Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Commons Campaign: Huskerslist

  When I think about the various complaints that UNL students have about their college experience, it is easy to see that they have 99 problems and they are all money related. Whether it is parking, books, or tuition itself we can all agree that college is an expensive privilege. Keeping this in mind, we thought that with our campaign we would try and create an opportunity to save those precious dollars. We focused on books as the target of our intervention, after discovering that the parking department on campus isn't exactly open to student inquiries. So we began the brainstorming process to determine how we might create an intervention to save students money on textbooks. In order to do this, we decided that we would need our campaign to be able to reach anyone on campus, regardless of their location. We believe the answer is an easy to use, widely accessible website. So that is what we made. (huskerslist.com)

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-9Y5J4VSSA14/VyGNpSMHwhI/AAAAAAAAAIA/91r78WF16Bo2JJZrLQUY5ihOYJS5NhueACLcB/s640/huskerslist.PNG

Our intention from the onset was to create a website where people can simply sell second-hand textbooks to other students taking the same class in future semesters, at a discounted price. Talking among ourselves as a group, we decided that this is something that we ourselves would use and could therefore have a lot of potential to spread campus-wide. There are a few standout features that make our website unique, not only in its purpose, but also in its geographical restrictions. huskerslist.com is not accessible to just anyone, it requires that users sign up for its services via their @huskers.unl.edu address. This allows our users a few key benefits. One such benefit is the knowledge that any book you find will be readily available to them in their own area (campus). This allows users to make exchanges with other students that they communicate with on huskerslist.com. Secondly, this geographical limitation also benefits our users because they can be assured that the person on the other end of the exchange are UNL students as well. Our hope is that this will give users some peace of mind and security. 
huskerslist.com features two different methods of exchange. The first option is to post a product by filling out the form found on the "Sell" page. This method is very straightforward, but we still thought that we would provide students with an additional method. The second option is to visit our forum. We built a forum page that is fully functional and allows UNL students to converse in a more personal way. People can post their ad to the forum. Visitors and perspective buys can then reply to the forum post and express their interest in the product. Communication between the two parties can continue from here and a meeting place and final price can be established. While the sell page utilizes the full functionality of huskerslist.com, We expect that students will actually prefer the forum for its free composition approach and the immediate nature of the communication.
It is 2016 and we as a group are well aware of this, so we thought it crucial to make sure that our webpage is fully optimized for mobile visitors. This is also vital for the accessibility of our site and for our ability to spread quickly throughout our campus. We are confident that huskerslist.com can change the way students go about the purchasing and selling of their unwanted books. We cordially invite all UNL students to check out our page and to let us know how we are doing by leaving a comment for us on the homepage, if the comment is particularly constructive the post may even be featured as a testimonial right there on our homepage. Thanks for using huskerslist.com and supporting our website. huskerslist.com created by students, for students.


         So now that we had the idea to make a website, we needed feedback on what people wanted out of this service. If we were truly to help students save money on books, we had to hear their ideas firsthand. So we set out on two rounds of interviews. The first round consisted of in person written interviews regarding whether or not students thought this idea could work or not. Questions included:
1.      How much do you pay of books a semester?
2.      Do you buy new or used?
3.      Where do you buy your books from?
4.      Are you familiar with how services like Craigslist work?
5.      Do you think a similar type of service provided by UNL students for UNL students could make buying and selling books easier?
6.      What would you want out of this service if it were to exist?
         Results were very encouraging, students liked our concept of on campus meetings and the idea that only UNL students could use the site. Students also said that because students are selling to students, they would be more likely to provide a fairer price.
The second round of interviews was done on camera. Questions covered how students buy books, what they like and don’t like about using the bookstore, and ideas they had to improve the text book service as a whole. This later became a part of an infomercial we created for huskerslist.com. The idea behind the infomercial was to have a quick and simple way for showing students how to use our website. That coupled with the interview footage provided a spring board for our young project.
Our next step was to create a social media presence for huskerlist.com. This included creating accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Those pages to get the infomercial public and also post digital copies of our flyers.
         We then created flyers advertising the website and put them up in buildings around campus. They were designed to draw interest in huskerslist.com and direct students to our social media pages.
Now came time for the website. It has six pages: home, forum, buy, sell, contact us, and our mission. The home page provides space to contact us with questions, a map of campus, a link to our infomercial, our two ways to buy, and a list of recently listed books. The forum page is designed to foster one on one communication between buyer and seller. The buy and sell pages allow for sellers to have their books more prominently and permanently featured on the website and allows for search bar navigation. The contact us page is designed for users to let us know how we are doing. Our goal is to help students and if the website makes things harder we want to know. Changes suggested by users will be made as appropriate. The final page is our mission, which again provides disclaimers for using the site, an explanation of what huskerslist.com is, and a final word on why we only allow students to use the site. 
         After examining the results from various interviews, the conclusion is that the continuation of the service (huskerslist.com) will appeal to the general student population. The student body is dependent on outside sources to purchase and discard textbooks. The campaign’s team has created this source as a new means of textbook exchanges. Huskerslist.com will continue to provide students with an alternative option that will contribute to better individual student budgets. It will also create a sense of community within campus, as the restrictions for exchanges will advocate for more student-to-student interactions.


Reflection:
The campaign itself originally stood before our team, daunting and seemingly impossible. Our first proposal included gaining inquiry on the parking department on/near campus. However, we were quickly met with various obstacles including working with a department that was not very transparent with us. Luckily, the idea to create Huskerslist.com came quickly after realizing the problems with our proposal. This allowed our team to still have enough time to put maximum effort into the newly revised campaign.  At times, we applaud ourselves with creating a campus-exclusive service, as well as being able to address a problem for close to all students on campus. However, there was and is a slight restriction on the skillsets of those included in our campaign. If there were something addressed differently during the process, it would be the timing of the site’s creation. Being the end of not only the semester, but also the entire year, makes it difficult to know if the site would be utilized.

Campaign Team:
Jake Swanson
Josh Randazzo
Nathan Poppe
Anthony Domico

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