A-level results day is one of the most important days in the University calendar, and that applies to us in the digital team. One of the most important tasks for us is ensuring that any A-level students who enter clearing have all the information they need from our website to make a decision about whether (or not) they’d like to join us.
Deciding on which university you want to go to is a huge decision for anyone to make and the whole process means often these decisions have to be made in a hurry. To mitigate the stress, we have to make the user experience of our Clearing pages and systems as simple as we can.
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.
UX manager Miles Taylor on the benefits UX writing can bring to the usability of forms, instructions and error messages.
Major upgrades are afoot to a raft of University systems that support student recruitment and the students themselves once they arrive here.
At the coal (inter)face of each are forms that facilitate tasks and activities students need to complete. Things like booking on an open day, uploading documents to support their application, providing their accommodation preferences or accessing support.
Improving our forms’ usability
Typically, the Digital Communications team has been brought in right at the end of the development process to ‘sign-off’ on accessibility. But we’ve noticed so many more issues with the way we display form than just poor accessibility. (More about our accessibility testing in another post.)
While internal stakeholders have been consulted, users haven’t always had much of a look-in. Research hasn’t always been conducted or designs tested, beyond the purely aesthetic. As a result, several of these forms have been overly long, complex and confusing to complete.
We’ve been working with project teams on each of these systems to offer advice and guidance on form design best practice to improve layout and flow.
And we’ve introduced them to the importance of UX writing to improve the clarity, consistency and usefulness of their forms’ instructions, labels, buttons and error messages.
In preparation, I put a workshop together for our Content Team. Here’s the guidance I stole synthesised from several excellent blog posts on the subject. (more…)