Digital Marketing & Communications

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

Topic: Social media

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.


Building Bath’s digital presence on Chinese social media

📥  International, Social media

There is a whole other social media world out there beyond Facebook and Twitter that the University of Bath can be part of. Sina Weibo is the first non-English social media site on which the University has established an official account. We are looking to source a wide range of content from faculties, departments and services across the campus.

Weibo, meaning microblog in Chinese, is one of the most popular social media channels in China, with over 30% of its internet users actively using this platform.

Like Twitter, Weibo has a 140-character limit. Over the years, Weibo has gradually become a mix of Twitter and Facebook for features. Users can upload images and videos, insert hashtags, emoticons, music and videos in posts, as well as retweet and comment on others’ posts.

Weibo has a reward system that encourages users to spend more time on the site. Users can receive virtual medals and gain popularity for actively engaging with users.

Launching University of Bath's Weibo account

We launched the University’s official Weibo account on 3 June 2015. Our aim is to support the University’s reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence amongst Chinese-speaking audiences.

University of Bath Weibo screenshot

University of Bath Weibo

Following the launch, we have carried out the following steps:

  1. Verification - we have had our account verified, so there is now a blue ‘V’ sign appearing next to our Weibo logo. This means all the users will be able to tell that our account is genuine and official.
  2. Design - we have ‘decorated’ our timeline page following our brand guidelines, including the choice of logo, background color and images.

Publishing on average 2 posts per day, we have over 800 followers to date, the majority of whom are Chinese prospective students.  As Digital Editor for Internationalisation, my responsibility is to oversee the account on a day-to-day basis and develop a content strategy tailored to different periods of the academic cycle.

Engaging with Chinese users

Weibo offers us a unique channel to interact with our Chinese prospective students..

Over the busy Student Induction period, I worked closely with the International Student Advice Team in Student Services and had assistance from a Chinese postgraduate student to post daily messages with the goal of helping Chinese new students prepare for their travel to the UK and transition to a new life at Bath.

With Induction related messages, we have created hashtags, such as 'University of Bath tips' to group relevant posts and make it easy for users to search and save to read later. We've also conducted a series of interviews with current students and published ‘long weibo’ posts as case studies. These posts have proved popular and generated a lot of appreciative comments.

We will develop more diverse ways to engage with our followers ahead of the next Induction periods. For instance, we can organise online events, such as live Q&As to answer student enquiries.

What’s next?

Projecting the University overseas is one of the core priorities of our International Strategy and projects like the one we have begun on Weibo are squarely aimed at supporting that strategic goal.

We are very excited by the potential of Weibo for raising Bath's profile in China and with Chinese audience internationally. Feeback has so far been positive. It is important to continue improving our engagement with prospective students while also raising our visibility with a wider range of Chinese audiences, including current students and alumni.

To achieve this, we need to collaborate with faculties, departments and services across campus to draw in a richer range of content. Over the coming weeks I will be in touch with a number of teams, but you can also contact me via