Digital Marketing & Communications

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

Digital team sprint notes, 21 October - 27 October 2014

📥  Weeknotes

I hold my hands up. It's my fault. Our sprint notes are a day late *hangs head*.

What we did

  • It was our third CMS Alpha sprint. We focussed on making the structured content forms in the publishing application.
  • We met with colleagues in HR to discuss the process of transitioning content to the CMS. Looks like we might have a volunteer trailblazer!
  • It was also the third sprint on the alpha of a prospectus publishing app. Here again the focus was on making the structured content form used to create course entries. The team demoed the app and captured feedback from the Student Recruitment Marketing team and the Faculty Web Editors.
  • Audited the content relating to ‘student experience’, including Accommodation, Study and the Academic Skills Centre. We wanted to find out what how these ‘student experience’ sections are being used and how often they are being updated.
  • Audited the content in /research since its launch a year ago to understand which research categories and content types generate the most traffic and engagement.
  • The Content team met up to review and prioritise the editorial style guide backlog.
  • Participated in a workshop run by Process Improvement with the Internal Communications team to work through the process of developing and publishing content on
  • We were kindly invited along to the Learning & Teaching Enhancement team meeting at which we gave a walk-through demo of the digital roadmap.

What's coming up next

  • Final sprint on Prospectus Alpha.
  • Fourth sprint on CMS Alpha feature development.
  • Work on the IP & Legal Services and Marketing & Communications Department content.
  • Development of research case studies.
  • Development of the online communications plan for our 50th Anniversary.

See you at the proper time next week.

Show & Tell, October 24 2014

📥  CMS, Content, Design, Development, Show & Tell

We celebrated 11 months of Show & Tell last week with another Show & Tell. On the agenda this week: editorial calendars, rebasing, analytics and some exciting new alphas.

Flow - Charlotte

Last month, Rhian talked about how she and Charlotte had searched for an editorial calendar tool that did everything they needed, but didn't come packed with superfluous features. After initially turning to Google Spreadsheets, they've now spent two weeks trialling Flow, and Charlotte updated us on their first impressions.

They particularly liked how Flow offers:

  • a clear calendar view, with the option to drill down into the details
  • quick scheduling and tagging of items
  • dragging and dropping items between dates
  • the option to look at individual calendars, or an overview of everything.

Overall, we like Flow and we might use it for more editorial calendars in the future.

Ace of Rebase - Tom N

We've been using GitHub more and more for our version control. Mostly this has been a happy and prosperous time, but one aspect of Git has been repeatedly responsible for screams of horror in the office: rebasing. To provide some context for the screams, Tom talked us through what rebasing is, why you should do it and what can go wrong.

Git allows multiple people to work on a project simultaneously and engage in jolly cooperation. One master copy of the project exists, with everyone working on different features in their own individual branches, which are copied from the master. You can then merge these branches back into the master copy and combine everyone's work.

But what if other people have merged their branches into the master copy before you? Your branch is now out of date. You may know the feature you've been working on will still play nice with the new master, but if you try to merge it back in normally, you might overwrite work that people have done since.

This is where rebasing comes in. Essentially you need to change history and pretend your branch started with the current master, not the one you actually started with several versions ago. You can then add your work to the project without wiping out anything else that's been done since you started it.

Boromir: "One does not simply Git rebase it!"

Boromir, who destroyed the fellowship of the sprint team after overwriting the repository.

Rebasing is fiddly stuff - when it's done right, it's great, but get it wrong and you could lose a lot of work on a project. Tom's top tip for avoiding extreme pain and suffering was to use interactive mode when you rebase, or everything goes boom. analysis - Takashi

Are we putting the right amount of effort into the right places? Takashi recently did a top level analysis of to compare the size of our various sections with how much attention they get from our users. He presented his findings, which included:

  • our study section gets the most traffic
  • the Computing Services section is our biggest in terms of size and number of files
  • many CMS users have edited less than ten pages in the last six months, but some have edited over 500
  • the rate of users accessing from Google is rising, while traffic from Facebook is dropping
  • visits from social media tend to be shorter and less engaging.

Takashi also wowed the room with some good-looking treemaps and fielded some questions about his information visualisation secrets (Google Spreadsheets).

Prospectus alpha - Rhian and Liam

Rhian, Liam and Tom T have spent several weeks working on a new app to collect and update the information in our prospectus.

We want our prospective students to get a consistent experience, so we need to integrate the content we put on the web and print versions of our prospectus.

Rhian and Liam gave us a demo of the shiny new Ruby app and showed us how adding a new course would work. User testing has already given the team some very useful feedback, so they'll be testing it with more of the app's future users as they continue to work on it.

Future iterations will tackle workflow and version control, and we hope the new app will be an improvement for the people who create the prospectus and the people who read it.

CMS alpha - Dan

The CMS alpha is the biggest project we're working on at the moment, and Dan's been handling the user interface (UI) for the editing app.

The UI for the CMS needs to be:

  • clear
  • concise
  • consistent
  • accessible.

After setting out these requirements, Dan gave us all a demo of the UI he's been working on and showed us what editing different content types will look like.

Ros from Monsters Inc with "FORMS" in big letters

Sometimes you've just gotta have them.

The new UI looks much more straightforward and user-friendly than our current CMS, and it also confirms to Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Standards.

Work on the alpha continues this week. If you want to find out more, have a look at Ross's blog post about our plans for the CMS.

How we look after content on

📥  Agile, Content

We’re changing the way we manage content maintenance on to make it easier for you to submit a task and keep track of its progress as we work on it. This change affects all the people we work with who look after recruitment, student, research and business content.

How the ‘process’ used to work

In the past, content contributors could email Web Editors directly or send a request through our support system, which meant it was difficult for the team to work out what needed to be completed first. Staff told us they found this confusing as it wasn’t clear who to email (and we agree).

The new content maintenance process

Our fifth delivery principle is that we “keep things simple and consistent”. Over the last six months, the team has been trialling a new content maintenance process using Trello, a collaboration tool that helps organise projects and tasks.

From today, we'll be opening up the board to staff and asking you to submit all content maintenance tasks to Using the content maintenance board means you’ll be able to see the tasks you’ve asked us to work on, where they are in the queue, and what we’re working on right now and what’s coming next.

By working in the open and sharing with you what we’re working on, you’ll be able to scrutinise our work, making us a better team and helping us to improve the service we deliver to you. You'll receive an invite to Trello when we add your task to the board for the first time.

How the board works

We work on content maintenance on Fridays unless the task has a specific deadline.

When you email us we'll add your task as a new card to the ‘Received’ column and work out what needs to be done. If we need more information, we’ll contact you and move it to ‘Queried’. Only when we have enough information to progress your task will we moved the card to ‘Agreed and Queued’.

Cards wait in the ‘Agreed and Queued' column until we are ready to work on them. Team members always take the top card unless it's already assigned to a specific person. It’s the job of the team member to progress a task until it's complete. When completed, we'll put the card in ‘Done' and email you.

Any tasks we are not able to progress will be moved to ’Stopped’. Before we do we'll try to contact you. After a month the card will be archived and you'll have to submit a new request.

You can also subscribe to cards if you'd like to be automatically updated on the progress of your task.

Making things even better

We think we can make the process of keeping content up-to-date even easier. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to iterate and release updates to the process.

In January we will be changing the way we prioritise tasks. This will take into account the urgency of the request and its impact. You'll also be asked to begin commenting and answering questions on cards, which means fewer emails in your inbox.

We are changing the University of Bath CMS

  , ,

📥  CMS, Development

We are changing the content management system (CMS) that is used to update This is a significant development in the University of Bath’s efforts to deliver world-class digital communications. The new CMS is currently at prototype stage and will go live in early 2015.

The importance of digital publishing

Groups across the University depend on our website in some measure for engagement, marketing or delivery of services. As a result, they also depend on the CMS being fit for purpose.

There are around 13,000 HTML files managed through the CMS. These have been produced by the 325 members of University staff who have a CMS account. Over 50% of these publishers have used the CMS in the past 6 months. Of the ‘active’ users, around 25 make use of the CMS on a daily basis.

The Digital team follows trends in digital publishing and, based on the example of other large institution websites, it's clear that we should be getting more from our CMS. More importantly, our publishers - both regular and irregular - have told us through their support requests and in person that they are frustrated by the limitations of the current CMS.

Making a CMS fit for our purposes

We want to make our website more interesting and useful, and to help us do that we need to make publishing to that website quicker and easier. By making the CMS less onerous to use, publishers will have more time to concentrate on quality creation and curation of content.

An obvious question is, which CMS will we use? But the more important question is, what do we need the CMS to do? What features will it have?

Based on our analysis of publisher needs at the University, the core feature set of the new CMS will include:

  • dashboard-based interface to make it easier to find and manage content
  • structured content templates making publishing choices more straightforward and pages quicker to create
  • markdown and a compact WYSIWYG will replace HTML to simplify formatting
  • category tags to knit content together
  • clearly defined publisher roles and permissions
  • access to the CMS without classroom-based training
  • direct access to content performance data to inform editorial decision-making about what to publish and when.

These ‘starting features’ and those that follow on from them will be sequenced on a CMS product backlog (a webpage containing prioritised cards on which each feature is represented). Publishers will be able to subscribe to the board and keep track of the progress of feature developments they are particularly interested in.

Starting with an alpha

Setting up a new CMS and transitioning all our publishers and content across to is a complex undertaking. So we have to start small-scale and develop the capabilities of the CMS on an iterative basis.

It all starts with an alpha phase. The objective of the alpha exercise is to build a working prototype of the CMS. This will be used to test our approach and help us understand what it will take to deliver the CMS on the scale that’s needed to support our entire university website.

The development of the CMS alpha is underway. In November 2014 we will start using it to manage the content in In January 2015 we will report on the results. Between then and now, we will be running regular demos and user research workshops with publishers around the University (details of which will follow).

Digital team member doing a demo of the CMS

Prototyping the publishing interface for the CMS alpha

Putting users first

From February 2015 we will take the learning from the alpha and begin rolling out a beta phase of the new CMS and the process of moving our publishing activity to this new platform. It will take a significant effort but the rewards will be worth it.

Let us be clear, better digital publishing will not be achieved by changing our software alone. Nevertheless, a simplified application will make publishing and editing quicker, help improve content quality and make our site more useful and engaging for the millions of people who use it each year.

Digital Team sprint notes, 13 October - 20 October 2014

📥  Weeknotes

It was a big week for anyone who is a fan of miserable weather. Similarly, it was a big week for the Digital Marketing & Communications team, who made significant strides in a number of important projects.

CMS alpha

Several members of the team continued work on the CMS alpha as the second sprint got underway. The team worked on deploying the publishing app and made good progress on the publishing interface so that publishers could choose a content type and start creating a new content item.

They also further refined the content types that will be used in the alpha and began transitioning the content from our About pages to the new CMS.

Prospectus App alpha

Rhian and Liam investigated what makes a great online prospectus, and began mapping out the required content to successfully define a course.

Liam also wireframed a simple structured content editor workflow for the new online prospectus.

Student pages

Charlotte carried out a content inventory of any pages involved in the student experience, laying the groundwork for the roadmap towards an updated Student section.

Digital roadmap

Ross submitted the latest Digital roadmap for review to the Digital Steering group and received approval. University staff and students can access the latest version.


Justin and Paul met with Phil, Ross and Rich to plan out the next three months of work on Services, including work on:

  • IP & Legal Services
  • the Office of Policy & Planning
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Computing Services
  • Transport.

Justin also met with the Computing Services team to discuss the work we’ll be doing on their section this year.

International student mobility

Liam supplied Colin Grant, our Pro-Vice chancellor of Internationalisation, with illustrated slides that depict our successes in International student mobility, recruitment and partnerships.

This week

Work will continue on our CMS and Prospectus sprints, and other work covering new Research features, further investigation of student content and a drafting of a new structure for Office of Policy and Planning is underway.

It starts earlier every year…

It’s more than two months until Christmas, so naturally the DMC team have started getting into the festive mood early by opening up the first box of mince pies for 2014. Glad tidings everyone!

Mince pies

The first sign of Christmas

Digital Team sprint notes, 7 October - 13 October 2014

📥  Weeknotes

It's still wet. It's still windy. It's still cold - it's official, winter is coming!

Last week

  • Dan, Phil, Ross and Tom N began working on the CMS alpha, defining content types in Contentful and using Hugo to publish test content.
  • Liam, Rich, Rhian and Tom T began work on their very own alpha, defining the prospectus app content types and also got to grips with content modelling.
  • Charlotte completed a review of each Graduate School's research application process and created a single version which can be shared, making it easier for prospective postgraduate students to apply to Bath.
  • Iris continued her review of the Research section, deciding on the key metrics which we will use to measure its effectiveness. She also began writing up her recommendations on how we can improve the performance of the section.
  • Liam and Tom N documented the current level of WCAG-measured accessibility across templates on and investigated what we can do to improve the levels of accessibility on our site for users with disabilities.
  • Paul met with Imaging, Design and Print Services (IDPS) team members to review existing content and create new content to better address user needs.
  • Kelvin tested out applying a compression technique on our servers to speed up the delivery of our website to our users.
  • We held our fortnightly Show and Tell.

This week

We will:

  • begin an inventory of our current student content
  • carry on with our CMS and Prospectus publishing app sprints.


Show and Tell, 10 October

📥  Show & Tell

Another Friday has come (and gone) where DMC and friends share their latest projects and, oh, what a magical session it turned out to be.

Kelvin - KIS (Show) and Tell

Kelvin kicked things off with revealing all. His coding skills, that is. For a few years now, Kelv has been our KIS expert (Key Information Statistics). Important statistics are displayed on the Unistats website which provides prospective students with comparable information across all courses and universities. Our pages on this site also include links to our own website.

Every year Kelv has had to eat a lot of data in order to match the correct UCAS codes with the correct courses with the correct pages. He then has to generate a long list of redirects to make sure all the links go to the pages they are meant to be going to.

This year he discovered something amazing. He realised the searching could be automated. So he created a tool which searches the courses and produces the list of redirects in a fraction of the time. Not only is it a time saver, Kelv now hopes the other devs can become KIS experts too.

Dan - Just my Type

Dan followed on from Kelv by revealing the work he and Rich have been doing on content types. Over the past week, they have been battling the Big Question; 'how do we define content types?' along with discovering what content types exist on our website. Eventually they settled on the idea that content can be broken down.

  • Element - Smaller bits within the type. For example Name, Location.
  • Type - A bucket of content. Made up of multiple elements. Types are a unit that can be reused.
  • Item - A completed type. For example a team profile, displaying the name, location and contact detail of that team.

One type can produce many items. Once these had been defined, Dan and Rich looked at the website and realised the content could be broken down into various types like Announcements, staff profiles, events.

This work allows us to break down the content on a page, split it up, put it elsewhere and structure it how we want. In the future, changes made to webpages can cascade across the website much quicker. It will also allow us to analyse how different content is performing.

Tom N - Accessibility

This week Tom N took a break from teaching us about security (and a break from drawing on flip charts) to tell us about accessibility. Having a fully accessible website means that people with disabilities or other difficulties can use our website. There is no easy way to test for accessibility. The needs and disabilities our users may have can be so varied, there's no one automated tool to cover everything.

There are, however, some tools out there that can test our site for some of the problems and HTML Codesniffer is one of them. Quick and easy to use, the programme will flag up:

  • errors that must be addressed
  • warnings that should be addressed
  • other areas that could be addressed in an ideal world, but do not fall foul of accessibility guidelines.

We hope that over time, any new pages we create will be more accessible for more people.

Phil - Bamboo

Carrying on with the technical theme of Show and Tell this week, Phil told us why the dev team use Bamboo.

Building and deploying is hard work. Not only does the code have to written, it has to be standard and it has to pass vigorous user acceptance testing. They also need different versions of the same sort of code. The devs also need to be able to write and re-write code, without over writing each other. They use GitHub to do this. So what about Bamboo?

The brilliant thing about Bamboo, is that all this work is fed into Bamboo and the programme will automatically run all the tests and let the devs know if something is amiss. Simply Bamboo is critical to ensure everything works.

Now let's get on with the magic...

Rich - The content horcrux

A few Mondays ago, after a bit of a difficult week, the content team were treated to a Harry Potter themed presentation. On Friday, Rich shared his wizardry with everyone else.

The reliving of some of Harry's adventures enabled us to take away some great messages.

  • Use data and empathy to create good content. Be driven by data and have a good understanding of your user needs. However we should also understand our colleagues and why they might want a bit of content created.
  • Like Dumbledore's Army, we can help train and teach each other, so we can all share the true act of creating wizard content.

And they all lived happily ever after (mostly).

Due to a room change taking good photos was fairly impossible, so here's a relevant gif...

Obliviate/Expecto on Make A Gif

Do we run away from a problem, or do we stand tall and cast our strongest spell? (Psst it's the latter.)

Digital Team sprint notes, 30 September - 6 October 2014

📥  Weeknotes

It's wet. It's windy. It's cold. Welcome to sprint notes!

A lot of our energy at the moment is going into reviewing the effectiveness of different areas of the current site, or preparing for some forthcoming sprints.

Our finance information has been audited by Charlotte and Rhian whilst Iris is now half-way through a two week sprint to review the effectiveness of /research and coming up with a series of recommendations for changes to that section.

Ross, Richard and Dan have been busy evaluating a wide variety of sections of to discover what kinds of content types we have and how they're currently structured. In our forthcoming CMS sprints we'll be seeing how well these apply to our /about section.

Our existing accessibility practices have been reviewed by Tom Natt and Liam. They have written up our options for improving those practices and about how and where we can introduce automated testing to help us out.

Justin has been auditing the HR and Computing Services sections (more than 4,000 files!) whilst also working on a new structure for the Office of Policy and Planning section and working on the content for the Marketing and Communications section.

Paul got the new Intellectual Property & Legal Services section handed back to that department for review.

Alongside this, Justin, Ross, Rich and Phil planned out the next three months work on Services.

The templates and CSS for the newest parts of the site are built using Sass and Foundation. Kelvin and Tom Trentham have been changing how this part of our infrastructure works, moving to Grunt and Ruby Sass rather than scssphp, and rolling out Foundation 5.4.4.

That was a busy sprint! As of tomorrow we start using some of this knowledge to improve our site!

Very quick wins and failing very fast with a One Hour Upgrade

📥  Agile, Scrum, Team

What good can you do with just one hour? Quite a lot, it turns out.

When Rich and I were at IWMW 2014, we were quite taken by the idea of running a one hour ‘makeover’ on a website (we think we heard colleagues from Manchester talking about it). Last week the University of Bath Digital team decided to find out what each of us could do to improve given the gift of 60 minutes to use as we wished. We called it ‘One Hour Upgrade’ (for want of a better name).

Is it really a ‘thing’?

Each member of the team got to pick a thing they wanted to improve about the site, which they believed they could complete within the hour. This ‘thing’ was to be a personal choice and not something from a current sprint backlog or maintenance board. Just so long as it was a lasting improvement.

We used a sprint board and throughout the morning each person stuck up their proposed improvement. Then at 3pm we got together in a stand up and each person explained why their thing was an improvement worth doing.

Some suggestions fizzled out under scrutiny (is that really a thing? can that really be done in an hour?). But most improvements were validated and refined by the team giving us the confidence to proceed. Another interesting development was that a few team members opted to help out on someone else’s improvement rather than pursue their own after hearing the other person’s impassioned pitch.

That ‘planning’ took about 10 minutes to complete. Valid improvements were moved through to the ‘doing’ column and then we got down to work. As the improvements were completed, they were moved through to ‘review’ column and at the end of the hour, we had another stand up to ‘test’ whether the improvements were done or not.

What did we do?

What didn’t we do?!

  • Iris, Rhian and Rich switched to a template that was less text and more task orientated.
  • Liam and Dan removed the use of a spyglass icon on the search field on /students replacing it with the word ‘Go’, bringing it into line with other pages.
  • Charlotte and Dan made sure extra curricular (which is wrong) was replaced by extra-curricular (which is right) plus some other style guide enforcements.
  • Paul banished residual metadata referring to us as Web Services, which is what we were called back in the day.
  • I made sure that every blog has a tagline (which they should) and that no summary closed with a full stop (which they should not).

What didn’t get done?

So you can achieve a lot in an hour. But there are limits.

  • Kelv and Tom Natt didn’t manage to complete a functioning dashboard on the office screen showing the status of Bamboo builds.
  • Tom Trentham couldn’t complete his improvement to the blogs deployment process'.
  • Justin didn’t have the time to restructure the content on coaching and mentoring in the HR section.
  • Dan didn’t get round to making an SVG version of the uni logo.

Was it worth all that vast amount of time and effort?

On balance, I think yes it was.

It was fun and productive. We made a number of small but valuable improvements to the site, quickly, and we deployed them immediately. It was cathartic for some of us knowing that those problems were no longer out there annoying users. While for others it was revealing.

And, it was an interesting exercise in distilling Scrum down to its raw elements, which proved a good refresher for us all.

Will there be another Hour?

We agreed that we will do it again. But we will iterate and do some things differently and better.

  • The items we put in the ‘upgrade’ backlog were written out as tasks but we should do user stories.
  • People generally worked on their own, which we usually discourage so more teamwork is in order.
  • Most of the stuff we did involved fixing something someone else had done; rather than fixing it for them it might be better to use the hour instead to educate and pass on the skill.
  • Most of what we did was fixing debt and that’s not what the opportunity is really for; the next ‘One Hour Upgrade’ should be about innovations.
  • Discovery is as valuable as delivery; there doesn’t need to be a deployment at the end of the hour.

If you try something like this yourselves, let us know how you do it.

Digital Team sprint notes, 23 - 29 September 2014

📥  Weeknotes

While it has been a fun filled Freshers' Week for all the new students here on campus, for the DMC team it has been yet another work filled sprint week. That means only one thing - another set of sprint notes for your reading delight.

What we did....

  • Iris continued her journey branching out into other areas of the website. This time she joined Justin and Paul in the Professional Services section. She spent her week reviewing Computing Services and prototyped several pages to show what improvements could be made.
  • The Imaging, Design and Print website provision has been Paul's focus this week. He has built a structure for the new section and has written content based on user stories.
  • Justin has been continuing his hard work on the Department of Marketing and Communications section.
  • Charlotte and Rhian have continued their research into editorial calendar formats and have drafted a new version for the new academic year.
  • The CMS infrastructure was upgraded to plug in additional security. Thanks Tom T and Kelv for that.
  • Liam has been testing our Foundation based pages against the latest version and applied patches and rewrites where needed in preparation for a major upgrade. (Watch this space...).
  • Group Manager celebrated its 8th birthday so Tom N gave it a refreshing rewrite.
  • Our content formats were investigated by Dan, Rich and Ross who wanted to find out how they were defined and structured.
  • Chris had an incredibly busy week with 397 tickets in the RT queue, but this was mostly due to a little bit of downtime last weekend.
  • Ross has also had a busy week meeting with various departments to discuss the Digital Roadmap and plans for the future.

Launch (nearly)

After several months of work from Charlotte, Iris and Rhian the new section for first year students is ready to go live. Once the behind-the-scenes work has been done we will be launching it!

One hour upgrade

This week saw a very special event. An event so special it deserves its own paragraph in the sprint notes.

Wednesday saw the entire team set aside one hour in the afternoon. We each decided what we wanted to work on. One thing, for one hour to make our website better. Pages were re-written to reflect the style guide, colours were documented and icons improved. But you'll have to read Ross' blog post about it to find out more.

Content maintenance round up

Not only is it the end of another sprint, but it's the end of a month! So it is time for a content maintenance round up. Every Friday Charlotte and Iris go through our content maintenance queue - updating links, updating copy, putting up videos and other small, medium and big(ish) tasks. This September we have completed 31 tasks including:

  • homepage updates
  • messages for first year students
  • updates to our training and how-to guides.

But there's still plenty in the queue to keep them busy. Rich will also be blogging about our content maintenance system, so keep your eyes out for that too.

Next week...

  • Charlotte and Rhian will be moving on to a student finance project.
  • Justin will continue his work on the Department of Marketing and Communications web section and Paul will carry on his work in Professional Services.
  • Dan will also continue to look at content formats.
  • Iris will be back to research.
  • Tom N and Liam will look at accessibility.
  • Kelvin and Tom T will work together on improving SCSS.
  • Lastly (but not least) Chris will be rolling out Universal Analytics.
Monkeying around. (Thanks to Katrina James for the photo.)

Oh to be a student again.