The happy event

Last week finally saw the end of months of planning, hard work and testing. as we launched our new University wide events calendar. This was proposed a long time ago, but staffing changes and the lengthy sign off process for the brief has meant it's been a bit longer in the making than originally planned!

It all started with a conversation with our events manager who highlighted the need for something much more intuitive than what we already had. I completely agreed and so set to work. Internally, there's a growing understanding that staff need to have more responsibility for their own content, and this was a common theme in every process of the planning.

I began by looking at various examples of online events calendars, both in the HE and FE sectors and beyond, to get an idea of how we would like ours to work. As soon as we had a rough framework I then wrote an extremely detailed brief on the back end functionality and followed this with designs of how we would like it to look. As well as adhering to our brand, one thing that was particularly important was that it should be searchable and filterable - it's a good job we run Funnelback on our site which would be easily be up to the task!

After nearly two years our working relationship with Squiz and Funnelback is now particularly efficient. Hence, we only needed one project briefing meeting before they got up and running with the more technical aspects of the build. This involved weekly burn down reports, regular questions on variances in the functionality and design and finally, a weeks worth of (intensive) testing our end to ensure it was all good to go live.

To briefly summarise, the calendar works like this:
  • A member of staff accesses our online form which they populate with the full event details (with a number of required fields)
  • This then enters workflow so our team can ensure there are no errors in format or content
  • Once it is published it is added to the full events listing (following the Funnelback re indexing)
  • This is filterable by audience, department, category and campus (once applied there is the option to embed calendars for specific audiences on their pages)
  • It also feeds the day's events through to the homepage
  • An automated response is sent to the event originator two weeks before the event occurs
  • Once the event occurs it is then automatically archived
Crucially, this now empowers staff to be owners of their own content. We've also coordinated an internal communications campaign to ensure that all staff are aware of this new product. There's now no excuse as to why events are not well attended - so many different departments run them and once this becomes routine for them I have every confidence we'll be showcasing a very impressive portfolio.

Now that we're live and staff are populating it with content we're looking at some extra features for phase 2. These will include the ability to add key dates, the next event showing on the homepage rather than the events on that day and more details on the events pages themselves.

Upon completion, I was asked to present on this (among other things) at last Friday's Heads of Department meeting. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive with staff particularly impressed that they can just fill in an online form to create new events (that one is thanks to the Squiz asset builder!)

See you at Immarsat Conference Centre,
Old Street, London on 24-25 October 2013
A massive thanks for all of the work carried out by Squiz and Funnelback to turn this around whilst broadly adhering to our brief (and for being able to interpret my designs!) I'll be delivering a presentation on the above process and also demoing some of the functionality at the Squiz and Funnelback User Summit 2013 on 24 October which will be entitled 'Super Search'. I'm really looking forward to it as it will be a great chance to highlight our work and learn about the work of others. Maybe I'll see you there?!
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