Awarded to Fluent Interaction

Start date: Monday 30 March 2020
Value: £56,750
Company size: SME
Office for Students

Design, UX, and user testing of the Discover Uni Beta website to support prospective HE students

22 Incomplete applications

20 SME, 2 large

33 Completed applications

32 SME, 1 large

Important dates

Friday 31 January 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Friday 7 February 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Friday 14 February 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Design, user research and testing services for the Discover Uni website. To enhance the website design, look and feel and presentation of data insight, to enable better user-experience, access, user-journeys, understanding and use of the information and data to inform the course choice decisions of potential higher education students
Latest start date
Monday 16 March 2020
Expected contract length
9 months with option to extend by a further 3 months
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Office for Students
Budget range
£40k to £60k inclusive of VAT

About the work

Why the work is being done
The Office for Students manages the Discover Uni website on behalf of the four UK higher education funding and regulatory bodies. We are seeking to make improvements to the beta to incorporate new data and content, as well as enhance existing design and functionality in response to user feedback. The core data-design development work needs to be completed, informed by user testing, by mid-April 2020
Problem to be solved
We need to:
1. Make it easier for users to take away key messages from the data on courses pages, and to incorporate a new graduate outcomes dataset
2. Make the home page, search and content landing pages, more visually appealing (e.g. introducing colour while retaining visual simplicity)
3. Revise the information architecture and design to incorporate additional content (clearing, course transfer)
4. Improve the course comparison facility.

The design and testing for the first three need to be completed by mid-April 2020.

We also require 2-3 days per month design resource for small enhancements to call off as needed
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a potential applicant to higher education courses in the UK, I need to be able to easily navigate the website information, engage with a range of data insight, to understand what it is telling me and how it can help me compare courses, so that I can make informed course choices.
OfS needs to be confident that the information and data insight prospective students access on the Discover Uni website is easier to take key messages from, with reduced potential for misinterpretation
Early market engagement
User-feedback identifies the need to retain the simplicity of the overall design and the introduction of more colour. Users want to be able to better compare multiple courses and to more easily understand the data-based insight provided (the data-based insight is evolving).
The design ideas (e.g. infographics, page layout options) need to achieve more meaningful presentation of the data and will need to be researched/tested.   User-feedback indicates a need for advice on information architecture, user-journeys and tracking/monitoring user-journeys.

Guidelines mean designs must fit house style, accessibility guidelines (we are WCAG 2.01 AA compliant) and be responsive/suitable for mobile use, and page-text needs to appear consistently in Welsh language version. Designs for data presentation need to be researched/tested with users reflecting a mix of demographics and other user characteristics from across the UK
Any work that’s already been done
User-centred research and testing informed the Discover Uni beta website launched in 2019. Time constraints meant work on website design, look and feel and presentation of data insight was not completed as planned.

Findings from previous user research and feedback and guidance on parameters for the design work will be provided, along with some design assets for reference/as potential starting points for testing/designs. Designs need to be provided in suitable formats required by the website developers.
Existing team
The OfS will provide product ownership, analyst and content management roles to work with the team. Development is outsourced and some liaison with hosting and development supplier may be required. Some resource/facility for user-surveys will be available
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
No specific location, supplier can work remotely. Office for Students is based at Nicholson House, Lime Kiln Close, Stoke Gifford, Bristol BS34 8SR
Working arrangements
The supplier is expected to work closely with OfS team, undertake some travel and conduct user research/testing off-site (potentially across UK). There is no separate budget for travel costs or expenses so this should be included in the overall project costs
Security clearance
None applicable

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Experience of designing services which present complex data sets and insight in an engaging and informative way to users with varying levels of interest and understanding of statistical information (35)
  • Experience of research with users, ideally focused on the target student audience (20)
  • Be able to deploy the effective, experienced team members with the range of UX, design and user testing skills to start work no later than 23rd March 2020 (20)
  • Able to bring information architecture skills/experience to optimise content engagement and user journeys (15)
  • Experience of designing and developing digital services and meeting the WCAG 2.1 and Digital Service Standard (10)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Experience of working with the UK education/higher education sector
  • Experience of digital design for HE pre-applicant/applicant audiences
  • Experience of user testing/research and designing for school leavers (16-18-year olds), mature students and teachers
  • Able to provide expertise/skills to support continued improvement using Google analytics, user journey analytics and user feedback
  • Understanding of student data and HE information
  • Evidence of successfully using video, images and other media to enhance websites

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • How the approach meets our needs and those of our users (30)
  • Previous experience and work designing for data-based insight presentation (15)
  • Costs and value for money (20)
  • Team structure, knowledge and experience (10)
  • Proposed timescales for the work (15)
  • Ability to carry out research and testing with a broad range of users on a UK-wide basis (10)
Cultural fit criteria
  • How they work as a team and collaboratively with our organisation and other suppliers where necessary
  • Shares knowledge and experience with clients, is transparent and collaborative when making decisions and solving problems
  • Takes responsibility for delivering to agreed timescales and for the quality of their work
  • Able to demonstrate the value of their approach and understanding of the importance/value of data insight and analytics
  • Able to demonstrate they understand the importance of impartiality and clarity in the provision of information and advice for users
Payment approach
Fixed price
Additional assessment methods
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Will Office for Students provide the access to the end users and/or help recruiting the users for the research/testing?
The expectation is that the supplier will source and recruit participants for the user research and testing. There will be some limited opportunity to utilise or inform focus group/user testing and surveying activity which OfS undertakes itself on a limited scale.
2. What did the previous user research include? Is there any existing feedback on the current version of the site?
We have carried out research with a broad range of users as part of the development of the website, looking at information needs, and barriers to participation in higher education and to engagement with information about higher education. We have in the past carried out some testing of different approaches to presentation of data that could also be learned from. The areas that we have highlighted in the requirements for design work are those which feedback indicates could be improved. Full details will be shared with the appointed supplier and a summary will be shared with short-listed suppliers.
3. Can you please share the user research findings and the parameters for the design language?
Full details of the user research findings will be shared with the appointed supplier and a summary will be shared with short-listed suppliers. Please can you explain what is meant by the 'parameters for the design language'?
4. You mention a development supplier, do you already have an idea about the point in the process at which our work would intersect with their work? Would they be available to collaborate in workshops?
Plans for technical development are being finalised. We currently anticipate that requirements will be finalised and this development work undertaken during the period June to August 2020. Workshops or other appropriate liaison between the development and design suppliers will be arranged as and when appropriate.
5. How is this site positioned alongside the UCAS site?
Our site is particularly focussed on supporting those considering higher education who are less well served by existing information resources. We see it as complementary to UCAS, and we signpost users to UCAS for some information.
6. Have you previously worked with a supplier who has the skills to deliver this project?
We have worked with a number of suppliers on different projects that would have the skills to deliver this work.
7. In what format have you previously received designs? Have they been flat graphics, or part of a code based pattern library?
The website was implemented by a single team, so designs were not received directly by us. They were done in figma. There is no pattern library.
8. What technology / CMS is being used to build the site?
The site is built with an Azure serverless toolset using python (and html, javascript and sass). We are using Wagtail for our CMS.
9. Can the OfS please confirm whether any part of the ‘development’ of the Discover Uni website is to be provided by the supplier for this tender, or will all development work be undertaken by the outsourced development 3rd party?
This work contributes to the development of the site in the broad, rather than technical, sense of the word. No development of the application is required as part of this contract.
10. OfS needs to be confident that the information and data insight prospective students access on the Discover Uni website is easier to take key messages from, with reduced potential for misinterpretation. What 'misinterpretation' has been identified?
No specific instances of 'misinterpretation' have been identified. This requirement reflects known research and good practice guidance which identifies an innate challenge in presenting multiple and sometime complex data to a broad user-audience with differing understanding and preferences around the presentation of data.
11. How does Discover Uni want to differentiate itself from HESA and other higher education information websites which show similar information?
Discover Uni's primary and priority focus is the presentation of data-based insight and information for the pre-applicant/potential student audiences and their advisers. See also our response to question 5 regarding UCAS
12. How flexible/scalable is the current website's IA in order to support change or the addition of new content?
Technically, it is sufficiently flexible to support the changes we want to make. The supplier will, however, need to consider how best to design the initial few pages and the navigation to support content that supports differentiated user journeys and goes beyond the users' research/application stage.
13. The contract length is 9 months with a possible additional 3 months. However there is a requirement to complete data design and visual changes within the first 4 weeks. 4 weeks is very short to make meaningful changes. Are you prepared to invest time into getting the best design for the objectives you want to achieve if this takes longer?
As indicated in the requirements, our initial priority is the designs and testing for the presentation of existing and new data insight on the website. Designs for other website pages and the course comparison feature can be developed and tested subsequent to the initial design work. We anticipate that ongoing user feedback and testing may result in some design/visual changes beyond initial deployment.