16
Jun
2014

Thinking aloud about UX in Higher Ed – my presentation for IWMW 2014

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I’m presenting a plenary presentation at the UK higher ed web managers’ conference in Newcastle in July. I wrote a guest post for their blog recently by way of a preview, and (with a few minor edits) am sharing it here too.


If you’ve never heard of it before, the IWMW is the Institutional Web Managers Workshop. It runs every year at a different university – usually alternating between up north and down south – and is a great way to meet peers in the sector, learn something new and measure yourself against what others are doing. We hosted the conference ourselves here in Edinburgh back in 2012.

I can’t recommend the conference enough. A great community and a very cost effective way to stay connected to what’s happening in our sector.

This is what I said on the IWMW blog…

I love the IWMW conferences. Always come away with new ideas and food for thought. Always meet good people. But I’ve been thinking about what I don’t get from the IWMW. And it’s this thought that’s prompted me to speak at this year’s conference.

I’ve been working in public sector (and mainly UK HE) for 15 years and attending IWMW since 2006. In that time there has been a lot of change in terms of online content and service management in the sector.

And over this period there has been a huge growth generally in awareness of online usability and latterly the competitive advantage leveraged from improved user experience. But while user experience teams are cropping up in all sorts of commercial organisations, we’re not seeing it in higher education.

This brings me back to what I don’t get out of IWMW. I don’t get a sense of a UX community within the sector. I don’t tend to meet people who do the same kind of things as me. I do meet lots of people interested in usability and user experience but not much in the way of active practitioners.

At first I thought: “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not moving in the right circles or I’ve missed the year when UX was the hot topic.” But taking a look about online reassured me I’m not paranoid :)

Very little turns up on previous conference schedules around UX or usability. The last item was me in Edinburgh in 2012 doing a workshop on our experiences in user centred design. And the Jisc usability mailing list is awfully quiet. (JISC stood for Joint Information Systems Committee but now are now just known as Jisc.)

My presentation “Experiences in user centred design” from IWMW 2012
Jisc usability mailing list for the UK Higher Ed community

A couple of years ago, Dan Jackson at UCL asked the usability mailing list:

I’m wondering out loud how many HEI’s in the UK have positions directly responsible for improving the user experience, interaction design and information architecture of their institutional web sites and web applications? A quick scan of the last 12 months’ activity on this list, and a perusal of the web/digital jobs currently being advertised at jobs.ac.uk, shows the usual mix of adverts for web developers and web content editors, but nothing related to UX or IA. This is in stark contrast to private sector companies, who are recruiting UX consultants like there’s no tomorrow…

Chatting with Dan this week, it seems like he wasn’t overwhelmed with responses to his question. Which is a shame because it’s a very important question.

It’s basically the question I’m asking and attempting to answer in my plenary talk.

My talk at IWMW 2014: “Marketing is dead, long live UX!“

I have my opinions, and those of a few people like Dan who think aloud from time to time.

UX survey for UK Higher Education web managers

But what about you? What do you think?

I’ve set up a short survey to gather some experiences from around our sector and feed them into my talk (and probably a blog post too).

Please spare me a couple of minutes to contribute your views and perhaps outline what is happening at your institution.

Take part in my survey – the state of UX in UK higher education

I’m getting excited already about the conference as it’s not so far off now. Hopefully I’ll be able to prompt a bit of reflection, stir up a bit of controversy and continue the conversation with a few of you…

Other versions of this post

My post for the IWMW blog (“I do UX, do you?”) 
And the version I originally wrote for my own blog (“UX in Higher Ed – my talk at July’s IWMW”)

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