University of Surrey: Student and staff experience discovery

The University of Surrey’s digital estate has grown organically, evolving over time. They maintain multiple platforms and products for interacting with more than 16,000 students, 2,500 members of staff as well as the public.

Surrey wanted to know where they could invest to improve - what were the roles of individual platforms, what needs were they meeting, which were performing well and which needed updating? They wanted a clear understanding of the needs of the different user groups so they could determine where to focus to best improve experiences.

Surrey commissioned us to run a discovery exploring experiences across the university.

What we did

We worked with three audiences: students, staff and other professionals working outside the university.  We explored top tasks through quant and qual research and conducted analysis for the most common tasks relating to studies or work.

We also tested university content and communications to understand effectiveness and usefulness.

What we found

Our research uncovered a multitude of user needs, gaps, pain points and opportunities. These included:

  • The number of platforms being used for communication was causing friction and extra work for staff and students. Information spread across multiple locations made finding the right page or platform, or completing a task, difficult
  • Surrey’s student learning platform was working well and people liked having everything in one place and being able to refer to documentation and lectures in their own time
  • The staff intranet, in common with many other intranets, had grown organically which had led to issues around navigation, information architecture and search. Ownership of content was also unclear making it hard to update
  • There were also subject-specific needs. For example, lecturers were finding subjects which are taught visually (not using lecture slides) challenging to teach digitally


Our work has enabled Surrey to identify a roadmap of improvements across their platforms and channels. They now have clear evidence around where to invest for impact.

Vickie Sheriff, Director of Communications and Public Affairs said:

“We needed to uncover how different user groups engage with our digital platforms to find the information they need. Mace & Menter's work provided us with evidence that confirms some things we already suspected and highlighted areas to improve.

“They identified things we can fix easily and helped us rethink our approach to multiple platforms. They have a simple and effective approach. They bring knowledge and expertise in this field.

“I'd definitely recommend Mace & Menter, they are organised, knowledgeable, understanding, patient, thorough and eloquently distil insight.”