Digital communications in 2018

Late last year, digital communications launched two more websites as part of the external website programme: the Collaborations and Study Abroad website hubs, and the new Study at St Andrews site for prospective students. The completion of these two projects means that we’ve now completed the majority of the external website programme – we only have five more projects which are in scope. This blog post will outline the final five projects along with the other team plans for 2018.

The external website programme

The external website programme contains a total of 13 projects, of which 7 are entirely complete, and one project has been de-scoped from the programme. (More information about the background of the programme can be found in this update from last May.) The following projects will be completed by the end of August 2018.

News and media centre

This project will deliver a new way of disseminating news stories across the University website, alongside a new digital media centre for journalists and press contacts. The new news site will be build in WordPress rather than T4, allowing us to publish stories instantly.

In order to ensure that all sites on the University WordPress multisite are kept secure and can be updated quickly, we plan to migrate the hosting for all University WordPress sites to a third-party provider – this piece of work will take place in February 2018. Users of the WordPress sites should not notice any difference in their sites, but the move will reduce the overheads for the digital communications team.

Once we have all current WordPress sites in the new hosting solution, we will be using a WordPress development agency to build the WordPress theme which will be used on the news website. We will then migrate all of the existing news stories from T4 to the new system and create the link between the new site and T4, so any news story which is uploaded can be shown on pages held in T4. We anticipate that this phase of the project could take three months from when the migration phase is complete, and we aim to be live by the end of May 2018.

Events

This project will enable us to publish and promote events which are taking place around the University on the University website. The current events system is nearing the end of its life – it’s hard to upload multiple related events, there’s no option to add images, and the calendar functionality is limited. We plan to create or buy in a new system which will give a far better user experience – for both people uploading events to the calendar and for users who are looking for things to do in St Andrews.

A stakeholder group for the events project has been set up, and we’ll be gathering requirements from them over the next few weeks. Once these have been formalised and prioritised, we’ll pull together a business case with a recommendation of next steps; do we build something ourselves, use a system already in place somewhere in the University, or buy a new product? This business case should be completed by the end of February, and the full timeline for this project will be communicated once a decision has been made.

Research

The third project that the team are currently working on is the Research project. This aims to bring together all research related information that a user could need in one, central location – allowing people to find out research case studies from various Schools and groups, and information about ethics, impact and REF (amongst other topics) from one set of webpages. We’re planning to launch each new set of webpages incrementally – allowing us to build, launch and test quickly, and then make amends based on what we find.

The final pieces of project documentation for this project are being worked on in this sprint, and the team will start building the new research website – along with its new content – as of 5 February. We anticipate that this project could take up to 16 weeks to complete from 5 February, although we’re also aware that April is a busy time for colleagues in Research and Innovation Services, so we’re aiming to be flexible over the timeframes.

Deprecating Administration A-Z for external users

One of the final projects in the programme will be creating a new, external-user-focused replacement for the Admin A-Z webpage. This page is sometimes called the University’s yellow pages – it contains links to a huge number of hubs, pages and contact details, and is an example of how the University website has grown organically in a range of directions.

We plan to create a new version of Admin A-Z, which lists each School, Department, Unit and Team across the University, providing a summary of what each is responsible for and how you can contact them. This will allow external users to find out which area of the University they need quickly and easily. The existing Admin A-Z would then become a resource for current staff and students. We aim to undertake this piece of work in June and July 2018.

Homepage refresh

Finally, we plan to refresh the University website once we have completed all of our other projects. This will allow us to ensure we’re showing all of the information we need on our homepage – especially news and events, which will be coming from new systems – and allow us to signpost our users to the various important locations at specific times of the academic year. We aim to launch the revamped homepage before the start of the new academic year – so the entire external website programme is on track to be completed by the end of August 2018!


Alongside these five projects, we also have a lot of business-as-usual that we’re planning. From our monthly editorial calendar updates to the Facebook advertising we’re now running, there’s a range of other tasks that need to be undertaken on a regular basis. We’re also planning the launch of the 2019-entry digital prospectus, engaging with BTB on a proposal to build new School websites, undertaking training with colleagues and submitting proposals to conferences like IWMW18.

If you have any questions about either our projects or our business-as-usual tasks, please feel free to drop an email to digitalcommunications@st-andrews.ac.uk, or attend one of our regular DAB meetings!

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