In this post, Aspectus runs the rule on three talks demonstrating Measurefest’s assortment of riches.

Mark Fassbender – User-centred web design
Following an introduction by Phil Haslehurst that examined a variety of applications for heatmap technology, Mark Fassbender (@flashbender) took to the podium to discuss planning and executing a future-proofed website development project.

The importance of the website as a digital home typically sees it redeveloped every few years to keep pace with advancements in technology and trends. Naturally, this means large amounts of resource and cash goes into website development – and all too frequently for many companies.

Fassbender therefore suggested that as a means of improving the long-term efficiency of running such a vital resource, website development should entail at least five ‘rounds’ of planning and refinement prior to money being spent on aspects such as coding, programming and supporting technology. planning-refinement-development-monitoring The idea, said Fassbender, is that a combination of stakeholders can be involved from the beginning, and throughout the process. For larger organisations, this could include project managers, website designers and developers, company executives, and even customers and website users if possible.

Such an approach can also help decisions about what is really needed on a website. Crucially, these sessions can help achieve a better balance between the needs of the business and those of the customer. As Fassbender said, it’s important to always remember that “people are not on the web to enjoy your web design, but to get something done.”

Ela Osterberger – Don’t be afraid of APIs
Data hacking is not normal activity for communications professionals, yet much of the recent industry chatter (not to mention an official government survey) suggests that IT-based roles are currently the most in demand in the UK. One could therefore argue that there is an advantage to be gained in understanding how the various pieces of software and technology that permeate the web work.

Ela Osterberger’s talk successfully showed that taking something scary sounding like an application programming interface (API) and extracting its data can be achieved in as little as three minutes and thirty seconds, as her video demonstrated. Furthermore, one slide entitled “curiosity over skills” seemed to go down well in the room, possibly because many members of the audience were not from programming or ‘coding’ backgrounds.

To take a specific example, Osterberger showed how it is possible to use one of Google Analytics’ APIs to extract data and create a report that can alert recipients when something is above or below a specific range, which could have a direct impact on business decisions.

For communications professionals, it is worth thinking that in a web environment awash with data, there are myriad ways of getting hold of, and using data, to the advantage of clients and businesses alike.

Elayne Philipps – Measuring behaviour change in government
This talk probably had the closest bond to the communications industry, primarily due to the fact it was by Elayne Phillips (@LayneyP), Head of Strategy, Performance and Evaluation at Defra Communications. She outlined an interesting example and framework that can be applied to the main goal of any comms strategy: getting people to do something.

While meaningless acronyms are much maligned, public-facing government communications must adhere to the EAST (easy, attractive, social, timely) structure, said Phillips. Simply put, all communications need to be easy to understand, attractively presented, ‘social’ in that they are easy to share, and timely in order to be relevant to peoples’ lives.

The example given in the talk was of an initiative to encourage dog owners to get their pets microchipped before it becomes mandatory in 2016.The campaign included information on how, why and where dog microchipping can be done. In addition, Defra partnered with the charity Dogs Trust, enabling widespread promotion over social media using the hashtag #chipmydog to encompass the main message.

The campaign was measured using frameworks set by the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication and endorsed by the Cabinet Office, CIPR and PRCA (more on this here).

Measuring the effectiveness of the campaign, Defra found that 500% more dogs were microchipped in 2013/14 compared to 2012/13.

There were plenty more thought provoking talks at Measurefest and its focus on practical advice is one of its strengths. Perhaps the overriding message of the day was that while data and analysis may be superficially incongruous with communications and marketing, it is frequently a useful place to look not only to prove the value of these activities, but also as a place for creative inspiration.

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