• Hemingway app – a free tool to improve your writing

    Do you want to improve your writing for the web and make your copy as bold and clear as possible? Then try running your text through Hemingway Editor. This online app highlights common errors and suggests ways to tighten up your writing and strengthen the copy. It uses principles followed by the writer Ernest Hemingway, who was known for his simple, yet strong and direct, prose.

    In this blog post, I’ve outlined a few ways we can benefit from these principles when we write for the web.

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  • Staff top task workshops

    Top task outputs

    We had a brilliant time last week running workshops to identify the top tasks that staff need to complete when they visit the website. These were very useful sessions that not only allowed us to gather the crucial data we needed, but also gave staff from across the University a chance to speak to others who share the same frustrations.

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  • Our first sprint

    One of the principles that is the foundation of the web project is the ability to not only be open in what we do, but also to make things available early and often and continually assess how we’ve performed as a team.

    Agile is a project management methodology that allows us to do just that. Just over a month ago the Web Services team went through Agile SCRUM training that gave us the foundation of knowledge we needed to implement it effectively. Knowledge is one thing, but putting it into practice is a whole other thing!

    We decided to try it on a small project to start with before ramping it up to larger projects. Doing the setup for the alpha project seemed like a prime candidate.

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  • Getting support during the web restart project

    We have very ambitious plans for the University web presence, and whilst there are lots of things that are uncertain at the moment, we know it’s going to take a lot of work from a lot of people.

    However, we can’t just stop business as usual activities while we do this, so we need to ensure that work continues to be carried out. The key to this is ensuring that we are correctly prioritising tasks and making sure that requests are being routed properly so that they get to the right people.

    We are committed to providing support to all our users from 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, and have dedicated members of staff whose sole purpose is to provide that support.

    To help us, we are asking that everyone logs their calls by emailing help4u@dundee.ac.uk. We use the same system as UoDIT, but calls will be routed through to us.

    Due to the volume of emails we get daily, it’s difficult to keep track of everything we are being sent, so please make sure that you log calls using this address so we can make sure nothing gets lost and we can monitor response times.

    We have clearly defined the criteria we will use to triage calls coming in and these are available in our support policy.

  • 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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