• What has the design team been doing in 2019?

    It has been a great start to 2019. Okay, so 2019 started five months ago but it has flown by.

    We have been working with our partners Manifesto and Acquia on a rather sizeable project to replace the University website. We are starting from scratch. A blank page. Lots of blank pages, in fact. New content, new designs, new code, new processes. New everything. I even bought some new pencils…

    Our partners turned out to be smart, personable, and extremely well-organised people. Everything is planned and executed like we’re in the military. In a good way, I mean. We don’t have to salute on the daily stand-up video calls every morning or anything like that.

    For more information about our project and our partners read this: Introducing our new CMS platform and partners

    This has certainly been an intense project.

    However, we can look back with pride on what has been achieved between the various teams working together across design and development in a matter of months:

    • a new design system with over 30 components, each with multiple variations and responsive states
    • a pattern library full of accessible, mobile-friendly components and templates
    • full integration with a new Drupal-powered website that will allow content editors to easily select templates and drop components into a page

    This post is a breakdown of what’s been keeping the coffee flowing and our pixels pushed so far this year.

    Continue reading…

  • Building accessible, mobile-friendly, fast-loading, attractive website components, and templates

    It starts with atomic design

    We are using atomic design principles to organise our vast number of components and design patterns. These take the form of:

    • Atoms – these are the most basic building blocks within the pattern library and include elements such as buttons, colours, lists, and for inputs like radio buttons
    • Molecules – are created when we put together two atoms from the design system such as a search bar, alert banners, and accordions
    • Organisms – collections of molecules make up organisms and include things like a hero panel that sits at the top of a page
    • Templates – similar to organisms except that they are site-wide components such as the website’s header and footer
    • Pages – these are the highest level of fidelity with the pattern library, and contain all of the above and serve up actual static content for the user to have a preview of what all these components look like with actual content

    The components are held in a ‘pattern library’ using a tool called Pattern Lab. This pattern library is a major part of our new design system; it’s the single source of truth for our design work. It will give us consistency across all future projects and enable us to continually improve over time.

    Continue reading…

  • Upcoming roadmap

    I talked in a previous post about where we’ve got to with the new site implementation. What I would like to focus on for this post is on some of the specifics around what will be coming in July as we start the phased rollout.

    Continue reading…
  • Progress on our new site!

    We have been noticeably quiet on updating you all on the progress to date with the new site and the things that we have planned for the future and the timescales that we are working to. This is a quick run down on what has happened so far in the implementation of the new site.

    Sept – Oct 2018

    As we announced in our last update, we’ve selected a new CMS (Drupal), a new cloud infrastructure provider (Acquia) and engaged an external partner to help us with the implementation of the new site (Manifesto). Throughout this process we had extensive engagement with our colleagues in procurement, information governance and IT who have done an amazing job helping us navigate procurement and data security requirements to ensure we have the contracts, security and support in place that we need. For those who are going through similar things, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of engaging early and regularly with your colleagues in these departments when going through this process.

    Nov – Dec 2018

    As many who have read previous posts will know, we spent a lot of time researching the problems we face and starting to develop prototype solutions. This helped us accelerate the implementation post contract award, but given the vast amount of information that we collected, we had to spend time pulling it all together and designing an implementation plan for the coming months. This is where the help of an external agency has proved invaluable in helping us drill down to the core requirements and the order we need to deliver items in to reach the milestones we defined.

    Jan – Mar 2019

    The majority of our time this year has been spent implementing that plan which, whilst intense, has been hugely rewarding to see all the hard work the team has done so far starting to come together into a tangible product. If you think of building a site much like building a lego house, the past three months (and much of the coming three months) have been spent designing what type of bricks we want to have and how they all fit together. These bricks include:

    • The digital infrastructure, version control, continuous integration systems and code governance practices.
    • The overall content model that defines the types of content we need and the relationships they have between each other.
    • The design framework and language that will be rolled out across the site that gives us the consistency we need to emphasize our brand and its values across all our pages.

    Site roll out

    We decided early on in the project not to do a big bang launch of the site. At time of writing, we have over 20,000 content items on the current corporate site and that trying to migrate everything at once would necessitate a much longer wait before launch as well as large resource implications in keeping things in sync between current and development sites. We’ll therefore be looking to start the launch of the new site in July with a phased implementation following on from that. We aim to try and have the old site retired towards the end of 2020. Our milestones over the next couple of months look like this.

    • March 2019 – First Beta release – Achieved!
      This is primarily an internal launch that helps us prove the infrastructure and development processes.
    • April 2019 – Second Beta release
      We will be looking to make this more widely available to selected internal audiences to allow them to get a better sense of how the site will be structured and look as well as engaging our test community to start weeding out bugs.
    • July 2019 – First release
  • How we’ve been preparing for this transformation…and a thank you

    Last week we announced our new CMS supplier and partners, marking the end of a three year journey and the start of a new one. We’ve also explored our thoughts around how we’re planning to migrate our content. As we work with our new partners over the coming weeks, that will become even clearer. This work will build on the planning and preparation that we started over a year, much of which has been covered in our blog.

    The above hasn’t been completed in isolation nor is it all just waiting in the wings for the new site. We’ve already been applying these principles and practices as we’ve worked with the University community. We’d like to thank the hundreds of staff and students who have given their time freely to submit top tasks, take part in design sprints, feedback on prototypes, and work with us writing content in the Web Services office.

    We will necessarily move into a higher gear over the coming months to bring about this next stage of the website transformation project and we’ll continue to do that in collaboration with our stakeholders. If you want to be involved then please sign up for a design sprint, or follow the progress in our newsletter.

  • Introducing our new CMS platform and partners!

    It has taken us almost nine months of hard work, but after a very intensive and thorough procurement process, we’re thrilled to announce that we have selected the Drupal CMS, running on the Acquia platform with our new implementation partners Manifesto…and I couldn’t be more excited!

    Why Drupal?

    Drupal is a CMS that is used by some of the biggest and most complex sites in the world including 71 of the top 100 Universities in the world. It has one of the largest open source communities in the world with over 1,000,000 passionate developers, designers, trainers and strategists using it and working together on common problems. It gives us a hugely powerful platform on which to innovate and deliver incredible experiences that not only bring people to Dundee, but also takes Dundee to the world.

    Why Acquia?

    Acquia is a platform built specifically to run Drupal, with its founder and CTO being the person who first created Drupal. They power some of the highest traffic sites in the world like the Oscars and Grammys and are used by institutions like the University of Oxford and every Ivy League school in the US. They provide a fast, secure and resilient architecture that will allow us to deliver fast and high-quality experiences to our users across the globe. Acquia has also been named as a leader in the CMS field by Gartner for the fifth year in a row.

    Why Manifesto?

    One of the core principles of this project is that we will not parachute a company in to deliver something who then leave us holding the ball. We wanted a partner that would not only enhance our existing capabilities but wherever possible transfer knowledge into the team. Manifesto are an agency that have worked with large charities, local and central government as well as a variety of other companies. What impressed us most was how far they go to not only understand their clients, but to embed themselves in teams as they deliver projects.

    What next?

    Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sitting down with Acquia and Manifesto to work out exactly what we will be delivering and when. This is a mammoth task and will take time to get right, but we’ll be open and transparent about the progress as we have always have been. There will be no big bang launch, but rather a phased go-live where we release the new as we decommission the old.

  • Planning the big move

    From late summer 2018 the work and planning around our new website gathers pace. A supplier and integration partner for the new CMS will be announced in the coming days. This is an incredibly exciting moment as it means we can now push forward and begin to firm up on our plans.

    Moving house

    One of the biggest challenges we face is how we go about migrating web content from the current to the new website. You could say this is a bit like moving home and, like every house move, if we want things to go smoothly we have to spend a bit of time preparing and planning to avoid any unexpected surprises.
    Continue reading…

  • Why we’re thinking of removing the A-Z

    The global A-Z. Such a simple concept, yet such a nightmare. Only the homepage and “just stick it in the” about section are feared more.

    The reason it’s so disliked by us webby types is the list itself tends to be completely arbitrary. There’s no logic to what goes in, what comes out, or why it even exists. In the case of dundee.ac.uk our A-Z started in 1996 as a faculty list. It moved from the homepage to atoz.html early in 97, but by December 97 the rot had already set in.

    I ❤ Excel

    Think about an A-Z list of staff members. How can you sort the list? By surname? First name? Job title? All of these would be a valid way of organising some structured data just like you could do it in a spreadsheet. The same would apply to a course listing, a list of locations, a list of event dates.

    Now think about the University global A-Z. How can you re-sort this? I’ll let you into a secret. You can’t.

    The rule is: unless it is a defined, automated, rule based A-Z it will, quite quickly, become a showcase for who shouts loudest, who forgets, and who cares.

    Continue reading…

  • IWMW 2018 – University of York

    In keeping with recent trends here on the Blog, welcome to our post about IWMW 2018!

    It’s definitely conference season and we’ve been out about, getting the Dundee name out there. While there have been previous posts on conferences with themes of UX and Content, the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) conference is more about the overall HE community and web’s place within it.

    I wrote a post about last year’s event and the sense of community was very much a theme. With that in mind, I am going to, along with some input from some of my colleagues, give you an insight into this trip.

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  • UX Scotland 2018 Conference

    From 13-15 June, 2018, Steve Burrows (Web Design Manager) and I attended the UX Scotland 2018 Conference in Edinburgh at Dynamic Earth.

    There were a total of 54 keynotes, case studies, workshops, discussions, tutorials and, lightning talks over 3 days. Both of Scotland’s unicorn companies, Skyscanner and FanDuel, were in attendance. Along with Instagram, Shopify, Indeed, and NHS Digital, to name a few.

    Continue reading…