Thanks to everyone who came along to the second UX Network meetup in May. There were 18 of us – both Professional Services and Academic staff, and it was encouraging to see that there is so much support for UX throughout the University.
The plan this month was to look at user behaviour tool, Hot Jar, and James Anderson gave us all a great demo of how it works and what the capabilities are. It’s a really interesting tool that gives some good insights into how users are interacting with our sites. It could be used to gather information on various applications, although using the technology on authenticated websites is not going to be possible due to issues of personal data security.
I also wanted to discuss the subject of consistency at this meeting. There are various ENU applications that have different UI’s: The external website, the staff intranet, the student portal, the iNapier app, digital signage, Moodle, to name a few! I wanted to explore what people thought of the differences that currently exist, what impact it has on users and talk about some suggestions for introducing more consistency across our digital products.
First of all – what do I mean by consistency?
I wanted to look at the suite of ENU digital applications and explore the differences in:
Branding Look and feel, colour palette, font type and size, spacing, button styles, form styles
Structure Navigation and page layout
Tone of Voice
Use of images Whether photographic or vector
Interactions Is there consistency in audio and visual feedback?
I asked everyone in the group to give a score out of 10 on how important they think consistency is both within an application and across an organisation’s suite of applications.
The average score was 8/10.
There are very valid reasons for the differences in the various applications – they were all built at different times and using different technologies, the external website was redeveloped recently and introduced new styles, many styles in other applications are the default ‘out of the box’ styles and nobody every asked them to be changed.
How does this inconsistency affect users?
We had a discussion on how inconsistency impacts on users. We identified:
Lack of trust in a brand/Professional credibility questioned
Tasks take longer
Impacts student survey results
Users don’t feel valued
What do we actually want?
We agreed that we don’t mean that want one single UI design for all applications, as the audiences are different and have different requirements. What we would like is a well though out suite of designs that have consistency with the main brand, but are variations that are tailored to the right audience. The BBC does this well with its sub brands.
How would we make this happen?
We asked people ‘What could the University do to improve things if they had an infinite budget?’
There were lots of ‘Start over again’s but interestingly, the things that were identified as most important were:
Having the right structures in place: A cross-University UX team working together who had actual power to make decisions
ULT deeming the project to be a priority
Appropriate resource (including a Moodle content team)
An interactive space/Staff Community Communication area
Use the same platform/technology for all digital applications and a single CRM
Clear UI guidelines
We then asked ‘What could you do individually if you had half a day to work on the issue of improving consistency?’
There were some good suggestions:
Create Moodle templates
Standardise the fonts in each application
Pitch ideas to the ULT and highlight importance of UX in the future of the University with suggested improvements and a cost/benefit analysis
Address issues of dead links, introduce consistent headers and footers, and fonts
Improve understanding of brand guidelines and share guidelines widely
Change banner sizes
A half day course for internet editors on consistency, use of language, images etc
Change the most inconsistent thing you can find!
Some of these suggestions are great, and I would encourage everyone to do whatever they can to strive for consistency, but I think it shows that individually we can only do so much, and that the real impact comes from working together and having influence.
This is just one example of a UX issue, but there are many more issues/problems/projects that could be helped by working together. It would be great if the UX Network could work together – informally at first – to achieve a goal. We could use it as a test bed to see what can be done by working as a cross university team.
James Mann had a suggestion for a UX project that we could work on together. I’d like to explore that at our next meeting – date and venue tbc.
Thanks to all who came to the meet up. If you would like to come along to the next meeting or want to discuss anything UX related, please drop me an email.