Shipped in April
We’re developing a new publishing application to hold information about our courses. Called ‘Course search’ it will replace the eProspectus.
The goal is to improve prospective students experience of finding courses, learning about them and applying.
We’re also making it easier for Admissions and Outreach, Faculties, and Marketing to create, amend and curate courses.
In the future we’ll be able to use this tool to help create printed materials, reducing duplication of effort and reducing errors between print and digital content.
Shipped in May
We’ve launched the new Student Services section. The
- better represents the department
- it easier for people ton navigate and find information
- content has been rewritten to be more useful
- quicker for visitors to complete tasks
Undergraduate user journey
We’ve created an Undergraduate user journey. The Student Recruitment Editorial Group will use the journey to improve curation of content on the website and applicant communications, including the timings of emails sent through the CRM and social media posts.
By coordinating messages and reducing duplication we will improve our communication with prospective students. As a result they will be better informed and more aware of Bath, courses and important deadlines.
Download the latest Digital Roadmap
This was an important sprint for us, as the first sections to be published with the new CMS went live.
Our intention now is to continue delivering sections with the new CMS on a regular basis, and we will use our fortnightly sprint notes to highlight these.
What we've delivered in the last two weeks
- The text colour of the supervisor availability information in Academic Profiles was changed to make it easier to read
- Changing the status of a Content Item from Published to Draft no longer makes it disappear from filtered lists
- We made a number of backend changes to ensure everything is working smoothly from www.bath.ac.uk as well as beta.bath.ac.uk
- We improved the tool which makes sure that all the old web addresses for a section which has moved to the new CMS redirect to the correct location
- The Guide for using images on the website has been updated to recommend new image size and ratios to make it easier for editors to find and create new images
- Caching is now enabled across all of www.bath.ac.uk to reduce the amount of time it takes to load pages
- We've produced the first piece of standardised documentation on the visual components which makes up the new site templates
- We carried out an A/B test with academics at the University of Bristol to help us identify improvements to the layout of our Person Profile items - we're very grateful to our colleagues there for helping us out!
- The use of colour in the editing screens is now more consistent
- Filtered lists are now always updated correctly when the title of a content item (and its URL) is changed
- We changed our configuration of Archive It so that it no longer automatically retrieves page outside of the www.bath.ac.uk domain
- We held a user story planning session with members of the Student Recruitment Editorial Group to help support creating a content marketing plan
What we're going to do in the next two weeks
- Produce the second alpha of a new tool for publishing University courses to the website - Course Publisher
- Publish the new Digital Marketing & Communications and Student Services sections
- Start working with Research & Innovation Services to transition their section to the new CMS
- Continue work with Marketing and Communications to transition their content
- Fix a number of small inconsistencies and problems across both www.bath.ac.uk and the CMS
Today we published a number of sections on the new Bath website. These pages appear in our new designs, managed by our new CMS and they have been produced using our new approach to content design.
The sections are:
Congratulations and thank you to the department involved and the Lead Publisher Steve Milnes. It’s been hard work but the benefits to the end users are clear to see.
When you look at these new pages the most obvious changes are to the way they look. Each type of content - be it a project or announcement, for example - has a templated design so that all pages of that type look alike and adapt to whatever screen size you are using. The words you read are displayed in a new typeface that makes everything easier to read.
There are far fewer pages in this new site and every item of content has been analysed to make sure it is useful. Every item of content belongs to an organisation within the University and to one of 12 content types, with the aim of getting people to what they need more quickly. In the near future we intend to add topics as a third way of identifying and browsing our content, so that you don't need to know who in the university is responsible for that content.
The publisher of the content item you are looking at has followed a template when producing the page. Providing this structure makes the creation and editing of content quicker, reduces page errors and allows us to monitor and improve the quality of content. For example, every page is required to have a title and summary that is short, uses plain English and makes it clearer what the point of the page is.
All the people who can publish on the new site have been through training. The software has been designed so that next-to-no technical knowledge is required. Instead our training programme has focused on new skills that directly benefit the site's users, such as understanding user needs, content design and analysing content performance. This also means that we can let more staff publish content online and at the same time keep the quality high.
Suggest an improvement
We hope that the users of the site will let us know how well it is meeting their needs. We expect users to discover bugs, snags and additional content or features that need to be added or improved. If you find a problem or have a suggestion, we’ve provided a link to 'suggest an improvement’ at the foot of every page so you can tell us about an issue if you encounter it.
If the feedback relates to the content of the page, we will route this through to the publisher responsible to deal with. If it’s about the design or functionality then it will be for us in the Digital team to think about how we deal with it and resolve or explain why it isn’t possible or desirable. Either way your feedback will be acknowledged, responded to and it will always be welcomed.
Stay in touch
We will be posting further updates as we add content and features to the new site over the coming weeks, so check back regularly or sign-up to receive email alerts when we post.
What we've delivered in the last two weeks
- Publishers can access the preview and published version of a content item from the top of the edit screen in the CMS
- There is a new stripe at the top of published CMS pages linking to an explanation of what is changing on bath.ac.uk
- We've made the spacing between different content sections on a page more consistent
- When setting a Call to Action publishers can choose to add a URL, email address or telephone number
- Discovered and fixed a publishing-breaking bug in one of the third-party libraries we use. As we said by email, sorry to our publishers for this 🙁
- Improved our weekly analytics reports to include pages and sites linking to the wrong domains
- Set up the infrastructure to allow us to build our Performance Platform
- Made sure we don't archive third-party sites (like the BBC!) when we don't want to
- Making sure the content managed by Student Services and Accommodation and Hospitality Services is ready for final review
What we're going to do in the next two weeks
Pending some final checks we'll be publishing our first pages to www.bath.ac.uk using our new templates.
We'll write more about this when it happens, but most of the team's work we have scheduled for the next two weeks revolves around making sure this happens smoothly and that all the old pages are redirected to their newer, better, equivalents.
In addition, we'll be:
- Changing how we create our filterable lists of content to make sure they always include all relevant content
- Review and improve our size and ratio guidance for images on bath.ac.uk
- Running a first round of testing with academic colleagues from the University of Bristol
- Transitioning content owned by Marketing and Communications to the new platform
Doing anything with more regularity will provide performance benefits and provide insights into how to do it better, and over the last couple years we've really ramped up the frequency of our user testing.
Sooo, here are five lessons that I want to share from our latest round of testing (for our online course publisher). They really helped me to improve our process.
1. Keep the technology barrier low
We used to have our own 'testing lab' (a MacBook Pro running Silverback hooked up to PC peripherals), but we quickly found that people got confused by the unfamiliar interface.
Where possible we now get users to test on their own machines at their own desks to remove this barrier. This has the benefit of making our volunteers feel at ease by being in familiar surroundings. In other situations like guerilla testing, we've found that a tablet works really well, due to being portable and not requiring any accessory beyond a finger.
2. Don't go out alone
It's really hard to ask the questions and capture the answers effectively without help, so bring along a colleague. This also helps when approaching people cold because you will be more relaxed and confident, and from their perspective two random strangers approaching you is less unsettling than one.
3. Groups are good
Generally you get fewer in-depth responses when testing your product with a group of people, the trade-off being the greater breadth of replies. However, group discussion of individual responses leads to additional insight that you will not get when talking with one person. Make sure you allow time your testing script to accommodate this off-piste discussion.
4. Be realistic
It's better to test a few features thoroughly, than rush through a whole raft of different aspects. Also, it's really important not to run too many sessions at one time; it’s tiring and you’ll miss insight through fatigue and response bias (you re-interpret what someone says because you've heard the same response 8 times already that morning).
We found 4 large-scale (~45 minute) sessions was enough for one day - and around 9 smaller scale (~10 minute) sessions.
5. Be enthusiastic
You're proud of what you've done, but you want to make it better. Don't be defensive of any issues, instead thank the user for finding the problem - they've done you a big favour.
Always remember that people are giving up their time for you, for no reward - so make it an enjoyable experience!
Shipped in March
Professional Services beta
We launched the Professional Services beta. So far it includes:
- Conference and Events
- Guest Accommodation
- Student Accommodation
- International Relations Office
We built and shipped the first iteration of the performance platform. The goal is to build a dashboard that authors can use to understand how well their content is performing.
User experience improvements
We improved calls to action (CTA) to make it easier for users to complete tasks. Authors can now add:
- email address
- web address
- phone number
We made it easier to authors to preview their work and access the published page when editing a content item. Improvements include:
- Content items in review include a ‘Preview’ link
- Each content item that's previously been published includes a 'View published page' link
Download the latest Digital Roadmap
Just over a year ago, the University began work on an ambitious project to develop a new website and publishing platform to replace our nearly decade-old content management system.
We are now ready to begin launching the new bath.ac.uk.
The new website is:
- optimised so people can use it on their desktop, tablet or mobile phone
- easier to navigate and search
The Professional Services departments going live over the next few weeks are:
- Accommodation, Hospitality and Security
- International Relations Office
- Student Services
The launch forms part of a larger Professional Services transition programme which will roll out over the next three months, allowing us to trial the new design and content with a larger audience.
We’ll use feedback from this trial to help us to continue to improve the website.
To make sure go live is trouble-free, we’re working with each Professional Service to identify the best time to launch. When we go live, we will archive the old site.
All old web addresses will continue to work, redirecting you to the equivalent content on the beta. These redirects will remain live for six months.
Over the last 12 months, the Digital team has worked with publishers from across the University to transition their content to the new website. This work involved:
- auditing over 500,000 content items
- identifying what content to migrate, archive and delete
- writing a goal for each content item as we migrate it to the new platform
- transitioning content
In less than five months, the University publishing community has re-written and uploaded nearly 1,400 content items to the new publishing platform.
To make sure each page is correct, we've asked subject experts to check the facts. If we’ve missed something, email email@example.com, tell us what's wrong, and we will contact the editor responsible.
Alternatively, if you have a suggestion on how we can make the new website and publishing platform even better, you can submit your feedback using the 'Suggest an improvement' link at the bottom of every page.
Every two weeks we publish an update on what we've delivered in the last two weeks, and what we intend to deliver in the coming fortnight. Here's the latest edition:
What we did
- Updated the section at the top of each piece of content with links off to similar content and a description of what type of content this is
- Improved the display of the page title and summary text for mobile, tablet and desktop
- Improved the layout of dates at the top of pages which have them
- Made the "Explore" item in the main menu link to a page which contains links to lists of all our content types
- Organisation landing pages now automatically list and link all of the groups which belong to that Organisation
- We wrote up our Design Principles
- We updated the CMS to provide a sample URL when publishers are asked to link to a profile in our research publications store
- Received 236 requests for support and resolved 193
- Worked with Student Services to make content changes as a result of the fact-checking process
- Delivered a Content Creation Bootcamp to members of the Library
- Wrote up the CMS project as a University Project in the new CMS itself. Very meta.
What we're going to do
- Add a link in the CMS to the preview and published versions of content
- Allow publishers to specify different types of call to action (eg. phone, email, link)
- Contact the Internet Archive to discover if it's possible to archive our pages without also archiving parts of bbc.co.uk(!)
- Improve the spacing between different sections of pages
- Complete final proof stages of Accommodation, Hospitality, Security, Eateries and Student Services transition projects
- Post to the blog about the forthcoming changes and link to it from the staff landing page.
After a brief hiatus, our Digital Roadmap looks ahead from March 2015.
Progress update from February 2015
- Carried out user research to improve content item navigation
- Introduced Collection pages tailored to particular audiences or specific subjects
- Users can now explore content types using filtered lists
- Introduced a Facebook page for prospective undergraduate students starting in 2017
- Made it easier for our users to find and listen to our Public lectures by migrating our podcasts to Soundcloud
Priorities planned for March 2015
- launch a Professional Services beta, including Accommodation and Hospitality, International Relations and Student Services
- Investigate the University's activity in South Africa to support a 'takeover' of our new Worldwide Collection page
- Carry our Staff profile user research
- Work on the first iteration of our performance platform
University staff and students can find the detailed version of the Digital Roadmap on the wiki via go.bath.ac.uk/digital-roadmap. We will release the next version of the Roadmap on w/c 11 April 2016.