Digital Development Policy

Last updated May 2019

Scope

This policy defines the governance of the University’s core digital services in support of its overall vision and strategy. This policy covers all public digital services which could reasonably be deemed to be representing the University, including:

  1. the main university website (www.buckingham.ac.uk)
  2. social media accounts
  3. portals and sites on subdomains of the university website
  4. sites or services hosted elsewhere
  5. other digital media, such as video, podcasts and apps

The policy also covers internal student- and staff-facing services, such as:

  1. digital learning and teaching, including VLEs
  2. student communications
  3. university intranet

Purpose of the University’s digital services

The University aims to be student-focused in its approach. As such, our primary users are:

  1. Prospective students
  2. Current students

Other important audiences served by digital include:

  1. Alumni
  2. Parents and supporters of students
  3. External academics
  4. University staff
  5. The local community in Buckingham
  6. The general public, including press and media

The primary business objectives that our digital services serve are:

  1. Student recruitment
  2. Student satisfaction
  3. Staff & student performance and retention
  4. Income generation / return on investment

Digital development will be prioritised based on value to the users and contribution to the business objectives identified above.

Prioritisation is important because if we try to please everyone equally, we will most likely please no-one. But if we delight our primary users, we will likely satisfy our secondary users.

Development Principles

Digital content and services will be developed according to the following principles:[1]

  • Start with user needs
    We start with the needs of students and other users. Do research, analyse data, talk to users. Avoid assumptions. Have empathy for users, and remember that what they ask for is not always what they need.
  • Design with data
    Decisions should be driven by data, not hunches or guesswork. We learn from real world behaviour by looking at how existing services are used. Analytics should be built-in, always on and easy to read.
  • Iterate
    Successful digital services rely on continuing iteration. Start small, release minimum viable products early, test them with actual users, making refinements based on feedback. Content needs to be curated on an ongoing basis, updating or removing as needed. Iteration reduces risk. It makes big failures unlikely and turns small failures into lessons.
  • Make it simple
    Making something simple to use is hard ­– especially when the underlying systems are complex – but that is what we should be doing. “It’s always been that way” is not a good reason for doing something.
  • Be consistent yet flexible
    We should use the same language and design patterns wherever possible. This makes it easier for people to use our services, and helps maintain a consistent brand for University. But we recognise there are different contexts, and are free to improve or change our patterns when we find better ways of doing things, or when user needs change.
  • Build digital services, not webpages
    A service is something that helps people to do something. Our job is to uncover user needs, and build the service that meets those needs. Webpages are one tool among several. Online and offline complement each other, so we have to make sure they add up to something that meets the needs of students and other users.
  • Be open and avoid reinventing the wheel
    We share what we are doing where we can, with colleagues, users and the world. Where possible, use existing tools, processes, design patterns and software rather than something bespoke for the University or for a particular school, department or team. Prefer open platforms that are well-supported and integrate well with other systems to closed solutions.
  • Be accessible for everyone
    The primary principle is fast, reliable access to digital services for everyone. Services should be accessible regardless of disability (including sight, hearing or mobility) or the technology available to the user (such as screen size, or a slow internet connection). This is not only essential for meeting the needs of all our users, but a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010.

Development Process

Management structure

The overall digital development strategy, including policies and procedures, is determined by the Digital Strategy Group (DSG). The DSG shall meet no less than three times per term. The meetings should focus on digital strategy and policy, rather than on project approval or prioritisation.

To ensure timely decision-making in the fast moving digital world, the departments and teams involved in the work shall approval, prioritise and schedule of digital tasks and projects on an ongoing basis in line with established procedures and responsibilities.

Projects may be referred to the next DSG meeting in cases where there is ambiguity about how established strategy and principles apply, or where there is significant complexity or strategic impact that requires deeper discussion.

Services and content may be created both in-house by staff and students, and by external agencies. External agencies should be made aware of and follow the Digital Development Policy and related policies and procedures.

Digital service manual

The Digital Strategy Group shall be responsible for creating and maintaining a Digital Service Manual, consisting of policies, procedures and resources to enable the University to create and run good digital services.

The aims of the Digital Service Manual are to:

  • explain guiding principles and priorities for digital to staff
  • provide guidance on creating content for the web and social media
  • detail how to request digital development
  • provide a framework for operational decisions to be made rapidly.

Creation

The Digital Strategy Group shall identify guidance, policies and procedures that are needed as part of the University’s Digital Service Manual, and the key stakeholders that should be consulted in formulating them.

A draft should be produced for feedback from the DSG and other stakeholders, and the DSG shall either approve it or pass it back to the author for further revision.

Publication

New or updated policies shall be published to the Digital Service Manual, and announced through appropriate channels, such as all-staff meetings and emails. Where appropriate, training should be provided to staff on new policies or guidance.

Updates

Strategies and policies shall be reviewed at least every two years, or sooner as deemed necessary by the DSG.

Roles & Responsibilities

Digital Strategy Group

Membership should include representatives of all those categories of staff involved in the delivering digital services and content, including academic schools, IT, Marketing & Communications and Library Services.

Terms of Reference

  • To provide better service to students, ensuring a user-focused approach across the university.
  • To provide strategic direction and guidance to the University in its digital development.
  • To facilitate communication around existing and new digital activities.
  • To set and approve digital policy and procedures.
  • To support the development of digital skills and training.
  • To co-ordinate digital development across the University, prioritising actions for implementation as University-wide digital initiatives.

Membership

  • Head of Digital Experience (who shall be Chair)
  • Pro-Vice Chancellor (Staff and Student Experience)
  • Representative of each academic school
  • Head of Marketing
  • Head of IT
  • Data Protection Officer
  • Student Welfare representative
  • Students Union representative
  • Library Services representative
  • Alumni representative
  • Development representative

Members are responsible for: supporting the formation of digital strategy; providing expertise; and representing the needs of students from the perspective of their schools or departments while also taking a collegiate view of matters.

Members are also to raise digital issues for discussion and to consult on significant new digital projects that arise from their schools, departments or area of responsibility.

Users (including students and staff) shall be included in the digital development process through user research, testing and feedback on a project level.

Reporting to:

The Executive Committee

Implementation responsibilities

Implementation of the policies, procedures and projects approved by DSG shall be defined in the responsibility matrix. Some of the notable broad areas of responsibility include:

Digital Team

  • Provide digital expertise to the university as a whole
  • Manage digital content, including websites and social media
  • Execute digital marketing campaigns, in collaboration with Marketing colleagues centrally and across the University
  • Day to day brand and editorial oversight of digital content and marketing in line with policies approved by DSG
  • Work in an agile, iterative and data driven manner

IT Services

  • Provision and maintenance of infrastructure (e.g. web servers)
  • Provision of hardware and software
  • Integrations between externally-facing and internal systems
  • Security

Marketing

  • Brand and marketing planning and activity
  • Integration of offline marketing activity with digital

Recruitment and Admissions

  • Online application forms
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Alumni/Development

  • Alumni communications, fundraising and CRM (Raisers’ Edge)

Library Services

  • Access to digital academic resources
  • Student training in the use of Internet and electronic resources

Academic schools

  • Departmental-specific digital initiatives
  • Departmental digital learning and teaching (e.g. VLE)
  • Supporting University-wide digital initiatives

The DSG will invite representatives of other departments or functions for the discussion of particular projects or issues as relevant.

[1] Adapted from Gov.uk Government design principles, as permitted under the Open Government Licence v3.0.