Creating content based on the top tasks of our users makes a lot of sense. The basic principle is that you can create a great user experience for the majority of visitors to your website if you focus on a relatively small subset of tasks. People come to our website looking to do stuff. They have decided that time spent looking on our pages is an investment and it will deliver them some sort of benefit. There’s a limit to their patience though (think seconds rather than minutes) so it’s important we give them the content they need. Fast.
We know how to supply this information – through well written and carefully structured content of course! But as content specialists we need to think about the bigger picture as well, and the process of writing content for the Alpha has forced us to ponder some questions about our approach.
As part of our continuing work on the new University website, we are undertaking a series of Design Sprints. These are fun, interactive sessions with students, staff, and other key audience members.
Most organisations know what their biggest challenges are. Although, if you ask around, you may find that everyone has a slightly different interpretation of them. And without a shared understanding of a problem, it’s really hard to get to a solution.
That’s where the Design Sprint can help.
What is a Design Sprint?
A Design Sprint is a structured ‘design thinking’ process that translates business objectives into actionable insights in just a few days.
The aim of each Sprint is to fully understand a problem and generate design ideas as possible solutions. A prototype is then built in one day (a prototype is a working demo of the solution based on the best idea). The prototype is tested with real users, generating feedback at a very early stage without building the full product or website.
This post continues our series about our new design system as part of the University of Dundee’s website relaunch.
What does accessibility mean?
Accessibility for digital products like websites, emails, and apps is measured in four different ways:
- Perceivable: Making text and media perceivable for everyone
- Operable: Helping users navigate content easily
- Understandable: Making and media text understandable
- Robust: Maximising compatibility
Accessibility has always been something we have considered as part of our work in the Web Services team. As you will have hopefully heard, we are relaunching the University website. This is a fresh start and an ideal chance to look at how we can ensure the new website is fully accessible.
What is it?
Pair writing is a method we have been using to help us gather content. We work alongside subject experts in short sessions and write together.
I recently worked with Anne-Marie Greenhill from the Academic Skills Centre to rewrite the content for their webpages and she wrote:
Working with colleagues to complete specific tasks is common practice for some of us in the Academic Skills Centre so it was interesting to collaborate in this way with the web team. We had our requirements about what visitors to our site would need to know and the web team had to consider the overall development of the University’s web pages. Writing together gave us a better understanding of what these entailed.
Last year we got in touch to let you know we will continue to support you during the Alpha Project. We asked you to use firstname.lastname@example.org so we could respond to your web requests.
Thanks to you we have had:
2000 calls assigned to the web team over the past year
30% of the calls came from External Relations, our number 1 customer
50 calls resolved in a week, our highest so far
1 hour to assign calls to the best person who can help you
Our most common feedback is “Wow that was fast!”
In any area of design colour plays a huge role from print to digital media. Colour can help convey different emotions, capture target audiences and communicate action. In our design system, colour was one of the first areas we looked at for moving forward. This will ensure we have a good basis or building block for all the work we are going to cover. Colour will help convey user interaction and different elements and components on the page. It will also play a major roll on the overall impression of the new site when a potential student visits the site for the first time.
When deciding on the appropriate colour for a website, consideration should be given to the target audience. The colour used for a product focused on the elderly may not fare well with teens or younger generations. Also, over use of extremely bright colours like red, yellow, blue etc. causes eye fatigue and could drive visitors away. As a university, our audience is diverse. This includes a wide range of nationalities and age ranges that we need to take into consideration.
Choosing a colour scheme for a site should be a careful thought process and also take into consideration people with disabilities to allow your information to be available to everyone. Coupled together with colour theory a colour palette should convey a message or ideology, and also make that experience on the end user side memorable.
What is a grid system?
a structure comprising a series of horizontal and vertical lines, used to arrange content
Nearly all sites these days are designed upon a grid system for laying out elements on the page. It allows us as designers to provide a system that can work with a solid structure and present content and imagery in a much more readable, manageable way. Grid systems have always been used in the printing industry as standard but their transition into web design has allowed web designers to achieve a level of consistency which would otherwise be difficult to achieve.
The grid system will inevitability be invisible to the end user but it will allow for a site that users will find easy to navigate, read and understand. This is very important as a lack of alignment of elements is very noticeable and creates a sloppy impression. This might very well result in a lack of trust from users who visit your site.
As you may have heard or read about, we are currently restructuring, rebuilding and redesigning the university website.
As Design Manager within the Web Services team, this is one of the most significant projects of my time here so far. In fact, it will be one of the biggest challenges of my 14-year career. And I’ve wrestled with HTML nested tables and Internet Explorer 6…
So I’ve been thinking about how we can prepare for this challenge. What have been the common design-related problems on projects in the past? What are the issues affecting design that typically come up in a large project? What can we do to prepare for the significant amount of design work that will be part of this project?
As we’ve said in previous posts, we’ve spent a lot of time collecting user stories relating to the audiences using our website (view the results). That gave us a lot of information, but it doesn’t really tell us what the really important tasks are for users (top tasks) and what are the not so important tasks (tiny tasks). This is where the next phase of our research comes in.
We’ve identified three distinct primary audiences that our website has to work for.
There are a number of other audiences that don’t fall into these categories, but they represent a smaller proportion of traffic. Whilst we will be keeping them in mind as we develop, and will be delivering specific solutions for them in the future, the above audiences are our initial focus.
I’ve covered the background to this research in my post about what prospective students want from our websites.