We ran our second design sprint this week, now focusing on « Topics ». It was my first experience of a design sprint and it was fascinating to see how the day unfolded and the different ideas that the participating staff and students brought to the session.
Problem: « How can we better serve users who want subject-level information? »
The problem was defined by Steve (Web Design Manager) at the beginning of the sprint. To this end, our definition of ‘subjects’ was quite broad, ranging from undergraduate and postgraduate course groupings to areas of our research activity.
We know that presenting topic information has the potential to help our users in several ways:
- Young school leavers have a general understanding of the term ‘subjects’, so it may be a more effective way of introducing them to our course offering than using a term such as ‘study’.
- Grouping courses into thematic pages could be a way to summarize some of the differences between each course.
- Our research on core assignments shows that prospective students want to know rankings and awards for subjects presented consistently and in one easy-to-reach location.
- More generally, thematic pages could demonstrate the close links between our teaching and research activities and help audiences such as researchers, financiers, industry and other collaborators to exploit this potential.
The things we do as a University are increasingly interdisciplinary; Research areas such as cancer, sustainability or diabetes can cut across departments and specialisations. New approaches to problems through collaboration and different ways of thinking help us stand out and make incredible discoveries, but it presents some challenges in how we show it to the world. To showcase interdisciplinary activity we need to unlock the power of our content; we need to take it out of the silos to develop structure, define standards, relationships and create a more connected publishing model. “Topics,” in this sense, were a good place to start as they seem to touch on so many areas of our business.
I’ve provided some basic evidence from the course finder indicating search volumes for things that could be considered subjects. Some of these searches naturally led to course pages, for example, most users searching for « medicine » probably just want to access the medical course page. Other searches, such as ‘business’, don’t always align so easily with a single course page because we provide more options in this area.
Top searches for content related to the topic, January 2017 – January 2018
|Search term||Number of searches|
Sprint participants then brainstormed the types of content they might need to showcase information about the topic to different audiences. We got great tips from this exercise. Most thought it would be useful to show things like coursework, employability statistics, key personnel in different research areas, subject rankings/awards and contact information. Others found it important to convey a sense of student voice and connections to student support.
You need to find a balance between the different types of content on these pages. At one end of the spectrum is content that appeals to the user such as course listings and staff contacts; generally this is the stuff users are actively looking for. At the other end is « push » content; these are the messages that the University wants to shout out, for example subject prizes or evidence of research impact.
There was evidently a desire to add a lot of content to the page, but in doing so we ran the risk of diluting its focus and purpose. We also needed to be aware of the challenges of serving multiple audiences (UG and PG prospective students, researchers, industry, collaborators etc) in one space.
One or two of the participants raised the prospect of personalizing the content based on the user’s interest. This would definitely increase the relevance of the content and is something we would like to do as we move towards fully implementing a new content management system.
Understand the user journey
Rob (UX Manager) then spent some time talking about user journeys covering topics such as entry and exit points, target journeys and key touchpoints. There was a feeling that topic pages could, among other things, act as landing pages and make the user journey to the courses, research, and staff pages more consistent.
The last part of the day allowed people to get creative and sketch out different ideas of what a page might look like. Working in groups, the participants tackled topics such as ‘sustainability’, ‘medical education’, ‘cancer research’ and ‘IT’. Artistic flair isn’t always everyone’s forte, but it doesn’t matter, it’s the ideas and the discussion that follow that count.
Ideas that were given more detail in this part of the process included a map to demonstrate the global impact of the research and a « trend » section that could link to external websites where our research has attracted attention. average.
The group then voted on their favorite elements of each project while Steve, Rob and I discussed the various options and the feasibility of each. You can see some of the ideas below.
The success of the design sprint was reflected in some great ideas that were presented and the positive feedback we received from participants. Steve spent the next day designing the prototype that will now be tested with users.
For me, with my content head-on, the next piece of work will be to use all that we’ve learned and the feedback from the prototype as a starting point for a content model. Thematic pages should be a great example of the power of connected content; elements like people, blueprints, rewards, and structures will exist as pieces of a larger puzzle. The beauty of this approach is that once you break content down into its smallest pieces and understand the relationships between it, you have the power to mix, match and publish it in different ways – and that’s a pretty exciting prospect.
You can view the resulting prototype and associated rationale below.
Did you participate in the sprint? Thank you!
A huge thank you to all participants in our second Design Sprint. We really appreciate your time and input.
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.
March 13: course pages
March 27: Schools
10 Apr: Events – University and Union
24th April: recruitment of personnel
May 08: Compare courses
May 22: App – Student and staff dashboard
Jun 05: accommodation
Jun 19: National pages
July 03: Graduation
July 17: Professional Services
Jul 31: Appointment booking
August 14: Work
August 28: Open Days
September 11: room booking / catering booking
September 25: opening hours / information on the building
Oct 09: Search – Major Search, Scholarship Search, Internship Search, Placement Search
October 23: Search Pages
Nov 06: Location / Dundee City / Scotland
November 20: homepage
04 December: clearing
Dec 18: Chat Bot / Chat UI