• Web team round-up of 2020

    In a year like no other where our lives have been turned upside down, one thing that hasn’t changed is the demand on our time to support critical areas of the business. This year was already shaping up to be a very busy one as we progressed with the web refresh project, but 2020 had quite a number of curve balls of its own.

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  • Tackling policies and corporate information on the University website

    Policies. You may not have noticed but we’ve got a lot of these on the website. Not just policies but other types of corporate information like procedures, regulations, disclaimers, reports, rules, statutes, templates, codes of conduct, classification schemes, privacy notices – stay with me this gets much more interesting, I promise.

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  • Where did the last year go?

    It’s just over a year since we started launching content on our new content management system. Our initial focus was on building the blocks of functionality and content that make up individual areas with our focus now moving onto migration of content. Here’s a quick summary of where we are.

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  • Moving towards remote working

    We live in uncertain times and it seems that perhaps at some point, we might need to start working remotely. Whilst this poses many challenges, my team has been gradually moving to a location-agnostic way of working over the past couple of years. I wanted to share exactly what that looks like on a daily basis in case it’s of use to any other teams. We have not completely cracked this, but some of our experiences might help others during these times.

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  • Recent accessibility enhancements

    We are working towards ensuring the University’s websites are fully accessible for everyone – and legally compliant – by September 2020.

    We aim to make our websites accessible to everyone in the following ways:

    • Perceivable: Making text and media perceivable for everyone
    • Operable: Helping users navigate content
    • Understandable: Making and media text understandable
    • Robust: Maximising compatibility

    We performed an accessibility audit recently. Performing an accessibility audit is part of the process of assessing where we are not achieving the above aims. Continue reading…

  • Displaying our awards and accolades

    Awards and accolades on the homepage

    Following on from the great news that we have been named the University of the Year for Student Experience by The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020, we have updated the homepage to highlight some of our major awards and accolades that help to show we are a fantastic choice for students. 

    Screenshot of the updated homepage


    Upcoming change to course pages

    We will shortly be adding awards and accolades to our course pages.
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  • What’s so great about the new people pages?

    Staff profiles are one of the most hotly debated pieces of functionality that we have tackled on the new University website. We know that with almost 3,800 members of staff, we will have almost as many opinions about what they should and shouldn’t include and how they should look. It was important to hear as many of those opinions as possible which is why we’ve spent almost a year gathering information, developing prototypes and seeking feedback from a variety of people.

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  • Where have my publications gone?

    One noticeable change to profiles on the University website is the exclusion of an automatic feed from Pure. This may seem strange, especially as we move towards REF2021 and all the work that is being undertaken to support that assessment.

    I wanted to take a minute to explain the reasoning behind this move.

    Our Pure repository and the display system called Discovery (discovery.dundee.ac.uk) has improved its visual look and underlying capabilities hugely since the last REF exercise. Far from being a simple repository of publications, it houses rich information on Projects, Activities, Press/Media and Student Theses. There is also a rich relational architecture that shows the interdisciplinary work that is going on and is a feature of so much of our work. This richness of content far exceeds what can be displayed on a single profile page and to replicate would mean rebuilding Discovery within the new website.

    While a cloud hosted system like Discovery has benefits, it also has its disadvantages. The capabilities that allow us to pull information from the repository often change with each release. Sometimes these releases are non-breaking and go unnoticed. Unfortunately, they can, and do break existing integrations. At a time of rapid development for the new site, the more time that we spend on repairing these linkages, the less time there is to spend on other much needed functionality.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as we’ve investigated how profiles are used by those visiting the page, we are finding that many users are getting “stuck” and not progressing on to view the rich content that is available, with many bouncing off the site completely. When we consider our primary aim of these profiles is to reduce the reputational deficit we have as a University currently, it becomes more important to funnel users through to this rich content so that the full story can be told.

    These new staff profiles are one of our core building blocks and represent a big leap forward in capabilities for the site. They are the product of months of consultation throughout the University and with staff, students, external contacts and the Vice-Principal of Research (Professor John Rowan) to try and understand user requirements, and also balance those with essential business requirements.

    Web Services undertakes regular review and analysis of the website to measure and track its effectiveness. We welcome any and all feedback which we will feed back into our feature road maps for future development.

  • Collaboration and improving undergraduate courses content

    Last week we were proud to launch our new undergraduate course pages. This represents the culmination of several months’ work by Web Services and other teams including Marketing and Admissions as well as our implementation partners Manifesto and Aquia. As the first part of the new University website to go live it’s an amazing achievement and a true team effort.

    Medicine course page
    Medicine course page

    The improvements to these pages are extensive and probably worthy of a separate blog post but for now I thought it would be worthwhile looking at how we approached the project from a content perspective.

    Our undergraduate course pages are amongst the most visited part of the University website. In a typical six month period they account for around 600,000 page views (or 8%) of all our web traffic. They play a vital role at various stages of an applicant’s journey. Despite their importance we were acutely aware that these pages weren’t meeting our expectations – and more importantly those of our users. Content quality was at times patchy and often failed to meet the content standards and guidance on voice, tone, and style set out in the University brand guidelines.

    For a long time there was a desire to look at the content of these pages in its entirety and to improve it in a systematic way. The launch of the first part of the new website with the new CMS, design, and functionality for courses seemed the perfect time to do this.

    Improving user experience

    The previous version of these pages listed around 115 undergraduate courses but in reality there are many more you can apply to. This was partly due to courses such as joint honours being listed on single honours pages. For example, in our course finder if you had followed the suggested search link for ‘History with Spanish MA’ you would have found yourself on the History MA page. From a user experience perspective this was obviously confusing and less than ideal.
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  • A designer’s thoughts on the UX Scotland 2019 conference

    What is UX Scotland?

    UX Scotland is the conference for the UX, service design and digital communities, welcoming national and international participants to Scotland.

    The event ran from 12 to 14 June 2019 in Edinburgh.

    Who went to UX Scotland?

    Last week saw Rob and myself return to Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh for this year’s UX Scotland conference. We would be running a workshop on Design Sprints and were excited to join the likes of Facebook, the UK Government, and the Australian Government as speakers at this brilliant annual event.

    Joining us was fellow designer, Ryan, for his first taste of UX Scotland. Ryan was especially looking forward to once again experiencing the wonderful commute on Scotland’s fine railway service from Dundee to Edinburgh. This is a route he used to enjoy daily when working for an Edinburgh-based agency before joining the University of Dundee. He was not disappointed! It was really the only negative thing about the three days. (If you do this commute, you have our sympathy, or should I say empathy. That will make sense later).

    Also attending (and speaking) were Michael Crabb and Rachel Menzies from the University’s computing department. They were enlightening the UX Scotland audience on important accessibility topics. Continue reading…