Won’t somebody think of the semi-colons?

The University’s new content style guide is a large resource, and it’s a living document, so it’s only going to get larger. Within it are rules and guidelines covering everything from tone of voice to correct apostrophe use, from word choice to date format. If you find a formatting, style, punctuation or spelling situation not covered by the guide, it’s probably only because we haven’t thought of it yet. It’s really, really big.

That means it would be very hard for anyone to follow every rule in the style guide all of the time, particularly when there are lots of rules that folk won’t even know they’re breaking. Over time we’ll get better and better at this, of course, but in the meantime it’s worth asking the question: what are the style guide’s main aims? What’s most important?

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Launching the new campus map

We’ve launched our new campus map and I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss some of the new features it delivers and why we’ve made the change.

We had a campus map, why did we need a new one?

The campus map is often the forgotten child of a university website. Seen by many as “just a list of buildings on a map”. For many first time visitors to campus (such as prospective students and freshers) it’s one of the first ports of call in finding their way around. That makes the campus map a valuable tool for conversion and for helping our new students feel more at home.

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Content style guide launched

This week we’re thrilled to announce the launch of the new content style guide. Forming part of the brand website, we’ve produced the guide so we can take a clear and consistent approach to all the content we produce.

We’ve laid out some basic principles that should be adopted when writing content:

  • Understand your audience
  • Keep it simple, but don’t patronise
  • Keep it short
  • Show as well as tell

At the heart of these principles is our intention to create content that helps the person reading it.

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A Canterbury Tale

Back in July, seven of us from Web Services attended the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) conference, this year held at the University of Kent, in Canterbury. IWMW is, in their own words, “the premier event for the UK’s higher educational web management community” – in essence, a conference for University web and digital teams. As one of the resident newbies in our team, this was my first experience of this particular conference and of the community that is involved in it.

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The PhD user journey

I was asked recently to look into the way we provide information to prospective PhD students, with a view to improving the way PhD related information is presented on the central University website.

PhDs are one of those slippery customers with web content all over the shop. Not only is there content both on the University website and on School sites, but over and above that there’s a distinct lack of consensus on whether PhD information belongs under ‘Research’, ‘Study(ing)’, ‘Postgraduate’, or a special category all of its own.

We aren’t looking to do a massive overhaul of the way we organise PhD information right now: that’s a major undertaking and an awful lot of other things need to be considered first. However, there was a feeling that the central pages could be better organised as they stand, and it fell to me to fix them. (Thanks, Danny.)

In the spirit of starting-as-you-mean-to-go-on, I thought I’d dip my toe in and do some proper preliminary investigation that would both aid me in solving the issue at hand and stand us in good stead for any epic redevelopment work in the future.
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Why we stopped using ‘please note’

Writing for the web can be very different to writing for print.  Visitors to your webpages will not be reading the text in the same way as they might read a leaflet or brochure.  Instead they will be scanning the text, picking out key words and phrases, and trying to gauge the meaning of the content in as short a time as possible.

Imagine you’re driving past a billboard at 60mph in the car.  You can only take in a limited amount of information and there’s no time to mentally process any complicated wording.  Whilst the window of opportunity for a webpage is not quite so narrow, you need to bear in mind that your readers might be racing through your content rather than reading and digesting every carefully crafted word.

We need to adapt our writing style accordingly.  We don’t want to confuse our readers by using words which are ambiguous, difficult to understand, or which act as obstacles to providing a clear message or straightforward navigation.

With this in mind, we’ve listed below some words that you should avoid using as these reduce the readability of our content.

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Scholarship search redevelopment

The Web Service Team, Global Recruitment Team and Applicant Experience Team have been working on updating the scholarship search on our website.

The first version, which went live in autumn of 2016, didn’t list every subject and country in the world and this sometimes led people to believe there were no scholarships available for their desired selection. This has been resolved with a new country and subject dropdown that you can use to filter the results.

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2016 Freshers’ Week User Testing

Introduction

The Web Services team is a user and data led team. We decided that a great time to do user testing, with new students, was during Freshers’ Week.

What we did

A survey was produced to test

  • Open Day attendance,
  • the new 360º Virtual Tour,
  • our communications during the admissions process,
  • social media,
  • matriculation,
  • the website overall.

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Joining the Web Services team

We’re in the process of recruiting for a Senior Web Developer within the Web Services team (check it out, developers!). I’m now on the other side of the recruitment process, having recently joined the team myself in May as Chief Pixel Pusher (as known as Web Design Manager). So I thought it would be fitting to share my experiences so far.
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School of Business website launched

Last week we reached the significant milestone of moving a School website into the central web template. The launch of the new University of Dundee School of Business website represents a key strategic component in the University’s transformation vision, building upon strong existing foundations in this area to provide world-class teaching and research in Accountancy, Finance, Economics, Management and Marketing.

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