Better Things

An iPad optimised site for The Open University

The problem

The Open University wanted to put their Annual Report online for the first time. A combination of environmental concerns, along with the Open University’s place as a technology leader in the education sector made this an inevitable move.

However, the Open University had a lot to live up to. Their position on the cutting edge of technology in education (their well-used and respected YouTube, Facebook and Twitter profiles, their huge number of iTunesU publications, along with their proprietary community Platform and groundbreaking OpenLearn envrionment are all testament to this) meant that they must produce a groundbreaking annual report – and they wanted people to know about it.

The Open University recognised the fact that a lot of mandatory annual report content can be somewhat dry, meaning getting people to look at and talk about the report would be a tough sell. So they asked Better Things to look at developing a website framework that would enliven the content and give them the best possible opportunity to generate some buzz around it online.

The solution

Better Things recognised the fact that throughout 2010 iPad in particular and slate devices in general were grabbing the lion’s share of buzz online. We considered producing a website and a number of native apps to carry the content to the audience, but since an annual report app would be content-based but not regularly updated, and the penetration of slate devices amongst the audience was relatively small, we decided instead to design and build a site that would function well on regular browsers, but come into its own in a slate environment.

The finished site uses a number of touch gestures to navigate around, including a mixture of horizontal and vertical swiping, and hold-and-drag. It also borrows from iPad and iPhone app design in order to be familiar to users of those devices, whilst remaining different enough to retain some Open University identity and ease-of-use for users of desktop/laptop browsers. Most importantly though, the site is completely functional in a regular browser environment.

To further aid buzz, Better Things ensured that share functionality was included against every story, to give users the opportunity to re-publish to their social network profiles.

You can view the site here. Remember – it’s best viewed on an iPad!

Open University Annual Report Homepage

Open University Annual Report TimelineThe Open University Annual Report David Cameron Story

Open University Introductions

The Open University Annual Report Video Content