Show & Tell, August 1 2014

Posted in: Show & Tell

The first Show & Tell of August was action-packed, with five (count 'em) fast and furious presentations on everything from live demos of our new development workflow model, to the process behind the streamlining and increased user-focus of many of our Professional Services sites.

How to COPE (in just five minutes) - Rich

Rich talked us through how a content reuse strategy - based on adaptive content - allows you to Create Once Publish Everywhere, helping us to:

  • create relevant user experiences
  • reduce duplication
  • make content future ready (for all types of devices)

To achieve this, we need to focus on three things:

  1. Separating content from presentation
  2. Structuring content, by moving it from blobs to chunks
  3. Establishing content governance - roles and responsibilities for how it's managed

Rich used our undergraduate prospectus to demonstrate how content could be chunked. Work that will be continued as we build our new prospectus app.

Professional services user stories - Justin

Justin talked us through how he and Paul have used a combination of user stories and content strategy to motor through streamlining and updating multiple professional services sites.

User stories have helped them to determine:

  • who the audience is
  • the real needs of real people
  • the shape of site maps
  • how to shape content to ensure it's user-focused

Their typical process consists of:

  1. Content inventory - using our shiny new CMS audit tool, and Screaming Frog
  2. Department Project Team review - they use the inventory to decide if content should be delted, updated, or kept as is
  3. Analytics review - to highlight popular pages and user needs
  4. User stories - to identify audiences and their needs
  5. Gap analysis - reviewing all the data gathered in the previous steps to work out what new content's needed
  6. Content planning - lots of thinking to work out the best content flow and IA. And creating page tables for content creators to follow.

Working on one site with 43 pages - including seven separate FAQs, and two pages of dos and don'ts - with plenty of repetition, they spent:

  • one day writing user stories to understand the topic
  • three days removing duplicate content
  • four days rewriting content to match user needs

The result was a far clearer, user-focused and accessible site achieved in a fraction of the time.

His conclusion: user stories - great for product/feature development, invaluable for content creation.

Web security (and the man in the middle) - Tom N

In the first of a new mini-series on web security, Tom reminded us that hacking is rarely as glamorous as depicted on-screen, and is usually a combination of patience and exploiting vulnerabilities (particularly user vulnerabilities).

He described how - as a 'man in the middle' - an attacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messages between them, making them believe that they are talking directly to each other over a private connection, when in fact the entire conversation is controlled by the attacker.


And how these attacks can be set up as simply as creating a fake coffee shop wifi hotspot, in the hope that unsuspecting users will sort out their finances over a leisurely latte.

So, to stay safe (as possible):

  1. Double check the name of their Wifi access points with the staff
  2. Don't do your shopping or banking on them
  3. Be extra careful that you're only ever typing in your password over secure pages with https in the URL

GitHub Workflow - Kelvin

The dev and design teams have recently started to use GitHub as their version control tool of choice. Kelv bravely gave us a live demo of how it works, and talked us through its benefits.

GitHub works on the "branch" principle, with a discrete features added to a project by branching off a master branch (which should always be deployable) with a code review of any changes before they're merged back in to the master version.

The steps involved in branching and merging code in GitHub

Kelv showed us how GitHub let users:

  1. Create a branch - so that new features can be added without affecting the master project's ability to be deployed.
  2. Commit changes - with comments explaining what's been added, edited or deleted. And why.
  3. Open a pull request - which notifies other project members of proposed changes.
  4. Discuss and review code - allowing project members to suggest improvements or other changes
  5. Merge and deploy - adding new (and reviewed) features to the master project.

It’s gonna take longer than you think…  - Dan

Dan brought back some estimating know how from UX Bristol.

Estimating is easy. But your estimate is wrong. Estimates should only inform commitments, not be the sole basis for the commitment. Commitments should be made up of:

  • estimate
  • potential reward
  • appetite
  • capacity


If you commit before the Cone has narrowed, consider your strategy.

The cone does not narrow itself. You narrow the cone by:

  • removing unknowns
  • making decisions
  • designing & building

Three popular estimation methods:

fingers and thumbs - a quick and dirty way to get a sense of the variation in team members' estimates
relative estimates - assigning a number of story points to something familiar, then estimating other stories relative to the reference
affinity estimates - a method of ordering user stories relative to each other before assigning story points to them

Countering the planning fallacy

People focus on the most optimistic scenario for a task. But there are ways to counteract the planning fallacy:

  • be aware of it
  • be clear on what scope goes with the estimate
  • get second opinions (don’t estimate in a vacuum)
  • variations in estimates are a good thing - 'high' estimates can act a a warning of trouble ahead
  • estimate on a deadline - give yourself a day for big projects, an hour for small ones
  • beware the large cost of under-estimation
  • count/ compute/ compare
    • count something visible early on
    • do your sums
    • compare against previous projects

 Join us

We love sharing what we do. Show & Tell is open to all University staff - the next one's on Friday 15 August.

Posted in: Show & Tell