In this post, our UX/UI Designer Jamie Forsyth discusses how the experiences we all create at the University succeed or fail. And how really nailing down who your ‘users’ are and what their needs are, will make their (and in turn, your) life easier.
Jamie also describes how we in the Digital Experience (DX) team can help you to understand your users better, and work with you to create experiences that really help them in what they’re trying to do.
Everything created at the University is experienced by someone. From social media posts to open day events, course web pages to annual lectures, student enrolment forms to civic engagement services. A user’s experience (UX) is at the heart of all these ‘things’.
If the appropriate audiences – your ‘users’ – for these experiences have been understood and prioritised, then said ‘thing’ will almost always be a success – potentially a resounding one! If not, then unless you strike it extremely lucky, it won’t be a success.
We are not our users
A mantra that we use all the time in the DX team is ‘we are not our users’.
To unpack this a bit, let’s start by taking a step back. Think back to when you were a student, maybe at the end of secondary school, thinking about whether applying to university might be right for you.
Without some form of dialogue between you and the universities you were considering applying to, your hopes, fears, concerns and aspirations would likely be fairly opaque to those institutions.
For today’s students, circumstances have changed, so for us to fully grasp and empathise with what they care about and need from us, a dialogue between the two groups is imperative; we call this dialogue ‘user research’.
Creating the best experiences to solve the real problem
Once we have a clearer understanding of who our users are and what they need from us, we can then pinpoint the real problem we need to fix.
Using our example above, our users need us to allay their fears and build their confidence in us in order to decide on whether Bristol is right for them (this is a broad example and the real problem might be more nuanced).
Having defined the problem in this evidence-based way, we now have a solid mandate for the piece of work and a clear direction to go in. We can then move forward into the ‘design’ phase to create the best possible experience for our users to solve their problem, and we do this using our tried and tested design process.
Our design process
Plug the research and design elements together and we result in our design process: the Double Diamond framework (initially developed by the Design Council).
Digging into this a little, the first ‘research’ diamond demands that we think very broadly to discover all elements relating to the original problem we’ve been presented with. We then narrow right down to define the true, evidence-based problem that needs fixing; this is usually different to the original problem you thought you had.
The second ‘design’ diamond demands that we again initially think very broadly, this time around a wide array of ideas for solving the problem. Thinking very widely does mean some unusual ideas crop up (which can be fun!), however threads that come from a wide array of ideas invariably narrow down into more innovative, appropriate solutions and experiences.
How our UX expertise can help you
Each constituent part of the Double Diamond (Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver) has many methods attached to it to help us navigate through the design process. When the DX team is asked to help, we work with you to pinpoint where your project currently lies on the Double Diamond framework.
We then tailor a package of methods (time and budget dependent), to help us work with you through the remainder of the process, to create and deliver the best experiences to your users.
Creating things in this ‘user-led’ way means you’re making user’s lives easier by enabling them to do things in simple, efficient and even enjoyable ways. This subsequently makes your life easier, as you will see better results and also start from a more informed place in your next project (i.e. you’ll have less ground work to do); it’s a win-win.
And that’s it. A simple blend of really knowing who our users are, what they actually need, and giving it to them in elegant, timely experiences.
Or to get in touch about a specific project you might want help with please fill out our project support request form and we’ll be in touch.