Planning new website hubs for Collaborations and Study Abroad

One of the upcoming projects in our external website programme of work is focused on improving the user experience of students who are interested in studying abroad. We’ve been working with the Collaborations and Study Abroad (CSA) team to understand who the users of their various webpages are, what they are looking for, and how we can make it easier for them to achieve their goals. This post will outline the work we’ve done to date, as well as the next steps and key dates for the project overall. 

Objectives of the project

The main objective of the project is to provide the information required by prospective students and inbound students in T4v8, using the digital pattern library (DPL) to ensure consistent design and mobile responsive webpages.

What we’ll deliver

Rather than just re-skinning the current Collaborations and Study Abroad website, we’re planning to rearchitect the site based on audience needs. This means that rather than building a single large website, we’re planning to create a number of ‘hubs’ which will provide information for a specific set of users. The following hub sections will be created:

  • A new central landing page that directs users to all of the Collaborations and Study Abroad sub-sites.
  • A new hub website for students considering coming to St Andrews for a semester or year abroad (incoming students).
  • A new hub website for partner institutions.
  • A searchable tool for postgraduate study abroad options.
  • A new hub website with information about the University’s collaborative degree programmes.

Study Abroad central site draft IA

We will also place information for current students in the current students section, and information for staff in a password protected staff section.

Training in T4v8 will also be provided to staff in Collaborations and Study Abroad who need access to the new webpages.

Research and data

The digital communications team have produced a number of reports showing the research and data that backs up our approach. This includes a competitor research report, insights into Google Analytics, a map of the existing Study Abroad webpages and a look at student generated content.

An extremely complicated mindmap of the Study Abroad website showing hundreds of different branches

The mapping of the existing site shows how the site has grown organically over time – with sections added in an ad hoc manner which makes the user experience complicated. We have used the findings from this to design a series of information architecture plans that make the user journey far simpler.

The competitor research has allowed us to show Lewis, our digital designer, examples of other Study Abroad sites which are meeting digital best practise, and allows us to assess whether we will need any new patterns when we start this project.

The Google Analytics report was highly interesting in showing which pages were most viewed by the various audiences, and highlighted some pages which were buried in the site structure, but were highly valued by students. This allowed us to discuss with the CSA team why students were so motivated by these pages, and whether we should link to them more predominantly in the new hub sites.

University of Durham study abroad student blog header

We have also taken inspiration from other institutions that are using stories and content created by students who are planning to study abroad, or who are already on a placement abroad. Universities such as Durham and Edinburgh have created blogs to show current and prospective students what it’s like to study abroad, and we’d like to offer something similar to the students of St Andrews.

Key dates and deadlines

The digital communications team has started to build prototype websites for Collaborations and Study Abroad, and will demo these to the CSA team at the end of August.

Potential hero banner for the new Study Abroad landing page

Following feedback on these hub pages, we plan to start building the pages in T4v8 on Monday 4 September 2017. We will be running this project concurrently with the prospective students project, as there are many crossovers between these projects, and we aim to have both projects ready to launch by Friday 22 December 2017.

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