Digital Marketing & Communications

We've seen 1s and 0s you wouldn't believe

New induction pages improve user experience

📥  Beta, International, Social media, Style, content and design

We’re working with colleagues across the University to make things better for our students online and to make it easier for staff to support students.

It’s been just over a month since we launched three new induction collections to help our new students settle into life at university: one for undergraduate students, one for taught postgraduate students and one for postgraduate research students. It is the first time we have created a specific area on the site for postgraduate research student induction.

Although it's still early days, we decided to look at the performance of the new pages we created for induction and compare it with the old content for the same period from last year.

A single source of truth

Our legacy content is often duplicated across various sections of the site. With so many variations of the same information, it's difficult to keep track of updates. There is often no single source of truth, which can lead to confusing user journeys.

Collections are pages of curated content from across different sections of the University website about a specific subject.

Our induction collections allow editors to feature specific information mapped against the student user journey, making sure that information is timely and relevant for the stage of the journey they are at.

It also means we can reuse relevant content rather than duplicate it, thanks to our new ‘labels’ functionality.

By transitioning our induction content, we have been able to retire 277 pages while creating only 89 new pages.

In addition to the content we’ve created, we’re using labels to pull in existing information from other sections of the site, like Accommodation and Student Services. At the moment, we have 146 pages labelled with ‘induction’.

Better user experience

All content we write is now based on users’ needs. We also make sure it’s written in plain English with an active voice.

This makes the content easier to find, and when users find it, they are able to complete their tasks more quickly.

Higher user engagement

We looked at pages where there was an equivalent page in last year’s induction content so that we could make comparisons on performance.

We chose:

Registering with the University

We found that 85.9% of users who landed on this page took the call to action, which was to actually register using our service page.

From the service page, we saw a 85.5% drop off. Although this is a large percentage, this is actually an expected behaviour at that particular stage of the user journey. This is because students were looking at the information before registration officially opened. The performance data suggests that we still have work to do to improve the student experience.

During the time period we checked, 8,283 users visited the new guide to register. Last year, the corresponding page had 4,600 users over the same period.

The higher number suggests that returning students are finding and using the page too.

In both years, Google was the biggest referrer to the registration page. This year, 41.5% visits came from Google – last year, this was 37.6%. This data supports our our previous findings that most users find the relevant content through search engines, not by using in-site navigation.

Moving into campus accommodation for the first time

The new page had a significantly lower bounce rate (50.2%) than the old one (69.3%), suggesting that people find the content more relevant.

Last year, 86% users dropped off after visiting the equivalent page. This year, 48.5% of the users who visited the new page continued onto other content which we had mapped as the next steps of their journey. This is an improvement on last year, but we clearly have more work to do to improve this journey.

Book a place on our coach collection service from Heathrow Airport

This year, we took a slightly different approach with the page for booking airport collection.

We created a simple, plain English video, translated it in Chinese and posted it on Sina Weibo. It had 3,200 views and as a result we have had more visitors to the page and more engagement with the content than ever before.

The new page had 1,109 unique visitors this year, which is 11 times more visits than the equivalent page got last year. That’s a huge increase for a single piece of content and confirms that we are creating content that better meets our users’ needs.

It’s also worth noting that over one-third of the users who visited the page went onto the next steps we had planned for them as part of the journey. We are now thinking more about user journeys than ever before, so we're able to make better connections between pieces of content and actions that need to be taken.

On the right track

Anecdotal evidence from colleagues so far tells us that there are already fewer misdirected enquiries about registration and accommodation. The new design of the website clearly shows contact details and people are finding it easier to reach the right service to get the help or information they need.

We’re happy to have seen an improvement in performance for this year’s induction information, but we haven’t finished yet. We’ll keep monitoring how the new content performs over the next couple of months to see how we can improve newly-arriving students’ experience as they continue to go through their induction journey.

 

Going on an adventure

📥  Communication

After almost three years working at the University of Bath, on Friday 23 September I will leave my role as Digital Content Editor and Digital Supporter for AHS.

I’m going on an antipodean adventure, travelling around New Zealand for a year.

While I’m incredibly excited about what is the trip of a lifetime, I’ll be sorry to leave behind great colleagues, friends and work that I am immensely proud of.

During my time here I’ve transformed professionally, which has been an adventure in itself. A former magazine sub-editor who wrote album reviews for online and print in his spare time, I now use an agile approach to design, create and curate digital content that meets specific user needs.

This is in no small part due to the expertise, guidance and enthusiasm of the Digital Marketing and Communications team.

Working with them has not only been excellent fun, but it has given me an assured understanding of how people perceive web content, how we all actually use the internet and how we can make the experience more useful and intuitive.

Creating something that works

I’m particularly proud of transitioning our Accommodation, Eateries, Events and Security content from the previous incarnation of the University CMS and website to our shiny new one. In fact, we were among the first departments to make the switch.

Our new site, inspired by the principles at the heart of gov.uk, puts users first. It’s a hugely positive move that is already bearing fruit.

Take our Student Accommodation content. Previously we had content across several different folders, resulting in disjointed and duplicated information.

Now it’s all in one place, with a group landing page we can modify depending on the time of year and stage of the applicant journey.

While earlier in the year we pinned accommodation application information to it, now - as we approach intake weekend - we can push useful and relevant arrival information to our users.

Information about what you should and shouldn’t bring with you, where to pick up your keys and how to send luggage to the University if you’re moving from overseas.

That has undoubtedly helped the content to perform much better this summer.

For example, when applications for accommodation opened back in April, our analytics shows signs that user engagement and has improved.

  • Increased sessions on day applications open - 2015 (4,498) vs 2016 (7,997)
  • Monthly unique pageviews leapt from 64,623 in 2015 to 91,592 in 2016
  • April 2016 bounce rate down vs 2015, from 43.69% to 32.56%
  • Exit rate also fell from 25.49% in 2015 to 18.23% in 2016

Combine that with an increase in entrances and average session duration and it looks like our content is easier to find and more useful.

Tailoring our content to meet specific user needs is working.

Thinking about content in this way - putting the user first - is so simple, so sensible and yet still relatively rarely implemented.

Well I’m taking this with me, out into the world.

Decluttering dusty old windows

When I was at University, way back in the mid-2000’s, I was told that a website was an organisation’s shop window.

Many organisations also heard this and have piled everything they have onto their website and left it all there, gathering dust, not really knowing why they put it there but pleased they have because now it’s in the window and people will know. They’ll know about all the things in the window. Right? Or will they just walk past thinking, “That place looks a mess”?

Shops don’t put all their products in the window at once. Not good ones anyway.

Stores like Selfridges invest great skill, research and consideration in their window dressing. They carefully and deliberately showcase the things that their customers want or need at a time when they desire or require it.

So why treat a website any differently? Declutter. Find out what your users need, give them that clearly and simply enough that anyone can understand it, and adapt to changes in user behaviour. Repeat.

I can’t stress enough how much this has influenced me, and how much agile content excites me.

I’ll always remember and be grateful for what the University of Bath has taught me, and I couldn’t have hoped to learn from a better bunch of people.

It’s been a blast folks. Thank you.

Steve and his partner will be blogging and podcasting during their trip round New Zealand, and you can follow them on Twitter.

Digital team sprint notes 23 August - 5 September

📥  Sprint notes

What we delivered this sprint

We have shipped the new Security section of the site which includes 30 new content items to help visitors with parking, lost property and other incidents on campus.

Content items can now be filtered by label so you can see lists like all the Guides for Undergraduate Induction. These lists are linked to from the 'Explore' section at the bottom of the relevant Collection, such as Undergraduate Induction 2016.

We've standardised the headings in our Events type so that the Speaker profiles section has the same weight as the other sections in the sidebar.

We've written up our first round of group and one-to-one testing on our Organisation Landing Pages, giving us great feedback on how we structure information on these pages.

We created a prototype of searching for a content item inside the Content Publisher, so that publishers can access the item they want to edit more quickly.

In the next sprint we will deliver these things

  • Deliver the new Collections input and output
  •  Increase the maximum number of labels which administrators can add to a content item to 8 (from 5)
  •  Add lists of Collections to bath.ac.uk

 

Digital team sprint notes 27 July - 22 August

📥  Sprint notes

If you are on campus, you can read about the latest Content Publisher changes as and when they happen at http://go.bath.ac.uk/beta-release-notes. The monthly Digital Roadmap also contains information about recently delivered features and a longer-term view on what we're delivering next.

What we've delivered

  • We've added "External Item" as a content type so that publishers can now pin pages hosted by older content management systems or off-site resources to Organisation Landing Pages
  • We updated the Worldwide Collection to feature our activities in Brazil
  • We shipped three new Collections for Induction: Undergraduate Induction, Taught Postgraduate Induction and Postgraduate Research Induction. In the process, we cleared off a huge amount of old content debt from three different areas of the website. This is also the first time ever that we have a provided a single, dedicated area for PGR induction information.
  • We worked with colleagues at Academic Registry to transition their information about Individual Mitigating Circumstances from an old Dreamweaver section to easily accessible guides and publications. This section is now being fact-checked and we hope to launch it soon.
  • Publishers can now attach .ics (calendar) files to Publications
  • New subtypes are available: "Press release" for Announcements, "Letter" and "Timetable" for Corporate Information and "Handbook" for Publications
  • Course Publisher is now using a reliable database infrastructure

What we're going to deliver

We have a lot of people on leave over the Bank Holiday week, and are in the first of multiple sprints to transition part of our student recruitment content. Nevertheless we will:

  • substantially improve the mechanism for creating and editing Collections
  • make the headings in the sidebar of an Event type all be the same size
  • write up our first round of testing on our Organisation Landing Pages

 

Digital Roadmap update for August 2016

📥  Roadmap

Shipped in July

Brazil ‘take over’ of Worldwide

Timed to coincide with Rio 2016, the ‘take over’ of the Worldwide landing page provides a new way to explore our activities in Brazil.

The ‘take over’ includes new content exploring our research impact, the experiences of students from Brazil and the story of our Rio 2016 hopefuls.

We are also carrying out targeted activity on social media to raise the profile of the University to a wider audience based on their interests.

Induction

Working with subject experts from across the University, we've launched three new induction sections providing a destination for new undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research students.

Students will find all the information they need to help them get started at Bath, including advice on how to accept their offer, moving in, as well access to their departmental induction timetable, services and directions to locations on campus.

Induction video shorts

We’ve created some short videos to support induction. We’ll use them to highlight important things students should do before they get here. We’ll post them on the University’s social media channels and translate them into Chinese for use on Sina Weibo.

Future videos include: things you should bring, moving in, document checking and how to get online.

Content Publisher improvements

Publishers can now feature external content items on Department and Collection landing pages, they can also upload more document types to the Content Publisher.

Improvements:

  • A new way for users to browsebath.ac.uk and supporting channels
  • Users can now access and download more filetypes, including iCal.

Download the latest Digital Roadmap

 

The University of Bath's Digital Design Principles

  

📥  Communication, Design, Digital strategy, Style, content and design

Based on our current Digital Delivery Principles, I recently sat down and drafted a set of Design Principles. These were shared at one of our Show and Tells as a presentation, but I thought I'd reproduce it here on our blog for a wider audience.

1. Design for real people

”Remember who you are designing for”, is the most important thing we can do.

Every design decision we make should solve an actual problem that a site visitor has, or facilitate a real user need. Design should serve the content it presents, design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration. We always keep in mind that the end user of a page can be very different to us, with different needs, expectations, and abilities, and ensure that our design does not exclude them from getting the answers they need.

2. Design with data

Successful design starts from a clear and informed position.

Our approach is inclusive: we're building a site that will provide the optimal experience for a visitor whoever they are and whatever device they are using. To achieve this we conduct user research to better understand what people expect. We test changes, features and assumptions with users to get insight and feedback that ensures we are delivering on that expectation. It is as important to remove failing features as it is to add new features into our design, and the ability to know what works and what doesn't only comes from data.

3. Be simple, fast and effortless

Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.

We maintain a pattern library to ensure the design of elements is consistent, and this ensures that our interactions speak to users with a single voice, building trust.
We strive to ensure that our design affords our visitor with an experience that feels fast – they should be able to find what they need on the page without a delay. Images are optimised for the device they are viewed on, visual enhancements are loaded progressively, and do not disturb the flow of content on the page.
We minimise pain-points as much as possible with an awareness of good practice, to provide an effortless experience.

4. Make bold choices

We measure ourselves against the very best, and we should not come up short.

The success of the University of Bath is based on calculated risk-taking, knowing when to break from convention, and when to reprioritise your approach to better fulfil the requirements of the people who depend on you. Instead of simply matching what other institutions offer, we challenge them with innovative approaches and ideas that better serve users’ needs.

5. Always evolving

We believe that things can always be made better, and we know that good design is never finished.

It is pointless to sink 2 months into crafting the most beautiful interface if it does not allow the visitor to complete their task, or does not work on a mobile device. We release a design feature as soon as possible, and then iterate on that delivery to improve it.

 

Digital team sprint note, 12 - 25 July

📥  Communication

Don't forget that if you're on campus you can check out what we have shipped on http://go.bath.ac.uk/beta-release-notes.

What we've delivered

  • You can now upload .ics files as part of a Publication
  • You can now select 'Press release' for Announcements, 'Letter' or 'Timetable' for Corporate Information and 'Handbook' for Publications as their sub-type
  • Admins can now add Labels to content items
  • Pinned items with a featured image now have links around the image
  • We improved the spacing of the Supervisor availability section on staff profiles
  • We made the profile image on Academic profiles the same size as staff profiles
  • We improved the spacing around the ruled list items
  • Lists of content items can now be filtered by subtype
  • We created a couple of Guides relating to Brexit
  • We created a Collection for our Brexit related information
  • We edited content submitted for our next takeover of Worldwide - Brazil
  • We created content for Induction

What we're going to deliver

  • Be able to pin links to external pages on to Landing Pages
  • Roll out creating a Collection to admins
  • Build the Collections for Undergraduate Student Induction, Postgraduate Taught Student Induction and Postgraduate Research Student Induction
  • Have filtered lists of Content Items by Label

 

Digital team sprint notes, 28 June – 11 July

📥  Sprint notes

If you are on campus, you can read about the latest Content Publisher changes as and when they happen at http://go.bath.ac.uk/beta-release-notes

What we've delivered

  • Allowed admins to set up labels in the Content Publisher
  • Finished some discovery work on how we can improve our styling for headings
  • Made caching more selective, so you no longer have to refresh certain pages to get the latest version (like the staff landing page or noticeboard)
  • Fixed several bugs for padding and spacing
  • Fixed a font size bug that was causing issues for landing pages in Safari
  • Continued working on our induction content for new students
  • Continued working on our next iteration of Worldwide
  • Published the first transitioned RIS pages

What we're going to deliver

  • Report on user research we did at the June Open Days
  • Redesign the header for smartphones so more content is initially visible
  • Allow admins to associate content items to labels
  • Implement collections in the Content Publisher
  • Implement lists of collections
  • Continue work on induction
  • Continue work on Worldwide

Digital Roadmap update for July 2016

📥  Roadmap

Shipped in June

Landing page curation improvements

We’ve made it easier to find information on a landing page and navigate to related content.

Authors can now ‘pin’ shared content items from other departments and groups to landing pages.

You can also feature groups, team, services and locations from the section of the page called ‘About’.

Content Publisher improvements

List pages

We’ve improved lists by changing how content items are sorted and introduced filtering by type to help you narrow your search.

Labels

We've made it easier for users to find information based on subject. Labels allow authors to organise content tailored to a particular audience or subject area.

Person profiles

Based on user research we've improved Person profiles so that they better meet the needs of academics and prospective postgraduate research students.

We've made titles clear and information is now prioritised based on the individual role.

Admissions and Outreach (including Widening Participation)

We've made it easier for prospective students, parents and staff to find information about our Admissions teams and our outreach activities with under-represented groups.

  • Single destination for admissions and outreach information
  • 
Improved contact information for Admissions, including opening hours of the Admissions office
  • Specific content for teachers who work with under-represented groups
  • Improved information for students interested in participating in outreach activities

Awards Ceremonies

We've built and shipped the first iteration of the new Award Ceremonies section, providing a new destination for students, parents, honorary graduates and member of the public.
Visitors can find out about the day, celebrate successes and learn about the achievements of our honorary graduates.

In future iterations we'll work with the Academic Registry to create a single destination for information about how to graduate, selecting the right academic dress and how to book tickets for guests.

Computing Services

We’re improving induction information to make it easier for new students to get help with setting up digital services when they arrive on campus for the first time.

Computing Services is now working to improve information for new staff, complementing information they have already created for new students.

Research Innovation Services (RIS)

We’ve built and shipped the first iteration of staff profiles for members of the RIS leadership team.

RIS is now working to make it easier for researchers to get help developing their research proposals. They are also creating a guide to using Pure.

Download the latest Digital Roadmap

 

Digital team sprint notes 28 May - 27 June

📥  Sprint notes

If you are on campus, you can read about the latest Content Publisher changes as and when they happen on http://go.bath.ac.uk/beta-release-notes

What we've delivered

  • Organisations can pin content from associated groups to their landing page
  • Publishers can now choose from a list of content types to show in the 'About us' section on a Landing Page
  • There is now a new 'Academic profile' subtype of Person Profile
  • Page number navigation boxes in our content lists have a larger area you can click/touch on
  • More content is initially visible when you look at the pages on small-screen devices
  • Added new 'procedure' and 'speech' subtypes to Corporate Information pages
  • Content items now display the subtype name instead of the type in the summary information (except for Guides)
  • Locations now have a link to get directions via Google maps (if latitude and longitude have been provided)
  • Completed our Person Profile testing with the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science
  • Carried out some detailed discovery on our heading sizes and how and where they're used so that we can make improvements
  • The Admissions and Outreach section is now live
  • The Widening Participation section is now live
  • The award ceremonies section is now live

What we're going to deliver

  • Content Publisher administrators can add Topics
  • Publishers will be able to associate Content Items to Topics
  • Publisher administrators will be able to create and manage Collection pages
  • Site visitors will be able to filter lists of content by subtype
  • People using small-screen devices to visit the site will see (even more) content without needing to swipe up
  • Content for the next iteration of Worldwide, focusing on our connections with Brazil
  • Prepare to launch the Induction section for new students starting in September
  • Continue supporting transition for Research Innovation Services, Computing Services and Security