Easy improvements for users of the Students’ Health Service

How we combined data and knowledge to make a category page work better for users. 

A category page (sometimes called ‘section homepage’ or just ‘homepage’ here at the University) fulfils many functions on a website. It showcases the service, is usually the most visited page, and is the one page above all others that senior staff want a say in shaping.  

The real purpose of this page is often lost in the ‘make it look dynamic!’ hype. As all good content designers know, websites exist to give our users what they need, and the number one place to do this is the service category page. And yet at the University we often find category pages are plagued with issues such as: 

  • the content our users want is hard to find or missing altogether.
  • content loses focus because of ad hoc changes over time. 

Continue reading: Easy improvements for users of the Students’ Health Service

PDFs and accessibility part 1: making our organisation chart accessible

Organisation charts presented in PDF format are one of the worst offenders when it comes to accessibility. Rob, from our Content Design team, explains how he turned one such chart into accessible HTML content.

When the bristol.ac.uk site was audited by Government Digital Services last year, one of the main issues that we had to fix was inaccessible PDFs.

PDFs pose particular problems for anyone with accessibility needs. It is possible to painstakingly add all of the structural tags for titles and headings so that the PDF passes accessibility criteria, but it’s unlikely that the effort will pay off; if someone finds 99% of PDFs that they encounter inaccessible, they’re not going to take the risk of opening another.

Continue reading: PDFs and accessibility part 1: making our organisation chart accessible

Seven things you need to do to make your content accessible

Our previous accessibility blog post explored some of the barriers that people face when they read online content. Barriers that stop people from being able to use the content.

Creating clear and accessible content has always been important. It means everyone can use and understand it.

However, as more and more services move online, it’s even more important that we reduce these barriers. It’s even more important to create clear and accessible content.

Accessibility symbols
Symbols highlighting different needs. Mobility issues, cognitive problems, hearing problems and vision impairments.

Here are seven things every content professional needs to do to make their content accessible.Continue reading: Seven things you need to do to make your content accessible

UX writing: making our microcopy clear, concise and useful

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.Continue reading: UX writing: making our microcopy clear, concise and useful

If our content’s not accessible it’s not usable

Digital officer Charlotte Brewer on why accessibility in web content should never be an afterthought.

It’s really easy to create content, but it’s also really easy to create content that’s hard to use.  

It is easy to assume if I can use it, it’s fine.  

This assumption ignores the fact that other people may not be fine with your content. It ignores people with a disability or cognitive condition who might struggle to use your content.  

This is why accessibility is so important. Put simply, accessibility is about making sure everyone can use the content you create.  

When I first started my career, I honestly didn’t think about accessibility. I am a native English speaker, with no disabilities or diagnosed learning conditions. The thought that anyone might struggle with the content I created didn’t cross my mind.  Continue reading: If our content’s not accessible it’s not usable