Web team drop-in clinic

Gareth Saunders
Friday 5 November 2010


This afternoon (12:00 – 14:00) the Web team ran our third monthly drop-in clinic. By popular demand here are some reflections on how it went.

How it all began

Every now and then I’ll be chatting with someone, usually having bumped into them in the street or in Boots the Chemist, and the conversation comes round to the University website and they’ll say something like “I’d really appreciate help with [that] but I know you’re busy so I don’t like to bother you.”

That’s how the Web team drop-in clinics began.

Because, although we are always busy we’re never really too busy to help people, and so to prove it we set aside two hours on the first Friday of each month to be available to people to answer pretty much anything about the Web.

This afternoon we held our third regular clinic; our fifth in total as we held a couple of pilot clinics last year which proved to us that it was a good idea.

What we are asked about

A few of the issues that we’ve been asked about:

  • How do I put up SWF or FLV videos on the website using our content management system?
  • How do I crop images to size to add to web pages?
  • How do I delete content in the content management system?
  • How do I add MP3 files to my site so that people can listen to them using an on-screen player?
  • I’m planning on re-writing the section that I manage, can I run these ideas past you?
  • How do I update a PDF document on my website; I did know, but I’ve forgotten.
  • I’ve heard about writing for the Web, what is it?
  • Is it true that all pages need to be within three clicks of the homepage?  (No!)
  • I’d like a complete redesign of my site, could we talk it over just now to find out how I go about doing this?
  • How can I make an image ‘clicky’?
  • I need to make a few updates to my web page but I’ve forgotten how to use the content management system; could you show me how to do it?

As far as we are concerned there really is no such thing as a stupid question if you don’t know the answer.

How it works

University members (staff and students alike) are invited to sign-up in advance using the Personal Development Management System which enables us to assign an approximate time slot for people to attend, so that not everyone turns up at once, although we do also welcome anyone who turns up unannounced.

There are now five of us in the Web team, located in three offices, so we first ask the visitor what he or she would like help with and then point them in the direction of whoever is available and/or best equipped to be able to answer their query.

On the five or so occasions that we’ve run these clinics we’ve rarely had anyone waiting longer than about five minutes, if at all, and the majority of issues have been answerable by any of the members of the team. (What an elite team we have, eh!)

Some appointments lead to further discussions and new projects being proposed.

What’s good about it?

I really enjoy our drop-in clinics.  In mid-flow the office is full of people and there is always a great buzz of activity during those two hours.

It’s great to deal with people face-to-face, rather than via email.  It’s lovely putting faces to usernames and email addresses.  And

That works both ways, I guess: they can put our faces to our names, and we no longer become the anonymous “Web team” but Steve, Gareth, Chris, Duncan and Rich.  That personal contact can go a long way, especially in such a wee university like St Andrews.

One of the most satisfying things about the drop-in clinics is that very often you can just get the work done there and then.

“Can you show me how I would do … X”

“Sure! Let’s do it now…”

“Really?!  We can get it done right now?”

“Absolutely.  Here, you take the mouse and keyboard and login here…”

There’s a real sense of satisfaction to see people arriving with a problem or two and fifteen minutes later waving them off with a task completed, perhaps something that they’ve put off and put off because they’ve maybe forgotten how to use the content management system and don’t have the time to run through the training notes again.

But not only that, they often go away feeling a little more enabled, understanding a little more about how to do it the next time, and perhaps most importantly feeling supported.  Long may that continue.  I’m just sorry that we don’t run it once a fortnight.

The next drop-in clinic is on the first Friday of December: Friday 3 December from 12 noon – 2:00 pm, in the Web team office (Room 6, Butts Wynd Building).

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One reply to "Web team drop-in clinic"

  • James Gilchrist Yule
    Thursday 11 November 2010, 10.21am

    Hi Gareth Re your Web team drop-in clinic. Would you be interested in involving the St Andrews community? I am member of the local Rotary Club, The New Golf Club, The Preservation Trust, Friends of the Botanic Gardens and The St Andrews Bed and Breakfast Association. Regards James Yule


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