The story so far and next actions

Paul Boag
Wednesday 29 April 2015

As digital becomes critical to the University of St Andrews, we are adapting the way we run our website.

As many of you are new to our mailing list and blog, we thought now might be a good time to summarise what work we have been doing to date.

Over the last ten years our website has gone from being an extra marketing channel to crucial for the future of St Andrews.

This means the ongoing evolution of our website has become much more important. To meet this challenge we have taken several steps.

First, we have formed a new unified digital communication team. That is us! This has increased our digital capability and reduced repetition of effort.

Second, we have been reviewing our working practices and policies to enable us to work smarter and faster. We have been doing this in conjunction with the Lean Team who have been a huge support.

Third, we have been re-architecting many of the top level pages of the site including the homepage. This is due to go live soon.

A new website homepage will launch soon.
A new website homepage will launch soon.

Building a new prototype

Recently we have started to look at the broader picture and question some of our fundamental assumptions about how we do our website. We are currently re-evaluating the sites information architecture. The idea is to focus more on user needs and less on organisational structures.

This has led us to start work on an ‘alpha’ site that sits separate to the main University website. This prototype is where we can experiment with new ideas, test with users and get stakeholder feedback.

Although in its early days we expect to have something to show you in the next few weeks. This will not be anything like a finished site. But it will be something we can discuss as an institution and test with real users.

Build, test and iterate

After we have gathered initial feedback and testing the site will pass through a series of iterations. The idea of this is to improve the quality. At each stage the site will be available for comment and pass through more testing.

We will also be working with business specialists at every stage to gather use cases to help us create outstanding content. When working on content for alumni for example we will work with the alumni team to get that right.

Getting public feedback

When we are more confident in our new approach we will promote the site to beta status. This means we will make the new site publicly available. It will not replace the existing site but rather sit alongside it. Users visiting our existing site will have the option ‘to try our upcoming site’ and tell us what they think. We will also be gathering data about their behaviour as they navigate the new site.

Eventually we will encourage users of the existing site to try the new version. This allows us to discover what works and what does not.
Eventually we will encourage users of the existing site to try the new version. This allows us to discover what works and what does not.

Based on this feedback and data we will further refine the site. Again we will work with business specialists from across the institution.

When the beta site has improved sufficiently it will replace what we currently have online. How we make that decision will be crucial.

The criteria for replacing the old site

The decision to go live will not be about how much content we have migrated from the old site. In fact we believe we will have to remove a lot of the content we currently have online to help users find the most crucial information.

Instead we will launch a minimal viable product. In other words we will launch with the least amount of content we can. This will enable us to see what extra content users want and add that back in over time. This ensures we avoid adding content nobody wants.

We will base decisions about what to include in the initial release on:

  • User research.
  • Analytics data.
  • Organisational objectives.

But we will write more about these in a later post.

We need your insights

As you can see we have a lot of work ahead and some tough choices. That is where you come in. We hope you will help us get things right by:

  • Providing us with your feedback.
  • Helping us better understand your users.
  • Ensure the right content is available to meet users needs.
  • Identify legacy content that is no longer needed on the site.

But that all comes later. For now we want to hear what you think of this approach. Share your thoughts, concerns and questions in the comments below.

Share this story

One reply to "The story so far and next actions"

  • Jane Winn
    Jane Winn
    Monday 29 June 2015, 8.10am

    Your choice of images for many of the new pages seem to be mainly pretty white girls with long floppy hair. This from a visit to your site to find out about sport and exercise classes as a community member. Not much evidence of diversity as far as I could see from a random click around. However this may be an accurate reflection of the student population? I hope not


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