Session Summary: ‘So what do you do exactly?’

7:25 am in plenaries by kirsty-pitkin

Lynda Bewley gives us her summary of the plenary session: “‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams”, presented by Ranjit Sidhu, Director of Statistics into Decisions.


Ranjit started by explaining that in many for-profit industries, even in these challenging times, the one area that has been resilient to large expenditure cuts are internet and web services. Often this expenditure is retained due to every pound spent being accountable and transparent, and therefore justified.

Ranjit raised the question of whether web teams can take lessons from the for-profit sector in order to stop what they are doing becoming a vague proposition to those who set budgets. The best way to do this, he said, was to provide compelling statistics and to give them context. University websites are multi-faceted – they are information and e-commerce sites – and return on investment can therefore be measured in the same way as commercial websites.

Using the example of the Honda website, Ranjit demonstrated how web managers could provide detailed and contextual reporting to show a clear return on investment. Ranjit drew parallels between key calls to action on the Honda site and those on a university website (booking a test drive: coming to open day, downloading the brochure: downloading the prospectus). Honda would typically spend £10 to £15 on their site per brochure download.

On a university site, using the example of the number of international visitors who downloaded an application form, Ranjit calculated that the cost per application based on 1000 downloads and 50 successful applications would be just £0.06, and would generate revenue of £40,400 a year.

Ranjit also conducted a cost analysis of alternative application methods, comparing the cost of offering a downloadable application form to sending out a printed application form (£400.03 per application based on sending out 1000 forms), and asking students to apply via the ‘contact us’ page (£1.25 per application based on 1000 ‘contacts’). This kind of analysis enables web managers to justify why online is more cost effective than offline and will help when making a case for more resources.

Ranjit ended by emphasising how urgent is for web teams to start demonstrating return on investment. The recent COI report on government web spending should act as a wake-up call to web teams to prove their relevance and justify the value for money they provide. Online is the most efficient communication and recruitment tool available to a university – the challenge now is to demonstrate that and therefore prove your worth.

Ranjit can be found on Twitter as @rssidhu
His website is

The slides from this presentation are available on Slideshare here.

Developing Your Personal Contingency Plan: Keith Doyle

7:10 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Keith Doyle explains the purpose of his parallel session: “Developing Your Personal Contingency Plan: Beat The Panic” in this short video interview with Kirsty Pitkin…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

Taxonomy: Creating Structure Across Content Using Metadata – Matthew Hoskins

7:08 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Matthew Hoskins discusses his parallel session: “Taxonomy: Creating structure across content using metadata” in this interview with Kirsty Pitkin…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web: Mike Nolan

7:06 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Mike Nolan from Edge Hill University summarises his parallel session: “Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web” in this quick video interview with Kirsty Pitkin…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

by m.guy

IWMW 2010 Evaluation

11:01 am in general by m.guy

Thanks to everyone who attended this year’s IWMW.

An online evaluation form is now available for all attendees (including remote attendees). This form offers a more comprehensive set of questions than those available in the paper evaluation form.

Please fill it in!



WordPress Beyond Blogging: Joss Winn

9:11 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Joss Winn, Technology Officer at University of Lincoln, discusses his parallel session “WordPress Beyond Blogging” with Billy Fallows…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

It’s all gone horribly wrong – disaster communication in a crisis: Jeremy Speller

9:07 am in plenaries by kirsty-pitkin

Jeremy Speller

Jeremy's love hearts

Jeremy Speller of UCL set the scene for his presentation by taking us back to 2005, when he was presenting at IWMW on 7th July. He showed how the first information about the bombings in London came through on the IRC that was being used as a backchannel at the time, and described his helplessness when the network connection he needed for his live demo went down as a result.

Speller’s talk took us through the range of web-based communication options available to ensure messages get out in a range of crisis situations and argued that web teams need to be actively involved in advising their institutions’ crisis plans. Very often these plans omit the web team. Speller emphasised that web teams are communications experts and should be advising the other parties, as well as considering how best to protect their own systems, upon which the operation of the institution and its staff and students rely.

Speller asked us to consider the tools that could be our “megaphones of communication” and used a love heart illustration, which varied in size to indicate his own preference for certain options. Whilst he acknowledged the use of tools such as Twitter and Facebook for communication in a disaster situation, he emphasised the need to link these in to updates from a central source. He recommended the use of JANET, which provides a bunkered, off-site system. The advantage of this is that it offers a virtual server, on which you can install WordPress. WordPress can be linked easily with a variety of other tools (including Twitter) using plugins. Because this is your own installation of WordPress, you have control over the plugins (which you do not with a site), so you have greater flexibility and fewer unknowns!

He outlined some of the information dissemination routes which have an inherent level of unreliability, usually because the data involved is prone to being incomplete or inaccurate. This included using student and staff personal (non-university) email addresses and mobile telephone numbers. However, he noted the potential to keep university email services going in the event of a disaster affecting the university servers for those using Live@edu.

Speller also outlined a suggested system of offering university web service back up as a shared service. He noted that this may not work well between just two institutions, illustrating with UCL and St Andrews (UCL may be confident with St Andrews maintaining an emergency version of their site, but St Andrews may find a London-based back up of theirs may not help in the event of certain types of disaster). However, if a network was established, this could be an effective route to keep the basics going in a cost effective way.

To conclude, he reminded us that in the worse-case scenario, there was always the option of a megaphone! We can be prepared, but there will always be situations where nothing is available. In the questions, Chris Gutteridge of University of Southampton described the situation they found themselves in when their back up essential “black box” survived as designed, but fire crews would not allow access to it for 7 weeks. He explained what they had learnt from the process of coping without it and how their emergency plans had been strengthened by this. Brian Kelly also noted how information in an emergency would not always be provided by the university, but perhaps by other agencies, like the local travel company. Working together with these information providers would also make the university crisis plan more resilient.

Jeremy’s slides are available at Slideshare here.

Online BarCamp Review

5:15 pm in barcamps by kirsty-pitkin


Screenshot from the Online BarCamp in CoverItLive

This year we held our first online BarCamp, especially for our remote audience. The session attracted 21 viewers, including 7 active and talkative participants! We had representatives from Washtenaw Community College, Michigan USA, University of Huddersfield, Heriot-Watt University, a former employee from the UK Centre for Legal Education, (now freelancing in Denmark!) and Oxford University.

We gathered in the event live blog, hosted through CoverItLive. This live blog has been active throughout the event, providing none-Twitter users with a channel to view the live commentary and delegate tweets, as well a facility to post their own comments and questions without the need for a login. Comments were moderated, as there was no obligation for people to identify themselves when making a comment.

For the BarCamp, I disabled the feed from the #iwmw10 hash tag, which effectively gave us a clear discussion space without the tweets from delegates in other BarCamp sessions. I invited participants to introduce themselves and to suggest topics of interest for discussion. As each person introduced themselves, I granted them unmoderated posting on an individual basis to enable freer flowing discussion.

The topic of most interest that seemed to evolve was the online course prospectus, with the discussion focussing on user testing, moving away from print and managing the politics of content contribution. There were some interesting experiences shared: including usability studies conducted by business students as part of their assessment process. The discussion then widened out to include the use of social media in the recruitment process – particularly the use of IM, which one participant had found substantially improved post-graduate recruitment.

The BarCamp also provided a useful opportunity to talk with the remote audience about their experiences of event amplification and to check how everything is going for them. They are apparently all waiting for a Gordon Brown moment when a speaker forgets they are being live streamed at the beginning or end of a presentation! We also have some useful feedback about requirements of certain institutional firewalls which have prevented access to the live video stream. Remote delegates were also able to build direct relationships and exchange contact details. The feedback from the BarCamp was very supportive, and their was an enthusiasm to see the talk archived for future reference and for other delegates to access the discussion.

No Money? No Matter – Improve Your Website With Next To No Cash: Paul Boag

4:23 pm in plenaries by kirsty-pitkin

Lynda Bewley summarises Paul Boag’s plenary session


Paul Boag

Paul Boag illustrating a bloated website

With government funding being slashed many Higher Education institutions are reducing the budget assigned to web development. However, it is more important than ever to attract new students and the website is a key tool in this battle. How then, can you do more with less?
Paul’s talk aimed to answer this question with two key recommendations. The first was to simplify your site by scaling back legacy content and removing pages that are not reviewed regularly. The second was to move towards a more ‘agile’ approach to site development, rather than focus on the long-term ‘grand project’.
Paul’s view was that budgetary constraints provide an opportunity to break with tradition and change the way things are done, and to operate more like a commercial web environment in which return on investment is everything.
You can view a video of Paul’s talk along with the blog posts that inspired it on

Paul’s slides are available at Slideshare here.

by m.guy

5 Minute Interview: Yvonne Aburrow

3:36 pm in interviews by m.guy

Yvonne AburrowWho are you?
Yvonne Aburrow

Where do you work and what do you do?
Web Developer at University of Bath Web Services, working on content, usability, information architecture and accessibility. may be of help here.

What are your main areas of interest?
Usability, information architecture and accessibility.

Are you working on anything exciting?
A Graduations website for the University.

Have you been to IWMW before?

What has been the best bit about IWMW so far?
I really enjoyed Ranjit’s talk, which really challenged us to get real and start talking about the hard realities we need to embrace – which I think we all need at the moment.

What will you take away from the event?
I liked what Paul Boag was saying about sprints – and we are already doing this within my team. However, I think his point about removing out of date content was very good and I think we perhaps haven’t felt as empowered to do this before, so I was inspired by that.

What would be the impact on your institution if there were no IWMW?
This is my first year, so it is difficult for me to tell personally, but I have found it a very energising event, so I think without it we would all continue to do the “same old same old”.