July 19, 2004

More Student Computing fun

I've just about finished putting together the Residences pages for the new Student Computing site, I think. I'm never quite happy with anything like this that I do though, as there's always things you can do to tweak it or change things around, and Sitebuilder lets you carry on doing that kind of thing for ever.

I'm also struggling to see objectively what people need in terms of information on how to connect to the residences network, having been using the network and working for the Piazza helpdesk for nearly a year now. Is all the information there? Is there too much irrelevant technical information in there? Is it buried too deep in the structure of the site? I just can't seem to tell.

I've also been trying to think how we can point students to all this information that we're putting up there on Student Computing. I think the material will help students to help themselves a lot more than they currently can (before they even get round to phoning the helpdesk), but that's obviously not much use if nobody knows it's there. The Residences section is currently hidden five levels below the top level in Sitebuilder, so clearly people aren't going to find it unless it's promoted in some other way.

For now I'm going to go back to the RCA documentation, while I try to mull over a few of these questions in my head. But if anyone has any ideas, I'd be glad to hear them :-)

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  1. Chris May

    I have a few suggestions:

    1) Talk to people! It's much more effective to try and collar some representitive users, and try the information out with them, than to try and work it out yourself in isolation. This is something we've really learned from previous developments, and we have (and will continue to) made quite heavy use of focus groups and the like when building blogs.warwick. Find someone who doesn't know anything about your stuff, and ask them to do something that a new student might want to do ('find and download some AV software'), then watch what they do.

    2) Talk to people in the comms. office, and see if you can get a link to some of your stuff on the student page on insite – that way it's a bit easier to find. See if you can get some links closer to the ITS homepage, too. Doing (1) can give you a good indication of where people look to find your stuff, so use the results of that to find the most effective places to put links.

    3) The uni. search engine can be 'rigged' to always return a particular page for a particular query. E.g. searching for 'Economics' will always return the economics homepage as the number one result. If there are similar search words that people are very likely to use when looking for your stuff, we may be able to sort something out.

    19 Jul 2004, 15:01

  2. Karen Mortimer

    I do quite a lot of work to help our customers design and build their web sites in SiteBuilder. One of the first pieces of advice that I give them is 'consider your audience'. As Chris says, it's really important to talk to the people who are going to be using your site. Ask them what kind of questions they might have in their minds when they come to your site for information. From this you should be able to put together and prioritise a list of the key bits of information that your audience would like/need. I usually recommend that this is done before a site is built, but there's nothing to stop you doing it now and getting your audience to test the site.

    As well as Chris' other suggestions about publicising the site, I would recommend that you get a go redirect (link), if you haven't already, and that you consider getting this address on some printed publicity. Perhaps in the student welcome pack or the IT Services student handbook (we're including an ad with the blogs.warwick.ac.uk address for example).

    Hope this helps.

    19 Jul 2004, 18:26

  3. Thanks, guys – definitely plenty plenty to think about there!

    20 Jul 2004, 09:26

  4. Hi Will,

    The irony is that the information about "connecting to the network" won't be seen by the people who can't connect their computers to the network.

    I guess you're hoping that a few Freshers in each corridor can connect their computer to the network, then show all the others how to connect, possibly using the pages you've designed as a reference?


    p.s Ste and I are around on campus this summer if you fancy meeting up sometime

    20 Jul 2004, 15:35

  5. link and link seem to say the same thing, but differ slightly. I'm unsure why a UK English version of the OS is required, unless this is tied to our (english) staff being able to provide assistance.

    The screenshots for the Win98 setup look very useful, and I expect you'll extend these to the other OS's too (although only insane people use ME) – but as the previous poster noted only people who can connect can see it, maybe it should all be on one page (with screenshots) so people can print it out.

    21 Jul 2004, 23:35

  6. We've tried to cut down on the requirements (just an Ethernet card and cable), but the choice of a UK English version of a Microsoft OS is still recommended for support purposes (despite feeling slightly uneasy about this personally :-). Perhaps this could be a little clearer, though.

    As for the screenshots, they didn't seem to work when I tried them inline in the text, but perhaps I'll put some PDFs together with them in, which should be a little easier to print.

    22 Jul 2004, 09:57

  7. Incidentally, the reason for the duplication of information between the Residences sections on the main ITS site and the Student Computing site is that the latter is intended as a replacement, with the information on the ITS site to be removed (or at least hidden).

    22 Jul 2004, 10:28

  8. Nick Hull

    If you think it would be useful, I am currently putting the welcome website together for all new students (go.warwick.ac.uk/welcome). If you want a link put on there feel free to email me some details.

    This is the site students will be given for online enrolment, rather than the enrolment url itself, in the hope they pick up all the latest 'news' (and then get to grips with forums and blogs etc)

    22 Jul 2004, 14:01

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