Rolling out department web rebuilds

We’re about to complete the pilot phase of our big project to work with all academic departments to update their web pages to new templates and optimised content. Here’s an update on what we’ve done so far and what’s coming next.

What we’ve done so far

The first phase of the project was to create web presences for our three new academic schools. These went live in August 2022:

We used the schools project as an opportunity to develop a framework for what an academic department web presence and redevelopment project should look like.

We’ve since piloted that framework with three academic departments: The Departments of History and Economics and Related Studies went live in January and the Department of Mathematics is due to be completed this month.

These projects were led by Communications in close collaboration with Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Outreach (MRAO) and academic school/department teams. They’ve been very successful and we’ve had lots of great feedback on the process and end results:

“Thanks very much and congratulations on pulling all this off. It was a huge project and a very tight timeframe and the results are excellent, given the constraints.”

Post-project feedback from a Head of School

“The end product is of a high quality, and the format of the website and the tools used to collate copy were easy to use to enable the process.”

Feedback survey respondent from one of the new schools

“The project was incredibly well organised and orchestrated by the team. Regular project meetings and comprehensive meeting notes were appreciated. As academic lead in my department I always felt supported. Things happened in an ordered and timely manner. Using Bugherd to give feedback was very intuitive and engaging.”

Feedback survey respondent from one of the pilot departments

What the departmental web presence framework has achieved

  • Easier maintenance – typically these rebuilds have led to a 60%+ reduction in number of pages per department
  • No drop in overall traffic despite the significant reduction in page count
  • Consistency – through a consistent site structure and content hierarchy, focused on scalability and efficiency of user journeys
  • More efficient – we’ve built a ‘department template’ site (link accessible to staff only); a multi-page set of department pages ready for population with bespoke content
  • More impact and a better user experience we’ve rebuilt key pages in the newest Digital Pattern Library (DPL) web templates, used impactful and informative layouts, and included new functionality for staff listings, Twitter feeds and hero videos

Homepage – before

The previous Department of Physics homepage in Classic templates

Homepage – after

The new School of Physics, Engineering and Technology homepage – fresh imagery, a hero video showcasing the breadth of study in the school and a new Twitter feed template

Undergraduate study – before

The previous Department of History page about undergraduate study options had lots of sub-pages, many with low engagement

Undergraduate study – after

The new undergraduate subject page about degrees in history is a one stop shop with a reduced number of subpages

What’s next? 

We’ve got six rebuilds under our belts and lots of learnings for how to make these go smoothly and a bit quicker. There are 18 core departments and 6 multidisciplinary centres remaining in Classic templates, and we’ve heard from many of these that they’re eager to update their pages.

We’ve been working on plans for how to roll out improvements at an increased pace to satisfy demand and improve the user experience for website visitors no matter which department they’re interested in.

Essential fundamentals first

So that the remaining departments can benefit from updates faster, we plan to focus on rebuilding higher traffic and higher impact pages first. We’ll hopefully circle back to lower-impact pages at a later date, but this prioritisation of scope is vital to making the rebuild process practical for a large number of departments over a reasonable timeframe.

In scope

These sections of departmental web presences will be redeveloped based on departmental template site page layouts:

  • Homepage (including an optional hero video)
  • People (staff listings pages with filter functionality by role type, discipline and PhD supervision, but not individual profiles at this stage)
  • Study (for prospective students including new postgraduate research course pages)
  • About us (including news, events and optional facilities pages)
  • Contact us

Out of scope

These sections will continue to be included in the website hierarchy but won’t be redeveloped for the first phase.

  • Research pages (core pages have already been rebuild into DPL templates)
  • Information for businesses
  • Outreach
  • Internal content
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion pages
  • Any other bespoke content

Faculty Spokes collaboration

We’re working closely with the new Faculty Spoke marketing teams, based in MRAO, to enable these projects to move forward at pace this year for departments who are keen to take the opportunity.

If you’re in a department which has yet to have your web pages updated, your faculty team will be in touch soon. In the meantime if you’re interested in more details, you can find out more about the essential fundamentals rebuild package, timescales and processes on the University wiki (staff only).

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