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.

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Understanding the inner workings: the Digital Experience team’s impact

Timea Wilson reflects on her first four months working with the University’s Digital Experience team as the Senior Digital Delivery and Performance Manager.

Reflecting on my journey so far within the Digital Experience team, I’m eager to share our progress amid challenges and our commitment to driving positive change. Here are four things that have made an impression on me so far: 

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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.

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Intranet design principles

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.

Screenshot of intranet

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Love the problem

When colleagues from across the University come to us for help with their website, the first thing we ask them is: what’s your problem?

That sounds a bit rude and abrupt. Let me explain.

In any digital project or product this is the single most important question that needs answering. If there’s no problem to solve then there’s no work needed.

What do we mean by problem? What we don’t mean is that your website looks ugly, that it doesn’t look good on a mobile device, it doesn’t have the right tone, or that it’s not structured in a way that mirrors your team’s structure.

These aren’t problems, they’re solutions looking for a problem.Continue reading: Love the problem

18 things we learned about content design

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.

User needs

  1. Does your content strictly cover a user need? If not, bin it.
  2. 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.
  3. During content planning, explore the acceptance criteria which underpin user needs.Continue reading: 18 things we learned about content design