Faculty of Engineering & Design staff

Sharing experience and best practice across the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Posts By: Becky Garner

Lost in transition

  , , ,

📥  Uncategorised

Do you remember what you were doing on October 27 2016? I do. It was the day we launched our new Faculty of Engineering & Design web pages. This made us the first of the four faculties/school to publish its section on the new Bath website (sorry Science).

The ease with which our pages went live was testament to the months of preparation and hard work put in by Beth and me in our team, my fellow editors from other faculties and the digital team. Since then, we’ve taken every opportunity to spread the word about our new pages and encourage feedback. So far the response has been positive and it’s proven a good opportunity to discuss the thinking behind the new look.

Reasons to be cheerful

Some people I've shown the new pages to have looked a bit shocked at how different the new design is to the old site. But there are good reasons for this.

Responsive design

All our new pages adapt to the size of the screen they are displayed on. If you've ever tried to look at our old pages on your mobile, you’ll recall the good old squint and pinch action required to change the view from silly to sensible size. A bit of delving into analytics shows that people are using different devices to view our pages more each year. In 2011, 3.66% of users were accessing our engineering pages from a mobile device. This figure has risen year on year to 17.82% for 2016. So making our web pages responsive reacts to the shift in how people use the internet. It puts our users and their experience first. It also neatly coincides with Google's work last year that saw new search algorithms rolled out to boost rankings for mobile-friendly sites.

Clean design

An uncluttered page makes for a better user experience. It's easier on the eye and allows visitors to scan for salient content. It also addresses the design preferences of our core audiences. User research by the Nielsen Norman Group suggests that young adults prefer minimalist and flat designs as they let them scan content quicker.


Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, once said:

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

Our design and content choices are made with W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in mind. This means we're trying to make sure that everyone using our pages can get to all the information they need. This echoes something especially important to me: our values and duty as a university to promote inclusivity, equality and diversity.

Content driven

Finally, something I can take some credit for! With clean designs and an easy-to-use content publisher, we can focus on producing quality content that people want to read.

What's in the box?

So I’ve talked about what you see when you access our pages but not so much about what we (editors, authors, contributors) see when we input content. The new content publisher replaces OpenCMS as our content management system. If, like me, you've had the pleasure of using OpenCMS, you probably won't be too sad to say goodbye to it. You may miss me apologising to you for what I've often optimistically called its  'random quirks'. But maybe not too much.

My favourite bits

Structured content. There are 12 content types in the content publisher. Every time we create a page, we choose an appropriate template to match the content e.g. project, event, case study or announcement. The beauty of these templates is that they are straightforward and easy to use with a clear purpose that focuses on the user need. We also use markdown so there is minimal formatting needed.

No more broken code! The way the templates are built means that you can't accidentally break any HTML, which was a recurring problem for users in OpenCMS. The time I would have spent seeking out and fixing rogue divs can now be better spent working with subject matter experts (you lot) to craft engaging content.

A section of the announcement content type in the content publisher.

A section of the announcement content type in the content publisher.

Empowerment and education. Because the content publisher is easy to use, it's also easier to train people. This helps us devolve responsibilities and roll out access to more users. It also means we can focus on the important stuff; namely, good content! We can spend more time looking at how to write better content as well as share skills and best practice. We already have clearer guides on:

My hope is that this new approach to web content will ignite a positive culture shift to more collaborative working between requesters and creators.

But how did we get here?

In September 2015, Beth and I spent a week in Digital Basecamp working on transitioning Faculty content. We had already audited all our existing pages and chosen an action (e.g. major edit, split, merge, archive) for each page. At this stage, it was decided that recruitment content would remain out of scope until the new 'course search' app was built. This is why you can still see our old Graduate School pages.

We wrote user needs for all the content we wanted to transition and assigned them a content type. We used Trello to track the progress of the sprint. We created cards for each piece of content to transition and ranked it in terms of difficulty using the Fibonacci sequence. Each piece had to go through a series of editing, reviewing, fact-checking and proofing before it reached the 'ready for live' stage.

A trello board

Capture of the Trello board for Faculty of Engineering & Design transition on completion

During the sprint and in the following weeks, we transitioned the agreed existing Faculty content as well as creating some new. So we were ready to publish, right? Wrong. Transition came to a halt for reasons beyond our control and probably best not to dwell on now.

Skip to a year later and we were back in Digital Basecamp reviving the Trello board and dusting off our not-so-new content. The problem with time is that it keeps changing things. We couldn't simply publish the content that we'd created the year before because a lot of it was now out of date. We spent another week and a half reviewing, updating and creating content before I could rejoice in the fact that we were ready for final sign off. And that brings us back round to 27 October 2016 when I celebrated launching our new pages by making a plastic dragon roar.

I'm not going to lie; at times, transitioning this section has felt more like a marathon than a sprint. But it has been worth it. I've learnt a lot about content over the past two years: how to audit content, how to better structure and write content, and how to think about its value to our audience. These are things I want and hope to share with others.

So what next?

Although signing off the Faculty section felt momentous, we still have a way to go before we can burn OpenCMS. Four departments, a new course search app for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and a multitude of research centres are all banging down my door. At the front of this queue is Electronic & Electrical Engineering content. We are going to spend a week in April working with Ann and Cassie to transition the department content for elec-eng. I'm confident that the work we've already put in on this and the lessons we've learnt along the way will make for a smooth transition sprint.

If you have any questions about transition, please email fed-web@bath.ac.uk. If you've seen the new faculty content and want to feedback, you'll find a 'suggest an improvement' link on the bottom right of all pages.






Staff share experiences from the AUA annual conference 2016


📥  Staff experiences

Those who attended the annual Association of University Administrators conference shared their experiences with other University of Bath staff members recently. Rosie Hart, Programmes officer, reports on the session:

We invited Association of University Administrators (AUA) members to a feedback celebration to hear from staff who attended the AUA Annual Conference 2016 in Leeds. More University of Bath staff attended this year's conference than ever before so AUA advocate, Iain Forster-Smith invited attendees to present on their experiences.

Iain Forster-Smith started the session by talking about a working group he attended by Edinburgh Napier University staff. The group had got him thinking about our processes at the University of Bath. They had brought in a business intelligence software that made it easier to analyse information they collect to plan for the future, based on evidence. He found their honesty refreshing as they shared their experiences about the stages of the process. They openly admitted that the period at the start had been 'chaotic' and only now were they at a 'stable' stage.


Angela Pater talked about her rewarding experience of presenting at the conference and encouraged others to consider it in the future.  Angela traveled to Poland on an AUA Study Tour in 2015, visiting universities across the country to find out about differences and similarities in their university systems.  Her session at the AUA conference showcased her group’s findings and experiences.  Interestingly, some Polish born Brits had attended and were able to provide more information and insight during discussions.

Rachel Acres had a very unique story of her time in Leeds.   Rather than seeing the trip as a break or an excuse to take it a little bit easier than usual, she went for an early morning run on the second day.  In a dramatic turn of events, Rachel fell and injured her ankle and ended up on crutches with not one, but two fractures!  Still, she soldiered on and was back at the conference the same day and attending working groups, presentations and social events.

Tom Bond opened up discussion on the Higher Education Landscape following the CMA’s published recommendations to the HE sector, which led to lots of lively discussion in the room.  Tom also spoke about being an AUA newbie and how he had enjoyed attending his first conference. He is already thinking about next year and how he will select his working groups differently without feeling the pressure to attend only sessions directly related to his current role.

Emotional intelligence and collaborative teamsCaroline Dangerfield talked about the value of attending AUA conferences, with 2016 being her third time.  She gained from the time away from the office to think creatively, discuss some big issues, and work on her own self development.  Her experience of networking and making contacts from other universities gave her a sense of pride in her profession and a reassuring feeling that we’re all in it together.  Her favourite working group was on Emotional Intelligence and Collaborative Teams. It focused on a greater understanding of the benefits of developing emotional intelligence in HE.

Rosie Hart spoke of her enjoyment of Ben Goldacre’s talk (creator of www.badscience.net).  The humorous and highly entertaining nature of his talk provided some light relief.  He talked about the various inanimate objects the Daily Mail claimed contributed to cancer. He highlighted discrepancies with some in the list also being cited as preventing cancer, such as coffee.  His mission is to move focus from sensationalist headlines to truth, evidence and real results.  Rosie recommended his Ted talk to all.

Last up was Rebekah Hole, who shared Caroline’s enjoyment of the Emotional Intelligence and Collaborative Teams working group.   Most of the attendees from Bath went to this session and there was unanimous agreement that this was a successful and useful session that could and should be explored further.  Rebekah found their breaking down of the categories of emotional intelligence (EI) interesting.  As a line manager, she found it a really valuable process to think about these different aspects, how they can help us consider the way we interact with others in the workplace and the importance of EI in making a team work well together.

Presentations were followed by a buffet, which gave members an opportunity to ask each other more in-depth questions and make plans for next year’s conference.

Iain Forster-Smith
Bath AUA Advocate
Engineering & Design
Angela Pater
Regional AUA Advocate
Office of University Secretary
Rachel Acres Humanities & Social Sciences
Tom Bond Engineering & Design
Caroline Dangerfield Vice-Chancellor’s Office
Rosie Hart Engineering & Design
Rebekah Hole Humanities & Social Sciences

If you would like to know more about the AUA and becoming a member, email aua@bath.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @AUA_Bath.


Transitioning person profiles to the new content management system (CMS)

  , , , ,

📥  New initiative, Staff insight

The hard facts

There are 199 published person profile web pages across our four Departments' website sections. These are mostly academic or academic-related with a smattering of Research Officers/Associates, Emeritus Professors and visiting staff. By Department, this looks like:

  • Architecture & Civil Engineering: 75
  • Chemical Engineering: 28
  • Electronic & Electrical Engineering: 30
  • Mechanical Engineering: 66

That’s a lot of profiles to transition! And we are working with Department office staff to do just this.

We have been running the 'first wave' of the project during January and February. This focuses on transitioning person profiles for academic members of staff (Professors, Readers, Senior Lecturers and Lecturers).  We’ll review progress in March before moving on to the 'second wave' (academic-related, research and visiting staff).

Not just a copy, paste and publish job

The new CMS is all about taking a more structured approach to how we think, write and present our content. This has benefits for both CMS users and website visitors. As editors, authors and contributors to the site, we can use structured templates to produce good content easier and faster. This structured approach helps us focus on what content our site users need and so helps them find the information they want easier and faster. Everybody’s happy!

What you can include in your new profile

A person profile page in the new CMS consists of a series of fields (some required) with set character limits.

Screenshot of the person profile template in CMS beta

Screenshot of the person profile template in CMS beta

Role summary (required)

This describes your role and research area. It is limited to 160 characters so that it will appear in full on search engine result pages (SERPs).

SERP for Gary Hawley

Search engine results page (SERP) for 'Gary Hawley'. The description is over 160 characters and gets cut off.

Role (1000 characters)

The duties and responsibilities of your current role.

Role-related posts (1000 characters)

A bullet-point list of your current role-related positions. For example, current institute memberships, chairs or editorial roles.

Career achievements (1500 characters)

The major achievements of your career. For example, this could include awards, previous academic and/or non-academic positions.

Education (1000 characters)

Your higher education background and qualifications.

Teaching units

A bullet-point list of the undergraduate and postgraduate units you teach on, with links to the unit catalogue.

Research interests (1000 characters)

A bullet-point list of your key research areas.

Current research projects (1000 characters)

A bullet-point list of your research project titles with links

The profile template also includes:

  • your contact details
  • your availability to supervise student research projects
  • a link to your publications in Opus
  • an option to include supporting external links (e.g. personal websites or social media)

What we're doing and how you can help

The Department office staff are creating the new person profile pages in the new CMS. They're using content from the existing person profiles but are leaving fields blank where information is missing or out of date.

The Faculty Web Content Editor (me) and the Marketing & Web Administrator (Beth) are reviewing the new profile pages as they're created. We'll make any necessary edits in line with the University's editorial style guide and person profile style guide.

We'll contact you with a link to preview your draft profile when we have transitioned the content across. We'll ask you check that all the facts on the page are correct and give you the opportunity to fill in any blank fields.

We will review the pages a final time with input from Digital. We will publish the person profile pages in line with the go live date for each Department's content.

If you have any questions about the CMS transition or your person profile, please email us at fed-web@bath.ac.uk.


Professional photos - staff profile pages for the new website

  , ,

📥  New initiative

Find out how to book a slot with our photographer to ensure you have an up-to-date professional photo for your staff profile page.

As we move into 2016, we are continuing to transition our existing web content across into the new content management system (CMS). We have moved the bulk of the Faculty content (bath.ac.uk/engineering) and are hoping to see these pages go live soon.

We are now shifting our attention to content belonging to the four departments in engineering. We are starting with the somewhat daunting migration of all our staff profiles (there are over 200!). Thankfully, our Department Offices have agreed to help us with this part of the transition. They will lead on moving the content across with support from us in the Faculty web team.

As part of this process, we have decided that all staff profile pages will only display professional photos. We will not migrate any non-professional photos across to the new website.

Why are we only using professional photos?
1)    We want to present the Faculty in a consistent and professional way online. Using high quality images that all follow the same visual guidelines is a way to achieve this. We have agreed this with other Faculties so that there will be a universal consistency in how staff are represented across the University.

2)    We are hosting all our images for the new website on Flickr.com. They will appear on our web pages via an embed link. The image size and ratio specifications for the new website are different to what we use now. This means that some of our current staff photos are no longer appropriate.

How can academic and research staff get a professional photo?
Staff can book a five minute slot with Nic Delves-Broughton (our University Photographer) via doodle poll on the following dates:

Tues 19 January 10-11 AM

Tues 19 January 3-4 PM

Thus 28 January 10-11 AM

Wednesday 3 February 2.30-3.30 PM

There are also drop in sessions that do not require a booking:

Tuesday 19 January - 11-11.30 and 4-4.30pm

Thursday 28 January - 11-11.30

Wed 3 February - 3.30-4pm

Photographs will be taken at Nic’s studio in 8 West 1.41. They will be available to staff through the Department Offices. We will ensure that they are uploaded to Flickr and embedded on to the staff profile pages.

What will the new staff profiles look like?
Photos taken by Nic will be portrait in orientation and have a uniform grey background. We have chosen this background colour as it complements the look and feel of the new website. An example of a leadership profile in the new CMS is shown below.

A leadership profile in the new CMS

A leadership profile in the new CMS

Please note the new website is still in development. For updates on the project’s progress please follow the Digital Marketing & Communications blog.

If you have any questions about the transition, please email fed-web@bath.ac.uk.