Digital prospectus business case

Stephen Evans
Monday 2 November 2015

On Wednesday 16 September, the Digital Communications Portfolio Board approved a business case for redevelopment of the external University website. In essence, what we will be creating is a digital prospectus where all information about undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses is provided in one place.

We will be using our agile project management approach to improve the University’s digital user experience as quickly as possible.  The development will take place in five phases and involve close collaboration with the Senate Efficiency Review projects to ensure that information can be provided from central sources such as our student records management system (SITS).

Phase 1 – October 2015

In order to achieve our vision, we cannot just create a new website. We must also create new processes that put the user at the heart of our products and change the way that digital is viewed across the institution. Only in this way will we achieve a sustainable digital profile for the future.

In light of this, we will create a service manual, which will acts as an education tool and allow efficient handling of recurring issues such as content edits and design decisions. The service manual will set out the policies and procedures that will help shape the University’s digital culture. Initially this will include:

  • Content management process
  • Code standards
  • Digital pattern library
  • User personas
  • Procedure for submitting project proposals

Phase 2 – November 2015 to March 2016

One of the main institutional objectives (as outlined in the University strategy 2015–2025) is to increase the number of postgraduate taught (PGT) students at the University. We believe that this can be aided by having a central source of information regarding all St Andrews PGT programmes online. This will reduce the problem of PGT information currently sitting on Schools’ websites, where it is inconsistent, incomplete and difficult to maintain.

We will create new user-focused content that sells our postgraduate taught programmes. This content will launch in phase 2 as webpages on the existing Study at St Andrews website, in order to deliver value as early as possible.

Around 80% of the users of the University website use the search function. We plan to reskin this to ensure that it works effectively on a wider range of devices.

Phase 3 – March 2016 to June 2016

In order to increase student application numbers, the digital programme listings must be easy to navigate. Currently, the programme listings are organised by School or department. This can cause issues for prospective students who are not aware of the structure of the organisation. For example, many students looking to study Comparative Literature would expect this to be found under the programmes listed by the School of English. However, our course search tool lists Comparative Literature as part of the School of Modern Languages, as this is the School that runs the programme.

To address this, we will create a subject-led approach to find programmes (incorporating all of the subjects taught by the University and the programmes on offer); this will also include a search function. The working title of this section is Subjects.

One benefit of the subject-led approach is that it embeds research at the heart of the user experience. This contrasts the current website where information about researchers and research outputs is patchy and inconsistent. The prototype website demonstrates how this could be improved by having research updates, research areas, researchers and research groups at a subject level.

In this phase, Subjects will be built in the existing Study at St Andrews website in order to deliver value as early as possible. This can only be achieved once phase 2 is complete.

While we are creating content for this, the designers and developers will be working on a new way to display contact details for staff, schools and departments across the University. This will replace the current contacts tool.

Phase 4 – June 2016 to ?

Prototype of a PGT course page

During this phase we plan to launch a new web platform that meets the needs of our external users. It will be responsive (easily read and navigated with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling across a wide range of devices, from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones), well architected and has processes that allow us to maintain and iterate upon it.

This web platform will include the content created in phases 2 and 3 (we will migrate this from the current website). We will also create a prospective students section that will include information for prospective students which is not related to a programme (such as how to apply). This will replace Study at St Andrews.

We will also create new web listings for all undergraduate programmes that meet the needs of these users, and will replace the existing Course Search. Due to the large number of undergraduate programmes (currently over 900) it will take time to review and create this content.  Further prototyping will allow us to determine how long this phase will take.

We will create a new way to communicate to the online public news about and events at the University. These tools will be built in WordPress so that the news stories and events may be published immediately and managed more easily.

At the end of this phase, members of the public will be able to access information about all programmes that the University offers and related information for prospective students on the new platform, as well as information about the University, how to visit, as well as its news and events.

Phase 5

Once the new platform is launched, we will build the rest of the information architecture on this platform. The information architecture includes:

  • Alumni
  • Support St Andrews
  • Facilities and services
  • Graduation
  • Journey to St Andrews / Orientation
  • Media centre

This will involve a combination of creating new content and migrating existing content.

It’s an exciting time as we start to improve the user experience, particularly for prospective students.  It’s also an opportunity to simply, standardise and consolidate our web presence.  If you have an questions about the project please email [email protected]


Share this story