Content Design User experience Website

What’s in a name

Following on from my previous post I wanted to explain the logic for the change of name on the project formally known as global experience language.  

In CX partners initial assessment of our web estate they recommended that

“Service mode sites should be made to feel consistent with other Jisc services using modules from a flexible global experience language (GEL).”

In my previous post I said;

Search for global experience language on the web and you’ll find the BBC’s GEL. I’m not sure if they coined the term, but their version is certainly the most visible and well developed example – and it’s an example that we can draw many parallels with.

“The BBC have had to tackle a sprawling web estate that has grown in an organic way, that has been developed by geographically separated and structurally segmented teams. The BBC describe their GEL as “the glue that ties all BBC services together” and that is something that we’re very much striving to achieve.”

We had a vision of how we wanted to unify our web estate and the BBC’s GEL was an excellent example to help people realise this–something tangible that we could share early on in the project and say, ‘we’re building something like this’–and our assumption was that we were building our own version of a global experience language.

The problem with words

Terminology amongst our own project team is a problem, scale this up to the whole business and it gets even worse. Early on in the project we used terms like component, module, element, pattern and template to describe the various ‘bits’ that make up our pattern library, but these words have different meanings to different people.

“Excuse my ignorance, but could you give me an example of what a component is” – Service Manager.

The words we use need to be clear and simple, language that technical and non-technical staff can both understand. Global experience language is a perfect example. During user testing we found that some back-end developers thought the word ‘language’ referred to a programming language that they would be expected to implement.

So this got us thinking was the term ‘global experience language’ right, moreover is what we were building actually a Jisc ‘global experience language’?

So what are we building

The term started to feel too ‘throw away’, as though all we wanted was for ‘the GEL’ to be implemented on website X, Y and Z and then they’re done, as though it was some kind of silver bullet.  

As an internal customer service team we’re user experience (UX) evangelists, engaging with other teams across the business we try to influence and educate in the practices of user-centred design. Just because some of us have UX in our job titles doesn’t mean that we are the only ones that have to worry about it, it’s the responsibility of the whole business.

This is where the BBC’s model fell down for us, they already had user experience and design teams embedded across the business that believed and cared about their GEL, we didn’t. We don’t just need our own pattern library or GEL, we need to build a UX culture across the business.

Jisc user experience and design

So what we’re building is the home of user experience at Jisc. A place that we can share patterns, examples, guides and best practice. A place to get practical advice, learn new methodologies and get inspiration. it will be the toolkit for everyone involved in building digital products for Jisc.

Jisc user experience and design ( is the clearest and most concise way we can express that this is the home of user experience at Jisc. However we felt as UX is still not universally understood as a concept that we the word design needs to be explicitly expressed so that our offer is clear to all our users.

What’s next?

With out of beta in early November 2015 our focus is shifting to supporting the implementation rollout – learning, developing and iterating as we go. We’ll be sure to share our progress, so I’ll be back soon with another post.

By Benjamin Perry

As user experience specialist my role is to ensure that the user experience is maintained and preferably enhanced as content and services that currently sit on separate websites are brought together as part of a unified web project. Specifically I am leading on the design of a global experience language that will govern the whole of the Jisc web presence, creating a unified and consistent user experience and customer offer.

I work closely with the sector intelligence team, leading on primary research activities around the Jisc web presence. And support the digital content and UX manager on content strategy, content design and wider UX strategy.

I am responsible for designing information architectures, user interfaces, atmospheres, page templates and functionality that meets user and business needs and are simple and a delight to use. Creating customer journeys, user stories, sketches, sitemaps, wireframes and rapid development of clickable prototypes to visualise design concepts.

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