Course pages: a milestone five years in the making

Picture the scene. It’s 2014, on a chilly December afternoon. In a small office in the basement of Heslington Hall, the website publish has just finished, and with it, seven new course pages have gone live.

They look something like this:

The original course page template

These were the first results of what has turned out to be the biggest project in the (admittedly short) history of the Marketing team – and the finish line is finally in sight. Over the next two years, pages were tested, tweaks were made and data was gathered to help us understand what we needed from our course pages, and in 2017 we had crafted a template that was ready to be rolled out to all 31 of our academic departments, schools and centres.

Since that day in December, members of the Marketing team have worked with countless colleagues across all academic departments and many support services to develop and refine a new style of course page, and ultimately bring all undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses into that template – a staggering total of 535 pages.

Project objectives

The course pages project had two main aims:

  • To meet prospective applicants’ information requirements as they decide which course is best for them
  • To meet external guidelines on what information should be included on course pages, for example from HEFCE and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

Aside from this, we wanted to make the user experience smoother and more visually appealing. A key part of this was optimising the pages for use with mobile devices; when the project really kicked off in 2017, over a third of visits to the study site were from mobile devices, and some course pages had more visits from mobile devices than desktops. Today, over half of visits to the study site are from mobile devices, highlighting how this aspect of the project has only increased in importance.

How our pages look to mobile users

A sector-wide focus at the moment is digital accessibility, and thanks to the wizardry of our Digital team, this is woven into the very fabric of the new course page templates. Although there are always ways to improve accessibility, we are much further on than we were, both in terms of page layout (structured use of headings) and the content itself (explanations of terms such as formative and summative). 

A new lease of life

In February 2017, ‘Digital Marketing and Communications’ became ‘Marketing’ and, with a new team raring to go, the course page project really took off. Balancing the project with hard and fast deadlines such as prospectus production and every day ad-hoc support of our colleagues means progress has been a bit slower than we hoped, but the time and effort that everyone involved in the project has put in means we now have sector-leading course pages that we can all be proud of. 

The process of developing individual course pages has brought together the expertise of our Content team with the enthusiasm and subject knowledge of academic staff to create content that is truly engaging to prospective students.

One of our Mathematics course pages

Where do we go from here?

Course pages are still evolving. The current template is still being revised to further streamline information and respond as the information needs of our users change and develop. Not only has the project simplified the process for annual updates, but we now have a template that makes the creation of pages for new courses much easier. This enables us to keep supporting academic departments in a responsive way and ensure new course pages are ready to go live as soon as they are needed once a course is approved.

Our undergraduate annual update cycle has just been completed and we’ve kicked off the next round of updates for taught postgraduate courses – we’re working hard to ensure we maintain our accurate, engaging and accessible content for the next round of incoming students. 

Head over to our course finder to see the template in action

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