At the beginning of 2018, I wrote an update on our external website programme. Since then, there have been a few changes to the projects that we’re working on – particularly the research project. This blog post will provide an update on the changes to the projects and the overall programme deadline. Continue reading “External website programme update – spring 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. Continue reading “Digital communications in 2018”
2017 has been a busy year for the digital communications team.
In team news, we said goodbye to Felicity, who was our content and social media editor, and to Aaron, our web developer. We have also welcomed John – our new social media and web editor to the team, and are looking forward to welcoming a replacement for Aaron to St Andrews early next year. We’ve also been fortunate to have an intern since this summer: Nick, who is a third year student, has been a great asset to the team.
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!
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. Continue reading “Planning new website hubs for Collaborations and Study Abroad”
Some of you may have noticed that it’s been quite a while since the digital communications team have written an update on our vision for the external facing website. (I think the last update was our Digital Prospectus business case, which we posted back in 2016!) Since then, there have been a number of changes – to our team, our priorities, and our processes. In the last couple of weeks, our plan to complete the external facing website programme of projects has been accepted, so it seems like a good time to give an update. Continue reading “An update on the external website project”
Do you know the difference between Klout and clout? Full of ideas on how to measure the ROI of YouTube? Whether you’re weaving tall tales on Instagram Stories, cracking jokes on Snapchat or living it up on Facebook Live, the digital communications team wants to hear from you!
What do we want? A social media and web content editor! When do we want them? Well… as soon as possible, really.
Already convinced? Apply for this position online today! Closing date is Friday 31 March 2017.
Here’s a list of things we’re looking for in our newest colleague:
- You’ve got to be passionate about getting the most from social networks – using the latest functionality to tell stories and reach our key audiences.
- Level-headed and cool, you’ll be the voice of reason in a crisis.
- Experience! You must have numerous examples of times you’ve managed social channels for brands, companies, charities, or, best of all – educational institutions.
- A storyteller. You need to be able to come up with awesome ideas for content and bring those ideas to life on a page/screen.
- A strategic brain. Anyone can log in to Facebook each day and post a pretty picture and an inspiring quote. We’re looking for someone who can react to the world around them while still channeling our core messages.
- The ability to precisely and honestly report on the success or (gasp!) failure of campaigns and projects, ideally with experience using various forms of analytics software.
- Drive and ambition. The St Andrews motto is ‘ever to excel’ and it’s an idea we’re all committed to.
The digital communications team at St Andrews is a varied band of digital experts. We’re passionate about improving the experience of our users, whether they’re prospective students or local community, academic researchers or visitors to the town. We’re united in our commitment to design by data and rigorous and regular testing. We’re the ones that come up with new ideas, prototype them, test them, iterate upon them, code them, launch them and then make them better. We’re fast-moving and proactive in our approach.
A team of ten, you’ll be sitting alongside a designer, numerous developers, a project manager and a bunch of content experts. You can find out more about the team on the about page of this blog.
Digital communications sits within the department of Corporate Communications, so we help with everything from breaking University news to communicating with colleagues across the institution. This role is a key bridge between the news team and the digital communications team, so we’re looking for a skilled communicator who can cut through large amounts of information to pass on the relevant priorities.
This is an exciting time to be joining the digital communications team. Over the last two years, we’ve relaunched the University home page, built a whole new section about the University, created micro-sites for graduation and orientation, created a whole set of policies and guidance in the digital service manual, and launched a digital prospectus with a subject focus.
The content team has also created a number of long form stories which are creative endeavours which include writing content, sourcing images, compiling video footage and interviewing key contacts around the University.
In the coming months, we have a number of projects lined up which will complete our external website project – meaning that all pages for external users on the core website will be in our new style and using our content standards. This work will be happening alongside efforts to reach our core audiences on the platforms they’re using, from Facebook and Instagram to Wiebo and the Student Room. We’re excited to be bringing a new member of staff into the team – we’ve even planned in a few conference visits for the person who is awarded this role!
If you’ve got any questions about the role, feel free to drop an email to Carley Hollis (email@example.com). Otherwise, applications are now open, and we’re looking forward to meeting some of you in April!
Over the last few years, the digital communications team has changed a lot – we are now committed to an Agile project management methodology, we retrospect regularly and plan comprehensively. Fundamentally, our thought process about the way we work has changed, and that, in no small part, came about because of colleagues in St Andrews’ Lean team. One of the tools that the guys from Lean equipped us with was the idea of runners, repeaters and strangers.
Introducing runners, repeaters and strangers
Originally, the ‘runners, repeaters and strangers’ technique was used to improve efficiency in the context of manufacturing. The idea is that all tasks can be separated into one of three broad categories:
- Runners – standard processes which are carried out frequently, are highly predictable, consistant and usually efficient.
- Repeaters – processes which are still predictable but less frequent and less efficient.
- Strangers – processes which are highly customised, rarely occurring and often require a high level of resource to undertake.
By identifying which processes are runners, repeaters and strangers, manufacturers can gain a better understanding of where they should be concentrating their efforts. It’s usually best to design systems around the runners, then consider the repeaters and have a plan with how to deal with strangers.
Runners, repeaters and strangers in digital projects
The idea of runners, repeaters and strangers stuck with us when we started work on our external website project. We have a commitment to user centred design, which means that we need to consider the needs and aims of users when they come to the website when we’re designing pages and content. However, considering that the website is visited by millions of people every year, with a huge number of different needs, this can be a big task!
The approach we take to understand user needs involves writing out user stories for each user group we identity for a section of the website. These user groups could be prospective students, or alumni, or the local community for example. Within each user group, we write out all of the different user stories we can think of, in the following format:
As a prospective student
I want to know what the entry requirements are for my courses
So that I know what grades I need to achieve in order to get into St Andrews.
Creating these user stories is usually quite an interesting task, but can lead to a large number of user story cards. In order to make them more manageable, we try to group them together into themes. All of the stories about fees and funding might go together, incorporating tuition fees, accommodation fees, scholarships, other financial support and how to pay fees. After all of the stories are grouped together, the digital communications team will sit down with the project stakeholders to work out how important each user story is.
However, one issue comes up again and again – project stakeholders often think that every user story is important! This makes it more difficult for the digital communications team to prioritise the work that needs to be done, and to create a simple, understandable information architecture. This is where runners, repeaters and strangers comes in.
Runner, repeater or stranger?
When we take each user story, we work with the relevant stakeholder to ask how frequently they’d expect this user story to occur. If the answer is that the user story is very common, predictable and often the same answer can be given to multiple users, we suggest that this user story is a runner. We generally think that around 75% of tasks that take place on the University website are those of runners: they include things like ‘As a prospective student from England, I want to find out how much tuition fees are, so that I know how much I will pay for my degree’. Here, the user may change, but the task is repetitive and common. When it comes to designing new products and sections of the University website, we are designing for the runners – the vast majority of users whose tasks we are easily predict and provide a response to.
However, there are still a lot of user stories which don’t fall into the runner category. If stakeholders tell us that a user story is still predictable and they know that there is a standard response to it, but it happens far less frequently than the runner tasks, we suggest that it may be a repeater task. These tasks probably make up another 20% of the tasks that happen on the University website – and they are often similar but more specific versions of a runner task. For example: we’d class ‘As a prospective student who goes to School in America but has a British passport, I want to find out how much tuition fees are, so that I know how much I will pay for my degree’ as a repeater user story. It’s something we know is often asked, but the answer is more complicated than the related runner task outlined above. We usually consider the repeater tasks when planning and building digital projects, but they are usually secondary to the runner tasks.
Finally, there are some user stories which are highly infrequent, complicated, new or unknown. like These are the tasks we call strangers. We generally try not to plan or build new projects based on these users and tasks. An example ‘stranger’ task may be ‘As a prospective student who has dual nationality and an offer of a scholarship, I want to find out how much I will pay in tuition fees, so I can find out how much I will pay for my degree’. The specific nature of this inquiry means that unless we build very niche products, this user is not going to be able to find the information they’re looking for online. In most instances, even if they do find a webpage, they would still need to engage with a member of University staff to get a full answer to their query. We believe that only around 5% of tasks attempted on a University website are strangers.
Here, all three users wanted to find out the same information for the same reason. However, their differing situations mean that for some finding the relevant answer online would be easy, whilst others would likely have to contact the University even if information about their situation was available. This is why we don’t recommend creating web content for every single variation or possibility when it comes to user stories – some tasks are just much more difficult to undertake online.
Benefits of identifying runners, repeaters and strangers
The digital communications team often work with people who are experts in their specific area, and have experienced a wide range of users trying to complete tasks. One of the issues of asking stakeholders to write user stories is that people often create user stories for tasks which happen very infrequently, or where the task is complicated, and these can make it hard to establish how a new product should work for the majority of people. By asking stakeholders to think about how frequent, standard and predictable each user story is, they can start to prioritise which tasks must be available to complete on the new product, and which tasks could be removed from the product entirely. This not only makes it easier for the project team to build the right product in an Agile manner, but also helps us understand the area of the institution we are working with.
Soon, the digital communications team will launch a suite of webpages from the newest version of our content management system, T4. This is the beginning of the new digital style rolling out to all external facing content. In time, all content for people outside of the University will be located in T4v8, in the digital communications look and feel.
Continue reading “Announcing the launch of T4v8”
In our minds, there are three stages to creating a new website; establishing the site structure, designing how the site will work and its ‘look and feel’ and creating the content to sit on each page. Whilst these three stages are all interconnected (it’s hard for a designer to define how a page should look with no idea of what kind or how much content will be on a page), the first of these – establishing the information architecture (IA) is key when following a user-centred approach. Continue reading “Designing an information architecture”