The next iteration of blogs.bath.ac.uk

Posted in: Design, Development

Blogs are a simple, effective way of engaging people in the work that a person or team is doing in conducting research, providing a service, or running a team or organisation.

We are big proponents of blogging at the University of Bath. Staff and students of the University have been blogging for many years and since 2008 we have provided an official blogging platform at blogs.bath.ac.uk.

Over the next few months, we are going to be encouraging greater use of blogs by individuals and teams across campus and, to this end, we’re making some big improvements to blogs.bath.ac.uk.

Upgraded software
First of all we’re upgrading the version of WordPress that powers our blogs, which will give bloggers and readers more features and a better overall experience. Our version of WordPress will now be updated on a regular basis, so the software won’t become out-of-date again.

We will be migrating active University of Bath blogs to the new WordPress platform over the course of the next month. Shortly, we’ll be contacting each of our current bloggers to explain the migration process and the support we’ll be providing in detail, but the truth is it’s a largely automated and speedy process that should create very little disruption.

Part of a network
We’ll be organising blogs into categories, which will make it easier for readers to discover your blog. Every blog will fit into at least one of the categories in:

  • University governance and services
  • Research themes
  • Faculties, departments, institutes and groups
  • Students and alumni

A new landing page for our blog network will help users locate specific blogs and browse others related to their interests.

Consistent look and feel
We’re also launching a new design theme, which will enhance clarity and readability and make it clear that each blog is part of the University of Bath blogs network. Another benefit is that this theme will be ‘responsive’, which is a technical term meaning that the layout of our blogs will automatically adjust to work well on a desktop, tablet or mobile.

Before deciding what customisation to allow, we looked at what customisation was being done on the current blogs. Technically a lot is possible; in practice only about 1% of our active bloggers have attempted any. With the understanding that the scope of customisation will iterate over time, in this first release we will allow bloggers to add a logo (in addition to the fixed University of Bath branding), such as branding for an inter-university research group or funding council, for example.

Library of plugins
Our library of blog plugins will also be upgraded and we’ll maintain a library of vetted and supported plugins that can be added to over time. We think that the most important development is that bloggers will now have access to analytics.

Like the features and design of the blogs, the plugins included in the library will be added to over time. We’ll be actively be seeking out requests from bloggers themselves, so get thinking.

Archiving old blogs
Everyone knows that for every active blog, there are another handful of inactive blogs and blogs.bath.ac.uk has its fair share in this respect. Out of around 1,600 blogs that have been created since 2008, only around 10% are receiving regular updates and traffic.

As part of the migration, out of use or rarely updated blogs will be archived. Where possible we will be contacting the owners of those blogs to notify them of this development. We will also be outlining the process for retiring blogs in the future.

In some cases, we have seen examples of blogging on the University of Bath network that have nothing to do with the University. It should come as no surprise that we will be closing these blogs and recommending that their owners use one of the many free alternatives on the open market.

Requests for new blogs
New blogs will no longer be created automatically. Requests for new blogs should be made via the Digital team. Shortly we will publish the very broad and common sense criteria that each request will have to meet and set out the simple process for raising a request.

We hope that with these improvements in place folks around campus will want to start contributing to our network of blogs and engage more people on campus and beyond in the vibrant activity going on here at the University of Bath. Interested?

Posted in: Design, Development