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.
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.
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.
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)
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?
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?