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.
Throughout the year we created many different design concepts, including those for schools and directorates, postgraduate research, projects, Clearing, rankings, locations, facilities, subjects, corporate information, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, and events, and the new homepage. Many of these have already been rolled out, but with more to come in 2021.
Our new platform continues to perform well with constant improvements being rolled out regularly:
- 512 merge requests
- 384 issues closed
- 1447 commits to our development branch
- 47 releases to add in new functionality
We worked with colleagues from across the University on a massive variety of new projects to generate new and engaging content and clean up old and tired material. All the while, we’ve dealt with over 3,000 requests from across the University for help with business as usual activity.
All this combined to help 44 new sections go live in 2020. This takes the total sections live on the new platform to 67, which is made up of over 11,000 pages. The new platform has served over 8.7M page views during 2020, which is up over 5.7M on the year previous and has us well on the way to our target of retiring our old infrastructure.
Here are just a few of the highlights from another busy year.
The start of the year saw postgraduate taught course pages and subject pages go live. This was a major piece of work to completely refresh all the content on our course pages.
The first page relating to Coronavirus (Covid-19) went live in February. Little did we know how much it would affect our lives and how much of our time would be consumed making content available on this topic to support staff and students.
We launched an announcement content type for student and staff messages (which was rather handy for all those Coronavirus messages!).
A fundraising campaign page for Parkinson’s also went live.
Much of March was taken up both preparing for and the transition to remote working, ensuring we and our infrastructure continued to function and the supporting the messaging going out to staff and students around the rising threat of COVID-19. However, work didn’t stop and short courses were the next course type to be migrated. The courses include pre-sessional English courses and foreign languages.
The migration of policy content has been an ongoing task for us this year. You can read more about the new content type that went live in April in the blog post below.
When the pandemic struck, much of what we did in person in the past, had to move online. This was especially true of our Degree Shows where we developed an enhanced online provision to showcase our student work.
The newly formed Doctoral Academy was launched along with the Health Service.
We also completed a rigorous competitive tender to replace our form building solution that has been creaking for a while now. Roll out across our sites started quickly and is still ongoing.
June marked a big milestone for us as we went live with the first school site, the School of Business.
The quality of our facilities, such as labs and studios, are a big reason why so many students and staff come to study and work in Dundee. In June, our new facility and location content types were launched to help us promote these.
The new Industry section explains how businesses can work with us to make the most of our expertise and facilities.
Work on Coronavirus continued with new areas for fundraising, enquirer and applicant information, and returning to campus information for staff and current students.
July saw the annual return of Clearing, this time in the new CMS! It’s normally a challenging time as we try and create an attractive and easy to use facility for prospective students. This year even more so with the constant shifting sands of government policy underneath us. It was however one of the best organised clearing campaigns we’ve ever been involved with. A huge thank you to all involved, but especially the Admissions teams who were rolling with the punches and yet remaining eternally cheerful!
We also developed a new area on the website promoting aspects of campus and city life to prospective students. To support them in their decision-making a new chat facility that puts them in touch with student ambassadors was launched using the UniBuddy platform.
Alongside these projects we also worked on graduate apprenticeships, languages courses, and information governance.
August was another busy month when we focused our attention on the School of Science and Engineering and its associated disciplines.
The migration of the Welcome pages allowed us to provide support and information for new students.
We also used the power of our new related content to build the online alumni magazine section – The Bridge.
- dundee.ac.uk/engineering (replaced with three separate sections in December)
September saw the introduction of the new accessibility legislation that we’ve spent the better part of 2 years preparing for so far. This included new
- Accessibility Policies
- Accessibility Statements
- Accessibility Guides
- Accessibility group with key people from across the University involved in driving development of accessible resources.
- Training sessions (started in December)
- Pattern Libraries with accessibility built in from the start
A huge amount of effort has gone into making our components, templates, and pages 100% available, usable and readable to each and every visitor. Over 260 items of front-end development work were completed on our pattern library; from major work like building new components and creating variations of existing components, to minor enhancements and bug fixes — all with the aim of improving the user experience of our website visitors.
We also completed migration of the old TASC site across to University managed infrastructure.
The new cohort of student bloggers was recruited for this years work and they’ve been churning out weekly blogs on life at University in Dundee during a pandemic.
We also rolled out a new scheme of regular website testing with staff and students to feed into our programme of continuous improvement.
The School of Humanities and Strategic Planning were launched in November.
We also completed work on provisioning new servers to support our blogging platform and completed the migration of blog.dundee.ac.uk. This pilot is now being rolled out across our blog infrastructure and expected to complete in January 2021.
The new About pages provide clear and concise information about our organisational structure, vision, and leadership.
We’ve also made use of the new Rankings content type to create a new area for this information. Handily, we can also dynamically publish this content to course and subject pages too – aren’t we clever!
We replaced the existing engineering subject page with three specialised engineering subject pages. In addition we also launched the new IT pages as well.
We also launched sections relating to our festive events and opening hours, and a landing page for agents.
Bye bye 2020, hello 2021!
We’ve had our highs and our lows this year. We’ve learned lots and there are lots we’ll be glad to leave behind. I’m incredibly proud of the team for what we’ve produced this year under very difficult circumstances. Here’s hoping that 2021 is ever so slightly quieter than 2020!