User Experience (UX) service

IS Helpline collaboration to increase levels of IT self-service

We've been iteratively improving IT help provision at the University so students are able to self-serve on common IT issues.

The client

IS Helpline, the team in Information Services who field the vast majority of initial enquiries from staff and students.

The challenge

IS Helpline deal with 7,000-10,000 support calls a month, which includes enquiries on topics users can resolve themselves by following guidance material.

An initial round of usability testing on common IT issues found that students had trouble navigating the IS website structure and content, giving up on tasks in preference for sending an email.

As such, we set up this project to achieve the following goals: 

  • increase levels of student self-service on common IT issues 
  • reduce the number of support calls fielded by Helpline 
  • reduce the quantity of content on the IS website, and improve the effectiveness of what remains 
  • introduce new skills and techniques to colleagues responsible for curation of IT self-help web pages 

What we did

We enhanced IT help provision through a process of continuous improvement:

  • prioritising areas of support that generate the largest amounts of work for Helpline
  • conducting usability testing with students and monitoring website analytics to understand how online content was being used
  • making improvements to website structures and navigation, enquiry channelling processes and most importantly, the content on webpages
  • assessing how effective our changes were, and either returning to make further improvements or moving on to new areas in need of enhancement

Read a blog post about the process of continuous improvement

Outcomes and benefits

A number of technical, Information Architecture and content enhancements were introduced to mitigate usability issues with IT help provision, including:

Enhanced website enquiry channelling

We introduced a new self-service contact form, which presents users with a series of popular support pages based on the topic they select. This encourages them to self-serve their issue before placing a support call.

The introduction of this form saw the average time to call completion for Helpline calls drop from 3.25 down to 2.00 days.

IS Helpline contact form

Redesigning the presentation of FAQ lists

We cut back the number of question-and-answer pairs on FAQ lists after students were observed to miss key information and generally be disinclined to interact with long pages of content.

Separating the topics into individual pages allowed for the Helpline contact form and IT help site to link directly to specific answers of frequently asked questions. This means Helpline operatives can provide direct links in support calls to improve customer satisfaction.

Additionally, shorter, focused pages perform much better in the search engine, meaning people find the relevant content more quickly.

Iterative improvements to high demand self-service guidance

On specific topic help pages, we removed excess content, restructured with subheadings and gave prominence to keywords, making content clearer and easier to follow.

For example, on eduroam connection issues, we turned a long single page of instruction into a series of clear step-by-step pages which students follow in order.

Eduroam connection issues step-by-step pages on the IS website

The new structure of the eduroam connection information enabled us to monitor effectiveness stage by stage. By the third step, almost 60% have exited the process and only 3% of those who start the self-help process now reach the point of being referred to the IT Support Desk (the final step).

UX techniques used


Usability testing

Client quotes

Working together with the UX Service and University Website team has really helped us with the development of our self-help pages. By working with them and following the processes they’ve recommended, we’ve been able to identify the key areas for improvement and measure how these changes are received with our user community. They have brought experience and insight we didn’t have in our team and have shared these skills with us.

Neil BruceHead of Operational Services

The collaboration with the UX Service and University Website team has been a very fruitful, informative and beneficial one. It has both helped identify and directly influence a number of ways in which the Helpline has been able to improve user experiences and reduced the number of hoops through which they need to go in order to get to the information they seek.

Gavin AndersonSenior Computing Officer

Further reading

Blog posts on the Helpline UX collaboration