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.
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…)
User testing is the cornerstone of every successful project. And, say digital officers Charlotte Brewer and Geraint Northam, it needn’t break the bank.
User testing tends to be thought of as a lot of work. Planning, finding volunteers, making sure they turn up, preparing and managing the session, reporting and summarising it afterwards – all take significant time and effort.
It’s worth it. As a digital team we want to find problems, solve them, and improve the user experience. This then allows the University to meet its business objectives.
But does it have to be so time-consuming? We’ve started to embrace ‘user testing on the cheap’ – quick, small tests done often. (more…)
Digital Manager Antony Theobald on how improving our internal support processes will ultimately benefit users of our website.
Here at the University of Bristol, we operate a devolved publishing model for web content.
‘Devolved’ publishing for us means we have nearly 2,000 web publishers creating and updating content across hundreds of sub-sites and pages under bristol.ac.uk.
For us as a digital team, this has some pros and many cons.
Without going into all of those here, we’ve recently started addressing one of the major cons: one small team supporting a vast community of publishers.
Web analytics are powerful tools. But, say Digital officer Geraint Northam and UX officer Becca Edmeads, you’ve got to know how to use them.
Most of us use analytics unquestioningly. We don’t stop to think how accurate they might be, let alone what they might actually mean.
It’s important to recognise that analytics don’t give the full picture – they’re an indication of patterns of behaviour or trends. We need to educate ourselves on why the data might not be entirely accurate. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)