Goodbye Alpha

Posted in: Beta, Content Publisher

On Friday 27th we finished the testing of alpha.bath.ac.uk. The ‘Alpha’ was a project to trial an experimental design, infrastructure and editorial approach for a new University of Bath website.

The point of the Alpha

The Alpha went live in January 2015. During the Alpha we redirected on-campus users to the trial version of the site whenever they wanted to view the homepage or About section, with publishers using an experimental content management system when they needed to update those pages.

Between January and the end of February we actively monitored the Alpha site’s performance, gathered user feedback (through surveys and interviews) and developed the content and features much as though the Alpha was the ‘business as usual’ site. Now that the Alpha is closed the redirects are turned off and it’s back to the old pages and CMS (for the time being).

From the Alpha exercise we have learned a great deal about what our publishers and end-users need from a website that does a better job of representing the University of Bath. Over the next couple weeks we will be writing up the learning from the Alpha. The report will be submitted to the Digital Steering Group and made available to colleagues across the University.

Exciting times ahead

We will begin work on the first iteration of the new publishing platform in March 2015, developing the necessary features to allow us to switch-over to the new site from June. We intend to complete the switch-over of publishing by September 2015. This will be known as the 'Beta' period.

As the momentum builds toward transition we are stepping up our interaction with lead publishers and editors in faculties and departments to pin down user needs and the practicalities of transition. If you are in a department or faculty and want to know what the Beta means for your organisation specifically, get in touch with your lead publisher or editor in the first instance.

You can of course get in touch with us here in Digital too. We’ll be regularly posting to the blog about the progress of the Beta and we’ll be focussing our regular ’Show & Tell’ sessions (every second Friday) on the Beta, so come along.

Perhaps most useful of all will be to check in on beta.bath.ac.uk regularly. Over the coming months you will see the new site materialise feature by feature, content item by content item on a weekly basis. This continuous iterative development will be the manner in which we will get to the new bath.ac.uk by September 2015, and it is the manner in which we will constantly improve the site from that point onward so that our new platform remains fit for the University's digital purposes.

Posted in: Beta, Content Publisher

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  • Really love this blog - such a great example for other universities.

    I'm interested in the choice of CMS. Os this something being developed in-house? Or are you modifying something that's already out there?

  • Hi Nathan, sorry about the slow reply.

    We're developing this in-house using off-the-shelf-components where they're available. Our existing CMS, which has been in place since 2007, is an open source product and has developed in a direction we don't want to follow. It's also 2.5 million lines long, so the odds of actually being able to patch a bug, or alter behaviour to match what we want, whilst maintaining the ability to upgrade cleanly, are slight.

    Writing our own gives us the ability to develop something that is not only much more suitable for method by which we want to publish content on our site but also allow us to provide a UI which makes this simple for our hundreds of site editors and publishers. It also puts us in a position of strength when it comes to adding (or removing) features as our requirements change over time.