newly submitted reviews will need to be approved by an administrator before they become publicly visible and contribute to a property's overall rating. The student will however be able to see their review while it is awaiting approval.

The administration process for new reviews

As an administrator, you can check for new reviews on the Overview tab in admin.

Note: You can also choose to be notified by email when new reviews are submitted by editing your administrator account (under Admin > Settings > Administrators) and ticking the box to "Notify when new listings, reviews or registrations need approval".

Click on a review, and you will be able to read the full review and "Approve" or "Reject" it.

If you need to edit the review for publication, there's a button on the right for that.

Once a review has been approved it will become visible to everyone, and the review's rating will contribute to the average rating for the accommodation.

If you do decide to reject a review for whatever reason, it will still be retained for internal use.

A note on privacy

In order to protect the privacy of students, reviews will be shown publicly along with only the student's status (Current or Future) and their campus (if known). No information about the student's name will be revealed. Only administrators will be able to see which student actually submitted the review.

What happens to reviews when a property is re-listed?

Reviews are attached to the property rather than the individual accommodation listing. So if a property is re-listed, the new listing will display any reviews from previous listings. Expired listings (i.e. those listed before a review was submitted) will also display reviews from any newer listings when viewed through admin, so you won't need to go hunting down the newest listing to see if it has been reviewed.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1414280 2019-05-29T01:15:33Z 2019-05-29T01:19:19Z Reducing Stale Listings

Accommodation providers sometimes neglect to close their listings once they've been rented out. This can lead to wasted time for students who enquire about listings that aren't available.

One way to avoid this is to remind providers to close their listings with a Listing Availability Check. A reminder email can be sent out part-way through the listing to ask providers if the listing is still available and prompt them to close it otherwise.

We try to make this as painless as possible, with a button in the email that lets the provider close their listing quickly without needing to login.

Configuring the Listing Availability Check

To enable the Listing Availability Check, go to Admin > Settings > Listings and tick the box to "Check availability via email".

You can configure when the email will be sent based on how long the listing is active. We recommend checking availability about half way through the listing.

Click "Save" to save these changes.

Once the availability check is enabled, you can adjust the email that will be sent out. You can find the email template under Admin > Settings > Email templates > Listings > Check availability.

All the variables in [brackets] will be automatically replaced with the relevant information when these emails are sent.

The emails are sent with the subject "Is your listing still available?", and you will be able to see what was sent when viewing the "Sent emails" for a provider.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1399215 2019-04-18T07:46:29Z 2019-04-18T07:46:29Z Map search

We're pleased to announce that we've redesigned the search page to feature a new interactive map alongside search results.

Students can now see where properties are in relation to your institution and the surrounding area. We hope this will be helpful for students who might be moving to a new city to study.

Students can also see and do much more on the search page, in way that is easy and pleasant to use (we hope).

This update reflects our commitment to ensure you, our customers, have the best technology to support the amazing and valuable service you provide for students.

There have been many subtle improvements in this update, but I've outlined some of the biggest highlights below.

An interactive map
Students can see where listings are on the map without leaving the search page. Listing markers will highlight as you roll over the listing details, and students can click a map marker to bring up the listing details in place. Students can also pan and zoom the map and then redo the search in the new area.

More photo thumbnails
Students can quickly browse through every photo for each listing from the search page, without needing to open the listing. Photos are loaded dynamically — clicking to the next photo loads it just in time. This is especially beneficial for students using mobile data because we don't load photos they won't see, and it means the pages load more quickly, even on a desktop.

Quicker page loads
One of the more subtle improvements is that going to the next search page, or adjusting the search filters, or searching in a new map search location all happen quickly without reloading the entire page.

Matches your branding
We've taken the time to make sure the map search page includes colours and styling to match your institution's branding.

I hope you and your students enjoy using the new map search. Happy Easter!

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1393188 2019-04-03T07:08:48Z 2019-04-04T23:47:58Z Messaging improvements

Today we released two significant improvements to Messages.

If you're not familiar with Messages, it's a secure and private way for students and providers to communicate through StudyStays. It's an important tool for deterring and detecting scams, giving you greater ability to protect and assist students. You can read more about Messages here.

The improvements are

  1. Support for email attachments
  2. Admin alerts when messages contains words or phrases that may indicate a scam

Support for email attachments

Attachments sent via email are now collected by StudyStays and securely forwarded to the intended recipient. We had noticed sometimes students and landlords would exchange their real email addresses in order to send documents like lease agreements. That's still allowed, but it was an annoyance for users and it makes it harder for admins to investigate if issues arise later.

Admin alerts on message contents

StudyStays can now watch for problematic phrases used in messages and alert you when they occur. This can give you early warning of scams or abuse, without needing to look at every message that goes through the system.

You can configure the phrases through Admin > Settings > Messages (if you have Super Admin permissions).

When a phrase is detected, an alert will be added to the Admin overview page. You can review these alerts to see if any further investigation is needed, and dismiss the alert once the issue has been resolved.

In late 2018, StudyStays began running automatic scam detection on all messages, looking for common scam phrases and unusual activity. So even if you don't use this feature there is still a base layer of protection. You can however, get more control and insight by configuring custom alert phrases for your own StudyStays database.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1374406 2019-02-15T05:16:55Z 2019-02-15T05:57:41Z Tracking Outcomes

Over the last month we've been working hard on tracking and measuring outcomes for students and listings. We're pleased to announce a new collection of tools that proactively seek feedback from students and providers about their outcomes from using StudyStays.

Student outcomes

Because students don't directly book accommodation through StudyStays (at least not yet), it's been hard to tell what kind of outcomes they've had using the website. To know whether a student had found accommodation, was still looking for a place, or had given up was not information that was readily available. So we decided to improve this situation.

One approach to collecting this information up until now has been to send out a follow-up email some time after the student has registered asking for feedback. Another approach is to have a survey form on the website to solicit feedback that way. And some universities were using a combination of these techniques.

The problem with sending a follow-up email a set duration after registration is that we don't really know when to send it. Send it too soon and the student may still be looking for accommodation, and send it too late and they might have lost interest.

The problem with posting a link to a feedback form on the website is that many students might not see it.

Both approaches suffer from the problem that the feedback forms weren't really integrated into the website, and so their experience didn't adapt depending on their answers. They just fill out the form and that's it.

The new approach is to wait until the student has stopped using the website for a while (they've "disengaged") and then send them a very quick email survey which can be filled out without even needing to log in.

If students have found accommodation or have given up, we won't ask them again. If they haven't found a place yet, we'll wait a while until they haven't actively used the website for a couple of weeks (yes there's a setting for that), and then prompt them again.This will continue until they either find a place, give up, or unsubscribe from these emails. There's an unsubscribe link on each follow-up email to make it easy to opt-out.

And for students that tell us they've given up, if they do log in again later, we'll treat them as having re-engaged in their search for accommodation and begin following up with them when it looks like they have disengaged again.

This allows us to track things like:

  • Approximately how long it takes students to find accommodation
  • What kind of accommodation they choose (shared, rental or commercial student accommodation)
  • Where they end up (address, suburb and postcode)
  • Price, move in date and length of stay
  • If they found accommodation through your StudyStays site, which is the listing that best matches

As an administrator, you can see details about student outcomes directly on a student's record (when they have responded). You can also view a history of all student outcome responses by clicking Student outcomes on the right hand side of the "Students" tab in Admin.

The Student Outcomes page in admin lets you filter outcomes, and export the raw data as a spreadsheet if you need to do further analysis, send emails to certain segments etc.

You can edit the email template for the follow-up email that gets sent to student by going to Admin > Settings > Email templates and looking under "Students" for "Outcome follow-up".

You can adjust when the follow-up is sent (or disable it altogether) under Admin > Settings > Students: "Email students to ask about their accommodation outcomes".

Listing outcomes

For quite some time we've been asking accommodation providers if they've found a tenant as a result of their listing. But up until now we only asked when the provider actively closed their listing in advance.

Now, we'll include a link to the listing outcome survey in every email that gets sent when a listing ends.

We'll also display a prominent message on providers' dashboards prompting to them respond (if they haven't already).
This should result in much more information collected about listing outcomes.

The survey for providers is even shorter, just one question: "Did you find a tenant through our website?"

You can find information about the listing outcome when viewing the listing though admin, and in aggregate by running the "Listing Outcomes" report from the Reports tab.


These improvements are an important step in collecting metrics about how effectively your Off-Campus website is serving students. We've opened up more possibilities for analysing and reporting, as well as more opportunities to gather information about how your website is performing. There's even the potential to include custom feedback questions on these forms. We'd love to hear from you if you have ideas about how to extend this even further.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1367521 2019-01-27T02:44:25Z 2019-01-27T02:49:37Z Better formatting for emails

Email templates for StudyStays now support more formatting options, like bold, italic, links, lists and buttons.

These templates now use the same editor used for content pages, which you may already be familiar with.

There's a new option to use an email signature, which can (optionally) be applied to all outgoing emails. This saves you having to edit all your templates when your signature changes, just update it once and it will be applied automatically.

Emails will now contain an additional footer in fine print, explaining clearly where the email originated and why.

What do I need to do?

Nothing! All your emails have been converted for you, and any customisations you have already made will be retained. We may have replaced some default links with action buttons in places (as in the screenshot above).

You might like to check your templates (Admin > Settings > Email templates) to add some formatting flair (if you fancy).

And as always, if you run into any problems please get in touch at support@studystays.com.au.

One last thing

Here's a tip: when you're editing email templates, pressing Enter or Return will add a new paragraph with a blank line in between. If you don't want that extra blank line, you can hold Shift-Enter to end the line and keep typing on the next line.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1316469 2018-08-30T01:10:34Z 2018-09-02T21:26:46Z Supporting Documents for Accommodation Providers

We've added a new feature to allow accommodation providers to upload supporting documents, such as ID and rooming house registration papers.

This feature is similar to Supporting Documents for Students. But instead of requiring documents to be uploaded during registration, providers can optionally add their supporting documents at any time. This lets you request documents for certain accommodation (like Rooming/Boarding Houses) if you choose, possibly in response to a new listing approval.

You can enable supporting documents for providers from Admin > Settings > Providers:

When you have enabled Provider Documents, providers will see a new option to upload their documents from their dashboard (and there's also a link in the user menu at top-right).

You can customise the name of the documents and the "form hint" to make it clear which providers need to upload documents, and what sort of documents you require.

Provider documents can be seen in admin by clicking on the provider's record, so you can refer to their documents during listing approval if you need to.

You might also like to update "form hints" for the listing categories that identify the type of providers that need to upload documents, to let them know what your requirements are. If you're not familiar with category hints, they can be modified while editing a category (Admin > Settings > Categories, under Additional Categories). When editing a category, there is a link to "Edit form hint" on the right hand side.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1304111 2018-07-18T02:17:28Z 2018-07-18T23:14:29Z Work Placement Accommodation

StudyStays now lets you offer work placement accommodation as a service to students.

This feature could be especially useful for clinical placements, or in other cases where students need to find accommodation in remote regions. For these students, the standard option to search for accommodation near a campus might not be particularly helpful.

The Work Placement Accommodation feature gives your StudyStays website a new tab, where students can search by any town or city in Australia.

Using this feature is optional and available free to all universities on the "Big" plan. To enable the "Work Placements" tab on your website, you simply need to go to Admin > Settings > Work placement accommodation and tick the box. You can also customise a short amount of content (including links to useful resources) to be displayed above the location search box on the "Work Placements" tab. If you have lots of content related to placements you might like to break this out into separate pages (under Admin > Content > Pages) and just provide a few links from the Work Placements tab so as not to bury the search box too far down the page.

If you'd like to help students find placement accommodation, of course it will be necessary to promote the idea to accommodation providers in the areas placements might be made. We will leave it to you to decide the best ways to get the word out!

We hope you find this feature useful. And if you do make use of it, we'd be interested in hearing your ideas about how it could be improved or extended to offer even better service to your students.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1265194 2018-03-25T23:09:17Z 2018-03-27T01:25:25Z More room details for shared listings

Shared listings now provide space for advertisers to specify details about individual rooms for rent.

Previously, an advertiser could only list the room types available. Now, each room can be listed with different rent, bond, availability date, furnishings and bathroom.

This will allow us to give students more targeted search options when they are looking for a share house. It will also allow us to do student better matching for a new "Find a Flatmate" add-on which is currently under construction.

Rental (whole property) listings will not be affected by this change.

All existing shared listings have been automatically updated to support the new functionality. We have attempted to set furnishings based on your existing categories, but where this was not possible rooms will show unfurnished as the default. All rooms have been set to "Shared bathroom" as the default. Advertisers can manually make changes to their listings if they want to show furnishings or private bathrooms. All new shared listings will require advertisers to enter these details up front.

There are a couple of configuration changes you might like to make through admin.

Firstly, if you have room types (Admin > Settings > Room Types) that include a bathroom type, these can be removed. For example, "Single with Ensuite" could be removed, which will give you the option to replace it with just "Single".

Secondly, categories that contain information about furnishings for rooms, the entire category could be removed.

If you have any questions, please contact support@studystays.com.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1260662 2018-03-13T04:37:45Z 2018-03-13T04:37:45Z Quick Shortlist

There is now a quicker way for students to shortlist ads from search results. A star appears when hovering the mouse over a listing in search results, and clicking this will shortlist the listing.

This saves students having to click through to each listing that they want to shortlist. It also provides a reminder when they have already shortlisted a listing in an earlier search.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1244176 2018-02-07T23:08:29Z 2018-02-11T23:58:47Z Map Directions to Campus

Note: This new functionality requires first upgrading to the New Look for StudyStays. Please contact support@studystays.com if you'd like to upgrade.

Listing maps now include a new way to quickly look up directions to a campus.

Hovering or clicking (or tapping on mobile) on a campus in the listing map will load a route and approximate driving time to the campus.

For listings that are within 1 kilometre of a campus, walking directions will be shown instead.

Does this keep addresses private?

As you're probably aware, some listings don't show the exact address; either because the admin settings require it, or the provider has chosen to keep their address private, or the user is not registered as a student.

In these cases, the blue line showing the route to campus begins just within the red circle showing the approximate location of the listing. The travel time shown is still the approximate travel time for the entire route.

More map tweaks

Initially with the New Look, maps would all display at the same zoom level. This zoom level would often not show a campus. Now maps are automatically zoomed to the level that will show the nearest campus, while still keeping the map centred on the listing.

Arrows for campus markers are now displayed at the top of the marker instead of the bottom. This allows the marker text to expand downwards to show directions without changing the location pointed to.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1222883 2017-12-27T23:55:23Z 2017-12-27T23:55:24Z A New Year, and a New Content Editor

Content editing in StudyStays has been upgraded to use a newer, more powerful editor. Just in time for the new year!

The content editor is used by admins to format text in Pages, Frequently Asked Questions, Campuses, Mail-outs, Form hints, tag descriptions and in various other places.

The old editor was great for it's time, but the rapid pace of web browser improvement meant some features no longer worked well (or at all) in recent web browsers.

In contrast, the new editor enables many more editing features, including things like:

  • Tables
  • Image alignment and captions
  • Embedding web page previews (great for Social Media like Facebook and Instagram)
  • More reliable pasting from Word documents

... and many more useful features (as you can see from the extra toolbar buttons below).

We hope you enjoy the new editing experience in StudyStays, and have a Happy New Year!

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1202637 2017-11-02T01:46:48Z 2017-11-02T01:48:32Z 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.



I hope you find these improvements beneficial.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1201751 2017-10-29T23:33:48Z 2017-10-30T21:20:29Z 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.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1174952 2017-07-19T03:48:48Z 2017-08-02T03:52:51Z 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)

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1147053 2017-04-17T15:08:22Z 2017-05-22T00:04:49Z 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.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1144294 2017-04-06T02:19:07Z 2019-07-01T06:14:50Z 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.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1110126 2016-11-23T01:07:41Z 2016-11-23T01:07:48Z Automating Homestays - Email

The Homestays Add-On offers a few handy features to help automate email communication.

There are a number of steps that your guests and hosts need to complete. While the exact steps will be different for each Homestay program, some common steps are gaining admin approval, submitting payment, requesting a homestay, confirming a placement, and maybe going through an orientation or having an inspection.

Homestays can help your users get through each step of the process by sending emails whenever there's new information for the user, or some sort of action is required of them.

Some of these emails are sent automatically, such as reminders for upcoming placements. Others are sent as a result of admin actions you perform. In either case, you can customise your email templates to make sure your users get the information they need, when they need it.

There are just under 40 different email templates available to customise, including a "Signature" template which is inserted at the bottom of every email.

You can edit each template, using rich text formatting (e.g. bold text and links). Some emails have a button to help the user know what to do next.

This particular template goes out when a guest's homestay application is approved. Let's see how that works by approving an application. Here's one that requires approval.

Clicking the "approve" button brings up a window showing the email that will be sent, based on the template. You can make further changes here if you like, and then click "Approve this application" to complete this step of the process.

Now that the guest is approved, if you look on the right-hand side of the screen you can see that the guest has "1 email sent." Each email that is sent will be tracked on your system so that you can see a history of correspondence.

Emails are listed in reverse chronological order by subject. You can click any email subject to see exactly what was sent.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1109666 2016-11-21T05:50:17Z 2017-03-14T03:27:18Z Homestays Admin Sneak Peek

The Homestays admin functions sit under a "Homestays" tab, alongside your other Off Campus admin tabs.

Clicking into the Homestays tab gives you an e row of tabs that you can use to access the various functions required to manage Homestays.


The Placements tab shows you placements that have been assigned by administrators or chosen by guests.

The right-hand side of the placements screen allows you to filter placements by type and date. In this screen shot, I'm viewing all the confirmed placements in the last week:


The Guests tab, shows you some overview information about guests including some stats about things that might need your attention. As with placements, you can filter on the right hand side. There's also a search box to quickly look up the guest you're interested in. I'll use it to look up a guest named "Mariano":

Here's Mariano's record. All the data shown is just for demonstration purposes, including the cartoon avatar. On your actual Homestays website, guests and hosts can upload a profile photo which is handy for putting a face to a name.


The Homes tab, as you might expect, shows information about host families and their homes. Notice you can filter by campus here, as well as by the status of the home. Also shown is the Export button which you'll recognise from your existing StudyStays admin. As with Off Campus, you can export your Homestays data to a spreadsheet if you need to do extra calculations or work with the data directly.

Here's an example of a host record. Up the top you can see there is the same area for notes that you're used to. You can also tag hosts to keep them organised. Tags come in handy for group auto-assignment—but more on that in a later post.

That's all for today! In tomorrow's post I'll share some ways you can save time by automating common Homestays tasks.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1108724 2016-11-16T23:19:18Z 2016-11-18T00:41:14Z Introducing Homestays

Today I’m very happy to announce the new Homestays add-on for StudyStays.

The Homestays add-on gives you a website for managing Homestay accommodation for international students. It fits in nicely alongside your existing Off Campus Accommodation website, making use of the admin interface that you’re already familiar with.

Some key features are:

  • Guests (students) can apply for a homestay matching their preferences and requirements
  • Hosts can self-manage their homestay, including details about living arrangements, features, preferences and availability
  • Guests are matched with the best homestays for them using a scoring system.
  • Guests can either request a homestay themselves, or have one assigned by an administrator
  • Agents can manage homestays on behalf of their students
  • Group bookings help you easily manage study or tour groups.
  • Auto Assignment automatically assigns the best matches for groups
  • Automatic email notifications to help streamline the application and placement process
  • Comprehensive admin tools for managing guests, hosts, homestay placements, applications, agents and groups.
  • Customisable forms (e.g. for Guest and Host registration) and scoring rules for matching guests with homestays
  • Customisable to suit your procedures for recording host orientation, inspections and payments.
  • Off Campus students and providers can use the same login for the Homestay website

The Homestays add-on has had almost two years of development and testing in collaboration with QUT and Griffith University. Thanks to their innovation and patience, we’ve gotten to the point where we have a solid product for other universities to use “out of the box”.

The Homestays add-on is available now for everyone using StudyStays. For anyone signing up in 2017, we have a special rate of $9000 for the first year (ex GST). There is also a “Light” version available with some limitations for a lower rate.

I’ll be writing in more detail about Homestays over the coming weeks. If you’d like to be notified about new posts, you can subscribe to this blog by email below. I look forward to telling you about all the exciting features!

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1041152 2016-04-26T12:04:49Z 2016-04-26T12:04:50Z Where Does Email Go?
Recent updates give you more insight into automatic emails. Automatic emails are one-off emails — the emails that get sent when a user does something (like registering), or needs a reminder (such as when a listing is about to expire).

Up until now, you've been able to configure the templates for these emails through admin, and see the last known status for an email address.

With the new changes you can see the text of each message that was sent, and whether it was delivered, or bounced, or was treated as spam.

Verification Is Now Required For Your Sending Email Address
With these changes, it's now a good idea to verify your sending email address (the Admin > Settings > Email > "Send From" setting). Verification only has to be performed once, and it's simply a matter of checking your "Send From" email address and then clicking "Save". This will bring you to a page to verify your email, which involves receiving an email from Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) and clicking the link it contains.

Once you've verified, we can send email with this address as the sender. Until you verify, we will send from "noreply@studystays.com", with your email as the Reply To address.

So verifying your email address gives recipients a better idea of where each email is coming from and why they're getting it.

Viewing Sent Emails for Students and Providers
You can see how many emails have been sent to a particular student or provider from their sidebar.

In the example above, clicking the "3 emails" link will show you which emails were sent to this user and when, along with information about whether each email was delivered or not.

New Outgoing Email Report
You can find this report under Admin > Reports > Administration. It shows a list of emails that have been sent, with the most recent emails first.

Send Mailouts From Your University Address
Mailouts will now be sent from your university address, rather than mailout@studystays.com. You'll need to verify your sending email first, as described above. This gives your mailouts some added credibility, because people can trust that they're coming from you.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1028789 2016-04-07T23:37:50Z 2016-04-10T21:40:53Z Speedbump Terms and Conditions
There is a new setting that lets your choose how to present your terms and conditions to students and providers when they register. We're calling the new option "Speedbump Terms and Conditions" because it slows people down a bit to focus their attention on the terms.

Option 1: The Tick Box
This is the default option if you don't change anything. It shows a tick box with a link to read the full terms and conditions.

This option makes it quick and easy to register, while still ensuring that students and providers agree to the terms. It's fairly common practise to do it this way, but it does mean you'll get people who are legally bound by the terms but haven't actually read them. If your terms and conditions are an impenetrable wall of legalese, then it might be best to stick with this option. You can then send plain-English information in the welcome email that gets sent after registration.

Option 2: The Speedbump
This is the new option. Instead of the tickbox, terms and conditions are displayed full-page after people click the 'Register' button:

This should work well if you have conditions that are fairly easy to read. It's still fairly unlikely that people will read much of this text, but you can call their attention to a few key sentences or words by selectively bolding them.

Choosing an Option
You can change this option by selecting 'Speedbump-style terms and conditions' under Admin > Settings > Website. If you don't choose the new option, you'll stay with the default tick box terms and conditions.

Editing Terms and Conditions
Whichever option you choose, the way you change your terms and conditions is the same: just edit the relevant page under Admin > Content > Pages.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1025269 2016-04-05T03:54:42Z 2016-04-05T04:07:09Z New StudyStays Logo and Website
I just launched a refresh of the studystays.com.au promotional website, with a new look and a new logo.
The design is by my friend Deena. Deena worked part-time at StudyStays last year on marketing, promotional material, and this website. On a side note, Deena just recently won the People's Choice Award for Most Promising Female Songwriter in the Queensland Music Awards for her single Turpentine. She also puts together a pretty tight website, if you ask me!
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1021295 2016-03-29T01:53:46Z 2016-03-29T23:06:13Z Front page content customisation
There are 4 parts of the front page content that you can customise:
  1. Student and provider titles
  2. Student and provider "blurbs"
  3. Front page content
  4. The side bar
To customise the first three, go to Admin > Content > Front page.

1. Student and provider titles

These titles help direct the two main audiences in the right direction. Feel free to use different terminology here if you like. Keep in mind that the terms "Student" and "Provider" will continue to be used throughout the website for these user types, no matter what titles you use here.

TIP: Another effective way to direct the two main audience groups might be to use titles that highlight the actions that each group are likely to want to do. Examples: "Find a place to live", "Advertise your property".

2. Student and provider "blurbs"

These "blurbs" are an opportunity to provide audience-specific information, in addition to the default actions that are shown above the blurb.

TIP: It's possible to have too much "blurb", leading to a type of clutter and confusion known as "blah". Too much text or lots of bold text can make a blurb look impenetrable to users who are trying to get something done as quickly as possible—and so they end up skipping it. So, keep your blurbs short and snappy if you can. Try linking to a separate content page if you have have more to say. And if you have things to say to both students AND providers you can use the next option, which is....

3. Front page content

This is where you can be a bit more expansive about things like the purpose of the website, a description of the service you offer, general information, and helpful links.

TIP: When you're trying to point out important information, it's easy to go overboard and present A WALL OF BOLD TEXT (***IMPORTANT, MUST READ!!!). This can be counter-productive: if everything is important, then nothing is important. If you think about the way you use other websites, you'll probably conclude that people will usually only skim this text. So try breaking your content up in to sections with headings and very selectively bold important key words. If you have a lot to say on a topic, create a new content page with all the details and just link to it from the front page.

4. Side bar

This is a bonus option: the side bar is shown on every public page, not just the front page. Unlike the other options above which are under Admin > Content > Front page, you edit the sidebar from Admin > Content > Side bar.

TIP: Because space is tight in the side bar, links and occasional brief sentences will work best. Again, try to limit what you put here to just the most important things, as too much will mean a side bar that trails off the page: it's almost guaranteed that no one will read to the bottom in that case.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/1017098 2016-03-21T01:48:10Z 2016-03-21T21:29:54Z Property Address Improvements
These improvements should make it easier for advertisers to list the correct address for their property.

There are two parts to the change.

Address autocompletion when adding a new listing
There's a new page for adding listings, with a few quick questions to help advertisers get started quickly. The "Address" text box now pops up a list of matching addresses, which saves the advertiser from having to enter street address, suburb, state and postcode separately.

As well as making it easier for new advertisers to get started, this should lead to more accurate addresses with less typos.

After filling out the new listing details, advertisers are sent to the normal listing form with the relevant fields already set up for them.

Drag to change map location
You might have encountered situations where the map marker ends up in the wrong suburb, state or even country. Advertisers can now adjust the location of the map marker if the automatic lookup places it incorrectly.
You can also use this drag feature from admin to correct stray map markers.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/920674 2015-10-22T04:25:30Z 2015-10-25T22:09:55Z Follow-up emails for listings in the approval queue
You might find this update useful for those times when your listing approval queue starts getting long.

You now have the option to automatically email providers after their listing has been in the queue for a while. The setting to enable this is under Admin > Settings > Email Templates > "Send an email while listings are in the approval queue". As well as changing the email template, you can also set how many hours you want to wait before sending the email.

The default email apologises for the delay and explains that you'll try to approve the listing as soon as possible. This might be useful at busy times of the year, when a bit of proactive reassurance could reduce enquiries and complaints from providers.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/920350 2015-10-21T09:38:33Z 2015-10-21T23:11:45Z Making sure units have unit numbers
This is just a minor improvement, but now when providers list units, apartments or flats, the listing form will now check to make sure they entered the unit/flat/apartment number.

This will handle a variety of unit address formats, things like:

Flat 2 14 Smith St
2/14 Smith St
F 2 14 Smith St
Unit 2 14 Smith St
2/14 Smith St
U 2 14 Smith St
APT 2 14 Smith St

Only listings with "unit", "flat", or "apartment" in the property type will be checked in this way. One exception is granny flats, which won't require a unit number.

Hopefully this improves the quality of addresses, without making you do any extra administrative work.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/784363 2014-12-17T00:42:44Z 2014-12-17T00:42:45Z Email auto-response for listings over the holiday period
If you're taking a break from approving listings over the holidays, we've added a new way give yourselves a bit of breathing room.

You can now configure an email to be sent out after providers add a listing. In this email you might like to let people know that you might take longer than usual to process their listing.

As with other email templates, you can find this new one Admin > Settings > Email templates. Tick the box to "Send an email to providers after they submit a listing" and then you can customise the "Listing submitted" email that will be sent.

tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/751431 2014-10-06T07:38:03Z 2014-10-06T22:45:11Z Posting bulletins to students and providers
Bulletins are a new way to display important messages to students or providers after they've signed in.

As a StudyStays administrator, you can post Bulletins from Admin > Content > Bulletins. You can specify a target audience to display to (students or providers) and a title and message for the Bulletin.

How Bulletins work
Bulletins are only shown once to each person.

When you post a bulletin, you choose whether it will be seen by students or providers. After people sign in, they will see any Bulletins that have been posted for them since they last signed in. People can quickly continue on with what they were trying to do by clicking a "continue" button, or by clicking on any other links on the page.

Bulletins are designed for updating people with new information, so one detail to keep in mind is that Bulletins will only be shown to people who have already registered when you post the Bulletin.

Formatting your message
The message box for Bulletins only accepts plain text, unlike content pages where you can add links, bold text and other formatting using toolbar buttons. You can however do some formatting using a popular syntax known as Markdown. For example, in the image above I have made some text bold by adding double-asterisks (**) on either side.

Here are some examples of Markdown.

**This is bold** becomes: This is bold
*This will be italic* becomes: This will be italic
Here is a [link](http://studystays.com) becomes: Here is a link.

For more examples, please see the Markdown Syntax Examples.

When to use Bulletins
As mentioned above, Bulletins are intended to update people with important changes and information. Things like new requirements for landlords are perfect for bulletins.

In contrast to Mailouts, Bulletins are a good way to update people just as they're about to use your website. If you have information that you want people to see now, you might consider doing a Mailout instead.

Information overload
It's important to remember that Bulletins are interrupting people as they're about to perform a task like searching for a flat or listing their property. For this reason, it's a good idea to use them sparingly, and when you do, to keep them short and to the point.
tag:blog.studystays.com,2013:Post/734641 2014-09-01T01:01:14Z 2014-09-01T01:01:52Z Automatic Capitalisation
StudyStays now automatically adjusts letter case where it looks like people have entered all upper- or lower-case text, or haven't capitalised the first words in their sentences for listing details.

We hope this will give listings’ text more consistency, without admins needing to make as many manual adjustments.

Here's an example of some listing text and how it will be automatically adjusted:

Address: 30 almondbury rd, MT LAWLEY 6050

gardens and parks nearby. polished floors throughout, large and medium sized room available.fully furnished kitchen and laundry. shared bills and bond required. 

Address:  30 Almondbury Rd, Mt Lawley 6050

Gardens and parks nearby. Polished floors throughout, large and medium sized room available. Fully furnished kitchen and laundry. Shared bills and bond required.


StudyStays will use Title Case (where the first letter of every word is capitalised) for things like names and addresses, and Sentence Case (where the first letter of the first word in every sentence is capitalised) for things like listing details.

This will mainly affect form entries submitted by non-Administrators, that is: student and provider registrations, and listings. If automatic capitalisation is applied, it will be done after a form is submitted.

This capitalisation will only be applied to new or edited listings—existing listings will remain as they are.