Our new roadmap

I’m really pleased to be sharing our Digital Comms roadmap for the next quarter. It’s the first time we’ve publicly shared it. It’s our way of explaining what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we think we’re going be doing next.

As it’ll be a new concept for some, I’ll use this post to explain more about it, how we created it and how we plan to use it. (more…)

Putting people at the centre of our research comms

6,000 members of staff and almost 28,000 students, six faculties, 28 schools and departments, 12 institutes, over 250 research groups, groups clusters and networks, and 14 divisions…  The University of Bristol is, if nothing else, a complex institution.

The impact of our work reaches far beyond the boundaries of the campus. It addresses some of the most challenging issues facing the world. Personally, this is what makes working here so exciting. At times it can all seem a million miles from the day-to-day job.

But for those of us not on the front line of academic pursuits there is pride in being part of this community and finding new and innovative ways to help tell the story of the University of Bristol.

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Improvements to the Clearing process: A technical overview

My colleague John Bourne recently wrote a post about our clearing application process covering the user experience improvements. In this post I’ll be delving into some of the technical work behind these.

First, an introduction; I am a front-end developer for the Digital Communications team here at the University of Bristol. This will hopefully be the first of many dives into some of the technical work we do.

Last year we identified that the process for updating clearing information was convoluted and vulnerable to mistakes. A manually coded HTML table was used to display current vacancy information for all the courses involved in the clearing process. This would have to be completely re-written and published after any change within a separate system maintained by our admissions team.

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Intranet design principles

We’ve been investing significantly in an intranet for University staff and postgraduate research students (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…)

Untangling our duplicate content

Senior digital product manager John Bourne looks at some of the problems in how we showcase our courses to prospective students 

At Bristol we spend a lot of time and effort gathering and publishing information about our courses. Most of this is done centrally through our online prospectus, but this information also appears in a variety of other places. 

The University of Bristol homepage with course finder

Duplicated content across our site causes maintenance problems for staff. More importantly it means prospective students don’t really know where to find the most useful information to meet their needs.

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Modernising the staff experience

Launching the University’s first intranet has thrown up some interesting challenges, says Intranet manager Steve Wright.

Two weeks ago, we released a beta version of a new intranet for staff and postgraduate researchers. We’ve designed with mobile devices in mind, applied content design best practice, and met accessibility standards.

So far, so commonplace you might say. But it’s been an unusual project for quite a few reasons.

First, it’s totally new. Surprisingly (and it was a big surprise to me when I started here in July 2018), the University hasn’t had a global intranet before. Internal-facing content and information has historically been stored at the local level: on faculty, school or division sites.  (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…)

A new homepage for the University (part 2)

In my last post, I covered the initial reasons for redeveloping the homepage and the discovery work we did. Have a read.

Now I’ll look at how we started to make our initial content decisions, the design phase, and where we’ve reached now with the project.

Analysing our research

As I wrote in the last post, our user experience (UX) team gathered a large amount of data from various user and stakeholder research exercises. It was now time to look through that data to see how it would inform the content of the new homepage.

To do this we ran a research-synthesis workshop, with a ton of post-it notes! Post-its are very common in UX exercises. They help you record, group and order any insights you can extract from your data and provide clear themes for you to work with. Which, as you can see from the photos, is exactly what we did. (more…)