A review of our first Design Sprint fixing the staff | firez
Web Services

A review of our first Design Sprint (fixing the staff profile issue)

Not sure what a Design Sprint is? These are fun and interactive problem solving sessions with students, staff and other key members of the public. For more information, read Participate in a Design Sprint to shape future website experiences

On February 13, our first Design Sprint took place. 12 people from across the university gathered together with Rob (UX Manager) and myself (Design Manager) from Web Services.

We had a fun and informative day working together trying to solve one of the many problems we face as we create a new university website. The challenge we set ourselves for the day was to solve this problem: How do we help people find personnel information?

Morning, Day 1: Review the problem together

The first part of the Sprint saw Rob and I present some background information on the problem:

  • We talked about core task research related to personnel
  • We presented some unusual solutions from other industries
  • We showcased some of the first ideas we created last year
  • We’ve revealed some interesting stats on how in-demand staff content really is (sections containing staff profiles are the busiest sections on any school site)

Everyone was encouraged to take notes during the morning, using a sticky note for each thought or point they wanted to discuss later. During a coffee break, these notes were grouped into headings like ‘Content’, ‘User Experience’, ‘Design’ and so on.

Photo: Examples of notes taken by participants during the Design Sprint

During the morning we had some good discussions:

  • a review of core staff content activities (what people have told us they want)
  • a review of some example solutions from sectors outside of higher education
  • user journeys (how visitors might reach a staff profile)
  • how people felt about the current solutions (e.g. their personal profile, trying to find staff members, etc.)
  • everyone should have a personal profile
  • how we get the information we need
  • how we encourage people to update their profile
  • how we handle the wide variety of personnel and the varying amount (and types) of content

Afternoon, Day 1: Brainstorm for a solution

After a free (and tasty) lunch, the group worked on defining goals and a target audience for the solution they would draft. We talked about what a suitable goal is using the HEART framework (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, Task Completion).

We’ve discussed how a staff page (like much of our content) needs to cater or adapt to many different audiences (prospective student, current undergraduate, current postgraduate student, teaching staff, research staff, and numerous other variations ).

8 crazy

So it’s time to draw! We used a technique called Crazy 8s to allow each member of the sprint team to put as many ideas on paper as possible. Each person presented their ideas, then we voted on our favorites and discussed them.

Photos: 'Crazy 8' sketches

Photos: ‘Crazy 8’ sketches

Solution sketches

We then moved on to outline what each of us thought would be a great solution to the problem.

There has been a fantastic amount of great ideas expressed here. And that’s exactly the point of the Design Sprint process; to bring out the unique ideas that we all have. It’s not just people working in creative roles who have unique ideas, everyone has them and everyone should have the opportunity to contribute to the new website. As a result, it will be a better experience for our visitors.

There were two solutions which, based on votes and a group discussion, were carried forward to the next stage (prototyping).

Photo: presentation of a sketch of the solution

Photo: presentation of a sketch of the solution

Photo: Solution sketches with points used for voting

Photo: Solution sketches with points used for voting

Day 2: Prototyping a solution

A prototype is an experiment to test a hypothesis. We created a prototype based on chosen solutions, combining the ideas of both into a visual concept. We can use this prototype to get feedback and learn something tangible (without spending months building a full solution).

While the prototype isn’t necessarily the final design, it was realistic enough to allow an assessment of the feasibility of the ideas it contained. Do people like large images on this type of content? Are « Roles » Better Than Job Titles? Is live chat a potentially useful feature?

We are trying to answer as many questions as possible related to how people might find staff profile information such as publications, contact information, location and so on.

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Image: The top section of the prototype solution

View the complete prototype

Take a look at the staff profile prototype and add your comments (keeping in mind the problem we’re trying to solve).

Staff profile prototype


We’ve already received a good amount of feedback. We can see things we need to change, things we may have completely missed, as well as confirmation of things that are working well.

Your feedback is important and we are grateful for it.

Day 3: User testing

On the third day, our team ran user tests to get feedback on the prototype. Watching our users try out the prototype is the best way to discover important issues with the solution, which in turn allows us to start iterating and improve the concept to help us solve the problem.

Photo: A demonstration of the prototype in the Tower Building on campus

Photo: A demonstration of the prototype in the Tower Building on campus

What happens next?

This prototype has been added to the Alpha site and will be tested with our visitors. We are also continuing to test it across the university, collecting as much feedback from staff and students as possible.

The concept will evolve based on the feedback we receive. If you participated in the sprint or left a comment on the prototype, we will contact you at a later stage to get more of your valuable feedback as the project progresses.

Did you participate in the sprint? Thank you!

A huge thank you to all participants in our first Design Sprint. We really appreciate your time and input. You told us you enjoyed the day and the process – we did too!

We snapped photos of all the notes and sketches generated throughout the day. The ideas have been recorded and will have a big influence on the final solution we will build throughout the year. Some ideas can be implemented as part of the new website launch, others will require more thought and future development time. As we said the day, weird, impossible and impractical ideas often give way to truly inspired ones!

Couldn’t you have made it? Join another Design Sprint to share your ideas

With a more traditional « design, build and launch » approach, people don’t get a chance to contribute their ideas until the website is nearly finished, when the design process is complete and the site has been developed . At that point, it’s simply too late to adequately react to big ideas and detailed feedback

We’re asking everyone reading this to take part in a sprint (there are many more to come) to help shape future website experiences for students, staff (and yourself!). If you can’t make it to a sprint, please tell everyone you work with what we’re doing.
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