The University of Southampton
Digital Team Blog

OneWeb: what’s next?

We’ve just completed two months of Discovery into the current state of the University’s web content. We know that we are serving lots of users and different needs, but some users struggle to find what they need in the current system.

We’re now looking at how we can maximise the potential of our content with what the University has to offer.

Those who attended the User Needs Workshops will know that this Discovery Phase sits alongside the work we’ve carried out so far, and feeds into other work carried out by iSolutions via Major Enhancement and Transformation of our Information Services (METIS) workshops and stakeholder interviews.

Brainstorming user needs

Our goals

Discovery means understanding what users need and how we can turn that into something that benefits the University. The goal is also to decide which needs are most important and therefore what we should focus on first.

Before the User Needs Workshops we carried out a comprehensive content audit that looked at structure, journeys, missed opportunities and how our content is performing in general on many platforms used by editors. We also took a look at what the competition is doing.

Talking to you

The User Needs Workshops, which took place in November, were an important part of our Discovery phase. We visited all campuses and met staff and students to understand the external user needs of many of our audiences.

User research forms an important part of the process and we already know that we will need to carry out some additional research into specific audiences to validate our thinking into their behaviour, decisions and eventually design. It is important that we continue to ask audiences for feedback at every stage of the project.

Our users have a choice. They can look at other universities and other websites

Our users need universities to change

Digital services in universities need to change because students, business partners and academic collaborators now have higher expectations than ever.

Prospective students need to find the information they need to apply; external academics want to find potential collaborators easily; a Research Council panelist would like to validate the information in a submission; parents need to feel at ease knowing that their child is safe at university. A lecturer would like to help their second-year students choose the right modules and prospective staff would like to know if it is worth relocating and what it would be like to work at our University.

We have a lot of legacy systems and it is going to be really hard to change them quickly enough to keep up. We therefore need to work hard to make sure they don’t limit what we’re trying to do.

Key takeaways from the workshops

  • We have a strong vision and intent and this puts us ahead of the curve; however, we need to act quickly because other universities are starting to think the same way.
  • There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea of user-centric design from colleagues across the University. People are generally very supportive of the principle.
  • The goodwill in the room also seemed largely down to the open communication about OneWeb, and the fact that attendees were being genuinely listened to.
  • There are lots of user needs that are not specific to one school or faculty.
  • There are many different kind of users, who are often trying to accomplish similar things.
  • Some stakeholders quickly realised that they produce content in silos: they are not considering the wider University picture. This is why we end up drowning in an unmanageable amount of content.
  • A radical change to the current Content Management System (CMS) is not ‘a-nice-to-have’; it is essential.
  • Independent thinking can still be reflected without needing to resort to an approach that damages the brand.

Next steps

  • We will be working hard to present the business case to University Executive Board (UEB) for early 2018.
  • According with our timelines, we will be inviting a selected group of representatives from across the University to participate in a specially formed Advisory Group prior to a presentation to UEB.
  • We will be keeping in touch with all those who were able to attend the OneWeb Workshops so we can keep the conversation going.

Finally, it’s going to be a challenge no doubt, and that is what is inspiring us. We hope that it inspires you too. There is a lot to look forward to next year.

We wish all our colleagues and the students at the University of Southampton Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year.

You can download the User needs Workshops presentation deck here.

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