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.

Digital pattern library – continuous improvement

This sprint we have focused on making minor updates to the documentation and HTML code of the digital pattern library, following testing of the site with Sitemorse and feedback from content editors in the digital communications team.  The lessons learned from this will enable future patterns to have a more rigorous approach to quality assurance.

This is what we updated this sprint:

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Digital pattern library – long-form

We have now updated the ‘long-form’ components of our digital pattern library (DPL). The seven long-form components are used to create longer feature articles such as the “Light Box” story. Having the components clearly defined will make it much easier to implement this in T4 or WordPress and make it faster to create new articles.
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T4 meet-up in Edinburgh

TerminalFour (T4), the company responsible for providing our content management system (also called T4), held a meet-up in Edinburgh on Thursday 24 November 2016. In previous years T4 held a two-day T44U conference in Dublin, Ireland. The new format was designed to make it easier for more local groups to get involved.

There were about 30 participants (not including representatives from T4) from the Universities of St Andrews, Abertay, Dundee, Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Highlands and Islands, Newcastle, Strathclyde, York, and even the University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth – it was easier for Ian St John to fly from Plymouth to Edinburgh than travel to the alternative meet-up in Manchester!

The aim of the morning session was to give T4 an opportunity to give an update on the product, while in the afternoon to allow customers to share their experiences of the product and to give feedback.

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Digital pattern library – streamlining Bootstrap

The digital pattern library is built upon Bootstrap, an HTML, CSS and JavaScript framework that comes with a large number of components. While everything is possible, not everything is permissible which is why we have been focusing on creating patterns that we do endorse using Bootstrap in our library.

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Making web pages more accessible with WAI-ARIA

We are currently reviewing the elements of our digital pattern library to ensure they are accessible. By ‘accessible’ we mean do our patterns work for disabled users who are using assistive technology such as screen readers?

The following article gives an overview of WAI-ARIA and how it can be used with HTML to make web content and web applications more accessible. A future blog post will give detailed examples of how we are using WAI-ARIA to make our patterns more accessible.

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Understanding how users search the University website

When someone uses the search box on any of our University webpages, the results are returned using our own Google Search Appliance (GSA). Example search box

The current search results pages are optimised for desktop. For those on a mobile device, the user experience is very poor as you have to scroll and zoom to see the information.

We want to improve the experience of searching the website, particulary for those using a mobile device. To do this, we need to understand how users currently search the University website.

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Central data – why it’s important

One of our 10 design principles is ‘data-driven’, which means that we use data to establish user needs, but it can also mean that wherever possible we want to use data held in central databases to populate our web pages with content. At the moment, we only have a few examples on the University website where we are using central data. For example, some School websites are using data from Human Resources and Pure (our research information management system) to automatically create staff listing pages.

However, where we are not using central data there is a huge overhead in manually maintaining content that could be pulled from existing central sources. Furthermore, there is a risk of content on the website that is not consistent with centrally held information. This presents a big risk from a consumer protection legislation point of view.

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Google tag manager introduction

I first heard about Google Tag Manager at IWMW when Martin Hawksey gave a  workshop on Google Analytics.  Since then I have been experimenting with Google Tag Manager to see how we can use it to track specific events on a web page. For example, tracking the number of clicks on a tab or link. The following describes how to set up Google Tag Manager to track when a user clicks on an accordion to reveal content within a web page (in our case we are using accordions to reveal a list of PGT courses within our taught programmes web page.) There will be follow-up blog posts on the data this has returned. Continue reading “Google tag manager introduction”