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.

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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Migrating content from TerminalFour (T4) version 7 to version 8

We use TerminalFour Site Manager (T4) as our content management system to manage content on the main University website. We are currently migrating content for external facing audiences from version 7 (v7) to the newer version 8 of the software (v8).
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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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