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Parallel Session Summary: Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring

8:57 am in workshops by kirsty-pitkin

Lynda Bewley gives us her summary of the parallel session “Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring” presented by Stuart Church…

This parallel session explored ways in which user experience methods could be made more cost-effective yet still provide tangible benefits.
Stuart started by asking the 18 delegates around the table for real-life examples of situations in which guerrilla usability testing methods would help their work. Common issues arising were that many web projects tended to be deadline-driven, leaving little time for user testing; usability decisions tended to be based on the knowledge of internal ‘experts,’ without any reference to a strong external evidence base. Some delegates found that design decisions were dictated by marketing teams as the ‘gatekeepers’ of the university’s external profile.

Stuart outlined some ways to adopt a more user-centred philosophy within an organisation, which included:

1.      User-Centred Design (UCD), which involves:

  • Understanding the business and organisation
  • Understanding the context of use – what are the success metrics of the site?
  • Designing on the basis of this knowledge
  • Evaluating the design
  • Modifying based on evaluation/repeating the process

2.      Behaviour first. Design second.  If you understand people then design will naturally fall out of that. If you start with the technology then your site will be not be usable. This approach is ‘outside-in, not inside-out.’

3.      ‘The user is always right’, by Steve Mulder outlines the following five ideas:

  • What are the business results for making your users happy?
  • You are not your users
  • Learn about your users by interacting with them
  • Make the findings of your research understandable and actionable
  • Design your site based on this knowledge

4.      ‘Emotional Design’ by Don Norman says that design is ‘Visceral’, ‘Behavioural’ and ‘Reflective’.

5.      ‘Rework’ by 37 signals. This book recommends creating a clear epicentre for design.

  • Design the right thing
  • Avoid feature creep
  • Create a clear epicentre for design
  • Focus on simplicity
  • Deliver better return on investment

Stuart went on to outline some low-cost ‘guerrilla’ methods for user research and evaluation, which included:

1.      Usabilla: online ‘Micro usability tests’; low cost (free-$950); useful for preference and attitude testing, and analysis of simple tasks. Tests are based on screenshots and outputs include heat map overlays. Stuart performed a live demo which proved that setup time was less than 15 minutes.

2.       Loop11: remote task-oriented testing that runs on your live site. User self-reports on any difficulties they experience.

3.      Google Website Optimizer: A/B and multivariate testing that is free, simple and powerful; used to run ‘experiments’ to test specific hypotheses about designs. Requires well-defined goals/conversions; goes one step beyond analytics.

4.      Bipolar Emotional Response Tests (BERTS) or ‘semantic differential method’:  using a grid of ‘descriptors’ which users mark up to generate a quantifiable ‘emotional fingerprint’ of your site. Useful for benchmarking user perceptions against how stakeholders want a site to be perceived.

5.      System Usability Scale (SUS): a method of fast data collection, simple analysis, robust method, produces an overall score out of 100 for your site, useful for benchmarking.

6.      Websort: an online card sorting tool, $79 per study, used to inform or validate information architecture of site. This remote method is very useful for getting high numbers of responses and therefore meaningful results.  Can be used with an ‘open sort’ (no pre-defined categories) or a ‘closed sort’ where the categories are already defined.

7.      Skype: a free, large user base, great for remote research, audio/video and screen sharing.

8.      Ethnio: a user recruitment and management tool for setting up remote panels, $400 for the first 200 users, built-in screener. It can appear on your site as a pop-up or a direct link.

by guest

Looking at Linked Data

9:00 am in workshops by guest

Linked data” is the buzz word of the hour, and apparently the government are using it on, but what the hell is it and why would a university web manager need to know about it? There’s plenty of technical documentation already, but very little explanation for people who don’t read XML for fun.

Linked data is a way to make your data easy for other people to work with, and easy to integrate with other people’s data. Publishing some of your data in this way doesn’t just make things easier for people outside your organisation, but also inside. Some good examples are your (public) staff contact database, your university structure, projects & publications.

There’s a whole bunch of scary issues, such as data protection, licenses and so forth, but there is also some very low hanging fruit. For example, publishing the room & building of every academics office would be hugely controversial, but just publishing the list of buildings at your organisation, with name, number, campus, lat, long & primary inhabitants would be a hugely useful resource which would require very little effort to keep up to date. Let a student mash that up with their timetable and you’ve got an iPhone app that shows freshers when their next lecture is and points them in the right direction!

For good Linked Data, good design of URIs is vital. A URI usually looks like a URL, but often identifies concepts beyond the scope of web pages, such as people ( or the concept of income tax ( In our session on Looking at Linked Data we’ll be covering a bit of best practice on URL/URI design which will help you be ready for the next years of the web. Sir Tim calls them “cool URIs”:

Hopefully you’ll also learn the difference between URLs and URIs in a way which won’t give you a headache :-)

- Christopher Gutteridge & Nick Gibbins

by guest

Time for FlashMash

9:13 am in workshops by guest

At IWMW 2010 I (Owen Stephens) am running a workshop on mashups – ‘FlashMash‘. The rather foolhardy aim of the session is to actually build a working mashup in the 90 minutes available.

There’s no nice way of saying this, so I’ll just come right out with it In order to stand a fighting chance of getting something useful done in such a short time we are going to have to cheat! Well, at least do some decent preparation advance. So this is where I need input before we all get to Sheffield. If we can narrow down what we want to do in the workshop beforehand, then I hope in the workshop itself we can do the following:

  • Agree on how we are going to do the mashup
  • Split the work into reasonable tasks
  • Split into groups to tackle the tasks (each group with a mixture of expertise)
  • Pull all the relevant bits together at the end

Depending on the experience of people at the workshop, we will introduce new tools and techniques as appropriate – we won’t be assuming any experience or knowledge of computer programming – the point is that with many mashups you can get stuff done with easy to use tools that are available online – e.g. Google Spreadsheets or Yahoo! Pipes.

A possible starting point is the list of RSS feeds available from previous IWMW events – which are helpfully all listed at However, we can use any sources of information, and I’m not above scraping stuff out of web pages if we need to!

So, feel free to post ideas here – don’t worry (at this point) how practical they are, we can work is out as we get closer to the workshop (you don’t have to be coming along to the session to contribute – all suggestions are welcome).

by guest

B4: Developing Your Personal Contingency Plan: Beat The Panic

10:47 am in workshops by guest

This blog entry is for people attending the Personal Contingency parallel session to share what they hope to get out of the session. The aim of this session is to explore key maxim’s that will help you prepare for a change of career or a change in your work situation. Whether you’re planning to change roles, find a new job, become self-employed, or set up a business.

Either let me know here or email if you have anything specific you would like covering, otherwise I’ll look forward to meeting you on the day. I’ll have some fun and interesting topics ready for you!

An online BuddyPress group for the session is also available:


Keith Doyle

by guest

Follow up on Plone session in 2009

10:41 am in workshops by guest

Last year I (Helen Sargan, Web Manager, University of Cambridge) ran a parallel session on choosing Plone for a CMS pilot (Another step closer to a CMS – dallying with Plone). This went ahead and the first site will be published shortly, with several more at pilot stage. If anyone is interested I can catch them up with how the project progressed, or if there are several we could retire to a room and I could show you round the vanilla site that users get on set-up, and what’s been done with it, and what issues we came (and are coming) up against.

This year I will be facilitating a session on Stylesheets for mobile/smartphones. There are strategies with stylesheets that will give a better experience for users of mobile devices and the session will look at how these strategies work and whether they help enough to be worth pursuing. Please do come along.


Location Based Services Without the Cocoa

11:22 am in workshops by ben-butchart

I’m (Ben Butchart) putting together material for the workshop on Location Based Services Without the Cocoa and would like your help in deciding how to structure the content. The main aim of the this workshop is to share the experience we have gained during the JISC alternative access project that looked into the potential for delivering Edina Digimap services to mobile.

A part of the technical evaluation strand of the project we ran a series of experiments using different technologies to help us understand the tradeoffs and merits of different technical approaches, code libraries and frameworks available to mobile application developers. The three main technical approaches we investigated were Mobile Web, Native and Hybrid development. In the Mobile Web paradigm, where applications are delivered through the mobile web browser (Safari, Opera , IE etc.) we focused on how mapping frameworks such as OpenLayers can integrate with emerging web standards such as the W3C Geolocation API, HTML5 Canvas and Local Storage. To develop our skills in building native applications, where programming languages and tools are unique to a particular device or operating system, we worked on an iPhone mapping client written in ObejctiveC and Cocoa Touch. We also investigated some augmented reality frameworks and built a demonstration 3D Layar app for iPhone and Android. Finally to evaluate the hybrid approach (where a lightweight web browser is integrated into a skeleton native app), we dipped into the PhoneGap framework and also built our own hybrid agent for the iPhone

We feel that we were fortunate to have a chance to try out these technologies for ourselves and discover the tradeoffs and advantages of each and we thought it would be a good to share this experience with a wider audience. The learning objectives I originally had in mind for the workshop were:

  1. Understand different approaches to building applications for mobile devices, e.g. browser based apps, native apps ( Symbian, iPhone Cocoa, Android etc), hybrid apps, Mobile Web Touch.
  2. Understand tradeoffs between browser based mobile applications and native applications.
  3. Learn how to use W3C Geolocation API to obtain location of user.
  4. Learn how to create a browser based (mapping) rich internet application for touch devices, including techniques for converting mouse events to touch gestures.
  5. Learn how to use HTML5 Canvas 2d graphics for mobile browsers and understand problems and advantages.
  6. Learn how use HTML5 Local Storage and Application Cache to cache points of interest to enable offline access to data.
  7. Learn how to use augmented reality browsers such as Layar for displaying points of interest to camera views.

For those of you that have signed up to the workshop or are thinking of doing so, it would be good to know what you are hoping to get from it. To what extent would you like some hands on experience using these technologies?

I think I could set up some simple examples and ask participants to make some minor changes to HTML/ JavaScript to demonstrate some of the technologies. Although the examples would be really simple, I’m worried the sight of HTML and JavaScript might frighten some people off and it is the lessons learnt rather than full understanding of the technology itself we want to convey.

For managers deciding on a strategic direction organizational needs, sustainability and resource management are just as important as the technical pros and cons. We could do some interesting exercises around these topics too. Also from talking to many people and research groups in HE during the scoping study we learnt a lot about future direction for Location Based Services in teaching and learning with exciting developments in the area of virtual worlds, augmented reality and 3D visualization. Would an overview of this topic be useful too?

I’m more than happy to adapt the material we have to the audience so use the comments to let me know who you are, what your interest is in LBS is and what areas you would like me to focus on. With your help we will be able to create a great interactive session which will bring together participants experience, share knowledge and build an expert group of LBS practitioners.

by m.guy

The Role of Commercial Products

10:00 am in barcamps, exhibition, sponsors, workshops by m.guy

The dilema over creating inhouse versus buying-in a solution is not a new one for Web managers or IWMW. Over the last 14 years during which IWMW has been running there have been quite a few sessions asking us to think about the pros and cons or both. For example in 2007 we facilitated a panel session entitled Dealing with the Commercial World: Saviour or Satan? and back in 2003 we had a session on Content Management – Buy or Build?.

In the past different institutions have leaned in different directions driven by different agendas. However today we are all united by a common agenda – cost cutting. We are now working in an environmemt where institutions may place much more emphasis on buying cost-effective software rather than use inhouse developement.

At this year’s IWMW you will have opportunity to hear about various products available. As well being sponsored by commercial organisations (Jadu and TerminalFour) we will also have an exhibition where a number of commercial organisations will be able to tell you about their products.

IWMW is also an opportunity to hear about other institution’s experiences with software products. For example James Lappin and Peter Gilbert, University of the West of England will be talking about The impact of MS SharePoint in Higher Education and Richard Brierton, University of Sheffield will be talking about their upgrade of Polopoly: a commercial CMS.

As delegates you should also take advantage of the opportunity to network with others and ask about their experiences. You’ll be able to do this in person at the event and also online through this blog. You can also share your own experiences either online or by giving a BarCamp.

A Mobile Tech' discussion

10:18 am in workshops by a.m.-doherty

Anthony Doherty, Computing Officer at Liverpool John Moores University will be facilitating a parallel session on Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web. Here Anthony talks about a late night Twitter discussion considering some of the issues and possibly some of the answers…

A day or so ago a colleague from another Higher Education Institution in the region asked on Twitter what the ‘most wanted’ features of a University mobile website might be for external users.

The conversation started a little after 9PM, and among the first respondents were some of my colleagues and ex-colleagues, with a range of expertise – from developers to learning technologists.

With staff, students and all account-based requirements such as email set-aside, responses suggested location maps, summaries of key institutional information, key contacts and so on.

Taking in the broader remit, it’s clear our task is not an easy one. Higher Education has one of the most interesting ranges of users: students on campus, international students, distance learners, academic and non-academic staff, sessional lecturers and conference attendees.

Seasonally some groups relocate, or almost disappear, while others are constant. Some groups will number in their thousands remain for years, while others will be small and their needs considerable for just a few days. User needs can change quickly as semesters progress.

How do we deliver effectively the content they want to a screen often little larger than a credit card, via sometimes costly, and possibly intermittent connections? Looking to our websites for a moment, it is clear that a homepage of grouped or tiered links and notifiers just isn’t suitable.

As the Twitter conversation developed, a theme emerged – survey the users, create audience specific ‘split’ content, review web analytics and research from other institutions; seasonally adjust content and try to anticipate mobile use-cases like being on a train – or really, really needing to get someone’s number NOW!

Did we provide the answers? Or did we simply rephrase the question? These issues and more on the topic of mobile provision for HE will be the focus of the “Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web” discussion at this year’s Workshop.

Note that due to a family bereavement Andrew was unable to run this session. In his absence the session was facilitated by Michael Nolan and Mark Power.

by b.kelly

Managing Institutional Web Services

10:00 am in plenaries, workshops by b.kelly

Doing The Day Job

In addition to a number of specific areas (such as the Mobile Technologies, the Social Web and Linked Data and RDFa, together with the  context of Economic Challenges) which have been summarised on this blog, the IWMW 2010 event will, of course, address the various  mainstream aspects of providing institutional Web services – the day-to-day responsibilities of the various members of Web management teams.

Plenary Talks

Susan Farrell‘s plenary talk has the provocative title of “Are web managers still needed when everyone is a web ‘expert’?“. Susan will point out that “While most senior managers would agree that the web is mission-critical, at a time when budgets are tight it becomes increasingly difficult to persuade them that employing skilled web professionals is vital. With devolved publishing models in many institutions and the increasing use of social networking, senior managers might be forgiven for assuming that managing a website is easy. Surely everyone is a ‘web expert’ now that 74% of the UK population spend an average of 13 hours a week on the web? So are web professionals really needed?“. This talk seems likely to generate much discussion at the event!

The theme of the role of Web team in an era of a new Government with different expectations of the role of public sector organisations will be addressed by in a talk entitled “‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams“. In this talk Ranjit Sidhu will ask “Are there lessons that web teams can take take from the for-profit sector to stop what they are doing becoming a vague proposition to those who set the budget? Also, do the web teams need to claw back roles given away freely in the past or would this require a complete change of mindset?”.

Paul Boag will address the economic challenges higher educational institutions are facing in his talk “No money? No matter – Improve your website with next to no cash” in which he will describe how Web managers should go about the processes of understanding the benefits of realigning rather than redesigning; apply practical techniques to simplify their websites; break down complex projects into simple phases; make use of the services provided by third parties and look beyond the website as a way of reaching potential students.

Finally a session entitled Doing the Day Job will provide a number of talks about key services followed by a panel session discussing what a Web manager’s day job is, what it should be and what it shouldn’t be.

Workshop Sessions

The workshop sessions will provide an opportunity to address issues in more depth.

  • The session on “A Little Project Management Can Save a Lot of Fan Cleaning … or (Agile) Project Management for the Web” will explain what project management is and how can it help Web managers, covering issues such as common misapprehensions about project management; nightmare situations when development work goes wrong and explore both agile and traditional approaches to project management.
  • The session on “Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring” will explore how Web teams can ensure that websites are as effective and engaging as they can possible be at a time in which investing resources into usability or user experience (UX) work may be seen as an expensive luxury. In this interactive workshop, participants will explore ways in which user experience methods can be made more cost-effective yet still provide tangible benefits; for example, by adopting low-cost ‘guerilla’ methods for user research and evaluation and adopting a more user-centred philosophy within an organisation.
  • The session on “Taxonomy: Creating structure across content using metadata” will describe how use of a taxonomy in creating structured content allows emergent patterns in content to drive navigation. By using a taxonomy to create novel tags for content it is possible to produce strong navigational effects and use this to encourage investment in metadata in your content.
  • The session on ”Inside the Pantheon: A Dreamweaver framework for managing dynamic content” will describe how using Dreamweaver as a publishing interface may not have been considered for institutions who want to manage their dynamic web content as its traditional focus has been on editing static web pages. At the University of Kent, however, time and resource issues required an intermediate solution to roll out a new branding across the institutional websites. In the process a framework (codenamed Pantheon) was developed for pulling in and managing dynamic content using static pages together will  a series of tools integrated with Dreamweaver to ensure that departments had great flexibility in creating good looking web pages.

by b.kelly

The Social Web

11:00 am in plenaries, workshops by b.kelly

The Importance of the Social Web

It is probably true to say that the increasing importance of the Social Web in supporting institutional activities was not expected within many educational institutions. But we now know that social networking environments, such as blogs, micro-blogging services such as Twitter and social networking services such as Facebook do have a role to play in supporting institutional activities such as student recruitment, marketing, supporting teaching and learning (including informal learning activities), supporting research and, of particular relevance to IWMW 2010 participants, supporting communities of practice.

Plenary Talk

Suraj Kika, CEO of Jadu (one of the IWMW 2010 sponsors) will give a talk on Social Networking – The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media and the Implications for HEI Web Masters. The talk will be based on a report of a survey of the UK HE institutional Web Management community which was carried out by Jadu, with the support of UKOLN.

The report, which has been summarised on the UK Web Focus blog, is based on sixty responses which were received from 44 HEIs across the UK (36 in England, 3 in Wales and 6 in Scotland). The responses wcame from people working in Web management, marketing, media and communications, learning and development, business, libraries and IT management and services. From these responses we learnt that the two most frequently used external social networking tools are Twitter (68.3%), YouTube (60.7%) followed by social networking tools such as Facebook and MySpace (57.49%). 47.3% of respondents intend to adopt Twitter over the next two years; 41.8% intend to YouTube and 41.1% social networking tools such as Facebook and MySpace.

The report identified the following major issues which the community is seeking to address:

  • The challenge of developing a business case for social media.
  • How should a strategy for social media be developed – top down, bottom up (user driven) or collaboration?
  • Control – can unrestricted use of social media continue given privacy, data protection, intellectual property and brand protection issues?

Workshop Sessions

A number of 90 minute long workshop sessions will be seeking to address some of the challenges identified in the Jadu report.  These include:

  • ‘Follow us on Twitter’…’Join our Facebook group’ which recognises that while use of social media tools is now recognised as an important medium to communicate with our audience, many institutions are still in the dark as to how best to use these tools to support recruitment, build brand and reputation, and facilitate better internal communications. The session will explore how institutions should approach the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, and participants will have the opportunity to develop guidelines on using social media for their areas of work. There will also be opportunity to discuss how best to respond to negative comments and how to deal with awkward postings.
  • Sheffield Made Us – using social media to engage students in the university brand”  which is based on a case study which describes how between April and October 2009, the University of Sheffield ran a competition encouraging students to upload videos to Youtube with the incentive of a £3000 prize with the aim of getting the students to express in their own words what they thought of the University, and how Sheffield had made them. The films that will  be displayed sound intriguing as they “range from those that are moving to those that are funny, and some that are downright bizarre“!
  • A session on “WordPress beyond Blogging” provides a more technical focus, with an introduction to managing a large multi-site WordPress installation and providing real-world examples that demonstrate the versatility of WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS). In the session participants will be asked to think ‘beyond blogging’ and consider WordPress as a popular, low-cost, cutting-edge technology platform serving the needs of research, teaching and learning and institutional Web managers.
  • The session on “Engagement, Impact, Value: Measuring and Maximising Impact Using the Social Web” acknowledges that the Social Web is now widely accepted as having an important role to play in supporting institutional activities with many (if not all) universities now having a presence on Social Web services such as Facebook and Twitter and services such as iTunes and YouTube becoming used to provide delivery channels for institutional content. It is therefore timely to identify emerging best practices in use of such services. This session will review institutional approaches to use of the Social Web services. Participants will explore the reasons for using such services and also discuss possible concerns and dangers in such usage. The session will also explore ways in which usage of such services can be measured in order to provide evidence of their effectiveness.

The first two of these sessions will take place on Monday 12 July with the other two sessions taking place the following day, therefore allowing participants with a particular interest in the Social Web to be able to attend two workshop sessions in this area.