Maria is the digital data analyst and content editor for the digital communications team. From Newcastle originally, Maria has lived in Dundee for the last five years while completing her degree in English and working in marketing for small, start-up businesses. Maria is usually found analysing Google Analytics and the results of usability testing.

Online search usability testing findings

Over the summer, usability testing was conducted on the University’s search tool. The main purpose of the test was to set a benchmark and find out how users interacted with the current search system, which will shortly be replaced. This post provides a summary of the test and an overview of the users’ experiences.

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Our research survey says…

In order to inform the design of the new University of St Andrews research section, the digital communications team wanted to establish what the top tasks were for users of the current research website. We did this by using a survey, the results of which can be found below. Continue reading “Our research survey says…”

Internship with digital communications – Mhari Nimmo

Mhari Nimmo completed a four-week internship with the digital communications team. You can read about her experience in her own words below.

Four weeks ago, a month seemed like an awfully long time – but as everyone knows, time likes to go faster when it’s summer, and unfortunately the end of my internship within the digital communications team is nearly here.

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The new research pages are live

On Thursday 7 June 2018, the digital communications team launched new research webpages to showcase the University’s world-class research outputs, research impact, and the excellent research environment at St Andrews. This post looks at some of the changes we’ve made to the research section.

What’s new?

The first thing you’ll notice if you’re a frequent visitor to the research section is the new homepage. The new homepage features some new patterns, colours and content. Here’s what the site looked like before:

And here’s what it looks like now.

The visual benefits of this change are clear to see, but the big advancement is the fact that the site is now responsive and can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Some new things to look out for on the research homepage include:

Search bar

Using the search bar, a user will be able to find results from Pure, the new Research blog, case studies and the long-forms. As the user begins the search, a drop-down with some options appears.

Panel grid

The panel grid was a great option to display a collection of links relating to a certain topic, for example ‘Research portal’. The pattern also adds some colour to the page, breaking up the traditional blue-tone palette that has been used throughout the new style pages in the past. You can read more about the University’s updated corporate colours in Lewis Wake’s blog post on the subject.

Featured case studies

This new pattern was designed to showcase the ten case studies that the content team wrote for the launch of the new site. The pattern allows for one case study to be prominently featured, and the other latest three to appear alongside it. This pattern uses circular images which have not been seen in the new site styling before. Users are directed to read more case studies via a clear navigational button.

Research news

The tile grid at the end of the research homepage isn’t a new pattern, but this feature does now provide a source of up-to-date research news for users, which was missing from the previous version of the research website. These research-specific news items are automatically pulled through from the new News site, which was also launched on Thursday 7 June 2018. Fun times!

Research showcase

The research showcase section is an area of the research website which can be used to draw attention to some of the amazing research that takes place here. The showcase houses a new Research blog and is a platform to promote new research case studies and long-forms.

Some new and interesting features to look out for on this page are:

Research highlights (the Showcase banner)

This section is great for demonstrating the University’s accolades, and through iconography and text we can direct the user to the source of these statements to find out more. The Showcase banner pattern is also a good opportunity to add some colour to the page and to contrast with the adjacent sections.

Featured researchers

The Featured people pattern also includes a circular element and a small yellow highlight appears when you hover over each researcher, letting users know that the image can be clicked on. This section can be used to showcase any researchers from across the University and the sections will link through to their Pure profile, or a particular news release. A small blurb helps paint a picture of who they are and what they have achieved.

Research blog

The new Research blog is an opportunity for Schools and Departments within the University to share all of the interesting research projects that are happening with readers. The blog posts that populate the blog were sourced from several research-related blogs but are now all in one place. Digicomms hope the blog will be used by members of staff around the university to share all of the interesting goings on in research at St Andrews.

Case studies

A new case studies landing page acts as a directory for all of the case studies we have written so far. It is currently organised by theme, including Environment, Culture etc, but these are flexible and new themes can be added if necessary. The individual case study pages are largely based on the styling we use on the long-forms, though they are significantly shorter and feature far fewer media items throughout. It is also worth mentioning that the current case studies are based on the 2014 REF case studies, however digital communications see no problem featuring research that is separate from this parameter.

For a few weeks after launch, there will be a feedback form on the new research homepage if you want to provide some feedback. If you notice any bugs, broken links or issues, please alert digital communications by emailing

The importance of email signatures

Over the last few weeks I’ve spotted a new trend at the University. Namely, the fashion for excluding email signatures from emails.

Now, I’m not talking about people I know well and who email me all the time. Nor am I talking about those folks who remove their email signatures after the first couple of messages in an email thread. (If I’ve sent you a couple of messages in that thread, it’s likely I now know who you are.)

No, I’m instead talking about those people whom I have never met or spoken to before, who send emails without one ounce of information about who they are and what they do. This post will look at why email signatures should be used, and what a University email signature should look like.

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Take our survey!

We’ve created a survey to find out why people use the current research webpages and what they like and dislike about that experience. Anyone who enters could win a £30 Amazon voucher for taking part!

The survey will help digicomms understand what users’ top tasks are and what they like or dislike about the current site. This survey is aimed at people who interact with or have responsibility for research in higher education. You may be a member of staff at the University of St Andrews or at another university or related institution. This survey is open to both academic and professional staff.

The survey is anonymous and takes five minutes or so to complete.

Take the survey

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Google Data Studio training

In 2017, Google Analytics training was created as core course on the digital visa. The training introduced participants to key Google Analytics terminology and walked through creating a dashboard in Google Analytics. However, not long after, I became aware of Google Data Studio, another Google product which allows users to creatively visualise and share data. Essentially, the tool was a more user-friendly dashboard, and it enabled users to create analytics reports in a way that made sense to them. It became clear that the training should be changed to focus on Google Data Studio. 

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View the new accommodation pages

As part of the external website programme, just before Christmas digicomms updated a large part of the Study at St Andrews section of the website. This involved restructuring information for prospective students.

A significant portion of the team’s time was devoted to the redesign of the accommodation webpages. Previously these pages were held in T4v7, so they were rebuilt in T4v8. The structure of the site was reimagined, the content was rewritten and the pages were given a new lease of life.

So what’s changed?

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Study at St Andrews: usability results

As part of the external website project, we are reconfiguring the current Study at St Andrews section to improve the prospective student’s experience.

Digicomms recently conducted testing specifically to determine the usability of the title for the ‘Study at St Andrews’ section of the University’s website. For this, the following three titles were tested:

  • Study at St Andrews (current name of section)
  • Prospective students
  • Why choose St Andrews?

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Usability testing around the University

The digital communications team has been conducting usability testing since 2015. Usability testing allows us to evaluate the design of a webpage, or more specifically, a particular process such as signing up for a visiting day.

Digicomms is keen for other units and departments within the University to consider conducting usability testing on their webpages. This post looks at the process for conducting usability testing in another department.

Find out more: What is usability testing and why do we do it?

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