Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Taking a principled approach

Principles are important. They’re what unite us. A commonly agreed set of principles is a powerful way to ensure that, while we may be working independently at times, we are likely to make decisions that keep us moving in the same direction. In this post, I’ll look at the principles that are setting out how we work as a team and ultimately I hope how we serve prospective students as an organisation.

The University’s Digital Experience Design Principles

In my previous role as User Experience Service Manager in Information Services, we conducted research and design work to set the foundations for a University-wide Digital Experience Design System. Basically a rulebook and a toolbox that will help everyone build better digital services more quickly and cheaply.

The fundamental starting point for this was a set of principles on which standards could be set. You can read more (and download a poster) from the UX Service website.

The University’s Digital Experience Design Principles

How we developed the principles, in collaboration with the University’s digital community – ‘What are your principles?’ blog post

As you might expect, I’ve brought these with me and they’re core to how I’m setting up the new Prospective Student Web Content Team to operate.

These principles are my challenge to the team.

I want the team to demonstrate that they always:

  1. Understand our users
  2. Design for context
  3. Design for inclusivity
  4. Evidence decisions
  5. Evaluate continuously
  6. Are consistent – but not necessarily uniform – in their solutions
  7. Work transparently
  8. Collaborate across disciplines
  9. Open to change

How do these principles sit with you, as someone responsible or delivering services to prospective students?

Jeff Gothelf on Lean, Agile and Design Thinking practices

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts (over at the Website and Communications blog in Information Services), you’ll probably know I’m a bit of a fan of Jeff Gothelf’s work.

My blog posts for Website and Communications

Jeff talks a lot about organisational mind-set and culture, which sets you up for successful digital experience design. I was lucky enough to attend a masterclass he ran in Edinburgh over the summer in which he talked about three popular design and development approaches that can deliver great results, but can also be seen as running counter to each other in some ways.

Pulling together the elements that unite the three approaches, he outlined ways of working which align closely with our principles, and with how we’re setting this new team up to operate.

I’ve found a video of a presentation in which he runs through his principles. I really recommend it.

Lean, Agile, & Design Thinking by Jeff Gothelf – presentation to the Mind The Product conference in June 2019

If you’ve not got time for the video, here’s what Jeff runs through:

  1. Customer value and business value are the same thing – manage to outcomes.
  2. Work in short cycles – make evidence-based decisions, investing more in ideas as you learn.
  3. Hold regular retrospectives – practise continuous learning and continuous improvement.
  4. Go and see – watch what is happening in your team, and amplify those patterns, regardless of where they come from.
  5. Test your high-risk hypotheses – we can’t test everything, so focus on the high-risk and high-value hypotheses.
  6. Do less, more often – do the least amount of work you can, to learn the next most important thing.
  7. Work in balanced teams – build small, dedicated, self-sufficient teams that are empowered to make decisions based on short cycles.
  8. Radical transparency – transparency builds trust, and is key to building the shared understanding we need.
  9. Reviewing incentives and performance management – your digital transformation will fail if you don’t adjust what you pay people to do accordingly.
  10. Make learning a first-class citizen of your backlog – manage all of your work in one spot.

I’m pleased to report that these principles are reflected in our ways of working within the new team, and as we all begin to write updates on what we’re doing and thinking and seeing, you’ll get tangible examples of all this. (Maybe apart from number 9 – while I’d like to be able to incentivise how we work, we’re not really set up like that. Yet.)

Share your thoughts

Let me know what you think. Anything you disagree with? Anything fundamental that’s missing?

Add a comment and start a discussion.

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