An update on the external website project
Some of you may have noticed that it’s been quite a while since the digital communications team have written an update on our vision for the external facing website. (I think the last update was our Digital Prospectus business case, which we posted back in 2016!) Since then, there have been a number of changes – to our team, our priorities, and our processes. In the last couple of weeks, our plan to complete the external facing website programme of projects has been accepted, so it seems like a good time to give an update.
When we first came together to create a plan to update the St Andrews external facing website, we thought of it as one single project – one we called DC1001, or ‘Peanut Butter’. Over the last year, it’s become increasingly clear that creating a new, simplified, user centred, responsive external facing website is way too large and complex to be managed like this. Late last year, we sat down and broke all of the work we wanted to do into chunks. We started calling each chunk a project which was part of the programme of DC1001.
This also allowed us to see the breadth and complexity of the work we needed to do. We established that DC1001 was made up of 12 separate but interconnected projects. Of these, the first four are now complete. The next four are in progress at some level; some are currently being worked on by the content and development teams, whilst others still require project management documentation to be completed. The final four projects are scheduled for completion by April 2018.
A breakdown of each of the eight remaining projects can be found below. As well as working on these projects, the team are also continuing to take on the business-as-usual work which is required to keep the University’s digital services running.
In the order that they will be worked on, the eight projects which are still to be undertaken are:
[accordion title=”Migrate ‘Subjects’ section to T4v8 (DC1001/7)”]
A large focus of the University’s strategic aims is to attract the best students to St Andrews. The DC1001/3 project delivered the digital prospectus, which contains subject-level information and UG programme information for prospective students. This complemented the PGT programme pages that were launched in 2016. The subject and UG pages are found under Subjects. The PGT pages are currently situated under Study at St Andrews. Both sets of pages are published via T4v7, and the digital communications team is in the process of moving all external facing content into T4v8.
In order to create an external facing website which is based on a single platform, it is required for us to move these pages into T4v8. We are also driven by an attempt to improve the user experience by putting all academic information prospective students are looking for in one place – bringing together the UG and PGT sections, and incorporating information such as entry requirements, study options and non-degree courses.
[accordion title=”Build prospective students section in T4v8 (DC1001/6)”]
The digital prospectus project enabled us to separate out academic content for prospective students and put this information into the /subjects section of the website. This allows prospective students to find all information about our programmes, entry requirements and non-standard degree options in one place.
However, there is also a large amount of vital non-academic information that prospective students use when deciding which universities to apply to. This information needs to be externally available, easy to find and navigate, attractive and up-to-date in order to appeal to prospective students.
While Study at St Andrews has been a success, this site would need to be migrated to T4v8 in the near future. This project proposes that rather than blindly migrating the content, we take the opportunity to update content and roll some key additional information for prospective students into the new section. This involves adding new information about accommodation, student support and why St Andrews into the section for prospective students.
[accordion title=”Build new site and content for Study Abroad in T4v8 (DC1001/8)”]
The current Collaborations and Study Abroad (CSA) website has four audience groups: current students (who are thinking of taking a semester or year abroad), staff (who are looking for information to communicate to students), inbound students (students who are interested in coming to St Andrews to do a semester or year abroad) and prospective students (students who are interested in coming to St Andrews to study and may wish to go abroad for a time during their studies).
Each of these audience groups have different requirements. The information for current staff and students should be held in the /staff and /students respectively. The information for prospective students interested in coming to St Andrews should go into the /subjects section, where all academic information for prospective students will exist (as per DC1001/7).
However, this leaves information for prospective inbound study abroad students – who have very different needs to prospective first-year students – which needs to be placed somewhere on the external facing website.
The digital communications team suggests creating a microsite on T4v8 for prospective inbound study abroad students. This site will be externally facing and linked to from (but separate to) Subjects and Study.
[accordion title=”Create/source new News section and media centre which integrates with T4v8 (DC1001/9)”]
News on the University website is currently published via T4v7. T4 has an hourly publishing cycle which means that it always takes at least one hour, often longer, to publish a news article.
In addition, there are multiple news sections across the University website, each of which is using a slightly different news management system.
The digital communications team plan to source a news management system which can be used across the whole University, can publish news out immediately and allows news to be pushed to any section of the website.
In addition to this, the digital communications team plans to source a media centre microsite for media contacts and journalists. This section of the website can host an archive of all press releases, a gallery of images of St Andrews, contact details, a video index and other information as required by the news team in Corporate Communications. This will allow the news section to be entirely focuses on news stories, and the media centre to be the home of press releases and media information.
[accordion title=”Create/source new Events system which integrates with T4v7 and T4v8 (DC1001/13) “]
Events on the University website are currently hosted via T4v7, using a system which was built internally some years ago. This system allows users to submit their events via a form and requires a member of Corporate Communications to moderate the events in the back-end of T4.
Neither the event submission form or the events listings are responsive and are difficult to be used on mobile devices. The calendar allows users to filter events on set categories but does not allow users to search events. In addition, events disappear once they have passed. The event listings do not meet house style. Publishing, which is via T4, takes at least one hour.
In addition, the events calendar is not used across the whole University website. Some Schools and Units use different events calendars.
Digital communications propose that a new events calendar is bought or built by the University. This calendar should be suitable for use by the whole University, have the ability to immediately publish new events and have search functionality. It should integrate with both T4v7 and T4v8, and be able to push content to all sections of the University website.
[accordion title=”Build new site and content for Research outputs in T4v8, and integrate with Pure (DC1001/10)”]
Research is an integral part of the University and updating our audiences about our research activities, projects and impact is a big part of University strategy.
The current research webpages are not responsive and are held in T4v7.
The digital communications team plans to create a new website about the research undertaken by the University in T4v8, which is in the new style with a user-centred approach to the content.
[accordion title=”Deprecate /parents and /administration in T4v7 and migrate content for external audiences to T4v8 (DC1001/12)”]
There are two sections of the current external facing website (in T4v7) which will no longer be required once we have moved to T4v8. These two externally facing websites are found at /parents and /administration.
The /parents section contains information for parents. In the new external facing website, content for parents will not be separate from the content we provide to for students. In the /study/support section, we will create a page for parents that links parents to the content we know they most regularly look for. This new page will replace the /parents section, which is outdated and currently password protected to reduce reputational risk.
The /administration section is an A-Z list of various units, departments and teams across the University, with links to their webpages. Much of this content is internally focused: for current staff and students. We plan to separate the content that is aimed at external users from that which is internally focused. This will allow us to have an internal A-Z list held in T4v7 for staff and students, and a list of the schools, departments and teams for external users that is held in T4v8. This will allow us to (possibly) password protect the internal A-Z while still having a page that external users may use to find information about the University’s teams. The content in this section will need to be careful not to list contact details of staff who do not have public facing roles.
The deprecation of these sections of the external facing website will take us to a point where all external facing content is in T4v8 and in the new style. This would feasibly allow us to password protect all content in T4v7 – which should all be internally facing.
[accordion title=”Refresh of the design and content on the University homepage (DC1001/11) “]
After the launch of T4v8 and other DC1001 projects, we will need to update the University homepage. This is due to the addition of new sites within T4v8, the renaming of some sections of the website, such as Study at St Andrews, and the new news and events software.
This refresh of the homepage will not fundamentally change the design of the homepage, but will iterate on the current design. This will also include updating the images and footer of the homepage.
Our plans indicate that we should be able to complete these projects by the end of March 2018, but this isn’t all of the external facing website. As well as these projects, the digital communications team have been working alongside a number of Departments and Teams in a consultancy capacity; allowing experienced colleagues to progress their own external facing projects in their own time.
So what happens after the external facing website programme is completed? We have a few plans in the pipeline, but you’ll need to wait for our next programme update to find out more!