The University of Southampton
Digital Team Blog

Change is coming – here’s why

Our university has a lot of content.

Like… a lot.

On the main site alone, there are 90,000 pages, which are being constantly edited by more than 1,000 editors across the whole of the University.

90% of the site gets less than 1 page view per day. And that’s not including the content in 100s of marketing emails that get sent out to our prospective and current students, as well as all the other audiences. It also doesn’t include all the content that sits within our apps and other digital products and platforms.

And that content doesn’t come without its challenges.

So how do we tackle those challenges and find out what content our users actually care about? – Enter OneWeb

We need to change how we do things and this calls for digital transformation

“What’s the big deal?!” you might be thinking. Well, the way we do things has a huge effect on our reputation as a credible, high quality institution, which in turn affects how well we perform as an organisation. It’s also no longer fit for purpose to carry on behaving in the way we have, because our users have higher expectations than ever for how we serve them online. In a more progressive digital era, we have to change the way we do things – the times are calling for a digital transformation.

The data don’t lie.

Our analysis tells us that online channels and platforms are the prime places where users get in touch with us, find information they need from us and apply or register for various activities with us.

Okay, so what are we changing?

We are changing the way content is commissioned and written.

We’ll start focusing on the context behind the content – thinking about what, when, where and why we’re publishing it. To do this, we have put a new workflow process in place to handle content requests and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

In the same vein, we are also making changes to how websites are being requested.

We will be using the same form for that. We’ll be looking to understand what the website is trying to achieve, how that aligns with our wider content strategy, and if another new website is the best approach. Perhaps another solution would be a better use of the resources.

Content creation is another key element.

We are using best practice Content Design methodology. It’s not just about writing in Plain English. It is about user research and creating smart content that gives our users what they need. And the way to do it is with data and user stories to guide our thinking, which we will then validate through user research, and iterate where appropriate.

Training on SitePublisher is also changing.

SitePublisher training will now be restricted. Initially this will be just for faculty and corporate sites, as we’re building new products directly related to our education content. We are communicating this to all editors.

New best practices

As part of the OneWeb journey, we’re also embedding new best practice principles. Our role, as the programme team, is to work with people across the University, encouraging co-creation and empowerment. We will be writing more about best practice as we roll out more elements of our work.

Getting ready

Getting ready for OneWeb

Our first priority as part of the OneWeb programme will be to develop the ‘Becoming an Undergraduate student’ journey, and the phase 1 Content Management System (CMS) to provide a new home for our content.

As part of our planning and ‘getting ready’ mode, we are working on:

  • Creating a set of core user needs validated by research, data and key stakeholders, so we can build the essential content that prospective students need in order to complete tasks on the website. This includes:
    • categorising 90,000 relevant URLs and mapping them to identified user needs
    • identifying the source URLs for becoming an undergraduate
    • using comparative analytics and research, to identify the top user needs
  • Recruiting external and internal resource to complete delivery of phase 1 of the OneWeb project
  • Drafting training plans, organising training sessions and completing initial content design training for the OneWeb team
  • CMS work
  • Working out the workflow opportunities and challenges in a university environment for Agile Discovery work
  • Initial conversations with key stakeholders about potential archiving processes
  • Strategy work around taxonomies, metatagging, and continuing iterations of workflows and governance

We will provide more details on all of these areas in the coming weeks.

Finally: people change, so our content needs to change with them. The iteration stage shouldn’t just come at the end. OneWeb marks a change in our approach. It will be a significant change, but implementing it doesn’t need to be complicated. It will take some time, but the improvements to our users’ experience of the University will be worth it.

Thank you all for your collaboration. As always, we’re keen to hear from you if you have any questions.

Ayala and the team

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