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.

The new requirements came from extensive user testing and went live on February 8.

Our scholarship search will now be the single place to find University of Dundee and external scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities.

Check out the new scholarship search.

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.

Respondents were also asked what type of student they were (UG, PGT, PhD or Exchange) and what their domicile was (Scotland, EU, England, Wales, Northern Ireland or International). This was to allow the data to be filtered.

Freshers' Survey

How we did it

From Monday 5 September to Monday 12 September 2016 there were 30 people from across External Relations going out to speak with students and ask them to complete the survey. We focused our attention on Bonar Hall, DUSA, Enquiry Centre and the Library as these areas had a high concentration of new students.

Each student was handed an iPad Mini and asked to complete the survey which took 3-5 minutes to complete.

Results

We targeted 500 responses and there were 575 students completed the survey.

Student Type

Undergraduate 429
Postgraduate 115
Exchange 26
PhD 5

Domicile

Scotland 308
International 106
EU 83
England 51
Northern Ireland 26
Wales 1

Open Days

Did you attend one of our Open Days? Total %
No 323 56%
Yes 252 44%
Grand Total 575 100%

360º Virtual Tour

Did you use the 360 virtual tour? Total %
No 441 77%
Yes 134 23%
Grand Total 575 100%
Did you find the 360 virtual tour useful? Total %
No 11 8%
Yes 123 92%
Grand Total 134 100%
How would you rate the 360 virtual tour? Total %
0 2 2%
50 21 17%
100 103 82%
Grand Total 126 100%

Communications

Before arriving, what did you think of our communication? Total %
0 26 4.52%
50 126 21.91%
100 423 73.57%
Grand Total 575 100%
What did you think of the way we spoke to you? Total %
0 9 2%
50 42 7%
100 524 91%
Grand Total 575 100%
If you applied to more than one university, how did the amount of communication from us compare? Total %
0 17 3%
50 156 30%
100 352 67%
(blank) 0%
Grand Total 525 100%

Social Media

Thinking about social media, how many Facebook groups were you asked to join? Total %
0 104 18%
1 115 20%
2 132 23%
3 106 18%
4 9 2%
4+ 109 19%
Grand Total 575 100%
What is your favourite social media platform? Total %
Facebook 388 67%
Instagram 68 12%
Twitter 62 11%
Snapchat 40 7%
I don’t use social media 11 2%
LinkedIn 6 1%
Grand Total 575 100%
What is your preferred method of communication? Total %
Email 421 73%
Social media 139 24%
Postal letter 15 3%
Grand Total 575 100%

Matriculation

Had you ever heard of the word “Matriculation” before coming to Dundee? Total %
No 250 43%
Yes 325 57%
Grand Total 575 100%
How did you know where to be today for matriculation? Total %
Asked a friend 114 20%
Asked a member of staff 59 10%
Email with a link to website 132 23%
Email with all the information 161 28%
Social media 10 2%
Website 99 17%
Grand Total 575 100%

Website

Overall, how well did our website meet your needs? Total %
0 6 1%
50 106 18%
100 463 81%
Grand Total 575 100%
How easy was it to find what you were looking for on our website? Total %
0 20 3%
50 186 32%
100 369 64%
Grand Total 575 100%
How visually appealing is our website? Total %
0 15 3%
50 136 24%
100 424 74%
Grand Total 575 100%
How easy is it to understand the information on our website? Total %
0 10 2%
50 111 19%
100 454 79%
Grand Total 575 100%
How much do you trust the information on our website? Total %
0 7 1%
50 56 10%
100 512 89%
Grand Total 575 100%
How likely would you be to recommend our website to someone else? Total %
0 9 2%
50 110 19%
100 456 79%
Grand Total 575 100%

How will the results affect change

If we can get prospective students to campus they are more likely to convert to matriculated students. This is proven from data from previous Open Days. Only Scottish respondents to the survey were in the majority that attended an Open Day. However, 92% of those that used the Virtual Tour found it useful. Work is underway to adapt the Virtual Tour for Virtual Reality headsets to be used at UCAS events to bring the students to Dundee in a fun and interactive way.

vr-headset-pete

Looking at the communication section of the survey it can be seen that just over 26% of respondents were not completely satisfied with out communications.

Regarding social media, we can see that over 20% of respondents were asked to join 4 or more Facebook groups but we didn’t ask if that was positive or negative. That additional question shall be added to the survey for next year.

43% of respondents overall, rising to 50% of undergraduate respondents, have not heard the word ‘matriculation’ before coming to Dundee. This would suggest that using plain English would reduce confusion during Freshers’ Week for what is essentially registration.

40% of respondents had consulted the website to find out where matriculation took place but 30% asked a friend or staff member. Student feedback showed a lack of awareness and confusion about the matriculation process. Frequently, students wanted to feel reassured they were doing the ‘right thing’.

The website section shows that over 80% of respondents are happy with the website meeting their needs. Conversely, we need to be aware that one-third were having difficulty finding what they are looking for. This will inform work that I am looking at this semester. Using tools such as Optimal Workshop Treejack and OptimalSort, I will be investigating how we can improve the information architecture of the Study section and the website overall.

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.

First impressions

Hopefully, I made some good ones! Walking into the team office on my first day I could see a team of busy-but-not-stressed people who seemed to be quite happily sharing chocolates and other treats in the middle of the room. Some good signs already!

As I got to know the names, jobs titles and the projects, I learned that this was an experienced (and friendly!) team with a huge range of skills across design, UX, content, development, and customer support. This is important to me, as I like to learn whatever I can from other people.

Part of the induction was sorting out new equipment that would enable me to push my pixels better and faster than ever before. I was offered a top of the range iMac, any software or service that I needed, plus a new chair (my choice of colour – perfect for a designer).

We also moved to a new office shortly after I joined. It’s modern, bright, and pretty close to the kitchen for the all-important coffee run. It’s also in a fantastic location on campus.

Jumping straight in

Like a child belly-flopping into the pool on the first day of a holiday, I enthusiastically jumped straight into some really interesting work in week one, starting with the design of a template for our story-based ‘long form’ content.

I am heavily involved in front-end development so this project was a great opportunity to use some really clever tools to create a template in the smartest way possible. I created a new build process based on Node, Gulp, BrowserSync, JS and SCSS. This was the beginning of what will become a new process for front-end development that includes automated testing (using Mocha, Selenium Grid and Testing Bot) and continuous integration (Jenkins).

We are free to suggest new tools and techniques here, which I think is great. For example, we have switched from Photoshop to Sketch for UI design work. Looking at the results so far, I don’t think we’ll regret that move.

Collaboration

I’d like to talk about how we collaborated on an extremely sensitive and vital project. The shared Spotify playlist was an incredible challenge but we came together to create a large playlist of (mostly) great songs with an incredible diversity of genres that we listen to regularly. The Beatles, Biffy, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Jurassic 5, Justin Timberlake, Manics, Marven Gaye – all sorts. It’s a fantastic way to discover new music and get to know each other.

Okay, so the Spotify playlist wasn’t a vital project, but it did demonstrate that we have a real mix of people with different tastes who can still work well together. Our real projects focus on ensuring the website is always improving to meet the needs of our users and promote the University around the world.

Since May, we have collaborated to launch a new template for schools, implement a smarter search facility for scholarships, design and build a new room booking system, start running A/B tests to demonstrate how we can increase conversions, and gather a serious amount of qualitative and quantitive user data that will help us make better design decisions going forward.

Agile, our way

We run our own flavour of Agile to break projects up into small user stories that are easier to manage. We recently moved from Trello to Pivotal Tracker to give us more control over our priorities and allow us to estimate project completion dates with more accuracy.

This whole process puts the focus on regularly releasing things into the wild, i.e. launching new features and content. It moves us far away from the traditional process of working on something large for months on end and then flicking the switch to launch.

There are daily stand-up meetings with Pivotal Tracker up on the projector screen to keep the focus on priority stories and keep communication flowing. We also present the shiny new things we create to the rest of the Marketing team as part of the monthly Show and Tell.

Smart stuff

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, having never worked within a University before. What I found was lots of smart stuff has been put into place. The use of multiple testing environments (development, staging and production). Regular and effective user testing. A comprehensive content production process. Just a few of many examples I could use.

There are some very impressive plans for the future of our team, the wider Marketing team, and the University. Our recent Scottish University of the Year award doesn’t mark the end of these plans, it’s just part of the beginning. Reading back, that previous sentence sounds a bit cheesy. However, it’s true!

Before we know it, that exciting future will soon be the present. And on that note, I will conclude by saying that I can already see joining this team is one of the best moves of my career so far.

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.

Using the central web template for a School website had several advantages:

  1. From a navigational perspective, it allows for a coherent and clear user journey from the School site to other key areas such as the central course pages.
  2. It utilises the strength of the University of Dundee brand and presents a consistent message to visitors.
  3. As a web team, we now focus on maintaining and improving the central web template rather than diluting our efforts across many different designs. By moving a School website into this template we can make the most of these design and functionality features and get all the benefits of continuous improvement.

Inevitably, there were a few challenges along the way. We felt there was a need to give focus to the top-level sections of the School site. One option would have been to put these links within the normal side column area for navigation but doing this places design restrictions on the rest of the website. To solve this problem, we have introduced a new horizontal navigation bar. This allows for full-width pages such as the Courses page and on pages such as School Research we can move to a more traditional two-column/side navigation layout whilst maintaining the top-level navigation throughout. Naturally this navigation is fully responsive and works on mobile, tablet and desktop.

Significant enhancements have also been made to the staff profile template with these pages now benefiting from a new design and faster page load.

Other improvements are in the pipeline and we know that there’s probably still scope to improve the relationship between the global navigation (Study, About, Student Life etc) and the School navigation to eliminate any ambiguity or uncertainty in the user journey. Needless to say, we will be testing the site with groups of external and internal users and will incorporate their feedback into any improvements we make.

On the face of it, the School of Business is a relatively small website but for the web team it’s a big achievement and represents just one of the many ways we are working together more effectively to produce products and services that meet the needs of our users and the University. Exciting times lie ahead.

There is no standing still because time is moving forward

As many of us head off on our summer holidays, it’s always a good time to reflect on the year that has just passed. As we’ve highlighted previously, we’ve got a huge amount to be proud of. This time last year we weren’t even a team, the future held a lot of uncertainty and we had very little clue about where we would end up. It says a lot about the people that make up our team that we’ve managed to come together and do some outstanding work amidst that upheaval. From overhauling the course pages, to reforming our working practices. From embedding user and data led decision making to working more collaboratively with people from across the University. It’s been a busy old year!

The work we’ve completed are the foundations on which we’ll build the future of the team and the services that we provide. The scale of the task that lies before us is immense, and the more we look at the data, the more real it becomes to us.

Every year, almost 2million individual users visit our site from over 230 different countries/territories from around the world. They generate nearly 14million page views using 5,700 different types of device and every year we detect people setting their browser language to over 360 different language / language family variants. We also have to deal with over 120 different versions of browser accessing our main site alone.

Google currently indexes almost 540,000 bits of content across all *.dundee.ac.uk domains. That figure increases significantly when you consider the 150+ other domains that are registered to us. Only 38,000 of those pages reside on our main site but the top three sections generate 50% of the traffic.

So as we move forward into the new academic year, we have a significant amount of work ahead of us, but also some difficult questions to start asking ourselves as an institution. Web Services is here to support that process, and there are a number of significant projects currently being planned to help guide us through that.

  1. User Testing
    You’ll see us out and about during Open Days and Welcome Week speaking to prospective students and those who are about to embark on their Dundee journey. We’ll be gathering data on their thoughts and experiences around how they got here, with a particular emphasis on their experience with the website and inviting them to join our new User Community. We’ve also got visits to local schools lined up where we’ll listen and talk to pupils who are starting the process of applying and try to understand how we can better meet their needs. We’ll also be engaging with current staff and students from across the University and encouraging them to sign up to the User Community to help us understand the internal needs as well.
  2. Brand Refresh
    One of the major projects that we’re heavily involved in, along with others across the University, is looking at the University brand and helping to develop it. We’re working with TangentGraphic, who are a brand agency from Glasgow, and have already had some exciting conversations around where we can go. This work is so much more than just looking at logos and colours, and will serve as a springboard for some really exciting changes in the future.
  3. Managing Support and Projects
    At any one time we have between 30-40 active projects on the go. In addition we resolve 20-30 different support calls on a weekly basis. We’ve laid the groundwork for reforming how we manage the demands on our time to give an enhanced service to our users, but also to free up our time to work on larger business as usual and transformational projects. There is still a massive amount to do as we’re trying to change a culture as well as a process.
  4. Strategy
    With so much to do it’s clear that we can’t do everything and we will need to focus on key areas. Working towards the end of the year we’ll be developing a strategy for taking web forward into the future and making it work hard for us. This will tie closely to the needs of the business and the External Relations strategy for focusing on the 4 R’s (Recruitment, Reputation, Research and Revenue).

The past year has been difficult, and the future looks challenging, but we’ve never been better equipped or ready to face it. So onwards we go!

Let’s stop drowning in content

Websites, social media and apps are such a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives that it’s difficult to imagine a time when we made decisions about products or interacted with services purely by picking up the phone or looking at a printed catalogue and completing an order form. We all love the benefits that the digital revolution has brought; it empowers us as consumers, helps us make more informed decisions, brings individuals and communities closer together and ultimately gives us access to previously unimaginable amounts of data and information.

Yet there are drawbacks to this revolution. At times it can feel like we’re drowning in content. People have never been so empowered to make decisions but conversely never has the potential to be overwhelmed by information been so great. What strategies do we adopt when dealing with information overload? Unwittingly or not, we have all become more discerning and savvy as consumers. We cut out or ignore the fluff and the unnecessary content that competes for our attention, we become accustomed to curating content based on our needs and interests and look to trusted sources to validate any decisions we need to make when it comes to parting with our hard earned cash.

When using digital services and products, people expect to get what they want easily and then move on. If they can’t get what they need then it casts a brand in a negative light.  And as much as a business proclaims its offering to be the best, if what customers experience is the opposite then all its marketing efforts are in vain. This experience really gets to the heart of defining a brand: it’s not what a business says it is – it’s what other people say it is.

Thanks to the likes of Apple and Google, people expect products to, well….work. Think of Google’s search box, it’s there in all its minimalist glory providing one function and providing it exceptionally well. The service speaks for itself. In the past, traditional marketing messages or communications were often used to justify, explain or announce (often less than perfect) products or services. Nowadays, without careful consideration these same messages can often be a distraction or, worse, an obstacle in a user’s journey through a website.

For website marketers this presents us with a big challenge. Each piece of content that we add to our website needs to justify its existence as it has to relate in some way to that same user journey. If we don’t know why it’s there then that content is potentially working against your customers and ultimately, the business.

In the Web Services Team we’re meeting this challenge head-on by focusing on user needs before we write the first word of content. Our workshop process now helps clients get to grips with who is using (or likely to use) their web pages. This is informed by solid research and testing to construct profiles (aka personas) of typical users with a list of top tasks that they are looking to perform. Armed with these top tasks and a clearly defined set of business objectives we then use something called the Core Model method to outline the content that they need.

Admittedly, it’s still early days but delivering these workshops and listening to ensuing discussions has been fascinating. On the whole, clients have responded very positively to the notion of developing content that benefits users and the business at the same time. Project workshops are collaborative by nature and have often resulted in eureka moments when someone suddenly gets a new perspective on how their website is used. As we start new web projects, we encourage everyone who has a responsibility for their web pages – from editors to management – to attend. The fruits of this process should be the engaging, purposeful, relevant and accurate content that everyone who uses our University website deserves.

The 10 (Web) Commandments

We have a long and exciting road ahead of us as we seek to make changes to the University website to help us achieve our long term goals. There are lots of demands on our time and resources, and as a result we have to prioritise what we do. Part of that process is determining some ground rules that we’ll adhere to as a team and as we work with our key stakeholders.

  1. We will place the user at the heart of what we do.
    When we fail to consider the needs of the user of the site, we set ourselves up for failure. The easier we make it for them to complete a task, the greater the return on investment we’ll see.
  2. We will use data to inform our decisions.
    Web design and development can be so subjective at times. Your age, your background, your gender and a million other things will affect your opinion and your perception of what is delivered. It is therefore impossible to please everyone, but to achieve something as close to that as possible, we’ll use data backed evidence to inform what we do rather than opinion.
  3. We will not provide information that other people can provide better or with more authority.
    Some things that are better said by others rather than ourselves. They carry more authority and have a remit for keeping it up to date.
  4. We will place content where it makes most sense to the primary user.
    There will always be niche markets that are too innumerable to count, so we will focus on the primary user of the piece of content wherever possible.
  5. We will not duplicate content, we shall link to it.
    Instead of having the same information in lots of places, we’ll have a single source of the truth and then link through to it.
  6. We will enhance inadequate content, rather than creating similar content.
    Sometimes content on the central site won’t be 100% suitable. In which case we’ll enhance that content rather than replicating existing information elsewhere.
  7. We will pursue simplicity rather than verbosity.
    If you can say it in two words rather than ten, then do it.
  8. We will produce standard solutions before bespoke.
    Bespoke solutions tend to be harder to maintain and impact on other solutions, so we’ll produce standard solutions that everyone can benefit from.
  9. We will seek to automate processes rather than introducing manual ones.
    Life is too short to be introducing lots of manual processes and increasing workloads, so if we can automate it, we will.
  10. We will seek to integrate external systems and data sources rather than creating our own.
    Using “Single source of the truth” data means we cut down maintenance and increase reliability of the data.

Selling the student experience

Earlier this year, the undergraduate student prospectus was updated.  The marketing and design teams worked with an external agency to give it a contemporary look and feel and to ensure it fully showcased the student experience.  The resulting prospectus looked fantastic – it was vibrant, written in a friendly tone, included a variety of student voices, and featured high quality photography which really showed off the campus and city to their best advantage.

prospectus-composite

Compared to this new prospectus, our campus and city webpages were looking rather drab and uninspiring. Some of the information we had on the pages was out of date, and the structure needed to be revisited.   It was fair to say that this part of the website was badly in need of a makeover!

Why are these pages important?

Students already at Dundee are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about what the campus and city have to offer, and we regularly come top in surveys on student experience.  This is great, but we need to make prospective students aware of this – people outside Scotland claim to know little about the city or the University and often don’t consider it to be a particularly enticing destination.   These pages are our opportunity, as with the prospectus, to showcase Dundee to the world.

We also need to consider that for some prospective students, particularly those overseas or who might come in through clearing, the webpages may be their only real ‘experience’ of the city before they travel here in person to begin their studies.

Although traffic to these pages (~175,00 views in a 12 month period) is only a small percentage of views to the /study/ section, it is arguably looked at by more ‘serious’ applicants who have already ascertained that we offer the course they are interested in, and that they have a high probability of meeting our entry requirements.

What did we aim to do?

  1. Restructure the pages and remove redundant content
  2. Rewrite, add to and update the content as necessary, including more eye-catching photography and video content
  3. Make greater use of student-derived material
  4. Include a call to action to assist in student recruitment

Restructuring the pages

We organised the content into two separate categories, city life (one page only) and campus life, comprising several pages on different topics.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 16.25.06

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 16.23.22

We are trying to streamline content across the University website, cutting down on repetitive and/or redundant content.  With that in mind, descriptive pages about the accommodation and student services websites were removed and we linked directly to the site in question, thus cutting out a step and providing a simpler navigation for users.  Other pages that had been accessed less than 1000 times in a year were also removed.

Removing left hand navigation

We chose to remove the left hand navigation from the pages.  It was underused and served little purpose, other than to distract users when reading the main content.  Its removal also meant that we could use the entire space for content and gave our pages more of a magazine style feel.

Updated and rewritten content

Tone of voice

As with the prospectus, we wanted to make sure that the pages would appeal to prospective students, and so adopted a more casual and friendly tone of voice:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.29.09

City page

One of the pages we changed substantially was the city page, researching and updating the content to take into account the city’s many recent developments and accolades.

citylife2

We began by showing the visitor exactly where Dundee was, using a map taken from the prospectus, together with some approximate travel times to highlight the fact that it is easy to reach from many areas of the country.  Prospective students appear to have welcomed the inclusion of this; the heat map below shows that almost all visitors to the page paused to take a look at this content.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.16.16

Rather than going into too much detail about the other topics on the page – Art & Culture, Nightlife, Food & Drink, Shopping, and Parks & Recreation – we kept the content fairly short, believing that prospective students would turn to other sources if they wanted to explore these in more detail.

Instead, we painted a broad brush picture highlighting the tremendous variety of Dundee’s offerings.  The restaurant scene, for example, has improved tremendously in recent years, adding to the multicultural flavour of the city, and we are also now beginning to feel the impact of the Waterfront transformation.  Indeed, change is happening so fast that even during the relatively short period of gathering the content for the pages we were aware of new developments to Dundee’s social scene.

In keeping with the more magazine-style format of the pages, the written content was broken up by bold and vibrant images.  Removing the left hand navigation gave us the opportunity to create a real impact on the page with some outstanding photography.     Some images were taken from the prospectus, but others have not yet been used elsewhere, and they combine to create an impression of a unique, vibrant city, which has something to offer all tastes.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 14.18.33

Campus pages

As with the city page, the set of campus pages also made much greater use of photography and particularly of video.  Each campus page begins with a brand new video containing highlights of the facilities offered, together with headline text so we could immediately convey key messages.

library facilities

We also tried to identify unique and interesting facts about places such as the library – obviously all universities have a library, but what makes ours stand out? We thought the specialist laptop lockers, where you can charge your laptop while it’s being safely stored, were a bit different!

Green Campus

The inclusion of a page about the green campus is a new addition and serves two functions.  Firstly, it shows prospective students just how much green space we have on campus, something which many find surprising, considering we are in the city centre, and secondly, draws attention to our green policies. Environmental issues are becoming ever more important to prospective students, and our track record on these matters is certainly worth highlighting.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 16.53.28

More student-derived content

As with the updated course and country pages, we have included student testimonials, both as part of our videos and as written content:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.28.40Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 16.05.09

We have always believed that this type of content appeals to prospective students, and this assertion is supported by the tracking software we have installed on the pages.  The heatmaps produced show that users do pause to read this content even if they are scrolling past some of our text.

Call to action

Finally, we considered our calls to action – the purpose of these pages is to encourage students to apply to the University, so what would be their next logical step?  On the bottom of each page, we have included calls to action – once a prospective student has read the content, and hopefully liked what they have seen, we want to encourage them either to visit the campus for themselves (if possible), or if they are from overseas, to find out more specific information about life in Dundee for students from their home country.   Links to attend an open day and country specific information are therefore included at the bottom of every page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.35.52

Measuring the impact of our changes

These pages have not, in the past, seen particularly heavy traffic.  It’s too early to say right now whether our changes have increased the number of visitors, as we need to collect more data over time.  However, even in the last couple of weeks, we can see that when people reach these pages, the time spent on them is generally very good:

  • City life – 2:50
  • Union – 2:25
  • Sport – 1:49
  • Study facilities – 1:42
  • Green campus – 2:04

As mentioned above, we can also see from the heatmaps that users are pausing at parts of the page which interest them – such as the map and the student testimonials.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 11.24.19

We also need more time to judge whether our calls to action have worked – there are certain times of the year which see more traffic to these pages than others – but initial findings are promising, with users from around the world particularly interested in clicking through to our set of international pages.

Future plans

We will continue to monitor the way users are interacting with these pages and make improvements based on the data.  We will also ensure that these pages are regularly maintained, so that the information remains current.

Additionally, we have two main projects underway which will complement this set of pages.  The first, building on the idea that prospective students want to see as much as possible about the University, is to incorporate a 360 degree virtual tour.  This is something that many universities have already developed to great effect, and something which will be of interest to all prospective students, but particularly those coming from overseas who may not be able to visit in person.

Secondly, since we know that our users show interest in the student testimonials on the website, we are planning to resurrect the student blog, giving 12 students the opportunity to blog about their day to day life here in Dundee.  Whilst the isolated testimonials and quotes work well on the appropriate webpages, they are limited in that they don’t allow a user fully to connect or form any sort of relationship with the author.  The blog aims to fill that gap as it will follow a student’s journey through university, navigating the ups and downs of student life and enabling the reader to identify with the student blogger.

We’re hoping to get this blog up and running by the end of the summer, so keep watching this space.

 

Changing Times

They say that change is inevitable, and in the web team we’ve seen our fair share of it over the past couple of years. We’re now a new team, with a new structure, about to settle into a new home to take forward a new vision.

New Team

In the past, web was a completely devolved affair with individuals and teams appearing across the University. Whilst this was a benefit to the individual schools and Colleges at the time, it led to a dilution of the University brand, duplicated work and functionality, a proliferation of pages and no united vision of where we need to go or the governance needed to get us there. With the formation of the new Marketing department and transferring to it the mandate for web, there was a desire to bring together those involved in the web from across the University. This resulted in the new web team made up of people formerly in central IT, the Colleges, the Schools and Admissions. This bringing together of talent and experience has already proved invaluable and will continue to be so.

New Structure

In the past it was the norm that the “web person” would be responsible for everything. Whether that was content, design or code, it would find its way into their inbox for action. However, times change and each area has its own industry surrounding it. Whilst we will still need generalists, we need experts in these areas that can delve into the latest best practice and start to incorporate it into our own practices.

To cope with these changing times we’ve restructured the team to focus on five key areas for the web: design, development, content, user experience and support.
Each of these specialisms will be led by key individuals who will have responsibility for those in their area and will work with me to decide how we take each of these distinct areas forward. By forming disciplines our vision is to allow those within these areas not only to focus but also to delve into the very latest best practice and develop the specialist skills we need to reach our goals.

New Home

During the summer the web team will come together for the first time since their formation when we take up residence in our new offices located in the Tower. Whilst we’ve already been working closely together as a team, we’re looking forward to working alongside each other on projects and the inevitable organic conversations and ideas that can be generated from such an atmosphere. If you’re passing rooms G1/G2 from July onwards, pop in and say hello!

New Vision

Our vision for the future is to provide great experiences that get people to the information they need as quickly as possible. To get there we have a lot of work to do understanding just who our users are, what it is they are looking for and what they react best to. We’ll be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders over the coming months to start a massive clean-up operation of the corporate site. As we progress through that we’ll be gathering requirements, ideas and suggestions that will then feed into an overarching web strategy for the future.

Whilst there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, it’s great to see the progress we’ve already made in such a short space of time and exciting to think of what lies ahead.

Country pages for prospective international students

Introduction

Earlier this year we revamped our set of country pages – pages which are designed for prospective students from around the world.  These pages help students to become better informed about the University and city and cover topics such as entry requirements, fees and funding, information about visits by the international recruitment team, and general information about life in Dundee.

We aimed to:

  • Tailor our content to the country in question
  • Make greater use of image and video
  • Increase the amount of student-derived content on the pages
  • Update the shared content and make it easier for users to find the information they were looking for
  • Create better links between these pages and the greater website
  • Provide a clear call to action for users

We started with the ten priority markets for international recruitment:

We currently have 104 different country pages, so needed to prioritise.

Tailored content

Previously, the vast majority of content on each page was identical, with obvious exceptions such as entry requirements.  However, we know that whilst core user needs are the same (e.g. all want easy-to-find fee information), students from different parts of the world place varying importance on different aspects of university life.  For example, students from China are more concerned with rankings and employment opportunities, whereas for students from Malaysia, we have a greater challenge in selling our location.

After consulting with the International Recruitment team and student societies, we found that one area where it was really important to tailor our content to a specific country was that relating to life in Dundee.  Whilst we want to highlight our strengths and any differences to the user’s home country, we also needed to reassure them that they would not be entirely cut off from important aspects of their own culture.

Some of this content included information about the availability of particular foods – halal foodstores and African/Caribbean grocers for example – and information about the provision of worship for different faiths, or any local community groups which might be of interest.

 

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Where they exist, we have also highlighted relevant student societies – the Singapore Society, the Indian Society, the Islamic Society and the Malaysian Society amongst others.  One of the top selling points of the University is the excellent student experience we provide, and such societies are a key part of that.

Greater use of images and video

As it’s generally more difficult for prospective international students to attend an open day at the University, showing off aspects of the city and campus and providing visual content is exceptionally important.

We have integrated images from various Facebook albums – some of them our own images of the city and campus, others of them images of society events – and included these in a grid on the page to make a striking visual splash and a way to break up the textual content.

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Clicking on a single image gives users the opportunity to interact with the photos by ‘liking’ them or commenting on them, and also to view the rest of the photos in larger albums.  This has the added advantage of encouraging users to explore our wider Facebook offerings.  Facebook is a channel we know certain international students are keen to engage with before making more ‘formal’ enquiries.

We have also added relevant video to the pages where possible, ensuring that it will not prevent the pages from being viewed in countries such as China which censor certain content.

Student and graduate testimonials

Student testimonials play a crucial role in selling the institution to prospective students, who are more likely to be convinced by content written by their peers as opposed to that produced by the University.  Students, in giving us material to use, will also unwittingly tend to focus on the issues which are important to those coming from their own countries.

We have greatly increased the amount of student-derived content on the pages, both in the form of written testimonials accompanied by a photo of the author, and video interviews where possible.

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Additionally, with assistance from Alumni Relations, we have included examples of graduate destinations.  A student who is investing a significant amount of time and money attending the University would like to see that there is a chance of a good return on that investment.

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Entry requirements

Using software which captures a user’s journey through the website, we we were struck by how many seemed to navigate straight to entry requirements.  Heatmaps supported the assertion that this was the most important piece of information for the majority of our users.

india entry reqs

It was therefore essential to make these as clear and as easy to find as possible.  Previously, the entry requirements looked like this:

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We altered this so that the user could choose to view only the information that was important to them and the rest remained hidden and would not distract them from their task.

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Generic information refreshed

As our country pages had not been updated for a considerable period, it was also time to update the content which is shared across the pages.

It was important for us to consider that the country page was in some cases the first page a user came to on our site, and so it needed to provide enough information about the different topics that a prospective student was interested in (much of our traffic comes straight from google).

Our degrees, for example, are structured differently to those offered elsewhere in the world, and we found this was one of the most heavily read sections on the page.  This was therefore a great opportunity to highlight the advantages to studying under the Scottish system.

We also learnt quite a lot ourselves in the process of updating this information – did you know that in the US, you can’t go straight into a medicine or law degree as you can here, but need to take pre-med or pre-law first?

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Links to and from the rest of the website    

We aimed to improve links to and from the rest of our website.  As mentioned, the country page could be a user’s first engagement with us, and it is important that this page serves as a landing page to point them off to other relevant areas of the main University website.  Links to our student life pages, for example, were made more prominent.

We also know that there are particular courses which attract students from specific countries and have listed these on the country page to increase traffic to these course pages:

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Similarly, we have included a link on the course page testimonials to link to the relevant country page:

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Measuring the impact of our work

There are several tools we can use to see whether our changes have had any effect.  Using Google Analytics, we can look at a number of metrics.

Focusing on the Malaysia page, we can see that traffic to the page is up 61.5% compared to a year ago.  This sounds impressive, but is not in fact the best way to measure the success of the page as in this case, it was probably caused by a more aggressive marketing campaign within the country itself.

For our purposes, length of time spent on the page seems to be a more useful measure of how well the page is performing.   For Malaysia, the time spent on the page has increased by a massive 54.5% – users are spending almost a minute longer reading the content.  This is very promising as it suggests they are engaging with the improved content.

malaysia analytics

It is a similar story with other country pages:

  • Saudi Arabia – time spent on page up by 22%
  • Nigeria – time on page up by 55%
  • USA – time on page up by 17%
  • Pakistan – time on page up by 40%
  • Hong Kong – time on page up by 37%
  • India – time on page up by 30%

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Tracking software, which shows which part of the page have been clicked on and scrolled to, shows that around 50% of users are now scrolling to read the new information about life in Dundee, which is a really good result.

As the new pages have only been online for a relatively short period, it is more difficult to say whether the increased links between the course and country pages are bearing fruit as we have only a limited dataset to analyse.    Initial results seem promising, particularly from country pages to course pages – there have been 39% more visits to postgraduate pages from the country pages and 52% more to the undergraduate pages.

Future developments

Since we updated these ‘top ten’ countries, we have continued to work on content for countries which are significant for international recruitment.  For other, less critical markets, we have made basic changes (making entry requirements more readable, for example).

One of the weakest areas of the pages is the scholarship section.  In future, we would like to be able to show the most relevant opportunities on the country page itself, rather than directing the prospective students elsewhere.  We know this is of crucial importance to international students and it will hopefully form part of a wider project.

We would also like to include even more examples of graduate destinations on the employment section of the page as recent studies have confirmed this is of great interest to prospective students from our key markets.

As always, if you have any comments on the work we’ve done and are yet to do, please get in touch by leaving a comment below.