Creating experiences – our UX service offering to you

In this post, our UX/UI Designer Jamie Forsyth discusses how the experiences we all create at the University succeed or fail. And how really nailing down who your ‘users’ are and what their needs are, will make their (and in turn, your) life easier.

Jamie also describes how we in the Digital Experience (DX) team can help you to understand your users better, and work with you to create experiences that really help them in what they’re trying to do.

Everything created at the University is experienced by someone. From social media posts to open day events, course web pages to annual lectures, student enrolment forms to civic engagement services. A user’s experience (UX) is at the heart of all these ‘things’.

If the appropriate audiences – your ‘users’ – for these experiences have been understood and prioritised, then said ‘thing’ will almost always be a success – potentially a resounding one! If not, then unless you strike it extremely lucky, it won’t be a success.

Continue reading: Creating experiences – our UX service offering to you

What is a design system?

Joshua Morris (Senior Front End Developer) explains what a design system is, why you should use one, and what the University has been doing to develop its own design system.

TLDR: A design system is a complete toolkit for managing design at scale, providing reusable ‘components’ and ‘patterns’ along with accompanying standards and governance.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how large organisations manage digital design at scale. Many of these organisations have brand guidelines created for printed media such as leaflets and flyers.

They also usually have large digital estates comprised of thousands of pages of content, presented in various ways such as different website page layouts and applications.

Digital teams responsible for the estate often try to apply strict print guidelines to this mixture of content, in a waterfall model, with varying degrees of success. Digital teams make their way through their digital estate updating brand, and then when print guidelines are updated, they restart.

As digital teams are generally smaller, how can you efficiently roll out and maintain a consistent brand across your digital estate?

Introducing a design system – a complete toolkit for managing design at scale.

Continue reading: What is a design system?

Keeping it real – optimising ‘social proof’ in postgraduate recruitment

A great indicator that you’ve designed a delightful user experience is having happy customers advocate for you, speaking positively about your products to family, friends, and – if you’re lucky enough to make an influencer happy – their online followers.

This is an example of ‘social proof’, and in this post our UX Designer Nabila Hisbaron talks us through our use of social proof to support postgraduate student recruitment.

In a recent user research sprint, we learned just how important social proofing can be for potential postgraduate applicants.

Continue reading: Keeping it real – optimising ‘social proof’ in postgraduate recruitment

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 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

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

User testing on the cheap 

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. Continue reading: User testing on the cheap