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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Award winners at Content Ed 2022 conference

We’ve had a fabulous couple of days at this year’s Content Ed conference, with three members of the team contributing sessions and our user-centred approach winning top prize in this category.

Neil Allison and Lauren Tormey seated with Content Ed award

Lauren and I stepped up to accept the award on behalf of the team.

Award winners!

Lauren and I were absolutely thrilled to accept the Empathy Award for Advancing Audience Research and Insight on behalf of the team.

Having put user centred design at the heart of everything we do in the Prospective Student Web Content Team, and championed user centred practices throughout my digital career, this was a very special award.

While I believe and constantly emphasise that we’re all responsible for the user experience, our success in this category is due in no small part to the user experience specialists in our team: Nicola Dobieca, Pete Watson and Gayle Whittaker (who left us last year).

We’re all very proud, and grateful to receive the award and help to raise the profile of this vital work.

Award criteria

The judges were looking for:

  • Approaches being taken to conduct audience research and uncover new insights ​
  • Evidence that audience insights translate directly to content decisions ​
  • Signs that all communications and marketing approaches are underpinned by empathy and compassion

This award recognises an organisation that is raising the standard for audience research in driving content strategies and plans. The organisation will be demonstrating a true audience-first approach to content planning.

Our submission

In our submission we highlighted our goals in practicing user centred design, which go way beyond just informing the future state of our prospective student provision. We talked about working to:

  • Engage the University’s student recruitment and marketing community in the human-centred design process​
  • Establish a pipeline of user insight which informs an evolving understanding of the prospective student experience at Edinburgh ​
  • Feed our insight into a broader range of service touchpoints, beyond the remit of our team​
  • Grow team skills and experience in HCD practices beyond the UX Specialist, so that all members – in particular content designers – actively participate in the process

We talked about the wide range of quantitative and qualititative research we’ve undertaken over the past three year which we promote regularly through this blog, and outlined the impact this work has had.

The chief impact of course has been to contribute to the decision to invest in the three year project we’re just beginning. But we’ve also delivered insight that delivers value for the whole of the University’s student recruitment community such as our evolving student experience map. And perhaps most valuable to me, we’re influencing colleagues in other areas to begin to think about human centred design practices and to invest in user research.

This is a fantastic achievement which makes me incredibly proud of our team. We’ve come this far thanks to both the efforts of our User Experience Specialists and the enthusiasm and open-mindedness of rest of the team. After all, every one of us is responsible for the user experience.

Neil Allison, Head of Prospective Student Web Content


Members of the team sit around a table at the awards dinner

Freya, Flo, Lauren and I attended the awards dinner

Conference contributions

Lauren Tormey presenting

Lauren presented her talk: “I don’t know what I’m doing and that’s okay: my first year as a content design manager”

We also had some great experiences at the conference through contributing to the programme.

Lauren Tormey

Lauren presented a breakout session on ‘I don’t know what I’m doing and that’s okay: my first year as a content design manager’. This was a typically honest and open reflection on the past year since Lauren stepped up to lead our continuous improvement team, delivering two major, impactful projects while building a team around her.

Freya Cookson

Freya presented a breakout session on ‘Writing content for non-native English speakers: why ‘write in the plain English’ rule matters’. 

Freya Cookson presenting at Content Ed

Freya presenting her talk: “Writing content for non-native English speakers: why the ‘write in plain English’ rule matters”

This was a reflection on key content design learning that came out of our Student Immigration Service project – designing content and then conducting research on its effectiveness with speakers of other languages.

Neil Allison

I also contributed by participating in a discussion panel in which we covered topics focused on leadership, designing content teams and resourcing content approaches within higher education. I’ve spoken at many conferences, but this was a new experience for me. It was intimidating to be speaking in a non-rehearsed way in front of over 200 people, but equally exhilarating to be bouncing around ideas with an expert panel who I learned loads from.

Neil Allison speaking as part of a dicussion panel

I participated in a discussion panel alongside: Dana Rock, Dee Reid, Tom Greveson and Ayala Gordon.

About Content Ed

If the conference is new to you, and you work in digital content in higher education, I really recommend you check it out.

It was great to see so many colleagues there from the University of Edinburgh, and I really hope this proves to be a springboard within the institution to give the discipline of content design a higher profile.

Content Ed conference website

Neil Allison with Content Ed award

You can probably tell I was quite chuffed to receive this.

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