I have been working for the University since 2005. Prior to that I was a research scientist at Cambridge University studying different biological processes using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Academia wasn't for me, even though scanning strawberries and melons was fascinating! Now I oversee the work of the team and provide support where it is needed, particularly on the web development side of things. I am also an alum of the University, where I studied plant biology.

The new University search system

During the week beginning 17 December 2018, the University search system will be replaced. The current search system, Google Search Appliance (GSA), will no longer work after 31 December 2018 as Google no longer provide support for this. Instead, we will launch a new system called Funnelback provided by a company called Squiz.

The Funnelback system offers a number of enhancements over GSA, which will allow us to continue our incremental improvements of the University website to ensure it meets the needs of its users.

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News and media centre website

The new website for news and media was launched on 7 June 2018. The new website provides a number of enhancements over the old site. For example:

  • news can be categorised and tagged so it’s easier to find
  • news can be shared on social media
  • users can make comments on news
  • news can be viewed on mobile devices
  • news can be published instantly.

Over one month on, we carried out usability testing and analysis of website traffic to evaluate how effective the improvements have been.

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Migrating WordPress multisite to WP Engine

The University hosts a multisite WordPress installation (wp.st-andrews.ac.uk) that provides websites and blogs for over 200 research groups and other University organisations. WordPress enables University staff and students to quickly create a website or blog and configure and administer it without needing specialist programming knowledge.

However, looking after WordPress takes time to ensure it is kept up to date and secure. This is why we decided to seek a partner who would take on responsibility for providing a more secure and stable environment.

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T44U – Glasgow 2018

The T44U user group meeting in Glasgow on the 6 February was a great opportunity to meet up with others who are using the T4 content managements system and to find out the latest developments from TerminalFour.

There were about 30 attendees from the Universities of Stirling, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Highlands and Islands, St Andrews, Newcastle, Caledonian, Abertay and Lancaster all keen to find out about the latest developments.

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Scottish Web Folk meeting

Scottish Web Folk is an informal group for anyone who works in digital in higher education in Scotland. The group meets three or four times a year at one of the universities in Scotland. It’s a great opportunity to meet up to share best practice and to learn from each other. Over the years, the friendships and networking have been invaluable as we all have to cope with similar issues despite working for different institutions. We’ve blogged about previous Scottish web folk meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow. This time, the meeting was held at the University of Dundee on Friday 27 October 2017.

The meeting was very well attended with about 40 web folk representing the University of Highlands and Islands, Robert Gordon University, University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, University of Dundee, University of Strathclyde, University of Glasgow, University of Stirling, Glasgow Caledonian and University of St Andrews. The following is a short summary of what was discussed.

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Understanding how users interact with the alumni and donors website

The new alumni and donors website was launched in June 2017. The new site is a lot slicker and hopefully easier to use than the previous website.

A number of blog posts have been written explaining how Google Tag Manager (GTM) can be used to understand visitor behaviour better. For example, finding out whether users click on a particular link so we can determine if the link needs to be moved to a more prominent position.

This blog post summarises the use of GTM on the alumni and donors website from 15 September to 28 September 2017.

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Content modelling – is it the future?

One of the main lessons from IWMW 2017 was the need to focus on content not websites. It is no longer sufficient to expect users to find information just via the University website as content is being accessed by an ever increasing variety of digital devices and methods.

The following is a summary of how content modelling can be used to understand the structure of the content and the relationships between them so that it can be agnostic of the distribution method.

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IWMW 2017 – top five developer ideas

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) took place at the University of Kent in Canterbury between 11 and 13 July. It was a great opportunity to meet with others who are involved in higher education web management to learn from case studies and share ideas. The following is a summary of the top five lessons we learnt from a web development point of view.

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Streamlining the migration of courses

We have just completed the migration of over 300 undergraduate and postgraduate courses from TerminalFour (T4) version 7 to version 8. A blog post describes how we automated parts of this migration, but we were still left with a lot of manual tidying up. This article describes how we ensured the final pages were ready for publishing to the new site.
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