The external website programme – next steps

Back in May this year I wrote an update on our external website programme – talking about the eight projects which we still needed to complete before we could say that the external website was ‘finished’. That post outlined each of the projects which were still lined up, and gave an idea of the deadline to get all of the projects complete. After learning a great deal in the last few months, we’ve now made some changes to our plans. This post will outline the things we’ve learnt as well as the next steps – including some sneak peaks of the new websites we’re been prototyping!

Up until now, we’ve taken a fairly linear approach to planning our projects – we’ve aimed to get each project fully completed and accepted as an adequate solution before we moved onto the next one. In the most part this has worked because the projects we have been undertaking have been cumulative – we haven’t been able to start migrating content into T4v8, for example, until we had T4v8 successfully installed. However, now that many of our standards are complete, and we’ve launched T4v8, we’re finding that it makes sense for us to run some of our upcoming projects in parallel to each other.

So, in the last sprint we have kicked off the exploration, engineering and deployment phases of two projects:

  1. Collaborations and Study Abroad (DC1001/8)
  2. Prospective students (DC1001/6)

The Collaborations and Study Abroad (CSA) project will deliver a series of new website hubs for the broad range of audiences that the CSA team works with. The prospective students project will allow us to retire Study at St Andrews – which is held in T4v7 – and move the content into T4v8, whilst also adding some new content that we’ve identifying as being highly important for prospective students. These two projects have a lot of cross-over – both focus on a prospective / incoming student audience, and there will be a lot of links crossing between the two sections. For these reasons, we’re planning on running the two projects side-by-side.

Preview of the St Andrews inbound hub for study abroad students

The entirety of the digital communications team will be working on both projects – we plan to save time by undertaking related tasks across the two projects at the same time – and we now have a timebox plan which covers the work that both projects together need. Our current estimates suggest that we will be able to launch both the new section for prospective students and the new series of hubs for CSA before Christmas.

We’re also aiming to prioritise the order in which we work on the CSA hub. We know that the hub for incoming students (those coming to St Andrews as a visiting student on a year or semester abroad) is the highest priority, and so we hope to have this hub completed around 1 October.

Removing access to Study at St Andrews

We’ve already been in touch with the stakeholders on both of these projects, and have contacted all content knowledge holders whose content is likely to be moving over the course of the next few months. One of the things we’ve learnt from previous projects is that there is a high risk of content updates being missed as we migrate content from T4v7 to T4v8 if content coordinators are able to carry on making updates to the live site during the migration.

In order to mitigate this risk, during these projects we are removing access to the current Study at St Andrews website from any content coordinator. Instead of making updates to the live site, content coordinators will be able to submit the proposed changes to the digital communications team, and we will make the amends to both the live site in T4v7 and the in-progress site in T4v8. We have committed to making any changes submitted to us within 48 hours, so staff and students shouldn’t notice any impact on our services.

News and events

Whilst the majority of the team are working on the exploration, engineering and deployment phase of the CSA and Prospective students projects, we’re also doing the preparatory work for the upcoming news and events projects. These are two keys elements of the external facing website – giving us the ability to publicise the University’s research breakthroughs, teaching excellence and raft of engaging academic and social events to users across the world.

For the news project, we have been gathering requirements from the News team here in Corporate Communications, and we will soon validate these requirements with other stakeholders across the University. In the events project, we’re still compiling a list of the stakeholders who need to be engaged with on the project before we start gathering requirements.

Both of these projects require a great deal of information gathering to be completed at the start of the project, to ensure that the solution which is developed or bought-in works for all colleagues across the institution. We’re also undertaking research into what tools and technologies our competitors use, and looking into the data held within Google Analytics. We will blog about the outcomes of this research as we complete it.

We should be ready to give an update on the final three projects in the external website programme by December 2017!

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