Intranet design principles

We’ve been investing significantly in an intranet for University staff and postgraduate researchers (PGRs). Previously our intranet content was scattered across our external website, seriously old internal content management systems, wikis and random crevices that only staff who’ve been at the University for decades would be able to find.

As we’ve just moved it out of beta and into live I thought it was a good opportunity to detail the design principles we’ve been using to inform its development.

It’s important to add we’re still at the early stages of a long journey. There’s a large roadmap of development ahead. But we believe that by sticking with these principles we can continue to build an intranet that will prove invaluable to all our staff and PGRs.

Screenshot of intranet

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Love the problem

When colleagues from across the University come to us for help with their website, the first thing we ask them is: what’s your problem?

That sounds a bit rude and abrupt. Let me explain.

In any digital project or product this is the single most important question that needs answering. If there’s no problem to solve then there’s no work needed.

What do we mean by problem? What we don’t mean is that your website looks ugly, that it doesn’t look good on a mobile device, it doesn’t have the right tone, or that it’s not structured in a way that mirrors your team’s structure.

These aren’t problems, they’re solutions looking for a problem. (more…)

18 things we learned about content design

Jeremy Torrance, head of digital comms, reflects on our recent two-day content design workshop.

If you’re producing content for websites and you haven’t heard of content design you really should take a long hard look in the mirror. Content design – creating content that’s focused on what the user needs to know rather than what publishers want to tell them – is a skill every content producer needs to have.

It’s not easy and does require something of a change in mindset. So to get our content folk on the path to enlightenment we brought in Hinrich von Haaren from Content Design London for a content design workshop.

After the session I asked all the attendees to share one or two things they learned from it. Here they are.

User needs

  1. Does your content strictly cover a user need? If not, bin it.
  2. Business needs and user needs do not need to be in conflict with one another. It’s tempting to start a project with the business needs in mind, but you won’t necessarily reach those objectives and targets if you can’t engage and help the user. By putting the user needs at the core of the project you are more likely to meet your business needs as well.
  3. During content planning, explore the acceptance criteria which underpin user needs. (more…)

Thinking about a product approach

Let’s start with a quote:

“Most web teams I’ve met are being nibbled to death by tiny tasks. They don’t have time to focus on what really matters – the top tasks* – because the org is so vanity-prone, inward-looking and organisation-centric.” Gerry McGovern – Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation, Pg158

I’ll wager most higher education digital teams can relate to this. We’re no different at Bristol. This is exactly the challenge we face. There are so many demands on our time it’s very hard to make the time and space to focus on the important things. But when us digital folk try to kick back, we’re told that each project is utterly crucial, has an unmissable deadline, and has some seriously senior backing.

Many of us will secretly face-palm when we get these responses, but it’s a natural way to think and act. We should be more surprised if our colleagues didn’t respond this way. But the fact remains – we are all too often stymied by ourselves.

So how to change things? How to help refocus our efforts onto what really matters to our users/audience/students?  (more…)

Raising our publishing game

Digital never stays still. Consultant web developer Rich Higgins looks at how we’ve been prototyping to ensure we don’t get left behind.

There’s a lot of content to publish at a university. Course information, research stories, news, events… the list goes on. On top of that, media consumption and audiences are increasingly varied and global. Digital is more important than ever, but what do we mean by digital? 

“Applying the culture, practices, processes & technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations.”

Tom Loosemore’s oft-quoted definition suggests more than just reading from a computer screen instead of a printed article. It suggests we need to raise our game to meet the ever-evolving user needs of our time. And at Bristol we’ve been looking at doing precisely this.  (more…)