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Enhancing content and promoting self-service at Shift left-athon

I recently ran a one-day workshop for IS web editors focused on teaching them how to iteratively improve their digital content so users are able to self-serve on their site. The event was a great success, with attendees leaving with an appreciation for what it takes to create user-focused content.

The Workshop

Shift left-athon was a one-day taster version of the continuous improvement cycle we’ve been following in our IS Helpline collaboration project to enhance IT help provision at the University.

Read our blog series on the Helpline-UX collaboration

The workshop was a whistle-stop tour of each component of the cycle, with presentations on:

  • usability testing
  • creating effective digital content
  • analytics and analysis

Read the full agenda for Shift left-athon

In the afternoon, we held a practical exercise where attendees first paired up to peer review and edit each other’s content.

Create effective content quickly with pair writing (blog post)

With their newly edited content in hand, we then had attendees go out into Argyle House to test their changes to see if users could quickly determine what their webpages were about.


In this 5-minute video, I talk in more detail about how the workshop came about and what happened on the day.

I’m also joined by:

  • Gavin McLachlan, ISG CIO, speaking on what shift left is and what it means for the University
  • Gavin Anderson, IS Helpline Senior Computing Officer, speaking on what our collaboration project has done for his department
  • Neil Allison, Website Programme User Experience Manager, speaking on the workshop activities

Insights and feedback

I was happy to see attendees left the practical session with the insights I was hoping they’d discover. The most important of these was getting them to see the value in having someone outside their service area look at their content.

We’re so close to our subject area that we often forget what it’s like to be in the mind of someone who’s just being introduced to it. The pair writing session proved to be a real eye-opener for attendees as they realised the type of changes they needed to make for their content to be more user-friendly. These included:

  • trimming the fat: removing excess content a user doesn’t need to know and clutters up the page
  • dejargonising: removing terms that your audience is unlikely to understand
  • shifting keywords left: making sure the most important words in your content are readily seen by users skimming down your page
  • answering your key questions: ensuring that the questions your page title and summary imply are going to be answered on the page are actually answered and reflect user needs

When our content is in better shape, users can find the answers to their questions and not have to get in touch with their queries. This is the essence of shift-left – promoting self-service as a means to save us time and money in support.

Comments and ratings

Thanks to all the attendees that came along, and for your very helpful feedback.

The session in general was great, really interesting and engaging. Would definitely recommend it to other staff members.

I’m keen to get moving on redesigning our pages. Very useful tips.

Average feedback scores for the workshop were excellent. I asked participants to rate the following from 1 (most positive) to 5 (least positive):

  • Usefulness of the workshop
  • How likely you’d recommend it to colleagues
  • Whether you’d be interested in a regular series of similar events
  • Quality of each presentation and presenter
  • Usefulness of practical exercise

The average for all ratings was 1.47.

Interested in a workshop?

If your department could benefit from a similar workshop, get in touch with us.

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