Scottish Web Folk meeting

Stephen Evans
Saturday 23 December 2017

Scottish Web Folk is an informal group for anyone who works in digital in higher education in Scotland. The group meets three or four times a year at one of the universities in Scotland. It’s a great opportunity to meet up to share best practice and to learn from each other. Over the years, the friendships and networking have been invaluable as we all have to cope with similar issues despite working for different institutions. We’ve blogged about previous Scottish web folk meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow. This time, the meeting was held at the University of Dundee on Friday 27 October 2017.

The meeting was very well attended with about 40 web folk representing the University of Highlands and Islands, Robert Gordon University, University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, University of Dundee, University of Strathclyde, University of Glasgow, University of Stirling, Glasgow Caledonian and University of St Andrews. The following is a short summary of what was discussed.


There was a short discussion on the Institutional Web Management Workshop that took place at the University of Kent this year. One of the main themes was the focus on content and the need to disassociate it from the delivery method: “it’s about content, not the web”. The next IWMW meeting will take place 11 to 13 July 2018 at the University of York.

Search solution procurement

Google will stop supporting dedicated Google Search Appliances (GSA) in March 2019. A number of institutions, including St Andrews, has a GSA appliance and the search is on (no pun intended!) for a suitable replacement. There was a discussion in the group about recommended solutions, but no consensus was reached as to the best one. The replacement for GSA at St Andrews is being handled by our Business Transformation Board, and we hope to have a proposal accepted to allow us to go to tender early next year.

Content management systems

There was a lively discussion about the best approach to launching a new website. Should it be a phased approach, or a big bang? Several institutions shared their experience of the two methods with the pros and cons of each. A phased approach allows incremental improvements to be released, ensuring that value is delivered more quickly. A big bang approach can allow a more coordinated approach, particularly when a large scale redesign is needed.

There was also discussion about whether workflows for creating and editing content should be centralised or decentralised. Again, it was useful to hear how others viewed this important area of content management. At the University of St Andrews we have noticed that some content editors only make one or two edits a year, or may not use the system for a while. Auditing the activity of editors can enable a review of how content is managed. Our approach is to have a few people who are responsible for editing content, with the rest asking them to make edits on their behalf.

Customer relations management (CRM) systems

The University of Aberdeen gave a demo of Gecko, which they use to enhance applicant enquiry management and conversion. This is a system that St Andrews currently uses, although not as extensively as our counterparts at Aberdeen!

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

All universities now need to comply with CMA legislation. For example, ensuring that information about courses is accurate and comprehensive. This has been a driver for change, for example, putting course information into centrally held parts of the university website to ensure consistency. There is also a need to ensure that all information provided via digital channels is accurate, including on social media. St Andrews has already worked hard to ensure that our course pages meet the recommendations set out by HEFCE, and will continue to do so over the next year.


Hotjar is a web based tool for understanding how users interact with your website. It allows data to be remotely captured showing how users navigated through a website. From this it is possible to determine the factors that might prevent someone from finding the information they need. The University of Dundee has been using Hotjar for a while and were able to give a demo of how this tool can be very effective at improving usability. This was hugely exciting, and something that we at St Andrews will look at getting a demo for in the new year.

Video hosting

A useful insight from this discussion was that the University of Dundee uses TubeBuddy to manage their YouTube channels. A recommendation was to use this service to provide captions for YouTube videos.

Deakin Genie

Finally, a video was shown of how Deakin University is using technology to help students to organise their time and studies. Deakin has over 53,000 students, so having an efficient tool to connect with students could be beneficial. While the potential of this technology is impressive, the view within the Scottish Web Folk group was that this could be good for mundane tasks, but that students ultimately want fact to face interactions.

This was another great Scottish Web Folk meeting; lots of interesting topics to discuss, opportunities to meet with our counterparts, and a chance to share knowledge and expertise. One of the huge positives of the Scottish Higher Education digital community is that so many people are open to discussing their projects and campaigns which means we have a far broader set of experiences to work from. We’re looking forward to the next Scottish Web Folk meeting already!