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Applying effective digital content principles in practice – our new training approaches

Acting on our research carried out between 2022 and 2023 and to coincide with the web migration project and training in EdWeb 2, we’re running a series of practical sessions to help University staff implement concepts from the Effective Digital Content course.

Preparing user-centred content, or content design as it has come to be called, is a skill to be learned. It takes engagement with theory and practice in context to get it right. It goes hand-in-hand with being responsible for a website. If you look after a website or part of a website, to make sure it is doing its job and to make sure it is compliant, you need to look after its content – to ensure it remains inclusive and accessible and supports the tasks your audiences come to complete.

Content includes everything your audiences use to make sense of a website – from the words on the pages to the menu labels, icons, images, videos, buttons, and so on. When you’re responsible for web content, it can be difficult to know what good looks like, where to start and what to prioritise. It can also be difficult to keep up with what’s to be done with the resource you have.

Research with our web publishers into Effective Digital Content training

Between 2022 and 2023 we carried out various pieces of research to understand how University staff publish web content, and specifically to gain some feedback on our online self-serve Effective Digital Content course. The findings are detailed in these blog posts:

Effective Digital Content – listening to our users

Help us shape and evolve our Effective Digital Content training

The research indicated that, on the whole, people found the course useful, but there was a general feeling that once they had completed the course, they were unsure what to do next, and especially how to apply what they’d learned to their own sites. They had particular pages or sections of their site they wanted to improve, and that they needed to maintain, but they didn’t know where to begin with what they had learned.

Migration to EdWeb 2 presented an opportunity to iterate on our training

Regular training is underway for the new web publishing platform, EdWeb 2, and we felt this was a good time to think about our delivery of Effective Digital Content training. We decided to revisit our research and consider the findings. Specifically, we wanted to act on the recommendation to start offering in-person training again.

Enlisting the help of specialists

The UX team begun working with Caroline Jarrett and Jane Matthews, both experts in training people in content design, writing for the web and communication. With their help, we developed a format for an in-person session, aimed at giving people the opportunity to build on concepts learned in the Effective Digital Content course and to get practical help applying them in the context of the web content they look after.

Developing practical in-person sessions for web publishers

Deciding which topics to include in the in-person sessions was difficult. Learning from our research we wanted to avoid overloading people with theory and also wanted to provide examples that were relevant to them. Our goal was that that people would leave these sessions inspired to try some content design techniques and approaches on their own web content. For this reason we decided to ask participants to supply examples of their web content they wanted help with in advance of each session, to enable us to structure topics and exercises that would offer them direct, relevant help that they could act upon. We also wanted to foster a spirit of learning from each other, so we designed exercises to encourage participants to work together and share ideas. Overall, we wanted attendees to feel that any small task they could take to improve their content was worthwhile. To quote Emma Aldington, a Senior Content Designer at eBay, we wanted them to ‘Try to make things better, not perfect’.

Real content design isn’t like in the books (by Emma Aldington on Medium)

Regular meet-ups to make content work a habit

Nick Daniels, Senior Content Designer, has run three of these sessions (called ‘Content Design for EdWeb 2’) so far. Feedback from these sessions has been positive. Attendees said they liked the balance of theory and practical exercises. The use of real-life examples in the group environment seemed to make people feel they were not on their own with the web content challenges they faced. They also seemed to like the opportunity for shared learning. To build on this, we’re planning on running a series of regular content improvement meet-ups, aimed at making good content practices a habit.  We’ve yet to finalise the format and the frequency, but if this would be something of interest to you, please let us know by emailing us at: or

Making web content work as manageable as possible – online bitesize sessions

We recognise that the in-person format doesn’t work for everyone, so we’re thinking of ways we can improve our online training offering, to effectively teach effective digital content design principles while encouraging people to try the techniques out for themselves in a supportive environment. Taking inspiration from the books ‘Tiny Habits’ by BJ Fogg and ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear we’re working on a ‘bitesize’ training format aimed at building confidence in applying effective digital content design techniques and principles, and making web content work as manageable as possible.  We’re looking for volunteers to try out some sample training content. If you would be interested in this, please email us to let us know.

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