The launch of the updated University website in March was a major milestone for the strategic Web Development project which is transforming our web presence.
Here, five members of the project team discuss the challenges of working on an initiative of this size, answering three questions:
1. How are you involved in the project?
2. What are the challenges with the project?
3. What is your proudest moment at the University?
Sophie Dear, Head of Digital Communications
1. I’m responsible for the Digital Communications strategy for the University and the Web Development project is a key piece of work within this strategy. More specifically, I am the project manager and have responsibility for defining the overall structure and how this translates into each of six work packages.
2. The sheer size of the University web presence, totalling several million pages, makes agile, effective change a big challenge. Securing resource to address the issues with this amount of online content is also not an easy task.
3. Creating a digital team of specialists who are now enabling us to achieve our ambitious goals around web development and digital marketing.
Simon Kemp, University Lead, Education for Sustainable Development
1. I sit on the Web Development Project board where I represent education focused academics. I work with a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and work in partnership with SUSU on various projects, so I try to provide insight into how prospective applicants might view the new website and content.
2. The greatest challenge is trying to provide a balance between promoting our research excellence and our teaching innovation, in a way that appeals to prospective and current students, along with the wider academic community.
3. Winning the Times Higher Education (THE) Most Innovative Teacher of the Year award in 2013. We have so many brilliant and passionate teaching focused academics at the University that it was good for one of us to be recognised nationally.
Chris Lockhart, Web Content Officer
1. My role is to make it easier for visitors to find their way around our website and for them to complete tasks.
In the latest update to the website I did this by managing a team of specialist copywriters. Together we analysed data on how visitors to the old website found their way around and what they did. We also used research from user testing with students and staff. We removed duplication and reduced the number of pages from approximately 8,000 to 2,000. These new web pages are now on-brand and audience focused.
2. There were many challenges throughout this project. One of the biggest was taking the vast amount of content and making it useful and useable for all our audiences. We spent many hours brainstorming on every aspect of the website. These ranged from how to name a button through to the hierarchy of information across the website.
3. Migrating and launching the website in March was a proud moment for the whole migration team. Completing a project of this size in a short period of time was difficult but the team effort made it rewarding. I’m pleased to have been responsible for the launch of such an important part of our University’s identity.
Jagan Radhakrishnan, Web Developer
1. I am primarily involved as a web developer as part of the University website’s redesign.
My role is to restructure existing content and implement new designs into our Web Content Management System, SitePublisher. I also help out on other work packages, with web development and support activities.
2. There are always challenges in web development. Some of them in this project included strengthening and modernising the complex code in our Web Content Management System to provide flexibility to users while maintaining structured data. Another challenge was making sure user needs were addressed in the new design and implemented on approximately 80,000 web pages.
3. I’m particularly proud of the SitePublisher upgrade, due to the complexities involved from the beginning.
Sarah Warrington, Digital Marketing Manager
1. I’m responsible for the redesign of the Site Publisher web templates. This will completely change the look and feel of the University’s websites and also deliver added functionality and flexibility.
2. There are significant challenges with this project literally every day. We have a team of three developers and two marketers who tackle each problem as it arises. They range from trying to make the navigation intuitive for our visitors to use, to making sure the new layouts can accommodate all the content on approximately 80,000 webpages.
3. I would say the progress with Site Publisher. When I joined the team, the system was not fit for purpose. It took two years of pain, and while there’s definitely still a long way to go, the system has come on leaps and bounds in that time.