How new design has affected University news

In June 2016 we launched a new homepage that was more focused on external visitors. It introduced the idea of news and events being highlighted on a limited number of ’tiles’. The aim was to selectively promote specific news and events rather than than just a list of the past ten press releases and the next ten upcoming events. It also introduced the idea of ‘long form stories’, which are more like magazine articles with a longer life span than just a short press release.

News tiles from University home page

One year on, how have visitors responded to the new design?

New homepage – 1 January 2016 and 20 May 2016

Overall, the number of pageviews News received increased by 21% and the bounce rate dropped by 16% compared to the same period before the launch of the homepage.

The following table shows traffic from tiles on the home page to the news articles between 1 January 2016 and 20 May 2016. The ‘% traffic from homepage‘ is calculated as the number of pageviews from the home page divided by the total pageviews.

The data shows that traffic to news items was boosted by at least 15%. The long form stories have proved to be popular, in particular, the Chinese Makars story received the longest time on page.

Title Total page views Unique page views Time on page Page views from home page % traffic from home page
New Principal 6,513 6,086 2:39 1,220 19%
St Andrews: ‘best in Scotland’ 3,619 3,132 2:26 672 19%
Best teachers of 2016 2,699 2,555 1:43 658 24%
New £10m marine lab 2584 2,381 1:49 850 33%
Virginia Woolf letters 1,098 622 1:11 165 15%
Chinese Makars 770 685 3:44 370 48%
Orlando Furioso 738 660 2:03 343 46%
Big in Japan 728 634 1:02 261 36%
Prestigious award for St Andrews poet 573 543 1:33 343 60%
Russell Morris 517 452 1:33 123 24%
Women in science 483 435 1:27 82 17%
Voices from the past 345 320 1:06 123 36%
Carnegie Lecture 2016 204 194 1:28 69 34%
Award winning chemists 161 144 1:43 69 43%

Old homepage – 1 January 2015 and 20 May 2015

The following table shows the top 10 news articles between 1 January 2015 and 20 May 2015. The most popular news item received about a third of the traffic that the most popular item received in 2016. The percentage of page views attributed to visitors clicking on a link from the homepage is a lot less than the new design. Interestingly, the time spent on individual news articles is higher compared to the new design.

Title Total page views Unique page views Time on page Page views from home page % traffic from home page
League table success  2,543  2,266  3:05  224  10%
Top names to be honoured  1,468  1,389  3:05  56  4%
New stem technology  1,415  1,317  3:56  70  1%
Bee brains  1,142  1,034  4:03  14  1%
Adolescent health inequalities  818  739  4:05  14  2%
Student wins undergraduate of the year  783  741  1:46  280  38%
University historian meets the Queen  699  630  2:12  252  36%
Sleeping sickness prevention in a nutshell  670  635  2:07  56  8%
Seeing stars 546 498 2:18  56  10%
Researchers break spinning world record 526 487 2:20  84  16%

Conclusion

Having a simpler homepage with fewer news items has successfully boosted the number of visits to the news items. However, it is clear that putting an item on the University homepage does not guarantee it is the most read. The article on award winning chemists only received 161 page views. We need to do further analysis to determine what makes a good title for a news item and to examine how referral traffic from social media and search engines affect traffic.

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