In October, I worked on improving the information we provide about research integrity and ethics. To deliver the new section, I worked with subject matter experts in the Vice-Chancellor's Office and the Office of the University Secretary.
When we started, the content was basically a single page with multiple tabs, many many links and subheadings which were generic or duplicated. Together, we set out on a quest to make the process simpler and important tasks easier to spot and complete.
We shipped the new content in mid-November, so it's still early days. But we can already see from the analytics that we've made a huge improvement.
Making things simpler
Our biggest aim was to make it easier for users to understand what they need to do to conduct ethically responsible research. For this, we reworked parts of the original content into a plain English guide.
Plain English is about writing in a straightforward manner so that the content can be more easily understood by a wider audience.
Looking at the analytics, this guide is by far the most visited individual content item, with 517 pageviews compared to the next item with 344. It has an average time on page of 2:29. These stats suggest that it's being both found and read.
On that note, the fact that we can even start to draw comparisons between individual items of content is a huge improvement in itself. With the old page, all we had was basically an overall number of visitors to the whole page and our best guess.
Coherent user journey
One of the biggest changes is that the new Collection is making it easier for people to move on to the next step in completing their task. The bounce rate has gone down from 64% to 30%, which suggests that people are finding the content relevant.
The main purpose of both the old page and the new Collection is to point users to the relevant information. The change in the average time on page (old 4:32, new 1:15) suggests that it's a lot easier for people to find what they're looking for. This is supported by the fact that 80% of the people are moving onto another item of content compared to 63% on the old page.
There is also a big difference in what content they're moving onto to. From the new Collection, users go to the main items of content in the section - the top three items are two guides and our statement on ethics and integrity. From the old page, users were moving onto a more random set of content scattered across the website with no clear indication of any shared top tasks.
So yes, it's still very early days. But after nearly three months since going live, the analytics would seem to suggest that users are finding it easier to navigate and read the content we’ve created.
In a transition project of this size, these little successes are worth noticing and shouting about. By sharing them, we are able to not only keep our stakeholders informed but provide a useful example for colleagues in the wider Higher Education community.
I compared data on the new content from the launch date to present to data on the old content from the same timespan one year earlier.