Handwritten "2023" on a yellow background.

What happened at SMILE in 2023?

As 2023 draws to a close, it's time for me to reflect on a year that was as dynamic and eventful as ever. In the backdrop of political upheavals in the UK, the economic rollercoaster, the much-anticipated coronation of the king, and the ever-evolving realm of Artificial Intelligence. Oh, and what SMILE has been up to, too!
A photograph of 2 people playing basketball in a neon lit arcade.

What a year 2023 has been.

It’s been a rollercoaster, hasn’t it?

From the political dramas (oh, the dramas!) in the UK to the economic ups and downs, the spectacular coronation of the king, and AI-ification of everything.

That last one if my favourite; it’s been transforming how we work and deliver projects.

I think it’s fair to say that ChatGPT has been the biggest change to my workflow for years. A highlight of my 2023 was being invited to a UCAS panel to talk about my usage of AI as a power user.

But enough about AI. Let’s turn our attention to more human things.

Join me in a toast to our triumphs, tidbits and achievements of the SMILE team, throughout 2023.

A Toast, to Our Triumphs and Tidbits


Baby Alert!

This year, the SMILE family got a little bigger and cuter with Jon’s baby girl, Nova, joining the gang.

Welcome to the world, little star!


Prospectus+, Shining Bright

Remember when I said Prospectus+ would be our big thing? Well, guess what? It was even bigger than we imagined! We officially launched Prospectus Plus, and now we’re powering 16 prospectuses. We’ve been releasing new features like advisor mode, custom registration forms, one-time-passwords, synonym support, collapsible cards, new card types, a new editor, countless UI improvements and bug fixes. Next year we’ll be making even more improvements and starting to venture into some new directions.

Thanks to all of our change-makers, pioneering the way with Prospectus Plus.

Keep evolving, Prospectus Plus


Our Conference Debut

A photograph of Matt and Nathan at the Prospectus+ stand, with a visitor in conversation.

We took a giant leap and sponsored our very first conference with Prospectus Plus – thanks for having us ContentEd. We loved the reaction to our plantable pencils.

We also shared our thoughts and experiences at various conferences, big shoutout to FindAUniversity, The Russell Group, CASE (you rock, for allowing me to present twice), CMN, and UCAS for the invites.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed conducting mystery shopping for these talks. My most memorable has to be ordering 37 prospectuses back in March in one go (all to easily, thanks too UniCompare) and not thinking to use a burner email. My inbox is still suffering from this blunder.

All I want for Christmas, is youuuuuuuuu (to follow Prospectus Plus on Linkedin).

Make my dreams, come true.

A photograph of a plantable pencil with coriander seeds, from Prospectus Plus


Edinburgh Adventures

Our summer social in Edinburgh was epic. We finally met a new face (hey Dal!)… face-to-face. We indulged in some seriously good eats (did you know there’s a mashed potato restaurant there?!), brainstormed in the coolest BrewDog pub, and had a blast at a quiz night – Jon, you’re a quiz wizard! And yes, we did try deep-fried Mars bars… because, why not?

What shocked me the most was the synchronicity in our team: So in tune with each other, they manage to fall asleep simultaneously on a 30 minute plane journey!


Autumn Team Transitions

We said a fond farewell to Samitha (you’ll be missed!) and a big welcome back to Chelsey from her maternity leave.

We also have a new member joining the team, with Francesca joining us as our superstar account manager. Francesca now helps all of our Evolve customers to get the most out of SMILE.

We met Francesca at our Autumn social and managed to get her in our Photo Booth tradition.

Backtracking slightly here, I even managed to rope our friends from Pathways (who just released their first product in the HE space – nice work boys) into a photo booth at ContentEd. At what point does it become an unhealthy obsession?

A photo of the SMILE team in a small photo booth
A photo of the SMILE team in a small photo booth
A photo of the SMILE and Pathways team in a small photo booth
A photo of the SMILE team in a small photo booth
A photo of the SMILE team in a small photo booth
A photo of the SMILE and Pathways team in a small photo booth


Project Highlights

We’ve been busy bees this year, wrapping up some fantastic projects. Working on UCAS student reviews, auditing the digital estate for the Royal College of Music, and creating the ‘Aston for Life‘ platform. It’s been such an incredible year of putting some of our years of learnings into practice. But so busy we’ve not been able to write up any case studies – stay tuned for those.


Most Clicked, stops clicking for a while

We also wrapped up our podcast, Most Clicked. After an amazing 57-episode run we’ve decided to take a break. When we started there was a real void for HE/FE marketing podcasts. Now they’re everywhere. We want to make sure that what we produce doesn’t get lost in that noise. We’ll be back when we’ve figured it out. For now, you can listen to our back-catalogue wherever you get your podcasts.

Stand down, clickers

Embracing Our New Normal

This year felt different. We’re way past the pandemic blues and thriving in our remote work setup. Kudos to our team for making ‘work from anywhere’ look so good!

2023 was extra special for me as I ticked off a personal goal of mine, by becoming a judge for the first time. Here’s a sneak peek into that journey: My Judging Experience.

While the pace has been fast and furious, making our blog a bit quiet, there’s been a lot of hard work put in by our team. I am incredibly proud and grateful of everyone here at SMILE, and everything we have achieved together.

And finally, a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of our clients, customers, and partners. Your trust, collaboration, and support are the cornerstones of our journey. You’re not just part of our story; you help us write it. We couldn’t have navigated this whirlwind of a year without your partnership.

As we gear up for 2024, we’re taking with us all the laughter, learning, and leaps forward from 2023. Stay tuned for more stories, updates, and those little nuggets of joy and genius that make us SMILE.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.