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Re-establishing the UX service with the new UX team

With the addition of two new team members to the UX team, we have taken the opportunity to review our priorities and redefine our ways of working to deliver the UX service.

Goals of the UX service

Broadly speaking, the UX service exists to promote and embed user-centred approaches and methodologies in the design and development of University systems, products and services. We aim to achieve these goals in various ways:

  • Directly supporting large-scale projects of strategic importance
  • Providing training for creation of user-centred digital content
  • Driving improvements and updates of UX and content design standards
  • Upskilling and empowering University colleagues to practice UX and content design.

If you want to learn more about what UX is and what it achieves, you can watch this session delivered as part of the last Digital Skills Festival in 2022:

User Experience Design – what it is and how it can help you (on MediaHopper)

Building a UX team with user research and content design expertise

In May 2023 the UX team recruited Nick Daniels as a Senior Content Designer and Catherine Munn as a User Experience Research Specialist. Content design and UX research are fundamental functions underpinning our goals. UX research allows us to understand the current state of products and services, helps identify the problems users face and guides decisions about changes to make them better. Content Design is a discipline which recognises that content is what users need to complete their tasks – and, through a design process, focuses on getting the right content to the right people at the right time. Combining UX and content design places us in a strong position to achieve the UX service goals.

UX service priorities for the next 12 months

For the past several years the UX service has been supporting two projects of strategic importance to the University and will continue to do so for the coming year.

Web Publishing Platform (WPP)

Since it began in 2020,  UX has supported the WPP project, initially adopting and following a UXD process developed for the context of the project, taking into account the Agile ways of working being enacted through the Scrum framework. As part of the ongoing project, our focus is currently on two major aspects of the platform, the information architecture and navigation, and the editorial interface. To support the migration to the new platform, we will shortly be recruiting two Web Content Design Assistants.

Read about our UXD process in this blog post:

Defining the UXD process to support a user-centred web publishing platform

Information architecture and navigation

Moving to the new platform and away from EdWeb presented the opportunity to revise our Information Architecture Guidelines. These guidelines outline how we structure and organise content in our websites, in other words, to set out what goes where. The guidelines go hand-in-hand with the navigation scheme for the new platform and we have been testing different navigational elements and concepts with end-users and using this data to inform our decisions as we continue to iterate the components of our navigation scheme.

Read about our Information Architecture and navigation work so far in these related blog posts:

Revisiting our Information Architecture Guidelines

Implementing and evolving a megamenu in the Web Publishing Platform

Editorial interface

Last year we gathered feedback from editors on a prototype editorial interface developed using Drupal’s Gin admin theme and used this information to drive further configuration and development of the interface. With 25 sites now migrated, it is timely to carry out research with site owners of migrated sites, to see how the platform is working for them in their day-to-day management and upkeep of their sites, and in their longer-term plans. We have begun reaching out to site owners of migrated sites and will use what we learn to feed into future iterations of the editorial interface.

Additional content design resource to support migration

We have recently gained approval to recruit two Web Content Design Assistants (G5) for a period of 12 months to support the migration of content from existing EdWeb to the new platform. These roles will work directly with lead publishers and editors to support them in designing and structuring content using the new platform leading up to and during migration.

Learn Ultra

Continuing the service design approach established as part of Learn Foundations, the UX team is supporting the move to Learn Ultra with ongoing programmes of user research with both staff and students. Findings from the research continue to guide decision-making about the set-up and configuration of Learn Ultra, as well as feeding into the development of training and guidance for staff.

Read about our latest research on Learn Ultra:

Learn Ultra courses – latest insights from user experience research

Ongoing priorities

Alongside our work on specific products and services we’re striving towards our UX service goals with some longer-term work strands.

Updating our Effective Digital Content training

Our Effective Digital Content (EDC) course is available as a self-serve online course on the original version of Learn but with the upgrade to Learn Ultra we will be moving the course to a new location. We carried out research on our EDC course last year and in advance of moving it from Learn, we will look to update it based on the feedback provided and findings from our research. We’re also looking to better align the EDC course with the training programme for the new Web Publishing Platform.

Read about our research of the EDC:

Effective Digital Content training – listening to our users

Improving standards through working groups

We recognise that content design and UX are fast-evolving fields and we want to ensure we’re implementing the most up-to-date techniques, continually improving our practices and working together with colleagues from the wider University to build our knowledge. To help us achieve this, we’re involved with the running of two working groups, the Editorial Working Group and the Multibranding Working Group.

Read about the Multibranding Working Group as part of our work on multibranding:

Building a checklist for multibranding governance – our latest design system community session

Read more about the Editorial Working Group as part of our work on the Editorial Style Guide:

A revolutionalised Editorial Style Guide – creating a single source of truth

Supporting your UX needs – help us to help you

With the Web Publishing Platform project still progressing through sprints and the transition to Learn Ultra underway, we are limited in the capacity we have to take on additional UX and content design work. We do, however, recognise there is a need for UX help with projects, products and services. Where possible, we want to support you with advice on approaches and techniques and empower you to adopt these within your team to make your digital products and service more user-centred and we have a number of self-serve kits we can share and coach you to be able to use.

Think about UX and content design sooner rather than later

To ensure we can help you in the best way, it is crucial to understand that UX Design is a process that enables you to make user-centred decisions based on an understanding of user needs learned in research. For this reason, it isn’t something that can be implemented at the end of a project or just before the launch of a website – at this point the decisions are likely to have been made and it is too late for UX to have any meaningful impact. It’s never too early to start thinking about UX – and taking time to properly consider and understand user needs from the beginning can save you wasting time and effort building something that people can’t use in the ways they expect to.

To enable us to help you most effectively please contact us at the earliest possible stage – for example:

  • When a project brief is written or signed off
  • When a project team is formed
  • When kick-off meetings are scheduled
  • When scoping begins.

Gather information about your users, their needs and your goals

We’re often asked for UX help but there is no single ‘UX best practice’, ‘UX perspective’ or user-centred solution we can offer. It all depends on who the user is and what they want to do, and the more detail you have about this, the more effectively UX practices can be applied to result in improvements for that group of users. If you don’t know much about your users, we can direct you to some research techniques so you can start to understand them better. Key pieces of information you should be looking to know at the start of your UX process are as follows:

  • Who’s going to use what you’re making
  • What they will use it for – i.e. the tasks they will complete
  • How they complete these tasks currently, and how and why this is changing with what you’re making
  • What your department or team want to see as a result of this piece of work – in other words ‘What does good look like?’

Use the Human-centred network for support, testing and to try new techniques

If you’ve a general question about UX, you have an idea you want to sense-check, you want advice on an appropriate technique or you’re looking for participants to help you test something out, the Human-centred network is a good place to start. This is a Teams channel of over 100 University staff all with an interest in working in more human-centred ways so it’s a valuable resource to help you practice and progress UX yourself.

Join the Human-centred network on Teams (University log in required)

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