Information Architecture and Homepage Redesign

What is Handshake?

Handshake was created to ensure that all college students have equal access to meaningful careers. Handshake’s community includes 20 million students and young alumni around the world from 1,400 educational institutions. The platform connects up-and-coming talent with 650,000+ employers.

The Problem

Currently on Handshake, students have to actively search for events/career fairs to attend and access to this information users must navigate multiple steps. The Homepage did not surface relevant events/career fairs, did not in order to promote the events/fairs, drive attendance, or further help students build the relationships needed to land their next opportunity.
The first impression of our product was not putting our best foot forward, or communicating our value to users. The surface area also was badly in need of UX help as it graphically duplicated the navigation bar with a row of cards up valuable space.

My role

As the lead designer on the project I worked closely with a content strategist in the Information Architecture phase. Then I partnered with a project manager, copywriter and a team of 8 engineers to redesign, test, build and ship the web homepage. This project also included a design sprint with cross-functional partners to understand the business needs across our three sided marketplace.

The Product

  1. Was not intuitive. Features didn’t live where users expect them to live.
  2. Did not help users prioritize. Contextual and secondary features competed for priority with core product functionality of job search, discovery and application.
  3. Did not communicate clear value. It was unclear how features such as “student search” are related to the overall objective of finding a job.
  4. It was not performing well. We were receiving negative feedback from students and seeing little to no engagement, high bounce rates and low task-completion rates.

User Testing

The feedback we received shed light on a list of pain points in our product, missed opportunities and low hanging fruit.

“The UM hiring website used before Handshake was easy to navigate, the search feature was effective, and it allowed certain filters on jobs. Handshake is extremely non-user friendly and difficult to navigate.”

Through user testing we were able to assess the issues in the current site information architecture and homepage experience. Through two rounds of prototype testing we were able to iterated on solutions and propose a phased approach to updating the Architecture to best serve our users.

Design Sprint

Leveraging learnings from the Information Architecture phase the work on the web homepage began. As this project included a high-touch surface area of the product we needed to ensure that cross-functional partners and leadership were looped in early to ensure good outcomes. I designed and led a week-long design sprint with a core team of designers, engineers, a project manager and engineers. We spoke to cross-functional partners and stakeholders and leadership to understand the three-sided marketplace, identify opportunities, blockers and ensure that our solutions aligned with business goals.

The Process

As the homepage of the product is a high touch and high visibility surface area the numbers of stakeholders across the three sided marketplace was high. In planning the project extra care was taken to loop in leadership and cross-functional partners early and often to ensure a smooth process. This began with a foundational step of establishing north star principles for the web homepage moving forward:

North Star Principals – Empathetically guide students through personalized steps and connections that help them achieve career success.

Directive – students know what they need to do to be successful on our product
Inspirational – we inspire students to take action rather than increase anxiety around job search
Human – there are people on the product that care about helping students find opportunities
Fresh – there are new things to see and students come back because they find value
Scalable – works across different types of students, institutions, career journeys

A phased approach suited this project well as we were able to gain sights from user data and apply those learnings to additional features. An initial set of user tasks and collections were shipped and subsequent content ittereated on those initial steps and shifted to suit OKRs and business goals in following quarters.


The Solution

A task based homepage was built to provide a dynamic homepage to serve users across the job hunting process. By presenting tasks tailored to the user we were able to encourage users to take steps in their job hunt, promote events and highlight features as well as collect data to increase student matchability. 

Layering in the human elements and tying jobs and events to people clearly communicated the value of the product beyond just jobs. The addition of social elements, personalized collections and interactivity shifted the homepage experience from being perceived as a static job board to a dynamic and robust marketplace.