Digital officers Katie Manktelow and Hazel Jackson have pair written their top tips for pair writing.
As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. Pair writing is two (or more) people writing together. Introduced by agile software developers who were writing code, it’s now common practice in content design teams including our own. We use this approach to write copy for the website. (more…)
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.
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
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.
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 content. Our newly–formed content team has now completed five sprints since we started this new way of working in October.(more…)
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.
Digital officer Geraint Northam attended a couple of conferences over the summer where conversational content was discussed. For him, it’s a fascinating area with potentially huge implications for the type of content we’ll be creating in the future, particularly within the higher education sector.
Conversational content tries to mimic the natural way humans talk to each other, to help solve various tasks. You may have come across this type of content when using text ‘chatbots’ – artificial intelligence software.
Conversational content is very different to the more traditional content (text, images, video) that we’re used to working with.
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.
Does your content strictly cover a user need? If not, bin it.
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.
During content planning, explore the acceptance criteria which underpin user needs. (more…)
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. (more…)