Tag Archives: web design

What is content management, and how do we support it?

James Cox
Customer Success Analyst – Web CMS
University of Oxford

Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2018

This summer, with the aid of the UCISA bursary scheme, I attended the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) in York. This was my first conference since I started working in HE Digital 16 months ago, when I became part of an in-house software development team in the University of Oxford’s central IT services department.
My team built and develops a University-wide platform which comprises two distinct elements: a ‘toolkit’ to build and host websites; and a service, which responds to queries which users have raised, and provides a set of resources for users, such as live demos, documentation, and how-to guides. Ultimately, our team provides a potential solution to anyone in the university who needs to quickly create engaging web content and to make their administration of their website as painless as possible. No small task when you’re serving a highly-devolved organisation containing a wide array of use cases and user needs!

IWMW17 Ruth Mason, Matthew Castle by Kevin Mears is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
I have the reassuringly positive title of Customer Success Analyst, which situates me somewhere between the developers and business analysts – both of whom work with project partners to move the toolkit forward – and our users, who so far in the platform’s short life (the full service became operational two days after I joined the team) have created almost every kind of website a university could expect to host: from individual academic and research group sites to new web presences for academic faculties and museums.
As a customer-facing person in a technical team, I get to see both sides of the software creation and usage coin. And, as someone new to web management in HE and working on a relatively new service, I’d like to know what challenges similarly-positioned professionals are facing. As a result, IWMW seemed like a convivial space where HE Digital folk could share their experiences wrestling with similar considerations, such as supporting the creation of engaging, on-message content within their organisations, and how to make a technical solution like a CMS useful and usable to people whose day-to-day work includes only peripheral technical engagement with systems.
So, what struck me most from my first conference since working in this new sector? Which messages resonated strongest with me? And what lessons have I tried to put into my work in the four months since?

It was my first conference whilst working in HE Digital; what struck me most?

The balance between content-focused talks and ones centring on the technical parts of institutional web management differed to what I anticipated. Although the technical and management side of maintaining web services within HE was touched upon, there was a strong emphasis on content, and how to create it in a way that strengthens an institution’s brand and ultimately establishes a space for an audience to identify with it – as showcased by this promotional video for ETH Zürich, mentioned in a talk by Dave Musson. Reflecting on this during the conference, it seemed that one reason for this balance might be that technical offerings available to universities now often mean turning to SaaS solutions, which bring with them a reduced need for in-house technical expertise – allowing for greater resource allocation to the parts of web management where demand is now greatest: content and user experience.

Which talks did I enjoy and which prompted some lightbulb moments?

Telling the Birkbeck story: How customer journey mapping helped us develop our new approach to web

  • Brand identity through customer journey mapping: I enjoyed the unpacking of customer journey mapping and how it was used to design the UX of Birkbeck’s new website, and how this approach was undertaken as a foundation in promoting the Birkbeck brand: beginning with understanding the brand you have, and importantly “how your brand is no longer what you say it is, but what your users say it is”. This means you better give them a good experience or else you’re going they’re going to tell you about it – most likely through the amplification of social media.

Old school corporate identity: Blackbeard’s brand promise.
Reproduced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pirate_Flag_of_Blackbeard_(Edward_Teach).svg, CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
  • Mapping customer journeys and where the experience can be improved: The mapping process was presented in detail (key events and stages in the journeys; user feelings; touchpoints, friction, opportunities for improvement), which resonated with work that our team is currently going through, working with our administrative division.
  • Guidelines for the design process: Birkbeck adopted five design guidelines: simplify and clear clutter; push content up within the navigation and reduce user steps; connect content and surface related content on every page; flatten navigation hierarchy; don’t be afraid of long pages. Presenting good web design and information architecture practice is central to our team’s work so it’s interesting to see another institution’s take on what principles to follow.

Understanding invisible labour: University of Greenwich

  • Think about the cost of the ‘invisible’ work: A huge amount of time is lost during task switching. A Microsoft study of one of its development teams and the effect of task switching found an average increase in the time to complete a task of 226%. Think about the process a user has to undertake to complete a task using the system you support. How many steps are there? How many times does the user encounter ambiguities or increases in cognitive load, where they need to make a decision which could result in an error being made? How likely is a support request going to be raised under these circumstances? Can a change to something within the service remove this problem for the user and reduce the support load?
  • Learn the art of nudging: some users won’t jump; you need to give them a gentle push. Make tutorials (good documentation, videos, how-to docs) so users can easily engage with the system you are supporting but they need to operate. Turn it into a user experience exercise – ‘how would I have wanted to learn about that?’
  • Manage how users interact with your system: provide the basic config options and hide the rest. There is often a lot of advanced functionality in CMSs – features the average content editor isn’t likely to need. Keeping them all on display is at best confusing for users who will never need these features and at worst can result in the web-equivalent of ‘Leeroy Jenkins’, i.e. an editor clicking on the option which makes a major adverse change to the site – our team learnt that this is a thing last week, when a new content editor unfamiliar with the editing options deleted their organisation’s homepage. As a result, we’re going to make a change to prevent homepages from being deleted.
HE Digital is a small community and IWMW does an amazing job of bringing together web management professionals into a supportive community to share experiences and lessons learned. Head over to the IWMW website to see some videos of the plenary talks this year.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of convergence

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
The 2018 event marked the conference’s tenth year and having been a business analyst for approaching fifteen years now, this conference has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have watched longingly as more senior colleagues, freelance peers and even co-workers nominated for ‘Business Analyst of the Year’, have departed for London for three days of sharing ideas, networking and learning and returned positively sparking with inspiration. This year, my turn came and I spent much of the week before preparing and planning, determined to gain the most I possibly could from this experience.
I returned, somewhat exhausted, but brimming with ideas, inspiration and a newfound pride in my profession. As a blogger, I also have inspiration for articles and blogs to keep me and my readers happy until Christmas! Over the space of the three days, I attended fifteen talks and workshops and left each one more enlightened that when I walked in, from gaining a new nugget of information, a shift in my attitude and approach towards the BA profession, to learning an entirely new technique.
More detail will follow over the coming weeks, but in this article I discuss the first of a number of key themes that seemed to permeate the conference: convergence.

Convergence

Many years ago I completed a lengthy application process for an industrial placement with a global corporation and on my application form I ticked ‘marketing’ and ‘IT’ as my two business areas of interest. In the interview stage, I was quizzed for some time on what the recruiters perceived as a most unusual juxtaposition; how could a person wanting to work in the technical discipline of IT also harbour an interest in the creative field of marketing?
Marketing has been a career-long interest for me. I chose to pursue a career in IT, but have often tended towards marketing in my personal development, attending the occasional CIM training session, self-studying related online courses and eventually undertaking a Masters which comprised at least 50% marketing modules. But why, if I had chosen a career in IT? Well, firstly because I find marketing theory and customer behaviour fascinating and secondly, perhaps because I approached IT from the field of web design and running my own business in the early 00s, I’ve always mentally linked marketing with IT.
Unfortunately, my industrial placement hirer’s attitude was not in isolation. Throughout my career, many potential employers have been perplexed and in some cases even turned off by my multi-disciplinary set of interests. Given this, it was a great reassurance to find that a significant proportion of the discussion, theory and techniques at Business Analysis Europe had roots in or strong connections to marketing.
Technological innovations and developments have disrupted almost every industry. The pervasive use of digital devices and social platforms by the majority of the populace, certainly in the Western world, has led to digital becoming a primary channel for many companies to engage with their customer base; pushing communications to them, engaging them in two-way conversations, facilitating digital communities of like-minded customers and of course ecommerce.
These digital marketing systems and platforms require IT professionals, just as with any other system and as with any other project, business analysts need to understand marketing theory and strategy if they are to design, build and successfully implement systems to support organisations’ marketing strategy.

I draw on marketing as it is an area of personal interest and because it was indeed a key area of focus at the conference, but the same applies for all areas of business; sales, operations, asset management, HR and certainly customer service and PR, as previously explored in my earlier blog article ‘Blurred Lines’.  As Mark Smalley (@MarkSmalley) stated in his The Digital BA session: “In the digital enterprise, business and IT are converging and we <as Business Analysts> need to consider the consequences of this”.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-rachel-drinkwater/.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Communicating with brains in survival mode

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

UX Week 2018: Tools we can use

An early contender for my favourite talk of UX Week 2018, which I attended courtesy of a UCISA bursary, was Laura E. Hall’s on ‘Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond: Lessons from Escape Room Games’.
I’m a huge fan of online puzzle and room escape games, and loved hearing about Laura’s work designing real-world ones.
For starters there were so many crossovers between escape room game design and web design: the need to manage users’ cognitive load, minimise stressors, and communicate story or message, and the importance of accessibility.
Further, I’m writing this during University of Glasgow’s registration and enrolment period: one of the most stressful and most digital-centric times of the year for students. If we could apply Laura’s ideas on how to communicate with the brain when it’s in survival mode, maybe we could smooth this out…
I highly recommend watching the whole of Laura’s 34 mins talk below, or for just the ‘survival mode’ chunk start at 15 mins in.

Phew

All this just from 1 talk and 1 workshop?! More soon…in the meantime, you can watch many of the other talks at the official conference recap.
This blog post first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.