How one small team can support a vast community of publishers

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. (more…)

A more meaningful use of analytics

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…)

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…)