Content sprinting – part three

Fees and funding web content - show and tell
The show and tell for our latest sprint was held virtually, via Skype.

The third part of digital officer Charlotte Brewer’s series on content sprinting.

This post was actually written a while ago. We planned to release it as part of our series on ‘Content Sprinting’. Thelockdown started. Hitting the publish button fell down the list of priorities. 

Despite lockdown, and despite everyone working from home and all the challenges that has broughtwe’re actually still working in exactly the same way. We’re still sprinting. We’re still doing everything we did before. Everything in this blog post remains accurate. The only difference is that all our meetings and our conversations are via Skype.  
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Content sprinting – part two

The second part of digital officer Charlotte Brewer’s series on content sprinting. 

In my last blog post about the sprint way of working, introduced it as a concept and looked at how we did sprint planning. In this post, I’ll show what it’s like to do the work as part of the content team in a sprint.

Do the work 

Once the sprint planning meeting is over, we get stuck into the list of tasks.   

Each task is a specific, distinct thing that we need to do to complete the goal of the sprint. For our students’ Top Tasks sprint, these included:  

  • Draft a template invitation email 
  • Book rooms  
  • Contact an International Officer to get list of international students  
  • Email these students an invitation to a focus group 
  • Contact the Mature Student Adviser to get list of mature students  
  • Email these students an invitation to a focus group 
  • Collate a list of URLs across the website that answers students’ FAQs (spoiler: there is a lot of duplication) 

Once we finish one task, we move onto the next task. Some of these are small enough for one of us to easily complete it. Others are bigger and need us all to work on it at once. Some tasks are straightforward, while some become blocked. This is where daily stand-ups come in.   

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Content sprinting – part one

It’s not only software that benefits from being delivered in sprints. Digital officer Charlotte Brewer discusses the practicalities of “content sprinting”. 

Sprinting – an act or short spell of running at full speed. That’s the traditional definition. Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, the sprint has been seen as the pinnacle of the athletic world. And in the last decade or so, it’s also become popular in the world of work.  

Software teams have been taking up ‘Agile’ practices that quickly deliver lots of small but functional improvements. Sprinting is fundamental to this. Like the sporting version, sprinting involves a lot of effort over a short space of time.   

In the Digital Comms team, we’ve started to adopt this approach in the way we deliver new contentOur newlyformed content team hanow completed five sprints since we started this new way of working in October.  (more…)

Content scrum in practice

Deputy head of digital comms Alex Pardoe on how our newly-formed content team has transformed the way we deliver content. 

This post is about the new way of working for the Digital Officers. Where previously we assigned project work to individual staff members through the project framework, now we’re assigning projects to the newly-formed “content team” and they’re using a modified version of Agile Scrum to get them not just done, but done-done. 

Scrum for content? 

Scrum has been used for years in software development, and we liked it for its simplicity and open-ended application. We felt it could work well for discovery and content design work as a team activity. Jeff Sutherland’s wife, Arline, adopted Scrum practices to improve communication and productivity in local churches. It’s not just for coding. 

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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…)

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…)

A new homepage for the University (part 1)

Earlier this year it was decided the University’s homepage needed some modernisation. It’d been a good four or five years since we’d given it a thorough review. In that time there have been huge changes in technology, in the University’s strategic goals and (most importantly) in the way our audiences interact with our website.

Another change that has been developing during this time is the way that we in the University’s Digital Comms team approach web development projects. Things move fast in digital – and this applies to processes and project management every bit as much as it does as to technologies.

Over the last few years, we’ve been adopting aspects of agile product management and reporting into our work practices. As part of this, we’ve become way more reliant on using data to make decisions. We’re now using Google Analytics and user research far more than we used to.

This helps us to decide what areas of bristol.ac.uk we should focus on and how to improve the content in ways that measurably improve our audiences’ experience with the website (rather than ways that we think improve things). (more…)