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Engaging & understanding our users: a pilot User Experience Service showcase

This week we ran our first event to showcase the work of the pilot User Experience Service and associated areas like EdGEL and strategy development. At this session I wanted to try a different approach, encouraging dialogue about our work-in-progress, rather than one-way dissemination.

Attendance numbers were extremely positive and the engagement of the group was enthusiastic. We were oversubscribed, over 80% of bookings turned up, and the vast majority wanted to stay, learn more and provide feedback after the lightening talks.

Door with sign reading "Everyone is responsible for the user experience"

Welcoming everyone interested in user experience, design and strategy

A different format for greater engagement

At the University we run so many events in a seminar format. The focus is on disseminating rather than engaging. Time for questions can be very limited and the way it’s done – questions from an audience – impedes contributions from some who maybe don’t feel confident engaging in such an open forum.

Also, as an organiser, the greater the formality, the more you feel you need to prepare thoroughly and also have a ‘finished’ product or proposition to present. These feelings stop us from engaging more frequently.

Table with post it notes and pens

As ever, we were capturing comments and questions throughout, using post-its

By keeping this session informal with short presentations, I reduced the preparation overhead and made it OK to basically say “This is what we’re thinking, and where we’re up to. We don’t have all the answers right now and we want you to be part of the solutions we propose”. In general, I think we need greater honesty and transparency in our development.

I wanted to:

  • Be upfront about what we’re doing being a work-in-progress
  • Be open to opinion and challenges
  • Provide a more relaxed and personal environment that encourages greater participation
  • Provide a space for colleagues to talk amongst themselves about the things we were covering – sometimes it’s good to sound out your opinions with your peers before you express them more publicly

I think we achieved these goals, judging by the number of colleagues who stayed to engage through to the end of the session (and beyond).

“It was great to meet and exchange ideas with an audience from across the University. As I’m developing the web strategy for the University, it’s critical that it’s an inclusive process and events like this provide an ideal platform for collaborative working.”

Colan Mehaffey, Head of Web Strategy & Technologies

About the session

I deliberately set the room out to enable lots of informal discussion space. So in a room officially set for a capacity of 50, we invited 28 (plus 6 facilitators) so there was lots of space to move around and form informal groups.

We had just over 30 minutes of lightening talks, followed by 90 minutes of informal discussion, engagement and networking. The vast majority chose to stay for the second half and engaged in the areas that interested them most.

Presenter alongside slide relating to a human centred design process

Magdalena presented a lightening overview of how we’re developing a human-centred design process for the University

The talks

A series of very short talks on the key areas of activity which are leading to the introduction of new services and processes:

  • The new UX service: Why do we need it, and what’s new here? (Neil Allison)
  • Human Centred Design: changing our approach to engaging with users to deliver products and services that meet expectations (Magdalena Tsiobanelis)
  • Digital experience standards: appraising how we develop and deliver digital products and services to students (Marty Dunlop)
  • EdGEL case study: Extending EdGEL to support introduction of social media sharing to the website (Billy Wardrop)
  • UX training & resourcing: building a community of practice to raise our UX maturity as an organisation (Neil Allison)
  • Digital strategy development: where UX fits into a broader look at the University’s digital strategy (Colan Mehaffrey)

The slides

User Experience Programme showcase lightening talks from Neil Allison

The displays

Discussing a design process map on the wall

Billy elaborates on his lightening talk case study about extending EdGEL

We invited attendees to focus on the areas that most interest them; to learn more and give feedback.

Displays of material relating to each area were available around the room with colleagues on hand to discuss:

  • The Human Centred Design process model for digital delivery
  • Digital experience standards and principles development
  • UX training programme
  • EdGEL development process map
  • Developing a digital strategy

I felt like the format worked well. The initial presentations set the stage for what was being done, and then afterwards we could get more in depth with areas that were of interest.

Marissa Warner-Wu, Web Interfaces Manager

Did you attend?

Group discussing a process map displayed on the wall

Discussing the human centred design process plans following the lightening talks

If you came along, we’d love to hear what you thought. Leave a comment please:

  • Anything you want to say about the UX programme of projects
  • What you thought of the format – better or worse than other ways the University approaches such things?
  • Anything we could do better?
  • Would you come again or recommend to colleagues?
  • What would you like to see in future sessions?

4 replies to “Engaging & understanding our users: a pilot User Experience Service showcase”

  1. Mark Waugh says:

    A very useful insight to the programme and well organised event with short presentations and then the chance to speak to put ideas forward/ask questions.

  2. Liz Welch says:

    Well structured and well planned event, with good speakers. Opportunity to ask questions in areas that you were interested in was helpful and gave a change to ask in more detail.

    Thank you for organising this.

  3. Emma Rowson says:

    I found this really useful and the speed was a great way of getting momentum and keeping attention.

    The option to chat to the speakers afterwards at different ends of the room was also great and the visuals were good if people arrived early to the session.

    One thought was if you wished to continue these, you might want to aim them at different levels each time, so perhaps having sessions specifically for those who are newer to UX and then some more advanced sessions for those who have more experience. Then you don’t lose either group by either being too basic or too advanced.

  4. Chris Gallacher says:

    From my perspective the organisation and set-up were great. I liked the series of short, related presentations at the start and the opportunity to discuss in more detail with the various presenters afterwards. It makes it feel more informal, relaxed and a better way to generate discussion.

    I also enjoyed having a chat and catch-up with colleagues about the work they’ve been doing on the Edinburgh Global site.

    I also feel the aims of your project to develop UX maturity in the organisation are spot on. It looks like you’ve got a good team of people who can work with you and support you in this.

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