UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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Posts Tagged ‘IWMW15’

Feedback on #IWMW15 (and Plans for #IWMW16)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Aug 2015

About IWMW 2015

IWMW logoIWMW 2015, the 19th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place from 27-29th July at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk. As described last year in a post on Reflections on #IWMW14 the event is undergoing a transformation: after 17 years of JISC support for an event which was delivered by UKOLN in 2014 the event was run jointly by myself and JISC Netskills. However due to the closure of JISC Netskills it was not possible to continue the collaboration for a second year so this year I had responsibility for organising the event, supported by an advisory group which provided valuable advice on the theme for the event and suggested specific topics and speakers.

Earlier this week a post on “Reflections on #IWMW15” summarised the content presented at the event, including brief summaries of the comments received on the various plenary talks. The move towards greater involvement with the commercial sector was widely, although not universally, welcomed. Today’s post explores the comments received in more detail.


This year’s event attracted 110 delegates, which was down from previous events; whether this was due to the time of year (last week in July), the location, the content, lack of budget or other reasons is being explored.

The online evaluation form for the event has received 45 responses, which seems to be sufficient to gain a valid picture from the responses.

The participants were primarily from the HE sector (86%). A show of hands at the start of the event showed that a significant proportion were attending the event for the first time. The evaluation form confirmed this, with 33% newbies, 44% having attend between two and five previous events and 22% having attended over six previous events. Approximately 58%  knew of this year’s event through attendance at previous events and no fewer than 27% though word of  mouth, with only 4% hearing about the event on a Jiscmail list, 4% via Twitter and 7% through other means.

IWMW 2015: overall rating for event organisationIWMW 2015: overall rating for event contentAs can be seen from the accompanying graphs on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) 49% of the respondents felt that the content was excellent and 51% felt it was very good with 40% rating the organisation as excellent, 51% as very good and 9% as good. The average rating the event content was 4.49 and the average for the event organisation was 4.31.

The evaluation form asked for general comments on the content at the event.

  • Whilst it is hard to pin down a theme that captures the pulse of our sector a year in advance, once again you have done so. The content both indicated where we are in relation to the sector, challenged our position, and gave us thought for new directions. Nailed it again.
  • It was my first IWMW, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of candour and honesty around the views shared during the sessions. The speakers were all excellent and the content highly relevant yet very different.
  • Enjoyed the range of content, and the varying lenses through which things were examined – from macro/institutional level to micro/team or project-level. Although the ‘content’ content (esp. Rich Prowse/Bath digital team) was my favourite, and the most directly applicable, I did also enjoy the higher-level talks, with Mike McConnell being another stand-out.
  • The content was relevant and of a high standard. As someone who is new to web management in HE it was very useful to hear people speaking who face the same challenges as me. The topics were very relevant to the issues we are currently experiencing. I felt there could have been a wider range of topics with some being relevant to content managers and editors like myself and other for more technical colleagues
  • Themes were very current, eg digital transformation. Great speakers.
  • There was a good mix of topics, and all presentations were delivered well. Speakers were knowledgeable, confident, and facilitated audience participation where appropriate. The event would benefit from a few inspirational, visionary talks that would look beyond the task at hand.
  • Overall the content was good. Lots of institutions are running similar digital transformation programmes that we are but at varying points in the cycle, so it was good to get advice from those who are further along than we currently are. I would have liked to see a few more techie sessions.
  • A good mix of: (a) front-end and back-end topics (b) in-house and external agency speakers (c) plenary and workshop sessions (d) background sector trends and specific digital service developments
  • Some excellent ideas, ways of thinking and arguments were raised this year. I came with reasonably high expectations following previous years and was not disappointed.
  • Fascinating and gave a lot of food for thought.
  • All the plenary talks were first class.
  • A really good range of sector and external speakers covering a broad selection of topics, all very much in-line where institutions and their web/digital teams are right now, or hope to be in the future. This mixture worked well and the external speakers did well not to sell their services but offer sound advice.
  • A nice mix of speakers, I enjoyed the input from the private sector.
  • The sessions (mostly) covered much of what is relevant to me in my role at the University, but also opened my eyes to the wider issues and also similarities between my institution and others.
  • I loved the content. It provided further detail on areas of interest for me. I did hear a number of attendees observe however that they felt it was too high level / big i.e. they felt that whilst interesting, they were not in a position to action some of the bigger ideas / themes and they missed the more low-level, detail content of previous conferences.
  • Good selection of talks – something for everyone: techies, managers, marketing and content people. People often suggest tracks, but I think it is helpful to get an overview of other folks’ disciplines. I think it is fine to have companies speaking, but maybe they should be corralled into a session or it should be noted that ‘this is a sponsored talk’ or something, like they do with adverts in papers!
  • The overall programme of content was well structured and focused. All sessions could clearly be linked to the theme.
  • Really great range of talks and workshops. It would be great if the conference was a little bit longer and had some more workshops, either from other universities or from sponsors i.e. maybe a workshop from LinkedIn on how to make most of their tools to engage alumni
  • I thought that although the content was great, it did seem at times to almost be going over previous IWMW concepts. I enjoyed it, and it made me feel better to hear we are all in the same boat, but I would have preferred more ground breaking things that people are doing.

Participants were asked to give up to three examples of the key highlights of the event or ways in which it has been beneficial to you, Responses included:

  • Networking events – thanks to these I got to meet some fantastic people and will shortly be organising trips to go see a couple of them and help with further collaborations between our institutions – Workshops – the talks are great and with the workshops we got to try out some of the new techniques and concepts other places were using. It really helped to see the benefits and talk with the workshop organisers as to how they brought it to their unis – sponsors – it might sound a bit odd but it was great to be able to chat with some of the sponsors about some of the tools they offer. Whilst those sponsors who did attend weren’t always able to answer specific questions they did help point me in the right direction for more info.
  • Affirmation that we’re on the right track Learn from colleagues who are doing agile and content better than we are Networking; making new friends
  • I very much enjoyed hearing the ‘war stories’ and talking to people who are experiencing the same pain points in their industry. Meeting Paul Boag very briefly was also a highlight – having followed him for years online, it was good to meet him and to potentially talk about how we might work together in the future. General networking and getting to talk about some of the other work that we’re doing with attendees.
  • Building a network in a new field following a recent career change 2) Perspectives and practical examples from other institutions going through similar changes to our own
  • 1. Understand developments within the sector 2. Listen to other peoples experience 3. Develop relationships with other university teams.
  • Networking and finding out more about how web is done at other but similar places. Always useful for comparisons with our own ways! Future scanning. Both presenters and other attendees see other things coming! Reminding me of things I already should know but have forgotten to implement / follow through!
  • 1) Getting advice on the pitfalls/lessons learnt of large digital transformation projects at other institutions. 2) Hack days, think we’ll be running some in the future. 3) Mike McConnell’s session has informative and amusing
  • Networking with others in the HE and commercial sector. Seeing how we are doing compared to others. Learning more about UX, content and agile.
  • Hearing other peoples experience and learning from it. Shared best practice. Networking.
  • The size of the event made it easy to network. The quality of the presentations made it easy to digest the contents. The content was sufficiently relevant for the kind of work I do.
  • Given me new ideas to use in my workplace Given me motivation to change things at work Gained new contacts
    It’s fascinating to see how other teams are dealing with the same problems that we face. It’s also useful to have space to consider future problems and strategies.
  • Networking – my number one reason for attending Diverse expertise/views including peers and 3rd parties – I particularly enjoyed the input from PwC/KPMG/Precedent Seeing Edge Hill for the first time having only ever really see it through Mike Nolan’s eyes.
  • Networking opportunities were exceptional Open, honest, relaxed atmosphere Mike McConnell’s talk on digital transformation

Respondents were also asked to give up to three examples of ways in which the event could be improved. The responses to this questions will be carefully analysed to explore ways in which future events can be improved.

The comments addressed local organisational issues:

  • The catering was very poor Location was a bit out of the way
  • More central or accessible location. Edge Hill was a lovely campus but really limited for transport and things to do in the small amount of free time. The 30 minute walk to the nearest pub wasn’t ideal when the heavens opened. Coming from Aberdeen it was a pain to get to.
  • 1) Better accommodation 2) Hosted somewhere easier to get to
  • Coat hangers would have been nice in the rooms! Better weather. A more formalised approach to sponsorship for example, would be useful to us, to help us plan in how we might be able to help in the future in to our marketing budget. For example sponsoring the food or snacks, or drinks reception.
  • I don’t think there are ways in which you could improve it. But it may be good to feed back to the university that the Hub’s food provision is pretty bad. If students are going to eat there for 3 years on a daily basis, I’m concerned about their health! And that includes what can be bought in the shop!
  • Better food and better air conditioning in the lecture hall.
  • Cooler rooms! – The first night event was a bit poor. It would be nice to try and have something that keeps people together and gets the community spirit moving, especially for any first timers that don’t have the connections of the more seasoned attendees. – Biscuits with your coffee?

Publicity for the event:

  • Forward notice of dates – the more warning we as a community have of the dates, the greater the time to plan / assign budget / promote the event to others / etc.
  • We do need to market it better, somehow, but I have no bright ideas in that regard. How about a pseudo-hack day where we agiley brainstorm around marketing ideas for the event and the community? Rich Prowse could coordinate. How about a link with the BCS or CILIP or CIM or similar?

The structure of the programme:

  • Events should be broken into dev and content streams, helping to expand the number of learning opportunities and improving their relevance to the audience. – Plenaries should be cross over talks which are pitched for a non specialist audience and are relevant to both dev and content. These should be from thought-leaders and/or inspirational speakers. – Workshops/Master classes should be practical exercises and not just plenaries.
  • I like the idea suggested in the panel session at the end of making this a community that has an event, rather than an event that has a community – Maybe use digital technologies to make the plenary sessions more interactive (live digital votes at the beginning/end of a session to see how opinions have changed) – Contrasting and challenging views are interesting and can create more interesting discussions. I would encourage more external views to challenge traditional thinking – but I might be biased :-)
  • Perhaps a later start each morning – 10am? We inevitably stay out a little later than intended and that extra hour could render everyone a little sharper and place less of an onus on the first speaker to wake us up. Keep using Whova or equivalent. Seemed like a great networking amplifier.
  • Trying to get more but smaller workshops. One of the ones I went to (Bath Uni) was huge and it was tricky for the organisers to manage it successfully.
  • Some break out time allocated to discussing problems areas. Attendees could submit subjects for discussion, then areas set up for group discussions, impromptu workshops with facilitators. One example might be finding out how teams manage reactive work with strategic work. Practical insights. Some regional networking – ways of grouping people from neighbouring institutions. Easier way to get to know local webfolk.
  • Possibly more demos of what institutions have achieved with mobile/web (not just Powerpoints) Consider renaming the event to increase attendance – I’m sure that there are a lot of people in the sector who would find it useful but either aren’t aware of it or don’t know what the event is about.
  • Change it into two days and not 3. Start about 11am on the first day and finish about 4.30 on the second day Have an activity on one of the evenings like a quiz as I felt all social activities were centred on the pub and as a non drinker I’m not interested in that and there was nothing else on offer.

The content:

  • The community is rather self-contained and could benefit from outside perspective, for example Higher Ed web professionals from other countries could be invited to speak. Visionary talks, ‘broader picture’ presentations help to differentiate between urgent tasks and important goals, and challenge the status quo. Focus on fun is important on the last day, and particularly for the closing session. This could be something lighthearted like Town Hall at JBoye, or a hired stand-up comedian, etc. Breaks after every 45min session, to stretch legs and top up on tea/coffee would really help.
  • subscription based setup with some regular updates / info / subsidising for events – either main IWMW or other regional events. Maybe a little outside of HE what is happening in the web to stir ideas.

Social events:

  • There does seem to be a big focus on the pub and ale for extra-curricular activities – not great if you’re not into that sort of thing. You may attract a more diverse crowd if you focus less on that.
  • Having access to wine on the first night!

Other areas:

  • Would be happy to pay a higher price for better food and drink at future events. Having some more technical talks / workshops would be good, but I guess that depends on who volunteers to speak. There weren’t so many technical things this year. Some of the workshop sessions seemed to be ‘sharing’ sessions, which then turn into group therapy rather than solving problems. Really no idea how to get away from that and make them more productive slots.
  • I did notice at the first event I came to in Reading that there were many more sponsors and vendors around the venue, providing information and industrial networking beyond just the institutions themselves. It may not be relevant to everyone, but to some it may be very valuable. Suggestion was made that creating a group or institution that would meet once a year, rather than just an ad-hoc annual meeting of like minded but otherwise largely unconnected individuals, could be a way of increasing the strength of the group, and creating a better environment to share and connect all year antibiotics you can buy over counter round. Possibly a
  • We seemed to queue a lot, that could be improved. The master class was too long and did not warrant 2 1/2 hours, it would perhaps be better to have two sessions. The session looking to the Future could have done with microphones to amplify the sound as some of the participants mumbled.
  • Become more of a community of practice where the event is the highlight, but not the only contact we have. Subscription to a community so that it can underwrite the event.
  • The two workshops I attended weren’t as useful as in previous years. Finding better workshop leaders is one way to improve this, but I appreciate this isn’t always easy, especially on a budget.
  • Only downside I can think of was on the catering side where the venue were at times a bit difficult with my particular food allergies (gluten and lactose intolerance) and didn’t seem to know what these were or what foods they might be in, even when using examples. A ‘would be nice’ would be a copy of all the slides in one place (dropbox maybe?) which we could download and share with colleagues at our own institutions post-event
  • Monday evening – maybe better to hire a place like the Tuesday evening, otherwise people separate across various pubs meaning it’s tricky to make sure that you speak to everyone that you’d like to.
  • Central location for notes, tips, ideas. For pre and post conference discussion – More engagement with commercial sector, but not in a “sales” capacity
  • We spent a long time talking about what students think and what academics think, why not invite some along to speak? We could get in touch with students unions and see if they could send a speaker.
  • It was good to have perspective from the private sector, but it could be more interesting to get perspectives of our stakeholders within HE at a future event, eg faculty admin, academics, other central services
  • The area of digital is now so wide and varied I think it would be beneficial to open up this a bit to other areas such as marketing/comms etc. I know it was mentioned on the final summary session but it would be good to see more events throughout the year. I think the vendors could potentially have more of a role to play in thought leadership and experiences within the sector.
  • 1) Create more events for a specific audience (techy vs content for example), instead of having two optional talks (and 6 options in each one) would have been more useful to have for example 4 optional talks with 3 options each. 2) Have an organised networking session for example at lunch on Day 2
  • Better catering (sorry!) – really needed a proper meal on day two before a whole afternoon of sessions and wasn’t a fan of the indoorr BBQ. I really like the more formal dinner aspect of the event. Event could be ‘tracked’ in terms of having themes running throughout, e.g. content, techie, management/transformation etc. Start a bit earlier to squeeze in one or two more sessions?
  • Improved contact between attendees – some sort of forum/social media location for discussion before/around/after the event Possibly widen to FE – many of the same issues, some we in HE don’t (yet) see? Much of their audience is a year or two younger than ours!

Comments on the social events included:

  • Event dinner was a bit of a disappointment compared to IWMW of old. But still a good chance to meet a few new people. The wine reception was fun and I met a couple of new people which was really useful. A shame it was in the conference space and not at an external event like previous IWMWs. And Piri Piri was great! My partner is Portuguese so I’m familiar with Portuguese cooking. Bacalau in Ormskirk. Who’d’ve thought it!!
  • Not great catering at the Hub or what was served for lunches. Would’ve preferred a proper sit down dinner for the first night (as per 2013) and a nicer location for the drinks reception that’s not our breakout area between sessions. I know it rained heavily but the roof garden would’ve been fine that evening. so possibly changed a little too hastily. Food at lunch was poor, cold and greasy- a few sandwiches would’ve made the difference! Salt and Liquor was great, although a bit of a walk to get to.
  • Really liked The Hop Inn on the Monday night. Great to get together with people and have a chat. Wine reception was a bit underwhelming – the wine was ok (!) but could have done with a change of scenery. Salt and Liquor was ace fun – great food and booze and really good to have that big venue upstairs. Great for mingling and networking.
  • Poor quality food in the hub and only water to drink.
  • I realise that budgets were tight this year and Brian was effectively underwriting the event, so please don’t take these comments as criticism. But I think it’s a pity we didn’t have an “outing” to a local attraction this year or wine at the event dinner.. perhaps next year!


Since the IWMW event is undergoing a significant period of transition it was pleasing to receive so many comments which will help to identify the successful aspects of the event and the areas in need of improvement.

Areas of success

IWMW 2015: key aimsDuring the welcome talk I summarised the main aims of the event: 1) to learn new skills; 2) engage with your peers  and 3) identify new approaches for your institution. The secondary aims were to provide the time and opportunity to reflect on the implications of the changing technological, organisational, political and economic environment on the nature of the provision of institutional digital services. The final aim was to have fun!

I feel these goals were achieved. The feedback for the content of the event was exceptional, with the ratings of 49% Excellent and 51% Very good even exceeding last year’s ratings (47% Excellent, 44 Very good and 8% Good). The feedback also highlighted the value provided by the networking opportunities. Finally it was pleasing that the higher level of participation from the commercial sector was widely appreciated, as was the talks which addressed broader institutional issues.

Areas to improve

Despite the success of the event, there are a number of areas in which improvements can be made.

During the welcome talk I described how previous IWMW events had been held in capital cities (London, Edinburgh and Belfast), large cities (Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Reading) and historic cities (Canterbury, York, Bath and Chichester). IWMW 2015 was the first to be held in a small market town, which provided some challenges: including difficulties in getting to Ormskirk and the lack of suitable venues for social events beyond the university. Edge Hill University, the current Times Higher University of the Year, prides itself for its support for the student population. However it is not an institution which hosts conferences on a regular basis and its limitations in this area were noted in the evaluation forms.

But although I cannot accept responsibility for the limited public transport to Ormskirk or the lack of coat hangers in the bedrooms (!) I have some responsibilities in the late announcement of the event and the lower level of support for the social events at this year’s event. It is intended that next year’s event will be easier to get to (I have already ruled out Inverness!) and will provide a wider range of options for the social events, including wine at the conference dinner and options for those who do not want to visit pubs. In addition, unlike last year when I was working for Cetis for 4 days a week until 28 May, I now have no other significant work commitments and so will be able to dedicate my time to planning the IWMW 2016 event.

Planning for IWMW 2016

The evaluation form asked for suggestions for IWMW 2016. A summary of the responses is given below.


Ideas for areas to be addressed at IWMW 2016 include:

  • More on ‘digital transformation’ – seems quite topical so follow-ups, how people are getting on with this would be interesting. Agile – how this approach is being used both on the technical and content side. How are other people – e.g. customers/users – being convinced of the value of this approach and buying in. Technical stuff – always interested in what people are developing; how they’re managing websites/CMSs; coping with main site and all the offshoots/micro-sites
  • Practical stuff we can do on a shoestring and little resources!!!
  • More for smaller institutions
  • Broader range of content – would be great to have strands suitable for designers and developers. I also think the name puts people off and is increasingly out of alignment with people’s roles. The 20th in the series would be a good opportunity to co-brand with a new name as a mini relaunch. CASE costs loads more and attracts huge numbers
  • I liked the content this year. Workshops were useful and a good way of meeting people too. It would be good if we could have a few more, with numbers a bit more limited for each. I realise the importance of the commercial sector. But maybe mixing them up a bit rather than leaving them all till last?
  • More of the same – management, technical, content & marketing. Might it be useful to have a speaker from outside the sector? Eg, I just saw an engaging presentation from Edinburgh City Council on their user-focused digital transformation project.
  • Digital strategy digital team structures
  • Given the focus on digital cutting across the organisation I’d be interested to see content from or involvement from other areas of HE. Perhaps something on training, working across teams etc.
  • As much content-related content as possible. More best practice, e.g. Bath. More excellent, engaging speakers who have some fire in the belly! Range of topics again – possibly a bit more marketing?
  • Workshops on developments in core areas – HTML5/CSS3/Javascript frameworks and where they are going. Managing content writers outside the core team. How do we train them, how do we keep their content right?
  • It would be nice to see some more practical sessions that the bulk of people could use every day rather than the more abstract strategy material. Perhaps a session with lots of shorter talks to get some new people presenting as well?
  • Would be good to hear from students and academics rather than just other people saying what they think and what they should be doing.
  • More practical hands-on sessions which are tailored to developers and content professionals. Talks from: – Future Learn – EdX – GDS.
  • Continue with a similar mix to this year e.g. experiences on web/mobile projects, Agile approaches etc.Ways of integrating and re-using content, what analytics mean, ITIL and service catalogues
  • Plenaries Parallel sessions – possibly tracked/themes Pecha Kucha style sessions – 20 slides, 20 seconds Panel sessions – experts and HE sector again Hack day style event
  • More technical sessions. Less group therapy / moaning sessions (if possible)
  • Really hard to do as this was my first IWMW – I suppose being aware of global web/digital trends and working out how they might apply to HE? Any futurologists out there?

In addition it was suggested that the event continues to invite speakers beyond the HE sector:

  • I would like to see much ideas from outside of the HE sector, so that we in the HE can start to look further afield for inspiration instead of cloning ourselves.
  • Happy to see vendor presentations, perhaps a head to head 10 mins each, all in one session.
  • More of the same, but obviously evolving as the digital world does too. I think commercial sector presentations are important. Even if we do not operate in this sector ourselves we need to know

In response to a question on the format of the event the majority were in favour of maintaining the existing format:

  • Similar format to 2015.
  • It was my first event so similar to this year seems fine.
  • 3 day format works well. The master classes worked particularly well. Perhaps needs some element of stranding..
  • Format worked fine, some of the workshops were a little lengthy but good IF you’ve got to get to grips with new techniques or ideas in detail.
  • I liked the format as is, but think the afternoon sessions could be more focused with possible slightly smaller groups?
  • Similar to 2015? Worked really well.
  • Existing format works really well. I would replace the last session with something decidedly light-hearted.
  • Good format. If attendees numbers were high enough would be good to have multiple streams (technical and content) but may not be possible.
  • I love the 2 days over 3 days approach, please retain it. If it was at the end of the week (ie finishing on a Friday) it would perhaps give the delegates the opportunity to stay on, or fully unwind
  • Current format worked well – having a morning to get there and an afternoon to get back meant limiting the disruption to your home life.
  • I think the length of the conference was about right, the lunchtime to lunchtime format probably works well for people travelling longer distances (not an issue for me this time).

although a small number suggested hosting a shorter event, shortening the mast classes or holding short events during the year:

  • Three days is a lot not to be at work. Could it just be two days?
  • I am not sure the afternoon (3.5 hrs) sessions worked as well as they could do. Think it is slightly too long.
  • More smaller events throughout the year. More streams for delegates to attend – technical, marketing, business

One potentially controversial area was the question of greater involvement by the commercial event at IWMW 2016. As can be seen greater involvement was welcomed by the majority of the respondents.

Commercial involvement in IWMW 2016

Responses given to the question “What concerns do you have regarding greater commercial involvement with the event?” included:

  • I think that commercial involvement is an important part of making sure that IWMW remains financially viable.
  • Overall, I think the balance was right this year. Perhaps presentations from two management consultants was one too many.
  • Greater – none. If it were to start to dominate then that would be a worry.
  • None; assuming that they aren’t selling too obviously :-) Seriously, no commercial attendee is going to expect anything silly like exclusive contact or anything of that sort.
  • No concerns

Suggestions for the location of the IWMW 2016 event included:

  • University of Kent! :D If that’s out of the question then I nominate Bath. They’ve done great talks 2 years running and it would be awesome to see them at home.
  • Anywhere in the UK – preferably close to a mainline rail station.
  • Anywhere as long as it’s easy to get to
  • Liverpool suggestion sounded good. Would prefer UK as may have trouble funding excursions further afield. Bath?!
  • Wales!
  • If it’s someplace like EdgeHill with poor connections, then someplace in the North is best for those in Scotland. If it has good connections to airports then further south is fine.
  • Midlands?
  • Wales?
  • Another small university/location not too far north though!!!
  • Anywhere at least reasonably well-connected by train.
  • Not in a campus location, too limited. Should be in a city centre with good transport links and facilities.
  • Somewhere more central so people can get there more easily eg Manchester, Birmingham
  • Anywhere with good transport links. Wales? Not London. I think somewhere ‘in the middle’ is the fairest. I’m not so keen on it being in London because so many things are already there.
  • Loughborough if things pan out.
  • Anywhere in a major UK city with decent transport links!
  • somewhere central – midlands

Next Steps in the Planning for IWMW 2016

Following the analysis of the evaluation forms and the publication of two blog posts based on the feedback my next steps are:

  • Explore possible locations for IWMW 2016 including following up the suggestions I have received to date and inviting additional proposals to host the event.
  • Solicit feedback from non-attendees at this year’s event in order to understand the reasons they did not attend.
  • Invite feedback from members of the IWMW 2015 advisory group and establish a group to support the planning and delivery of the IWMW 2016 event.
  • Develop a marketing strategy for the event.
  • Review the comments on greater commercial involvement at the event and feedback received from event sponsors in order to develop plans for further sponsorship of next year’s event, which will help ensure the financial sustainability of the event.
  • Publish a timescale for next year’s event including dates for the official announcement for the dates and location of IWMW 2016, dates for submission of proposals and dates on which bookings will open.

Note that in order to ensure that the views of those who did not attend the IWMW 2015 event can be addressed in the planning for next year’s event an evaluation form for non-attendees at IWMW 2015 is available.

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Reflections on #IWMW15

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Aug 2015

About IWMW 2015

IWMW logoIWMW 2015, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July 2015. Following the recent series of guest posts from participants at the event this is the first of two posts which provide the event organiser’s perspectives.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the IWMW series was launched in 1997 to support members of institutional web management teams, to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with technological developments,  could learn from the approaches to management of large-scale web services from others across the higher education community and develop and strengthen professional and social networks with others in the community.

As described in a post on Reflections on #IWMW14 the event is undergoing a transformation: after 17 years of JISC support for an event which was delivered by UKOLN last year the event was run jointly by myself and JISC Netskills. However due to the closure of JISC Netskills it was not possible to continue the collaboration for a second year so this year I had responsibility for organising the event, supported by an advisory group which provided valuable advice on the theme for the event and suggested specific topics and speakers.

The theme of this year’s event was “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution“: an idea which emerged during the Advisory Group discussions, based on discussions about ‘digital’ at last year’s event but also an awareness that the digital agenda needs to provide the basis of transformations within the organisation. Several of the talks at the event directly addressed the event theme and these will be highlighted in the following summary of the event. Note that a report based on an evaluation of the event will also be posted shortly.

The Plenary Sessions

Putting The Web Manager First

Following the refocussing of the event to be more directly relevant to the needs of those with responsibilities for providing large-scale institutional web services the event began by “putting the web manager first“.

In the opening talk  Mandy Phillips, Head of Corporate Business Change Initiatives at Liverpool John Moores University, described the nature of digital transformation at her host institution in a talk entitled “Out With the Old, In With the New: Digital Services at Liverpool John Moores University“. In this 30 minute talk Mandy, who leads the Digital Services and Business Systems teams at Liverpool John Moores University, provided a very relevant start to the event, which was appreciated by the audience with the following comments being made:

  • Really engaging and informative. A great starter for the event.
  • Really useful to find out how LJM went from zero to hero!
  • The case study approach is useful for others to see how transformation can be achieved.
  • Great talk – really interesting and full of things to take back to my own work
  • Good to see front end and back end teams coming together – as it should be. Good to see success can be realised despite some of the constraints (eg: use of certain agencies).

In contrast to Mandy’s talk on institutional change Rich Prowse, Digital Editor-In-Chief at the University of Bath, described the practicalities of managing content. In the talk on “An Agile Approach to Content” Rich explained why the University of Bath had adopted an agile approach to the creation and delivery of useful and usable content online, summarised  the work of the Digital team and shared lessons learnt on the importance of user needs, how to keep publishers happy and why building a community is important to successfully deliver decentralised publishing.  Again this talk helped to get the event off to a great start, with Rich received the following comments on his talk:

  • Fantastic talk from the Bath team. I really enjoyed it, they were brilliant and I can’t wait to chat to them again about Agile Content.
  • Nice to see sessions on actual techniques.
  • Again, great to see what you can do with better resources, ability to schedule everyday work into one day a week and focus on more creative thinking. Can definitely take the user stories recommendation forward.

I should add that Many and Rich both agreed to facilitate master class sessions which developed on the ideas described in their talks.

Supporting Our Users, Revolutionising the Experience!

The original title for the two talks which opened the second morning was “Supporting Our Users“. However the speakers felt that title was somewhat staid for their talks and suggested an alternative: “Supporting Our Users, Revolutionising the Experience!“.

Mike McConnell‘s talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities” was successful in generating much discussion and debate on the implications of engaging with commercial consultants in helping to identify ways in which the institution needs to transform existing and well-establishing business processes. The talk receives the highest rating of all the plenary talks, with 84% judging the talk to be ‘excellent’ and 16% to be ‘very good’. The comments on the talk included:

  • Mind blowing talk from Mike, a really frank and honest talk about how to challenge institutional thinking and change it for the better. Very inspiring to see how much they managed to do in so little time.
  • Great talk, really well delivered. Again, interesting insights into how it’s possible (with time, effort, and money!) to shift institutional attitudes and practices.
  • Well structured and delivered. Presentation of the big picture of digital transformation supported by examples and experiences from Aberdeen was really useful.
In the second talk of the session Paul Boag asked User Experience Design. How Far Will You Go?. Paul is an experienced speaker at web conferences around the world and has also spoken at a number of recent IWMW events. Paul’s talk was appreciated by many, especially those who were hearing him speak for the first time:
  • Brilliant to get to hear him speak and know we’re in agreement!
  • Well presented talk. Content was both relevant and interesting for me.
  • As ever with Paul it was an enjoyable talk. Came away with some good ideas such as UX calendars, top tasks, the need to operate like an agency etc.

although a number of people who have heard Paul speak before probably agreed with the comment that “Paul delivery is always lively however the content was predictable“.

Managing the Content; Developing the Services

The second morning session featured two talks on “Managing the Content; Developing the Services“.  Mark Fendley, University of Kent was the main speaker for a talk on “From Hack Day to Open Day: Building a Tour“, a talk which, perhaps surprisingly, was one of only two which had a significant technical aspect. As described in the abstract for the talk:

At a Hack Day event last summer, a team of people at the University of Kent postulated the concept of an self-guided audio tour for mobile devices for our open day visitors who are unable to join a guided tour. This idea was enthusiastically prototyped and subsequently championed by the organisation. A full product has been developed in the first quarter of this year, with content being produced over the summer for a planned launch in the new academic year.

Although a show of hands on the first day showed that developers were in a minority at this year’s event the feedback suggested that people could see the potential benefits which ‘hackathons’ may provide.

  • Good to have a more technical talk about how a web team works in practice.
  • Hackathons sound like great ideas to gather “free” ideas. Also, chaos monkey could be good for testing.
  • Good intro to a new approach to rapid development.
The second talk in the session, “Marrying Creativity with Management Complexity“, was given by Rob Van Tol, Precedent and Sam Sanders, KPMG. This talk complemented Mike McConnell‘s talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities“, providing the insights from the consultancies which had been commissioned by Aberdeen University. This talk had the potential to alienate those who work in institutional web management teams, but the talk was well-delivered with 41% rating it as ‘Excellent’, 41% as ‘Very good’ and 18% as ‘Good’. The following comments were given:
  • Interesting to see how the two agencies work together. I particularly liked the opportunity to see one project from both the side of the university (through Mike’s talk) and the agencies.
  • Sam Sanders was engaging and persuasive, and didn’t come across as pushing a corporate agenda. Bit of a revelation, really…
  • Really good talk once they got going. Felt they were trying to be too funny at the start and just needed to get on with it. Once they got going it was a very challenging and informative presentation.

which suggest that the benefits of making use of external agencies are becoming accepted.

Beyond the Institution

This year saw a deliberately changed emphasis in the content, with four of the plenary talks coming from the higher education sector, four from the commercial sector and one from an educational charity (Jisc). It seems the greater involvement with the commercial sector was welcomed:

The content was really high quality and it was really good to listen from private companies working with HE

The final session on the morning of the third day, Beyond the Institution, featured plenary talks from a consultancy, a service provider and an educational charity, all of whom provide a variety of services relevant to higher educational institutions.

The session began with a talk by Michael Webb, Jisc on “Integrating Institutional Web Services with Jisc’s ‘Cloud First, Mobile First’ Platform“. The aim of the talk was to “explain Jisc’s new ‘Cloud First, Mobile First’ delivery platform, and show how web managers will be able to work this platform, both by using APIs to integrate resource into their own services, and by creating APIs from institutional web sites and services, allowing creation of new sector-wide services“. The talk did provide a useful summary of Jisc’s development work in this area although, in retrospect, it was probably too technical for many in the audience:

  • Very interesting to hear what JISC are working on – I was previously unaware of this. I think it’s useful to include sessions like this that are slightly more technical.
  • Great talk, however, I felt that it failed to take account of the range of individuals who attend IWMW.
  • Probably not what a lot of people in the room were expecting but I found it really informative. This is the kind of thing that we should be talking to developers about.

The second talk in the session was given by Charles Hardy, who is responsible for LinkedIn’s engagement with the Higher Education community. In his talk on “LinkedIn for Higher Education – How Universities can Leverage LinkedIn to Engage Future, Current and Past Students” Charles described how LinkedIn has developed a number of features specifically for Higher Education institutions, blending career data insights with people and brand and explained how these features can be integrate into an institution’s social media / content strategy. Again this talk was well-appreciated, although some expressed concerns regarding personal data about staff and students being held by a commercial company:

  • Brilliant! A commercial speaker delivering a disruptive technology that could blow apart the sector and change how things work. Charles was a great speaker, answered the questions brilliantly and in a non threatening manner.
  • A very well delivered talk. There was a lot of potential shown for what we as HE can do with out LinkedIn pages/profiles.
  • A really excellent overview of the capabilities and potential of LinkedIn from an engaging presenter. One of my favourites of the conference
  • Interesting and useful talk, although somewhat uncomfortable with the subject matter and the company’s motivation.
  • Hand over your data and Linkedin will make money out of it. The only talk that was a little out of place, but incredibly useful to have an insight into what they are doing and have them express their rationale.

In the final plenary talk Niall Lavery and Dan Babington, PwC revisited the conference theme in a talk entitled Beyond Digital – The Agile University“. Again this talk generated much discussion, with some expressing concerns at the criticisms being made of higher educational institutions by a commercial organisation, although it was also admitted that such criticisms had some validity:

  • Really excellent. Lots to take away in terms of approaches and how to look at things differently. Great to get external experts in and sharing at that level.
  • Good talk on how the HE sector needs to evolve over the next 3 to 5 years to reflect the societal changes occurring around us
  • Some challenging ideas around what universities are for and how that impacts user experience and digital strategy. Seemed to end up being a bit of a sales pitch though.
  • It was very enlightening to see this consultant view of the sector. There was much in the presentation that I found distressing, but I can’t fault its accuracy. It also in part confirmed many of the statements I, Mandy, Rob & Sam had made regarding institutional structure.

What Does The Future Hold?

This year’s event concluded with a panel session. The panellists, Mandy Phillips, Claire Gibbons, Charles Hardy and Marianne Kay, were asked by Mike McConnell, the panel chair, to give their thoughts on four questions: (1) Are universities businesses? Are they truly in competition? Where do third party services like LinkedIn fit in, if at all?; (2) What is the role of pedagogy/academics in this brave new world? Are we driven by a culture of managerialism?; (3)What effects will the Internet of Things have on higher education and the student experience? and (4) What is the future for IWMW?

The panel session, which was introduced at last year’s event, was felt to provide a useful way of concluding the event:

  • Half hour was maybe too short – could have done with a bit more time and a bit more debate. But good nevertheless!
  • I feel like this is a welcome addition to the IWMW format. A chance to ask the key talkers some points that may not have been formed until after some hindsight.
  • Nice quick, interesting panel session.
  • Good session. Good to have a serious discussion on what we think about the future of higher education.
  • Some interesting discussion and debate to round off the event. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would!

The Parallel Sessions

In addition to the plenary talks and panel session there were also six workshop sessions which lasted for 90 minutes (on Working with an Institutional Web Team – Edge Hill University; iBeacons for Recruitment Events; BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and PracticesAll CMSs are Rubbish: Live With It!; A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information: The national rollout of XCRI-CAP for Postgraduate course marketing information and Future-proofing the Web Professional) and three master classes which lasted for 3.5 hours (on Working in an Agile Way – Content Creation, Delivery and Standards; Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies and a merged session which included Moving from the Old Web Team to a New Digital Services – Liverpool John Moores University and Working with an Institutional Web Team – University of Bradford).

Over 60% of respondents rated the workshops as “Excellent” or “Very good” and over 80% rated the Master classes (another innovation this year) as “Excellent” or “Very good”!


This is the first of two posts about IWMW 2015. This initial post has summarised the content of the event. The second post will describe participants’ thoughts of the event: what they liked and the areas they felt could be improved.

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Guest post: Evolution at its finest in the Higher Education sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Aug 2015

This year’s IWMW 2015 event attracted larger numbers of speakers and participants from beyond the HE sector than in the past. This guest post by Rachel Rennie, Head of Edinburgh at Precedent is the fourth in a series of guest posts from participants at the IWMW 2015 event, was initially published on LinkedIn.

IWMW guest postI don’t get to go to too many conferences. Partly, the majority of my work is very delivery focused, partly because it’s hard to get out of the office for extended periods of time. However, for the right conference and the right client, I can just about make it work.

Last week, I went to the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) at the very lovely Edge Hill University. I was accompanying our senior consultant Rob van Tol, and his counterpart from our partners at KPMG, Sam Sanders, as they presented in front of professionals working in the marketing, communications and technology fields (and sometimes all three) in the higher education sector. The reason I got the chance to go, was that our charismatic client Mike McConnell, was presenting the work we had recently delivered for them – namely, the Digital Vision and Strategy for the University of Aberdeen.

When we, as an agency, get the opportunity to speak side-by-side with our talented clients we jump at the chance. Of course, no one was silly enough to let me do the presenting bit, but what I did do over three days was talk to some of the amazing people who are working in this sector today.

Although I love all of my clients, it is the higher education sector in particular that is drawing my attention at the moment.

Maybe it’s zithromax online sales because they’re a sector which has notoriously been slow to catch on to digital, but seeing what some of the attendees are focusing on now; making huge leaps in content delivery, understanding their audiences, embracing and utilising technological change, that makes it all the more impressive. Surely, making education more accessible through digital, and supporting and nurturing the student’s digital experience once they get onsite, is an idea we can all get behind.

Smaller conferences, such as IWMW – which is about to enter its 20th year – are invaluable for getting to meet, personally, sector specific people who are skilled in their fields. It’s a great opportunity to show ideas, collaborate, and even share some of their HEI pain down the pub.

For us suppliers, it’s really valuable for us to meet other companies in the same space; talk about what we’re working on, think about ways to collaborate, and share some war stories down the pub.

Of course the cynical amongst you will think – it’s just a sales opportunity – but that’s not the way Precedent have ever worked. We are not a hard sell agency, and we never will be. We just want to understand this, and all of our sectors as well as we can; to stay contemporary and joined up to the needs of our clients and this is what these events do.

If you work in the higher education sector, I can’t support IWMW highly enough and next year I’d encourage you to get on their list early – their 20th year is sure to be a lot of fun.

Rachel Rennie, Head of Edinburgh

Key links:

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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW Events from Jean Jumelle

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Aug 2015

Jean Jumelle, Web Communications Analyst at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh is retiring shortly. Jean has attended several IWMW events since 2007  and, in this third guest post by IWMW 2015 participants, gives his brief reflections on the events.

IWMW guest postI am retiring in October 2015, so Brian has asked me to share some thoughts about my times at IWMW.

I first took over my web responsibilities at QMU in 2005, I thought it was a good idea at the time and I never regretted it.

I cannot recall how I got introduced to ScottishWebFolks, a bunch of enthusiastic web experts in H.E. based in Scotland and a renegade from Sunderland, however this has been an invaluable source of information shared openly, QMU and myself benefited greatly from this web managerial expertise, as I am moving away from all this the most memorable aspect of this group is the comradery and the friendship that will survive long after web and digital trends will fade.

Through these people I got introduced to IWMW, my first experience was in 2007 at the University of York and I loved it, I haste to add that I don’t get out much. The experience was facilitated by my mentors from Scotland; the focus was very much on the operational management and technicalities of the web. This was my first introduction from a distance to Brian Kelly and the like, I must admit that I thought these people were on a different planet, their enthusiasm and foresight meant they were light years ahead or perhaps in need of therapy, eight years later I am still unsure :o).

IWMW 2008 in Aberdeen basked in sunshine as you would expect, great setting, and great debate.

Sheffield 2010 was all about the web in turbulent times; it was a great place to listen to the storm, actually more like the start of climate change in H.E. with funding cuts.

Edinburgh 2012 brought a change; less moaning about the climate but the realisation that innovation was the key to progress. Northumbria 2014 carried on with this theme in asking what’s next. IWMW 2015 at Edge Hill University – Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution was marked by Aberdeen University’s project presented by Mike McConnell, their vision of total transformation of their digital business was most impressive, very few individuals and institution will be brave or resourced enough to embrace such vision. This year also saw more involvement from the commercial sector, a breath of fresh air – however be aware that their vision is not without self interest and that their vision of education can be pretty narrow.

Through the years the focus has evolved from operational management through to strategic management, this is a natural progression. It was great to welcome so many freshers in this year’s smaller audience. However the mix of the assembly poses a challenge to the organisers; funding is obviously an issue. It was great to see Claire Gibbons, Mike McConnell and others supporting Brian Kelly as this event owes him so much.

Thank you Brian and everyone involved through the years.

Jean Jumelle Web Communications Analyst QMU

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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW 2015 from Charlotte Harry

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Aug 2015

Yesterday Emma Cragg gave her Reflections on IWMW 2015. Today’s second guest post about the IWMW 2015 event is written by Charlotte Harry, another IWMW first-timer.

IWMW guest postSince attending my first Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) in July I’ve been chastising myself for not discovering it sooner. What pearls of wisdom, illuminating ideas and work practices and valuable connections have I been missing out on all these years?

I felt an immediate sense of relief at walking into a ready-made community of like-minded individuals all grappling with the challenges of ‘doing digital’ in higher education (HE). In his talk on “Marrying Creativity with Management Complexity” Rob Van Tol (Precedent) recognised the therapy-like function of such a gathering: let’s face it, it’s good to share the pain. And when you consider the scope of the challenges facing most HE digital teams there’s a fair bit of pain to go around…

Revolution not evolution – the need to think big

The theme of IWMW 2015 (‘Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution’) was nevertheless bold and positive and the conference was full of talented, passionate individuals that it was a privilege to listen to and learn from. Mike McConnell, for example, talked about the University of Aberdeen’s consultation process for developing a ‘digital vision’. This was big stuff – transformational stuff, no less. The focus was resolutely on people and processes, not just systems, websites and technology, and it was a theme that arose again and again during the workshop. Listening to such case studies, and hearing from people who are attempting to transform their institutions in this way, was inspiring. It reminded me of Martha Lane Fox’s recommendations to the Cabinet Office back in 2010 – ‘revolution not evolution’. I sense that it struck a deep chord with many of those present at IWMW 2015.

Putting the user first

Another notable theme (addressed by Paul Boag, among others) was just how crucial it is for universities to prioritise user/customer experience. Before returning to HE this year I worked at the Government Digital Service (GDS) where user needs are the driving force behind everything they do. The argument for putting the user/customer first doesn’t always seem to be accepted (or perhaps even heard) in the higher echelons of some universities, so it was heartening to hear this message being blasted out loud and clear.

An agile approach to content

Besides plenty of excellent plenary talks we also got to choose from a range of practical master classes. I couldn’t resist the University of Bath digital team’s session on an agile approach to content creation, delivery and standards. Music to my ears!

Rich Prowse and his colleagues generously shared everything – from their digital principles, roadmap and content strategy to their experiences of building up a wider community of publishers and supporting them with clear standards and guidelines. They skilfully led the group in a real-time user stories workshop, allowing us to try on a variety of agile practices (e.g. stand-up) for size. I came away feeling invigorated and relieved to see that many of the well-tested GDS design principles and agile work practices are finding their way into HE.

Breaking down the silos

Given the tendency towards silos in HE it seemed fitting that the conference encompassed content editors, designers, developers and digital managers, with everyone exposed to each other’s fields of expertise and how they interrelate. As a content person I appreciated the mix, and I enjoyed hearing some of the more tech-focused talks, such as the University of Kent’s hack day experiences.

Making connections

Finally, as a newcomer to IWMW, the sense of community was striking – almost familial. The longstanding organiser Brian Kelly went out of his way to welcome me, to the extent of cherry-picking people for me to talk to at some of the social events (a fellow lone-wolf worker here, a fellow musician there, …).

Despite a late initiation, I’m looking forward to IWMW 2016. I just hope that other digital HE bods don’t take as long as I did to discover it.

About the author

Charlotte is a writer and digital content editor/manager with a background in higher education, currently based at UCL. She previously worked as a content designer for the Government Digital Service (GDS).

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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW 2015 from Emma Cragg

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Aug 2015

IWMW 2015, the 19th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place recently at Edge Hill University. In this, the first guest blog post about the event Emma Cragg gives her thoughts from the perspective as a first-timer at the event.

At the end of July I attended my first Institutional Web Management Workshop. I was encouraged to see I wasn’t alone. When Brian profiled the audience during his introduction lots of first-timers raised their hands. I knew I was among friends when a large part of the introduction was dedicated to the best places in Ormskirk to get a pint of real ale.

Digital strategyThe title of the conference, Beyond Digital, was addressed in all sessions through the focus on people, not systems. This came most directly through plenary talks given by Mandy Phillips and Mike McConnell. Both talked us through digital transformations happening at their institutions. While they involved new systems and front-end design the main drive was to change the culture of the institution.

The culture shift begins with the recognition that digital cuts across all activities of the institution:

  • Facilities: spaces that support digital working
  • Learning: initiatives to improve the digital literacy of staff and students
  • Support: student services and business processes
  • Marketing: channels to support communications throughout the student lifecycle

You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy fit for the digital age” – PwC

"Symptoms"Another theme threaded throughout the conference was agility. In this we got a masterclass from Rich Prowse and the University of Bath team. In his plenary talk, Rich walked us through the steps when applying agile to content creation. In planning, the use of analytics and user stories help to develop a culture that values data and user needs. Sprint teams involve members from beyond the digital team. This has helped to build trust with faculty and administrative teams.

Those of us lucky enough to attend the “Working in an Agile way” practical session got a view of what it might be like to work at the University of Bath. We developed a minimum buy cheap medications online viable product for a course search and wrote user stories to help the sprint team develop a solution.

Agile is hard work. It requires practice and discipline” – Rich Prowse

The Q&A session sought to challenge our perceptions of what universities are for. Are they businesses? The panel was split with three in yes camp and two adamantly saying no. Should we refer to students as customers? This seems to be a given if you see universities as businesses and hard to argue against with the current price tag for a degree.

In his closing remarks, Brian encouraged us all to contact at least three people after we returned to work. I’m really pleased to see people taking up this call to action. I’ve sent and received two emails (one of which led to this post). I’ve also seen my online network grow, with new followers and conversations on Twitter, and connections on LinkedIn. This would be my key takeaway from the event – actually, any event – don’t let the conversation go quiet just because we’re no longer in the same place.

Whatever the future of IWMW, you can be sure I’ll be back.

Biographical details

Emma CraggsEmma Cragg is a Web Content Officer at Newcastle University. In this role she plans, writes and edits content for the university’s central website. She supports the University’s community of web editors, delivers training in planning and writing web content, and is responsible for development of the web team’s blog. Emma is a productivity geek and is always on the lookout for solutions that can help the team work smarter.

If you’re interested in writing and editing, training, digital literacies, productivity or blogging, contact Emma using the details given below.

Contact details

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“Pondering the Online Legacy of my Work”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jul 2015

Neglected Areas for Web Managers?

Online legacy of ILRT workYesterday I came across two posts in my Facebook stream which addressed areas which appear to be neglected by those with responsibilities for providing institutional web services. In the first of two posts I comment on responsibilities for maintaining the online legacy of staff after they have left their host institution.

“Pondering the online legacy of my work”

Yesterday Virginia Knight shared a link on Facebook to a blog post with the words “Pondering the online legacy of my work at Bristol, or: why is there not much of it visible now?“. in the blog post, entitled “Where did my work go?“, Virginia described how she has been “working out how much of what I did in my sixteen years at ILRT at Bristol University has survived in a recognisable form“. Virginia pointed out that “Obviously there are publications, such as an article in Ariadne [such as ‘The SPP Alerting Portlet: Delivering Personalised Updates’– Editor] and more recently a prizewinning essay” but concluded “my online legacy is harder to trace“.

This is an area of particular interest to me. Almost two years ago I finished work at UKOLN. During my final week at UKOLN I published a series of blog on “Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN“. The five blog posts covered my early involvement with the Web (which dated back to December 1992), my outreach activities, my research work, my work for UKOLN’s core funders and my interests in evidence-based policies and openness.

Digital Preservation – Whose Responsibility?

During my final few months at UKOLN I had responsibilities for managing the preservation of UKOLN’s web resources. In brief this covered updating web sites so that the home page for self-contained activities described the background to the work and made it clear that the web site was no longer being maintained (e.g. see the Cultural Heritage Web site and the web site for the JISC-funded QA Focus project). After updating the content the web sites were archived by the UK Web Archive, which included the main UKOLN Web site, sub-sites (such as the QA Focus project and sites with their own domain such as the Cultivate Interactive ejournal).

In addition to the management of traditional web assets, cheap medications online typically hosted on an institutional web site, I also emphasized the importance of being able to continue to manage and maintain one’s professional profile, running a workshop session at the IWMW 2013 event on “Managing Your Professional Online Reputation“. During this period I became aware of the possible tensions between the provision of institutional web sites and the use of third-party services from the perspective of a professional who wishes to continue professional activities after leaving the host institution. As Virginia has pointed out, one’s online legacy can easily vanish.

But whose responsibility is to ensure that an institution does not lose its scholarly digital resources and individuals do not lose their online legacy? In a poster presented at the LILAC 2014 conference on “Preparing our users for digital life beyond the institution” I summarized a survey carried out by myself and Jenny Evans in which we found that librarians do not feel they are responsible for supporting academics who wish to continue making use of their digital assets after they have left the institution.

I therefore wondered whether web managers felt they had responsibilities for the preservation of web resources, not just as institutional assets but also as assets of value to members of staff after they leave the institution. A workshop session on “Page Not Found’: Practical Web Preservation Advice” was intended to explore some of these issues, with the abstract for the session suggested that “in web site development projects … a full impact analysis encompassing all stakeholders is essential“. Unfortunately the session has been cancelled due to lack of numbers.

In the poster presented at the LILAC 2014 conference I asked, in light of the survey findings “Are librarians enablers of life-long access to digital technologies or custodians of institutional services?” In light of the apparent lack of interest in web preservation at the IWMW 2015 event there seems to be a gap: who should be responsible for managing long-term access to web resources? Perhaps the answer will be self-motivated individuals, just as it was for long-lost copies of episodes of Doctor Who?

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Finalising Plans for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Jul 2015

IWMW 2015: A Recap

IWMW 2015: day 3The 19th in the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series, IWMW 2015, will take place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July.

The event is aimed at members of institutional web management teams, who have responsibilities for managing large-scale institutional web services.

At last year’s event, IWMW 2014, there was a recognition that the term ‘web’ sounds somewhat dated, with institutions now focusing on their ‘digital’ strategies and having digital teams to implement such strategies.

This year’s event has the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution” which reflects the changing environment, and how moves towards embedding digital approaches are likely to require changes in established institutional practices.

The event consists of three days of plenary talks, half day master classes and shorted workshop sessions.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be three talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc, LinkedIn and PwC.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session which will address the topic “What does the future hold?

IWMW 2015: the Final Day

Although the master classes, which were described in a previous post, are the most significant change to the format of this year’s event, it is the final day which, to me, marks a transition from previous years. A last year’s event, for example, the final morning provided institutional case studies in which web managers described their approaches to addressing mainstream web challenges, with the event closing with a panel session in which four experienced web managers spoke on the topic “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?

This year’s final day, however, finishes with a session entitled “Beyond the Institution“, with three speakers who work for organisations which are not directly part of the higher educational sector: Jisc’s “Cloud first/ mobile first” platform, the role of LinkedIn for higher education and how universities can leverage LinkedIn to engage future, current and past students and perspectives on the ‘Agile University’.

The final plenary talk at the event,  Beyond Digital – The Agile University will be given by Niall Lavery and Dan Babington, PwC. As can be seen from the abstract for the session this talk will be looking at approaches which go beyond making improvements and enhancements to our web services:

Leading Universities are looking beyond the short-term impact of an improved web or open-day experience, towards the delivery of simpler, faster, personalised interactions throughout the entire institution.

PwC provide insights into the workings of the world’s most innovative universities and describe the future-proof architectures that build an amazing educational experience on the three pillars of simplification, personalisation and value-focus. This session will start with the approach and mind-set required to become an Agile University, discussing how it can help balance the books within a year, and show examples of how you can transcend your competition to become a Category of One.

However since the majority of the delegates work for higher educational institutions we will ensure there is time for questions at the end of each of these plenary talks. In addition in a final panel session a number of experienced web managers will respond to the ideas given by the plenary speakers in this session and other ideas, proposals and suggestions which have emerged over the three days.

Still Opportunities to Book Your Place!

IWMW 2015: registration still openAlthough the official closing date for bookings has passed we have been informed that university finance departments will need additional time to process bookings. We will therefore keep the bookings open for a while longer.

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LinkedIn for Higher Education

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Jun 2015

LinkedIn For Web Professions

LinkedIn-for-higher-educationMany web and digital marketing professionals will have their own LinkedIn profiles. My initial use of LinkedIn was to provide my list of professional contacts, which would be updated as my contacts maintained and developing their profile pages. LinkedIn, I found, was particularly useful in finding out when people changed their jobs or roles.

LinkedIn has developed from a simple professional contacts service and provides additional communications and discussion tools such as the discussion groups for UK HE Web ProfessionalsDigital Libraries, Digital Preservation, Higher Education Marketing & Communications, Web 2.0 for Higher Education, Web accessibility and Web standards which I subscribe to.

But in addition to the value which LinkedIn can provide for web professionals, LinkedIn also seems to have an important role for universities.

LinkedIn For Higher Education

The 'youniversity' page on LinkedInThe ‘Youniversity‘ page on LinkedIn could well be an information resource for potential students and, therefore, for those with responsibilities for attracting such students, managing the content and engaging in discussions on the services the potential students may visit.

Looking at the University Finder it seems that if I wish to study Computer and Information Science in the UK the most popular universities are the Open University, the University of Manchester, the University of Hertfordshire, Staffordshire University, Kingston University and Sheffield Hallam University. Incidentally it appears that the order is based on the number of ‘likes’ from alumni – so if you want to raise the visibility of your institution on this list you may wish to think of ways of getting current and former students to like the LinkedIn page – encouraging graduates to do this during degree ceremonies, perhaps?

edge hill university: Linkedin-pageI’m sure that digital marketing staff will look at the LinkedIn page for their institution and their peers.

Looking at the entry for Edge Hill University, the location for the IWMW 2015 event, as shown it contains factual information about the institution and details of the careers of the alumni, with additional pages providing access to the LinkedIn profile for the, in this case 8,259, alumni, notable alumni and recommendations about the institution.

Find Out More

The LinkedIn for Higher Education web site provides access to a “resource center has customizable presentations, videos, tip sheets for students, and more“.

A video, lasting for 3 minutes 36 seconds, on LinkedIn for Higher Education is embedded below which provides a brief overview.

Finally I should mention the plenary talk on “LinkedIn for Higher Education – How Universities Can Leverage LinkedIn to Engage Future, Current and Past Students ” which will be given by Charles Hardy, LinkedIn at IWMW 2015, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop which this year takes place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July. There is still time to book your place, learn about “LinkedIn has developed a number of features specifically for Higher Education institutions, blending career data insights with people and brand” – and much more!

LinkedIn for Higher Education, video:

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Web Accessibility Workshop Session At IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Jun 2015

Web Accessibility: Institutional Perspectives

Video recording of EA Draffan

A number of plenary talks at IWMW events have demonstrated the importance placed on the accessibility of web content and services by those with responsibilities for managing institutional web services.

Over 10 years ago, at the IWMW 2004 event, a talk on “Beyond Web Accessibility: Providing A Holistic User Experience” highlighted some of the limitations of WCAG guidelines.

Moving on to more recent years at the IWMW 2012 event EA Draffan gave a plenary talk on “Beyond WCAG: Experiences in Implementing BS 8878” (and note that a video recording of her talk is available).

The following year Jonathan Hassell, editor of the BS 8878 standard gave another plenary talk on this topic, entitled “Stop Trying to Avoid Losing & Start Winning: How BS 8878 Reframes the Accessibility Question“.

BS 8878: A Workshop Session

It’s pleasing that since 2004 that not only have the limitations of WCAG and the WAI model for addressing accessibility of web resources been acknowledged, but an alternative approach, BS 8878, has been developed which enables WCAG guidelines to be used in a pragmatic manner, which can cater for the particular context of use.

Although the recent plenary talks helped to raise awareness of how BS 8878 can help to address the challenges of implementing appropriate web accessibility practices across the wide range of challenging uses of web technologies to be found cheap medications india across the higher education community the talks did not provide opportunities to explore how BS 8878 might be used in particular use cases.

A workshop session on “BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and Practices” at the IWMW 2015 event aims to address this gap.

The session will provide an opportunity for participants to document policies and practices for specific uses of web technologies found across the sector. One such common use may be video recordings of talks. As the video recording of EA Draffan’s talk is not have captioned, should it be made available? If so, what is the business model for doing so? And if resources are not available to provide captions, will accessibility be enhanced if the video recording is deleted?

Such tensions are widely understood. The session will aim to ensure that relevant policies and procedures are provided which will address the requirements of the various stakeholders who have interests in the resources.

Your Institutional Approaches to Web Accessibility Policies and Practices

In order to gain an insight into existing approaches to institutional web accessibility policies a brief survey is available which is embedded below.

View Survey
In addition a second brief survey invites your to describe your practices for embedding videos on institutional web pages.

View Survey

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IWMW 2015: Reminder of Booking Deadline and the Lanyrd Page

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 Jun 2015

Official IWMW 2015 Closing Date Approaching

IWMW 2015: Lanyrd entryThis is a reminder that the closing date for booking for the IWMW 2015 event is approaching.

The official closing date is Friday 26 June; we will use the booking information received by this date to allocate the rooms for the parallel sessions and to liaise with the conference office at Edge Hill University over accommodation, dining and similar requirements.

IWMW and Lanyrd

IWMW buy medications online no prescription events have often provided opportunities to evaluate the potential of web technologies which can be used to enhance the effectiveness of events.

As described in a post which asked “Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event?” the Lanyrd social event directory service has been used to provide information about IWMW events since IWMW 2012. Subsequently, in light of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN and the risks that content hosted on the UKOLN Web site might be lost (or be difficult to find if the content was hosted on an archiving service) content for IWMW events since 1997 has been added to a Lanyrd IWMW ‘guide’.

The IWMW 2015 Lanyrd entry contains details of speakers and workshop facilitators, typically identified by their Twitter ID. In addition participants can join the Lanyrd event, which may provide an additional access mechanism for event content – a Lanyrd app, available for iOS and Android devices, is available, as is a HTML5  interface to the content which does not require any apps to be installed to view on a mobile device.

It should be noted that you can register your interests in the IWMW 2015 event on Lanyrd even if you won’t be attending the event – which may be useful if you’d like to be alerted to be able to access new content which may be added, such as speakers’ slides, trip reports, etc. And if you are still undecided whether the event may be of interest the Reflections on #IWMW14 blog post reviews some of the highlights of last year’s event.





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The Future: Competition or Collaboration?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Jun 2015

The Changing Political and Economic Environment

Master classes at IWMW 2015I suspect that many readers of this blog with, like me, have been very disappointed at the General Election results. The Government is now determined to continue its austerity measures and impose further cuts on public services, including education.

What will the implications be in higher education and, in particular, those involved in the provisions of digital services?

A recent post on the Times Higher Education, Winners and losers in Hefce funding allocations, highlighted the competitive environment we are now working in with the article highlighting the winners (King’s College London) and losers (the University of Manchester) in the REF-based distribution of £1.6bn research funding.

Web Management in a Changing Political and Economic Environment

How will the competitive environment affect those working in support services, such as those with responsibilities for the provision of IT, digital and library services?

Perhaps we will see enforced changes to our well-established culture of sharing and learning from one’s peers. Will it not be inevitable that the ‘winners’ will wish to maintain their completive edge and not share details of how they achieved their successes, unless such sharing is used for marketing purposes?

I fear that we are moving in this direction. I also fear that the focus on individual high-ranking institutions will ultimately reduce the effectiveness and impact of higher education across the UK – competition, in my view, may be fine in sports but is inappropriate in education and other public services.

Perhaps we will see the start of a decline in sharing our experiences and helping buy antibiotics in uk those who have similar responsibilities in other institutions?

A Future Based on Collaboration and Sharing?

I’m pleased to describe how this is not (yet!) happening at the IWMW 2015 event. In fact the opposite is happening with a series of half-day master classes, four being organised by members of institutional web teams and three by commercial organisations, being held for the first time since the IWMW event was launched 19 years ago.

Two of the master classes will provide opportunities to learn from the challenges being faced by web teams based at Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Bradford. Two other master classes will provide an opportunity to learn about how agile working practices are being applied at the universities of Bath and Edinburgh. The final three master classes provide perspective from companies who work with the higher education community: Headscape, Terminal Four and Precedent.

I hope that this year’s innovation in the content and structure of the IWMW event demonstrates that there will continue to be a role to play in collaboration and sharing; that those with experience and expertise will continue to share their approaches and that such approaches help to raise the standard and quality of the digital services provides across the UK higher education sector, to the benefit of all.

I hope that this approach is valued across the sector. And note that the deadline for booking for IWMW 2015 is approaching!

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Guest Post: A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Jun 2015

The IWMW 2015 event is only six weeks away! In today’s guest post, the latest in a series of posts about the IWMW 2015 event Jayne Rowley introduces the workshop session which Jayne and Alan Paull will be facilitating at the event.

A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information

IWMW 2015: exchange of courses informationFor many years now data in the Higher Education sector has flowed between Higher Education Institutions and sector organisations using standardised, system-to-system data exchange methods.  Common examples include HESA data returns, UCAS application data and Key Information Set data.  However, the vast majority of Universities and Colleges in the UK still supply course marketing information in a traditional manner.  Your staff have to re-key the course marketing information from your prospectus or web content management system into bespoke online forms provided by aggregating organisations.  These forms usually ask for slightly different types and items of data, requiring your staff to massage the information, so that it fits a proprietary format.  Research shows that on average each University or College receives about a dozen or so requests for course marketing data each year, which multiplies the different formats and therefore the resources needed to supply it.

With the spread of the HE sector’s course marketing information standard, a revolution in the exchange of courses information is happening.  This revolution will have profound beneficial effects on how you supply courses information in the future, it will improve the timeliness and quality of the information, and help learners to make better learning opportunity choices.

Changes to Postgraduate Course Data Management and Supply

Prospects is becoming the first aggregator of postgraduate course marketing information to use the new data exchange standard, with the development and launch of Course Exchange.  Funded and governed by HEFCE through Jisc, this will deliver national implementation of the XCRI-CAP British and European standard for course information, beginning with an approved postgraduate taught course vocabulary.

The benefits of Course Exchange:

  • It enables you to supply standardised taught postgraduate course information via an xml feed.
  • The data will be used by aggregators on multiple websites and platforms.
  • The service includes Course Check – a validator that will ensure your data meets the required standards.
  • It significantly reduces the burden of work for data administrators, saving an average sized University and College around £18,000 a year in resource costs for re-keying alone.
  • It gives postgraduate marketing and admissions departments full control over the dissemination of their course marketing information.
  • It makes the process of sharing course information quicker and easier.

About the Author

jayne rowleyCurrently Business Services Director of HECSU/Graduate Prospects, Jayne Rowley is responsible for the provision of a suite of shared services to the HE sector supporting the work of Higher Education Institutions in postgraduate study, careers, employability, degree verification and work experience. Prospects is becoming the first aggregator of postgraduate course data with the development and launch of Course Exchange. Funded and governed by HEFCE through Jisc, this will deliver national implementation of the XCRI-CAP British and European standard for course information, beginning with an approved postgraduate taught course vocabulary.

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Guest Post: The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Jun 2015

On Tuesday 28 July 2015 Mike McConnell will give a plenary talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities” at the IWMW 2015 event. The talk will describe a case study of a consultation exercise at the University of Aberdeen to define a digital vision for the institution. In this guest post Mike summarises the key aspects of the consultation process.

iwmw 2015: mike mcconnellFollowing last year’s IWMW event I wrote a post for Brian’s UK Web Focus blog wherein I noted that “digital goes beyond web and marketing; it is about institutions, how they are structured and how they respond to change”.

As I write the University of Aberdeen is concluding a significant consultancy engagement with the consultants Precedent/KPMG, conducted over 16 weeks. This consultation was commissioned by the University in order to help it define its digital vision and any associated changes required to deliver that vision. My presentation at IWMW 2015 will discuss the project and give further detail on the outcomes.

The consultation was conducted in three phases – Discovery, Vision and Planning.

1. Discovery

This phase involved an audit of the University’s existing digital activity and strategic aims; a review of competitors (direct and aspirational), and a comprehensive engagement with key stakeholders throughout the University. Over 100 staff were interviewed. Outcomes included a map of the customer experience landscape and an articulation of the current state of business processes/sub-processes.

2. Vision

This phase involved the consultants working with the University to identify strategic opportunities and prioritise three key areas for transformation; research the viability of these with staff affected (over 80 staff were involved); identify customer needs and develop a digitally-enabled Target Operating Model1 for the institution.

3. Planning

This phase produced high level plans with options and recommendations: 9 outline business cases including identifiable risks, issues and dependences; costs and timelines; ROI and benefits realisation timescales, as well as detailed customer journey maps for the three key areas and an implementation plan.

The project board is currently considering the outcomes and recommendations in the final report, prior to wider dissemination. Many of the recommendations were anticipated but others were not, and some are extremely radical. Nearly all imply significant changes to the University’s systems, processes and staffing.

In my earlier post I noted that I hoped the exercise would ‘provide us with a digital vision that is broad in scope and world class in its ambition’. I believe that the exercise has delivered on these aims. It will be interesting to see how the University reacts to it.

About the Author

mike mcconnellMike McConnell is responsible for Web & Corporate Systems at the University of Aberdeen. He manages developers responsible for digital, web and corporate applications development.

Mike’s main duties are:

  • Institutional digital strategy
  • Web applications development
  • Supporting and developing the institutional corporate systems (MIS) environment including Finance, HR, Admissions and Student Record systems
  • Supporting and developing the institutional SharePoint and CRM environments

Prior to his current role, Mike worked in Educational Development and before that was a researcher in Information Management.

If you are interested in digital transformation, web usability, social media and user experience, especially in higher education, feel free to contact Mike using the contact details given below.

Contact details


1 A Target Operating Model, as defined by Precedent/KPMG, “describes the strategy & services provided based on clear design principles; describes the processes to follow and the responsibilities for process steps; describes how the service will be governed and managed; provides details on the number, capabilities & grouping of people required; provides details on the technology & data to be used in support of services, and describes the locations where people will be based“.

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Guest Post: Making Usability Testing Agile

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Jun 2015

At this year’s IWMW 2015 event Neil Allison, the User Experience Manager at the University of Edinburgh will facilitate a half-day master class on “Usability Testing in an Agile Development Process“.

In this guest post Neil summarises the approaches taken at the University of Edinburgh to agile usability testing. Note that this post was originally posted on LinkedIn.

Making Usability Testing Agile

Usability testing in an agile development process

Spaces are still available for the half-day workshop on
“Usability testing in an agile development process”

I’ve been running regular usability testing observation sessions as part of an agile project we’re running at the University of Edinburgh to enhance the new Content Management System we’re delivering, and to bring the development team closer to the end user.

Fitting usability testing into an agile process is quite challenging (we operate 9 day iterations spanning 3 weeks at a time) as time is always tight, but the methodology I’ve put together is working really well.

At the end of 2014, I ran an open invite session for web publishers, developers and project managers from around the University, to give colleagues an insight into how we’re doing this, and to allow them to participate in the process.

In this post (based on a something I wrote for our team blog), I’m basically writing up what I said so that readers can get a good idea of how I fit regular usability testing into a very tight development schedule.

Original post on the University of Edinburgh Website Programme blog

24 staff from around the University joined the CMS development team to watch 3 usability tests and contribute prioritised issues to address.

I’ve included links to the slides and am happy to help anyone who wants to try it for themselves. It’s pretty easy and the resources I use are freely available.

What we’re trying to achieve

The first thing to be clear about is that this isn’t about agile development. It’s about achieving regular, rapid, inclusive usability testing that results in measurable improvements, and with minimal overheads. So it will work for you regardless of any development methodology you’re following.

I’ve run a usability testing training course for years and had over 600 colleagues around the University attend. As Steve Krug says, “It’s not rocket science” and I think most leave my training seeing just how easy it is to get insight into the effectiveness of their website or application. Many go on to put the training into practice.

Usability testing training session overview and participant feedback

But there are challenges, and I overhauled this training a couple of years ago to cover what happens after you’ve done a few tests and identified what you feel you need to do to improve.

The challenges staff have raised with me (and I’ve encountered myself at times):

  • Getting the go ahead to use your time on usability testing
  • Getting colleagues to take on board what you uncover
  • Getting fixes to problems implemented

And challenges such as these aren’t just faced by people like you and me. Usability and user experience professionals the world over encounter blockers such as these every day.

Caroline Jarrett and Steve Krug presented research on the topic: Why usability problems go unfixed

I have additional challenges playing the role of UX Lead for the development of the new University CMS, the main one being that this is not a formally recognised role within Information Services and there are no formal usability-related processes in their approach to software development. But on the plus side, this has given me scope to experiment and innovate and it’s helped drive me to where we are now and the approach that we take.

Our process

I’m going to say right now that there’s nothing particularly innovative going on here, and that I didn’t invent any of it – I’m just standing on the shoulders of giants. Mainly Steve Krug, with a bit of help from David Travis.

The majority of what is covered below (minus a few tweaks) is from Steve’s fantastic book: Rocket Surgery Made Easy. After running sessions for a few months, I also discovered the Gov.UK user research blog which highlighted that they’re just a bit further down the same road I’ve taken us.

Have you had your recommended dose of research? – Gov.UK user research blog post

What we do:

  1. Get the right people in a room
  2. Watch a small number of short sessions with users doing something
  3. Prioritise the issues we see
  4. Collaboratively consolidate their priority lists
  5. Agree actions for usability issues
  6. Repeat every few weeks

Who are the right people? Basically everyone with a stake in the development. No exceptions. Our time is so tight that I’ve negotiated within the team to ensure that at least one representative from each area of activity is present. Ideally the whole team would be present to observe but it’s not an ideal world. So this means I always have at least: a project manager, a developer, a service manager, and a training and support representative. Sometimes I manage to get a more senior stakeholder in the room for at least some of the time too. So a minimum of 4 colleagues see what I see, and sometimes we’ve had 9 or 10.

What do we watch? We watch real CMS users undertaking tasks in usability testing sessions that I facilitate. The focus for the session is agreed a week or two in advance so that I can plan scenarios and make sure we have a representative environment to work in, and also so that the team can focus my attention to whatever they feel is most appropriate. Typically this is an area which is causing concern or an area where we’re about to begin adding new features.

How many participants? In the presentation I use the graph from Jakob Nielsen’s famous article, “Why you only need to test with 5 users” but what I actually said was “As many as you can fit into the time you have (so probably not very many)”. In practice for us, with 3 hours allotted for this activity, we watch 3 participants for about 20-30 minutes each which leaves us with enough time to discuss at the end.

Jakob Nielsen: “Why you only need to test with 5 users”

How do we prioritise? We all make our own notes, and at the end of each participant’s session, we each fill in a form independently that logs the top 3 issues we observed. So at the end of the session we have each filled in a form with 9 blank spaces. We may have written down the same 3 issues for all 3 participants, but not usually.

The CMS development team discuss the issues they’ve noted during the usability testing session.

How do we consolidate? In the early months we just did this through an open discussion, but I found it quite hard to keep the discussion on track and therefore on time. Time ran on and people needed to leave so getting real consensus was difficult. And then I remembered David Travis’ usability issue prioritisation flowchart and more recently we’ve been using this. This has helped keep the post-test conversation to about 30 minutes and provided greater transparency about how we prioritise.

And so out of this, we have a list of prioritised issues that we assign to members of the team to action. The action might be:

  • Get this prioritised for upcoming development (because the solution is “obvious”).
  • Make changes to our training and support processes.
  • Add to challenges for future prototyping of new interfaces and processes for additional testing (because we don’t have consensus on how to improve the situation, or the best solution would be costly to implement so we want to be assured it’s right before we commit the development time).

Benefits of this approach

For the development team:

  • We get closer to our CMS users – and immediately see the impact of our efforts
  • We gain shared insight & experience
  • We confirm ownership of the priority issues
    • What to fix immediately
    • What to do better next time we’re developing in that part of the system
    • What we thought was a problem that turns out to be something we can live with

For me:

  • The process keeps set up and organisation of session to a minimum
  • No report writing – just a single wiki page logging what we did and a table of priority issues and actions
  • Doing this regularly moves the culture of the team on, emphasising CMS usability on the development agenda

What we need to do better

I have two challenges that I continue to work on:

  1. How do we minimise usability issues making it in to the system in the first place?
  2. How do I get more of the right people in the room, more often and for longer?

How do we minimise usability issues making it in to the system in the first place?

This is tricky because we’re working in Drupal, an open source CMS. This means our developers rarely create stuff from scratch. They’re drawing on a community of developers’ existing work which means the cheapest solution is to just take it as it is. We have inconsistencies in presentation, labelling and functionality which need to be prioritised to be addressed. This of course gets us back to why I’m doing this testing in the first place.

Developer time is so tight, it’s difficult sometimes to find the space to discuss just how we’d like something to work to the level of detail we’d all like. Ideally I would work with developers to understand what was cost effective to work on and what we should probably leave as is before I went off to prototype and conduct early usability testing. But this can’t always happen and I have to work with what I receive from developers as a first pass. However, going back to why we’re doing this testing, the more our developers see real users interacting with the product, the more likely they are to make better decisions independently (not that our developers don’t make a lot of good decisions of course!) and we get more (more) right first time.

How do I get more of the right people in the room, more often and for longer?

As I mentioned earlier, we have agreed a minimal attendance from the team but the benefit of this process comes from everyone seeing the same thing with their own eyes, and discussing it together. Everyone on the team agrees it’s a very worthwhile initiative but unfortunately we all have other pressures and commitments. We continue to discuss and evolve our wider working practices and I hope that this activity can further enhance the perception of value in usability research on the project.

What are you waiting for? Try it yourself!

So there you have it. Not that hard at all, particularly if you just take on the same materials and processes I have. The benefits are cumulative I think. With every month that you get stakeholders back together to watch users the greater the momentum behind the user focus grows.

We use Steve Krug’s form to log 3 issues for each participant, to be discussed and prioritised at the end of the session.

Have a look at my slides and drop me a line if you have any questions. All the resources and further reading are in the slides, but essentially all you need is:

You can download my slides from Slideshare if you want to dig a bit deeper.

Sessions slides on

After the event – the feedback

Colleagues from across the University that came along to our open session were incredibly positive both on the day and after it in comments on the session wiki page.

I think the session worked in 3 different ways:

  • Users of our current CMS got a preview of how they’ll undertake key tasks in the future. We were open about where we’re up to, including the flaws we still need to deal with.
  • Members of our web management community got to highlight issues they saw in the new system, and contribute to an open and democratic means of prioritising the severity of issues.
  • Developers, project managers and website owners gained some experience of a way to approach usability testing that is efficient, inclusive and more likely to result in improvements being made.

A few snippets from the feedback I received:

“…[the session] gave me a few good ideas to use when user testing my own websites, particularly the flowchart for prioritising issues and the instructions for usability test observers… [I] will be trying these out in February when testing a website we’re developing… I also enjoyed collaborating with other university staff.”

“…[the session] highlighted the importance and difficulties of user testing someone ‘live’. I noticed that myself and other participants began focusing on aspects of the design which we thought should be improved regardless of whether those aspects actually caused the participant any issues. So I took away from it the realisation that a bit of focus and discipline in observation is needed…”

“It was good to see users in action and how the new university website is shaping up. It was an interesting insight into user testing and definitely gave me ideas for our own user testing. I think the prioritisation flowchart was really useful and I think I will use this myself in the future. Another thing to mention, is that it was good to see other staff from the university and collaborate.

“Overall, excellent… The slides …and notes I took will help myself and colleagues greatly as we undertake user experience sessions in the coming weeks… The session was extremely useful and provided valuable insight and guidance on how to run UX sessions that provide measurable results.”

About the Author

Neil AllisonNeil Allison is UX Manager at the University of Edinburgh Website Programme. Here he steers the evolution of the University website’s information architecture and the user experience of the corporate content management system. He also oversees the provision of training and support to the University’s web publishing community.

The University of Edinburgh is a large, research-led institution and a member of the Russell Group. The student body totals almost 34,000 with over 11,000 engaged in postgraduate study, supported by  over 12,000 staff.

The University Website Programme began life as a project team in 2006, becoming established as a Programme two years later. Its function is to manage the corporate content management system (used by over 1000 staff in around 90 business units), promote and support best practice in website management and to facilitate the ongoing enhancement of the site in areas of cross-institutional collaboration. The primary focus at present is the development of a new CMS (using Drupal) and the migration of websites, users and processes to the new platform.  This transition will be completed by the end of 2015.

Contact details

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IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2015

IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings

IWMW 2015 home pageI’m pleased to announce that bookings are now open for IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series of annual Institutional Web Management Workshops, which provide development opportunities for those with responsibilities for the provision of institutional web sites or development and implementation of digital strategies in the UK’s higher/further education sector.

The Content

As is the norm the IWMW 2015 event will last for 3 days, starting after lunch on Monday 27 July and finishing before lunch on Wednesday 29 July.

The event consists on a number of plenary talks together with interactive workshop sessions, which provide an opportunities for participants to actively engage in discussions of areas of interest.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be two talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc and LinkedIn.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session in which experienced web managers will address the topic “What does the future hold?

An innovation this year is the series of half-day master classes, which provide more time for participants to explore areas of interest.  The master classes are grouped into the following themes:

  • Embed Yourself in an Institutional Web Team:  Managers of two institutional web teams (based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bradford University) will facilitate sessions which will provide opportunities to learn how other web teams address challenges they are facing.
  • Agile Working: Managers of two institutional web teams (based at the universities of Edinburgh and Bath) explore approaches to agile working for content creation, delivery and standards and usability testing.
  • Perspectives from Beyond the Sector: Staff from three commercial companies which work closely with the higher education community with Lessons facilitate master classes on Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies, Exploring the Use of CMSs across Higher Education and Radical Simplification.

The Cost

The cost of the IWMW 2015 event is £390 which covers two nights’ accommodation, workshop materials, lunch on the second day, the conference dinner and a wine reception. For those who do not require accommodation the price is £300.

Note due to the limited size of the main lecture theatre we will not be able to host as many participants as recent years. In addition there are limits to the numbers of participants in the workshop sessions and master classes. We therefore recommend early booking!



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IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2015

IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings

IWMW 2015 home pageI’m pleased to announce that bookings are now open for IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series of annual Institutional Web Management Workshops, which provide development opportunities for those with responsibilities for the provision of institutional web sites or development and implementation of digital strategies in the UK’s higher/further education sector.

The Content

As is the norm the IWMW 2015 buy zithromax online cheap event will last for 3 days, starting after lunch on Monday 27 July and finishing before lunch on Wednesday 29 July.

The event consists on a number of plenary talks together with interactive workshop sessions, which provide an opportunities for participants to actively engage in discussions of areas of interest.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be two talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc and LinkedIn.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session in which experienced web managers will address the topic “What does the future hold?

An innovation this year is the series of half-day master classes, which provide more time for participants to explore areas of interest.  The master classes are grouped into the following themes:

  • Embed Yourself in an Institutional Web Team:  Managers of two institutional web teams (based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bradford University) will facilitate sessions which will provide opportunities to learn how other web teams address challenges they are facing.
  • Agile Working: Managers of two institutional web teams (based at the universities of Edinburgh and Bath) explore approaches to agile working for content creation, delivery and standards and usability testing.
  • Perspectives from Beyond the Sector: Staff from three commercial companies which work closely with the higher education community with Lessons facilitate master classes on Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies, Exploring the Use of CMSs across Higher Education and Radical Simplification.

The Cost

The cost of the IWMW 2015 event is £390 which covers two nights’ accommodation, workshop materials, lunch on the second day, the conference dinner and a wine reception. For those who do not require accommodation the price is £300.

Note due to the limited size of the main lecture theatre we will not be able to host as many participants as recent years. In addition there are limits to the numbers of participants in the workshop sessions and master classes. We therefore recommend early booking!



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Master Classes at IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Apr 2015

Strengths and Weakness of Workshops at IWMW Events

iwmw-logo-transparentIn a recent post I asked “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?“. In the post I pointed out that the eduWeb and HighEdWeb conferences, the two main events for web professionals in higher education in the US, both provide half-day or full-day workshop sessions (which are sometimes referred to as ‘master classes’). The Eduweb conference site explains how:

Starting in 2014, the eduWeb Digital Summit launched a new event, the Master Class.

  • Intense, interactive classroom with top-notch faculty
  • Limited to approximately 35 participants
  • Maximum peer-to-peer dialogue
  • Hands-on activities and instruction

IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series, has always provided workshop sessions since it was launched in 1997, which provide an opportunity for participants to actively engage in workshop activities. However the workshops have normally lasted for 90 minutes, with the IWMW 2000 event being the most recent event which hosted a number of workshop sessions lasting for 3 hours.

Although 90 minute workshops enable participants to attend a wider range of sessions they provide limited opportunities to engage more deeply in the area covered by the workshop. This year, at IWMW 2015, we have therefore decided to provide 90 minute workshop sessions together with a number of ‘master classes’ which will last for 3 hours.

Master Classes at IWMW 2015

Although the programme for the IWMW 2015 is still being finalised we are able to provide the following information about the master classes.

Working with other web teams: The introduction of the 3 hour workshop sessions has provided an opportunity for members of a small number of institutional web team to share their approaches to their work, describe their success and the challenges they’ve faced. The master classes will provide opportunities to ’embed’ oneself in another web team for a short period not only to learn from their approaches but also to provide your expertise and insights into the challenges they are facing. The web teams will represent a cross-section of the UK higher education community and will include Edge Hill University, Liverpool John Moores University and the universities of Bath, Bradford and Edinburgh.

Further information on the areas to be covered in these sessions will be provided when the IWMW 2015 programme if officially launched but I am able to provide the title for the master class to be facilitated by the University of Bath’s Digital team: “Working in an agile way – content creation, delivery and standards” in which participants will “ learn how to adopt an agile approach to content creation, delivery and standards and about the role of discovery; how to hold a user story planning workshop; practical tools and techniques for delivering a content-led project using an iterative approach; how to establish digital standards through blogging and community building exercises and reporting on success.”

Working with commercial providers: In the early years of IWMW events the sessions were mainly provided by members of the community. However in light of the importance of the web it is now widely acknowledged that institutional web teams are not able to cover their wide range of activities in isolation. There are now a number of commercial vendors and consultants who work with institutional web teams who are able to support their activities. We have been fortunate at IWMW events in attracting sponsorship from the commercial sector over a period of many years. This year in addition to the sponsorship, which enables the event to be priced at  a competitive level, we will also be hosting a number of master class which will be provided by commercial sponsors. These include Headscape who will be running a session on “Lessons learned from helping HE institutions develop their digital strategies“. Details of additional master classes provided by sponsors are currently being finalised and further information should be available next week

Please note that the master classes have not yet been finalised and there may be changes made prior to the launch of the programme.

About IWMW 2015

The IWMW 2015 event will be held at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July. The event web site will be launched shortly which will contain details of the full programme, the social events and the price. Note that in recent years the cost of the event has been £350 which has included 2 night’s accommodation – we hope to keep this year’s price close to this level, depending on the amount of sponsorship we receive.




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What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Apr 2015

IWMW Events: Learning From One’s Peers

A recent post on Revisiting Ideas for IWMW 2015 explored some ideas for possible sessions at this year’s IWMW 2015 event which has the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution”.

IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, has, since its launch in 1997, provided a forum for learning about new web developments, sharing experiences, developing one’s professional networks and, last but not least,  having some fun!

It is valuable to be able to learn from one’s peers and the institutional case studies which have been presented at IWMW events have provided an opportunity to learn from others in the sector who are typically facing similar challenges. However it can also be useful to explore the approaches which are being taken beyond the UK higher education sector in order to learn from others and avoid the risks associated with the echo chamber and confirmation biases of seeking support for one’s preferred approaches to providing institutional web services, for ‘thinking digital’ and, moving to the next steps in ‘transforming the institution’.

Learning From Others

Back in February 2009 I asked What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference? It’s timely, I feel, to revisit that question but with a broader focus.  The question for me, therefore, is “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?”.

The Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb)

heweb 2015 conferenceThe Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb) is “an organization of Web professionals working at institutions of higher education“”. As described on the HighEdWeb web site: “We design, develop, manage and map the futures of higher education websites. Our mission is to “strive to advance Web professionals, technologies and standards in higher education.”

HighEdWeb’s involvement in organising events for web professions in higher education dates back to 2004when the organisation “joined forces with WebDevShare to create an annual international conference where the community can come together to learn, share and network. The Association also runs a series of smaller, targeted regional conferences around the United States“.

The HighEdWeb annual conference seems to have many parallels with IWMW events: the conferences are:

created by and for higher education Web professionals. This not-for-profit conference offers high-quality presentations, speakers and events at affordable rates. From Web developers, marketers and programmers to managers, designers, writers and all team members in-between, HighEdWeb provides valuable professional development experience for all those who want to explore the unique Web issues facing colleges and universities.

The year’s conference will be held on 4-7 October in Milwaukee  at the Hilton Milwaukee Downtown. The call for proposals is currently open with three types of sessions available: (1) 45-Minute conference presentation;  (2) poster presentation and (3)  3.5 hour workshop session.

The conference rates are HighEdWeb member rate: $725 (£490) and  non-member rate: $825 (£558) for earl registration with the full conference rates being  $850 (£575) member rate  and $950 (£642) non-member rate. In addition the workshops cost an additional $160 (£108) for one workshop or $220 (£149) for two workshops. It should be noted that these rates do not include accommodation, which costs from $177 (£119) per night.

Although the conference programme has not yet been finalised the structure of the event is as follows:

  • Sunday, 4 October: pre-conference workshops and welcome reception
  • Monday, 5 October: keynote and track sessions; breakfast, lunch and snacks provided; dinner on your own and HighEdWeb “AfterDark” and hackathon
  • Tuesday, 6 October: track sessions; keynote sessions; poster sessions; breakfast, lunch and snacks provided and HighEdWeb “Big Social Event”
  • Wednesday, 7 October: track sessions; closing keynote and post-conference workshops.

The main differences with IWMW events are the Sunday start; the poster sessions and the post-conference workshops. Both events provide an evening for delegates to make their own choices for dinner and a social event although IWMW events also provide a conference dinner.

Looking at the timetables for HighEdWeb 2010 (held in Cincinnati),  HighEdWeb  2011 (held in Austin, Texas), HighEdWeb  2012  (held in Milwaukee), HighEdWeb  2013 (held in Buffalo) and HighEdWeb  2014 (held in Portland, Oregon) have all had a similar structure although last year’s event began with the first part leadership academy on the Saturday which also ran from 8am to 4pm on the Sunday!

The HighEdWeb  2014 conference began with four half-day workshop sessions which were held on the Sunday afternoon: Developing and Maintaining Web Content: An Idea Generating Workshop; Video Production Workshop; Get on Track with Content Strategy and Is my .edu accessible?.

Over the remaining 2.5 days of the conference the sessions were split into a number of parallel sessions including Applications, Integration and Mobile; Development, Programming and Architecture; Marketing, Content and Social Strategy; Management and Professional Development; Technology in Education and Sponsors sessions, as illustrated.

HEweb 2014 timetable Monday 20-oct

After a concluding plenary session and lunch the conference finished with the second set of workshop sessions on Finding Your Way: Fixing (Conflicting) Map Data and Building an Interactive Campus MapNavigating Social Media in Higher EducationA Nuts-and-Bolts Introduction to Client-side Interactivity with jQuery and AJAX; Responsive web design and Let’s face it: We’re not sixteen anymore.

The EduWeb Conference

EduWeb 2015 timetableAs described on the HigherEdExperts web site the eduWeb Digital Summit (the eduWeb Conference) is

an annual, internationally recognized event for the higher education community, attracting those who are involved in the design, development, marketing, strategy and implementation of their online presence.

This year’s event will be held at the Westin Downtown hotel, Chicago on 27-30 July. The event features four tracks including: digital marketing; web development and web strategy.

The programme for this year’s event is available. As can be seen from the screen shot of the timetable for the opening day the event mainly consists of plenary talks which, unlike the HighEdWeb conference, are not split into parallel streams. The third and final day of the conference does provide four sessions entitled Breakfast with the Best which take place before the closing plenary talk. After the lunch break there is a half-day workshop on “Closing the Loop: Gathering and Using the Right Data to …… Evaluate Your Marketing Initiatives“. The day after the conference features a full-day master class entitled “How to Use Market Research to Capture the Essence of Your Institution“.

EduWeb 2014 brochureIt should also be noted that the programme for the EduWeb 2012 (held in Boston), Eduweb 2013 (held in Boston) and EduWeb 2014 (held in Baltimore) events are available (links are to PDF files).

The costs of the EduWeb conference are:

  • Platinum Package (pre- and post-workshop sessions, master class and full conference): $1,305 (£882).
  • Gold Package (one workshop and conference ): $705 (£476):
  • Conference (early bird rate): Delegate: $795 (£537) – Speaker: $695 (£470)
  • Conference (full rate): Delegate: $895 (£605) – Speaker: $795 (£537)
  • Half-day Workshops — $195 (£132) (doesn’t include lunch)
  • Full-day Master Class: $595 (£402)

It should be noted that these rates do not cover accommodation, which costs $229 + tax (£155) per night.



The first thing which struck me was how affordable IWMW events are in comparison with the HE Web and EduWeb conferences. As described in a post about IWMW 2014 the IWMW 2014 event cost £350 which included 2 nights’ accommodation – and this has been the maximum price over the past 5 years. The following table summarises the typical costs for the events (where early bird rates are available these are shown).

Table 1: Costs of IWMW, HE Web and EduWeb conferences
Cost Length Covers Note
IWMW £350 2.5 days Conference, workshops, breakfasts, lunches, conference dinner, social event and 2 nights accommodation Student accommodation provided.
HE Web £490 2.5 days Conference, breakfasts, lunches, conference dinner, social event and social event but no accommodation Additional £108 for one or £149 for two half-day workshops. Accommodation from $119 +tax per night.
EduWeb £537 2.5 days Conference, breakfasts and social events but no accommodation Additional £132 and/or £402 for half-day workshops / full day master class. Accommodation from $155 + tax per night.

The low costs of the IWMW event reflects its origin as a JISC-funded event delivered by UKOLN. However the need for the event to now cover its costs may necessitate increases in the charges to attendees – a possibility which was acknowledged in discussions at least year’s event.

Although  increases in the cost of attending the event would enable more resources to be spent on enhancing the event it should also be acknowledged that now, in the run-up to the General Election, is probably not an ideal time to increase the costs of providing professional development activities – the higher education sector is suffering the effect of austerity cuts :-(


HEWeb sponsors logos: 2014For several years the IWMW event has accepted sponsorship. However in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest with JISC we ensured that the sponsorship was used to cover the costs of social events and conference ‘schwag‘ such as rucksacks, badges, etc.

Looking at the list of sponsors for the HighEdWeb 2014 (illustrated) and EduWeb 2015 conferences it would appear that organisers for these events have been pro-active in attracting sponsorship. The list of sponsorship opportunities for EduWeb 2015 provides details of the range of sponsorship opportunities available at this year’s EduWeb conference, which range from $1,500 (£1,012) for sponsoring tracks at the event, the opening and closing keynote and the lunch session with other rates available for sponsors’ branding at meals and coffee breaks, for the event WiFi and for advertisements or inserts in the conference programme.


It was interesting to read the details  about HighEdweb: on its web site it describes how “HighEdweb is an organization of web professionals working at institutions of higher education” and goes on summarize its missions:

HighEdweb strives to advance web professionals, technologies and standards in higher education.

its purpose:

HighEdweb is an organization of professionals working to advance the web at institutions of higher education. We design, develop, manage and map the futures of higher education digital communications and services.

and its core values:

  • Being Trustworthy: We do the right thing; we keep our commitments; we strive for excellence.
  • Being Openness: We strive for transparency in our actions; we value open access to knowledge and resources; We support tools and approaches that cultivate free exchange, participation and community building.
  • Fostering Collaboration: We encourage sharing and teamwork; we support our members’ success and needs; we foster a culture of service within the organization; we provide opportunities to share knowledge and ideas.

Is there a need, I wonder, for IWMW to transform from being a well-established annual event for Web professionals to forming the core of a professional association for those involved in providing Web services in higher education in the UK’s higher education sector? Perhaps this is a topic which should be addressed at IWMW 2015.


As described in a recent post the call for submissions for IWMW 2015. I hope the links to the programmes for the HE Web and EduWeb conferences may provide some additional ideas for those considering submitting proposals.

From the forthcoming EduWeb 2015 event I noticed the following half-day workshop sessions which I feel would be of interest to IWMW 2015 attendees:

  • Managing the Unmanageable: Web Governance in Higher Education
  • The Explosion of Video Marketing: People prefer watching video to reading text, who knew?

Plenary talks on topics I also think would be interesting include:

  • Social Media strand: “#CollegeBound: Using Instagram to Impact Yield“; “How to Use YouTube and Hangouts on Air for Creating Differentiated Video Content” and “You have it, now use it: Extracting measurable value out of enterprise social media
  • Web Intelligence+ strand: “User Testing on a Shoestring“; “Optimizing the User Experience for .EDU Websites“; “Multilingual Campus Websites – Opportunities and Challenges” and “Data isn’t Just for Geeks Anymore!
  • Technical Design & Development strand: “Kickstarting Engagement Strategies with Drupal and …” and “Web Wedding Announcement: Google Analytics and Customer
  • Digital MarCom strand: “Mobilizing Ambassadors to Communicate Your School’s Story

From last year’s HighEdWeb 2014 event the following talks seemed of interest

Returning to the question I posed earlier: “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?” I feel looking at the business and governance models provided for events aimed at Web professionals in higher education as well as the content of similar professional development events held in the US is helpful in exploring options for IWMW, both in the immediate future (IWMW 2015) and beyond.

I also feel that we should explore the longer term issues of the sustainability of the Web management community in UK higher education institutions during IWMW 2015. But there is no reason why the discussions shouldn’t begin today – so feel free to give your thoughts as a comment to this post.

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Revisiting Ideas for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Mar 2015

Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution

A recent post on this blog announced the Call For Submissions for IWMW 2015. The post suggested that the theme for this year’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop should be along the lines of “Thinking Digital”. Subsequent discussions with members of the IWMW 2015 advisory group (Ross Ferguson, Mike McConnell, Alison Kerwin, Clare Gibbons and Mike Nolan, the local organiser at Edge Hill University) led to a subsequent refinement of this idea. It was suggested that the challenge we now face is how we break out of a purely operational role and play a sustained, strategic role at the core of the University business. It was agreed that the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution” summarises this challenge nicely.

Technology in Higher Education: Defining the Strategic Leader

Technology in higher education: defining the strategic leaderWe seem to be seeing changes in the roles played by those with responsibilities in this area, with managers and policy makers increasingly acting as advocates for business change. In this regard the joint report between Jisc and EDUCAUSE on “Technology in higher education: defining the strategic leader” was timely. The report suggest that underlying technological shifts in personal, professional and academic life can provide opportunities for IT leaders to reshape the image of IT and their own role within the institution which IT leaders can achieve in a number of ways:

  • Campaign for a seat at the top table: Clearly demonstrate how IT touches and provides value to many aspects of the institution. Executive peers often have an incomplete understanding of IT and technological issues, and the IT leader needs to paint a compelling picture of the value IT does and can bring.
  • Speak their language: A perception often still exists at the board level that IT leaders are technologists alone, and there is an unease with the language of technology. Don’t start talking about the technology. Start by talking about the business value.
  • Coach executive-level staff: No matter how well an IT leader mentors IT staff, if IT leaders aren’t coaching campus leaders outside IT, they will face significant barriers to success.
  • Build credibility: Deliver on the promises you make, and colleagues will trust you. ‘Talk the talk and walk the walk’.

Such observations would also appear to be very relevant for those with responsibilities for managing an institution’s digital presence, so I would hope that the report will help to identify possible areas which could be addressed at the IWMW 2015 event.

What is a Digital Strategy? 

However an Accenture report which asked “What is a digital strategy?“, also published in March 2015, suggests that “Digital strategy is not IT strategy, and requires a different approach” and goes on to describe how:
Going mobile, adding analytics, or extending the online experience begs the question what’s next? These investments often changed the form of interaction, with limited change to the function. Transforming the business with digital, particularly in the marketing area, makes sense in the face of changing consumer expectations, options and information. As organizations near the end of their first digital journey and complete their initial roadmap, the question of digital strategy re-joins the executive agenda. 

The report concludes by Refining the definition of digital and strategy which it summarises as:

  • Digital is the application of information and technology to raise human performance.
  • Strategy is setting a direction, sequencing resources and making commitments.

IWMW 2015: Supporting the Transformation of Your Institution

The call for submissions for IWMW 2015 is open. I hope the two reports I have mentioned will help to stimulate ideas for talks and workshop sessions for the IWMW 2015 event, which will be held at Edge Hill University during the week beginning 27 July. If you would like to discuss a possible proposal feel free to get in touch.

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Call For Submissions for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Mar 2015

About IWMW

A year ago, in a post entitled “Call For Submissions for IWMW 2014” I reviewed the history of IWMW, the Institutional Web Management Workshop series which was launched in 1997 and, from 1997 to 2013, provided the main annual event organised by UKOLN in its role as a national JISC-funded Innovation Support Centre.

Following JISC’s cessation of core-funding for UKOLN the future of the event was uncertain. However requests from many members of the UK higher education’s web management community made it clear that there was still demand for such an event. Last year I was therefore able to announce that:

I’m pleased to announced that the IWMW event will continue! The IWMW 2014 event will be held at the University of Northumbria on 16-18 July.

IWMW 2014: evaluation of event organisationIWMW 2014: evaluation of event contentThe IWMW 2014 event was a great success: details of the programme were announced on 14 April 2014, with a report and a summary of the feedback provided in the evaluation forms was published in August 2014.

In addition to the valuable comments which were made the feedback for the overall rating of the content of the event and the organisation was particularly impressive. As shown in the accompanying graphs on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) the majority of respondents felt that the content was either excellent or very good, with an overall rating of 4.3 and 75% of the respondents gave a rating of excellent for the organisation of the event (the overall rating was 4.7).

The comments provided about the event show the value which participants place on the event:

  • Highly recommended, the IWMW event offers the chance to network with colleagues from other higher education institutions across the country. The event is always well attended and you can expect to see a variety of knowledgeable presenters and take part in individual workshops over the course of the 3 days, as well as get the chance go out and socialise and take in some of your surroundings.
  • I found IWMW 2014 to be practical, encouraging, empowering, and enthusiastic. Brilliant opportunity to network with other people in the sector, and learn that you’re not just on your own. Other teams are going through exactly the same things. Definitely the best IWMW conference I’ve been to.
  • Over the years IWMW events have had more positive and direct effect on my career, the working practices of my team, and the University of Aberdeen than any other developmental conferences or activity. The only opportunity for UK HE’s web professionals to gather in person, compare practices and reflect on current challenges. An engaging and thought provoking event that challenges those in the sector to look ahead and see the possibilities as well as the pitfalls.
  • IWMW has been a constant in my working life since 2003. It allows me space to think, to test new ideas and to develop a strong social and professional network. With contacts built through IWMW I can contact folk anywhere across the UK on any one of a number of (often specialist) topics for a useful insight or debate.
  • Should be in the calendar of every web professional in the higher ed sector. Quality sessions, a great community and excellent value for money make it a no-brainer for me. IWMW offers a unique opportunity for digital professionals to come together, share experiences and learn from each.

IWMW 2015: Call for Submissions

IWMW 2015: Call for Submissions

In light of the strong support for the IWMW 2015 I am pleased to announce that call for submissions for IWMW 2015 is now open.

This year’s event will be held at Edge Hill University during the week beginning 27 July (the exact dates are still to be confirmed)

Submissions for plenary talks (lasting for 45 minutes) and workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes) are invited. In addition we also welcome proposals for other approaches for engaging with the participants which might include panel sessions, debates or masterclasses (lasting for 3 hours).

Although IWMW events have also provided a forum for those who work in institutional web management teams to share their experiences with their peers we have also found that speakers from the commercial sector have proved useful so we also welcome submissions from the commercial sector.

Submissions can be made using the online submission form. If you would like to discuss possible proposals feel free to send an email to

Theme for IWMW 2015

At last year’s event the most highly rated plenary speaker was Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath; 78% thought his talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website ” was Excellent and 22% felt it was Very Good.

In light of this talk and subsequent discussions we feel that Thinking Digital’ might be an appropriate theme for this year’s event. However we welcome suggestions for other variants on this theme. As ever comments on this blog posts are welcomed.

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