Web content editor and trainer within the University of St Andrews digital communications team. Jenny joined the team in 2015, and she provides content support for the University web pages as well as training for staff in digital communications topics. She has an educational background in literature, writing, editing and publishing from the Universities of Texas, Edinburgh and Stirling.

The plan for 2018-entry undergraduate course pages

With the 2017-entry undergraduate course webpages only just completed, the thought of creating 2018-entry pages may make you cringe, bare your teeth, or just run away in horror. But don’t worry! The content team has developed a solid plan for creating and publishing the 2018 pages which aims to minimise the amount of work required from content coordinators. Continue reading “The plan for 2018-entry undergraduate course pages”

Digital visa launch

The digital communications team has officially launched a programme of training sessions known as the digital visa. The digital visa will provide essential training in digital communications topics to anyone who works on the University’s website or with the digital communications team.

The visa enables staff to feel competent and confident working on digital communications projects, and provides new skills in a range of digital areas.

Participants who sign up and complete the five compulsory training sessions from the digital visa will become trusted digital advocates, and will be one of the first points of contact between their department and the digital communications team.

We’ve been working on building the digital visa for a while (see our original plan for the visa). Now, we have finalised the following five compulsory sessions:

  • Digital communications at St Andrews
    Introduces you to the digital communications team at St Andrews and the support we provide for staff at the University.
  • Digital pattern library 
    Allows you to correctly use patterns from the digital pattern library (DPL) in a content management system.
  • Social media: the basics
    Allows you to confidently develop a basic social media strategy.
  • Google Analytics
    Trains each participant to measure the performance of their website and understand their users’ behaviour by creating a dashboard in Google Analytics.
  • Writing for the web
    Allows you to identify and implement user needs in web writing and design.

These sessions can be taken in any order, and they will run regularly throughout the year. To sign up for the digital visa programme, please email Jennifer Hamrick (me), digital trainer, at jh280@st-andrews.ac.uk. Those signed up will receive emails alerting them to when the next training session will run.

You can also sign up for any of these courses individually via PDMS. If you later decide to enroll on the digital visa programme, the courses you’ve already taken will be counted towards your visa.

We are currently working on developing optional courses that participants can take as part of the programme. These may include:

  • Advanced writing for the web
  • WordPress for content contributors
  • WordPress for administrators
  • Social media for research dissemination
  • Build your own website
  • User personas and journeys
  • Screen casting
  • Usability testing
  • CSS and code languages
  • Digital rights and legalities.

If you would like to training provided within your department, please contact Jennifer Hamrick about setting up specialised courses for your group.

We are also opening some of the courses to PhD students, where relevant.

If you have any questions, please email Jennifer Hamrick, digital trainer, at jh280@st-andrews.ac.uk

Iterative improvements to the digital prospectus

Shortly before the digital prospectus went live, the content team in digital communications sat down and came up with a list of development, design and content improvements we would like to make to the pages in the future.

We prioritised this list and organised it by timeframe (before launch, after launch, and after migration to T4v8).

Before launch

Some of the improvements were completed before launch, such as standardising the way we write addresses on all pages, or rewriting module caveats to make information clearer.

One of the bigger pieces we completed before launch was to provide keyword matching for undergraduate course pages in order to improve our course search tool. However, our keyword matching could still be improved! We created a keyword spreadsheet and sent this out to all Schools to provide us with any keywords they felt should be attached to a particular programme. We are able to add both positive keywords (words associated with a course) and negative keywords (words we don’t want associated with a course ­– for instance, ‘physics’ with ‘Metaphysics’).

Keyword matching example in course search tool
Keyword matching in course search tool

We have already been able to use tracking analytics on the course search tool to see what users have been searching for. For example, we have had a few instances of searches for ‘midwifery’ so far! This data will be very useful in determining how we should market particular courses, or whether a new programme might need to be created to meet a gap in the market.

If you would like to add keywords to a programme, please email digitalcommunications@st-andrews.ac.uk.

After launch

Some improvements require time from our development team, who are currently busy working on the digital pattern library project. When they are finished with their project, we hope that some of these improvements can be made, including moving the year of entry to the same line as the degree title.

Other improvements we can make now include hard-coding more content, or breaking hard codes where we have found we need more flexibility, such as the ‘Student life’ section on the undergraduate course pages.

After migration to T4v8

For many of the improvements, we are waiting until we migrate to the new version of our content management system, T4v8. Once we have migrated, we will work on a number of design improvements, such as creating a new design for the ‘research centres’ section on subject pages which will make it easier to read and require less scrolling.

Continuing engagement

We are also aware of the need to continue engaging with stakeholders outside of our team in order to create new pages, such as the Gateway programme pages.

We are happy to hear from colleagues who have constructive criticism or other ideas for how we can improve the digital prospectus. To do so, please email itservicedesk@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Web writing basics: frontloading

Frontloading is a writing technique in which the most important, “big-picture” information is provided first, followed by additional details. This post covers how to successfully frontload content to make it easier for online users to understand and scan your writing. Continue reading “Web writing basics: frontloading”

How the UG digital prospectus is an improvement on Course Search

The digital communications team is almost finished with our undergraduate digital prospectus project. The main purpose of the digital prospectus is to provide more detailed, tailored and targeted information about each UG course than our current tool, Course Search, provides.

Here are the reasons we think the new digital prospectus will be an improvement on Course Search: Continue reading “How the UG digital prospectus is an improvement on Course Search”

A sneak peek at the undergraduate course pages

The digital communications team has been hard at work creating, developing and designing the academic subject pages (phase 3 of our digital prospectus business case) and the undergraduate course pages. The subject page system is being built to replace course search (developed by IT Services), which as many of our colleagues have agreed, is not meeting the needs of our users.

To give you a better idea of how University website users will be able to navigate to undergraduate course pages from the subject pages, here is a sneak peek into what we have developed so far. Continue reading “A sneak peek at the undergraduate course pages”

Collaborative working

Two minds are better than one, and during the previous sprint our team was able to put this old adage to the test. By working together through pair programming, as well as holding discussions between content, design and development teams, we were able to complete a number of complicated tasks while improving the quality of our current projects.

These successful pair and group projects have taught us that working collaboratively often yields far better results, and we are now pushing to be able to work on more tasks together. Continue reading “Collaborative working”

Scottish Web Folk – insights into course search

On Friday 4 November, Carley and I attended Scottish Web Folk (SWF), a quarterly gathering of web team representatives from higher education institutions around Scotland. This time, SWF was held at the University of Strathclyde and chaired by Duncan Ireland from the University of the Highlands and Islands. Continue reading “Scottish Web Folk – insights into course search”

Creating prototype UG course pages

The digital communications team is continuing with our digital prospectus project by developing undergraduate course pages. In a previous post, we described the rationale for creating UG pages with more tailored and targeted information, which would be listed by subject rather than department. Continue reading “Creating prototype UG course pages”