Cambridge University Design / UX group

First meeting write-up

Meeting: 14h30, March 19, 2009
Location: Dept of Earth Sciences

Thanks to everyone who came along. We had 10 attendees, from across the University, and with a wide range of experience and expertise amongst them.


Everyone introduced themselves, and told us a bit about what they have been working on, or what projects they have coming up. This included the very successful new UCAS online applications system [link?], animations on the Understanding Uncertainty website, the website support and training work that Magda and her colleagues do at MISD, the FreezeFrame website (an online collection of historic polar images), Departmental and Institution websites, and the work being carried out on the online interface to the University voicemail system.

One of the people who couldn’t make it to the meeting, Clare Yerbury from the Faculty of Education, wanted to share the following with the group, concerning her design experience:

“I work part-time alongside a programmer and webmaster within our web team – as a co-layout/designer with basic knowledge of html and css. As a result   I have tweaked our basic CMS shell to give separate sites to two of our research projects. I often find that some staff want print materials and or logos in addition to their web pages.”

Best practice

It was encouraging to hear several people recommend ideas of design best practice. Things like:

  • identify your target audience (the users)
  • create a prototype design (or selection of designs)
  • carry out usability testing early on
  • iterate


The free icon set that Martin mentioned is produced by FamFamFam, and is called Silk Icons.

Magda recommended the Morae user testing software, to help you record and replay what a tester did with your website or other applicaitons. You can even hook up cameras, and record your tester’s facial expressions as they experience your design.

Francis talked a bit about the Refresh Cambridge group as an interesting, local parallel for this University-based group.

Alan told us that the Computer Lab has a number of pieces of usuability reserach equipment, including things like an eye-tracker. These are not yet available for use by external projects, but it is a possibility that Alan and the lab are happy to consider. In terms of accessibility testing, we could contact David Mackay, who may have some useful resources. The Engineering Design Centre are doing a lot of research into disability and accessibility, as is Peter Robinson in the Computer Lab.

Tjhien reminded us that CARET are involved in lots of projects which involve researching user experience and interaction, and they are keen to offer their services across the University.

What’s next?

Throughout the meeting, we discussed a range of possible ‘models’ that this groups could use to guide its activities. These include

  • skills exchange
    this could be done via email or in person, to help individuals with aspects of projects they are working on. It could also feed into Tips and How Tos on this website, and on the Webmaster Wiki.
  • feedback and review
    being part of this group provides us with a ready-made testing panel whom we can turn to for feedback on the websites, web apps, or other interfaces we are working on. It was agreed that this kind of activity would be best carried out in person, and ideally amongst a group of us who know and trust each other pretty well! It is a brave person who stands up in front of a group of (expert) strangers, and invites criticism! So perhaps this is something that will develop as we go along.
  • expert advisory rôle
    there are all sorts of “user interfaces” being produced within the University, for a range of audiences. Perhaps we could at some point take an active role in advising on design and UX decisions… this is something that would need some careful planning, though, so not something that will be on the radar any time soon

These are some things to discuss in the future (maybe even on the mailing list), so that we can focus the rôle of the group.


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2 Responses

  1. Helen Sargan says:

    I meant to come yesterday but it slipped away from me at the last minute.

    My group in the Computing Service have Morae, which we use for usability testing. We can talk about doing usability testing for you if you need it. I also do one-to-one site clinics for people who want their sites assessed – these focus on usability and accessibility, information structure and design. In terms of the University departmental templates I have done some work adapting them for web applications, and more is coming up, so am happy to talk to people about that.

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