What it is, why we need it and a bit about our first meeting…
I’ve been in the post of UX Designer within the Application Systems Development Team in Information Services for a year now. It’s a new role, with the primary aim of ‘enhancing user satisfaction by ensuring digital applications are user-friendly, intuitive and accessible’. I have worked on a few projects now where I’ve introduced a UX led approach. Feedback has been positive and the resulting products have been well received. So far, so good, but lots more to do!
In the past year I’ve met lots of great people working in the University who have responsibility for different digital applications, all doing great jobs, but all working mainly within their own areas.
At Edinburgh Napier University, like many other universities and large organisations, we have many different digital applications: an external website, a research website, the staff intranet, the student portal, the staff and student mobile app, a virtual learning environment, digital signage – and probably more that I’ve missed. (Did someone mention Sharepoint?)
I want us to share ideas, resources and best practice.
I wanted to set up the UX Network to get all of the people working on these different applications together in the same room. Rather than all working in silos, I want us to share ideas, resources and best practice, and to encourage consistency across our digital applications. By working together as a group we can really embed UX thinking into the University, and then we can truly see the benefits that a User Centred approach can bring.
UX is in its infancy within Higher Education. It’s a sector that has a system driven culture, and like most large organisations, has lots of legacy systems, paper based processes and layers of bureaucracy. Introducing a new philosophy is not easy – it takes buy-in from management and from entire project teams, but if we all work together we can start to embed some practices, and showcase some of the benefits, which for projects that are reliant upon user adoption for success, are undeniable.
Focusing on what the user needs from the beginning of a project, and involving the user throughout the whole design and development process means:
Increased user satisfaction – by thoroughly understanding what is important to users
Reduced development time – because rapid prototyping allows changes to be made before committing to code
Reduced user support costs – because products are easier to use
More robust products – accessibility and privacy have been considered from the outset
Our first UX Network meet up at the end of April was a great start. We had staff from across the University – from Marketing, IS Application, Learning Technology, Project Management and RIO. It was clear that people were really keen on the idea of collaborating and sharing ideas and resources.
We looked at some of the shared resources that are available to us all
We chatted about the benefits of UX in general, and went on to look at some of the shared resources that are available to us all – things like brand guidelines, the image bank, the Sensorium UX Research Lab, HotJar, InVision, the Icon library.
We looked at InVision in some detail, as it’s one of the UX tools I use the most – it’s a great tool that allows you to transform your sketches, wireframes or hi-fi designs into clickable interactive prototypes and share them with others. It allows me to communicate my ideas really quickly and get feedback from stakeholders, developers, and users, and it’s really easy to use.
We then went on to discuss some ideas for the group. We agreed it should be a collaborative, supportive, informal space, where we can work on problems together, foster new ideas, and keep up to speed with the latest tools and techniques within the UX industry.
Next time we will be taking an in depth look at HotJar, meeting some more members of staff who have an interest in UX, and I will be putting a UX challenge to the group for discussion.
UX is of course all about humans, so the UX Network will be a human-centred, open, welcoming group, where anyone can come along. The next meeting with be on Tuesday 29th May 2.30 – 4pm at Merchiston.
If you’re interested in coming along to the UX Network, want to find out more, or just want to chat about any aspect of UX please get in touch.
Senior UX Designer, Information Services