On Thursday 27 September 2018, the digital communications team launched the new events website in our updated style to assure future accessibility for users. This post looks at some of the changes we’ve made.
Old events website
The original events site was managed by Terminal 4 version 7 (T4v7) and was first developed in 2008. It was in need of replacement due to a number of limitations:
- The design was optimised only for desktop with no support for mobile devices.
- There was no easy way to search for listed events.
- The admin interface within T4v7 didn’t show the events in a calendar view. This made it difficult to see where there might be conflicts of interest.
- Changes to an event required admin intervention and a publishing delay of up to two hours.
- No provision of iCalendar (sometimes called iCal) files that would allow users to automatically add event information to their personal digital calendars.
- No integration with social media that would allow events to be more widely disseminated.
- No easy way to highlight specific events on the University website. All events were treated equally.
- No easy method to allow an image to be associated with an event.
- No ticketing system or waiting list functionality; there was no way of knowing how many participants might be attending an event. This resulted in poor planning of resources that an event might need.
New events website
A wide range of possible solutions was explored during the project’s planning stages. This included assessment of various WordPress plugins, each offering different approaches to event management and their presentation. The result was that a suitable plugin was identified and WordPress was chosen as the preferred option.
By using WordPress, we can take advantage of the built-in categorisation and tagging features that make finding events a lot easier. A specialist event plugin also greatly reduces the amount of development time required to engineer a solution to fit our needs.
This also gave us the opportunity to update the default University of St Andrews WordPress theme to use the latest version of the digital pattern library – as the events website would inherit this theme’s styling.
The first thing you’ll notice if you’re a frequent user of the previous events website is the updated design. It is now consistent with the rest of the external website and therefore will now display correctly on mobile devices.
Additional features of the new website include:
- Event management
Staff and students of the University can now maintain the details of their own event submissions, reducing the time taken to publish updates and improved content accuracy.
- Ticket booking system for free events
Event organisers can now offer various booking options for any event that doesn’t require payment at time of booking. Please contact email@example.com if you have questions about using this feature for your event.
- Enhanced event details
Events now include a much higher level of detail with allowance for an image, embedded Google Map (with directions), organiser information and venue description.
- Improved categorisation and tagging
Building on core WordPress functionality, events can be grouped into a wide number of different categories for better organisation and an improved user experience.
- Event presentation and UX
Along with a new ‘featured event’ option to promote specific events, there is a wide range of options to browse and search for events. Daily, weekly and monthly event listings along with a calendar view, archive and search tool provide a broad set of tools to help users complete their intended tasks.
- Saving and sharing
Options to either download an iCal file or add to Google Calendar provide a quick and simple method to add an event to your personal calendar, while various sharing options for social media and the use of structured data makes the event calendar more accessible to social media channels and search engines alike.
During the development of the new website, we conducted usability testing with a number of stakeholders and used the feedback to refine the system ahead of launch. The digital communications team intends to conduct further usability testing sessions, at regular intervals, to ensure the system continues to meet all of its objectives.
The events website will be maintained by the digital communications team and any future improvements will be assessed against user needs and all available data.
If you have any suggestions or feedback please contact the digital communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.