Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Starter - Chris Marsh

I've just started in the Digital team as a Front-end Web Developer - writing HTML, CSS and Javascript. My background is working for web agencies, developing sites and delivering to clients. It will be a huge change to work on a single website, but I'm looking forward to it.

We've got huge plans for updating the design, structure and deployment of the UoY website, and I've got a lot of ideas about the role the Digital team will play in this exciting new phase.

I'm an alumnus of the University, although it's nearly 15 years since I graduated. It's great to be back and I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with life on campus.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Our new search engine

You may have noticed that searching on the University website has become a lot better recently. This is down to the fact that we launched our new search engine this week, replacing our old Google Mini solution with Funnelback.

What's new?

While we've kept the design of the search mostly the same as it was before, a lot has changed behind the scenes that means that search results should be more relevant and come back a lot quicker. The new search is a lot better at dealing with misspellings - of which we see a lot in our search logs, especially when it comes to words like 'accommodation', which is spelled incorrectly as many times as it's spelled correctly. 

A couple of our favourite new features include:


As soon as you start typing your query you'll see suggestions for searches that match content on our site.

This currently is only enabled for searches carried out from york.ac.uk/search, but we'll soon be adding it to search boxes on the rest of the site too.

Document type filtering

If you know that you're looking for a file of a particular type, the document filter on the right hand side will allow you to narrow down your search.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sprint notes for sprint 31 - new research pages, study content improvements, search engines

Research pages

We've been working with an external agency on a redesign of our research pages, to be launched early next year. So far we've had a collaborative sketching session where we explored ideas for the research homepage, and the agency have delivered a set of wireframes which we've given feedback on. We'll be receiving the finished designs later this week, and then quickly moving on to implementation and content population.

Study web content

  • Country pages for international students - Tasha has been populating the new first batch of the new country pages, which will be live in sprint 32.
  • Digital style guide - the team has all fed back on the guide, which will be available to view on the wiki shortly after some final amends.
  • Prioritising our projects - we've agreed a list with Student Recruitment and Admissions for which aspects of the study web content we're going to be working on next.
  • Course finder audit - Tasha has been making sure that all of the results in our course search link to actual course pages (some link to department homepages) and Paul has been reviewing the search terms that people enter that don't return any results.

New search engine

Dan and Paul met with Funnelback, who will be providing the new search engine for our website. Funnelback are currently setting up the software, and we plan to launch in early December.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Embiggening the campus map

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a small addition to the online campus map: you can now switch the map to full screen mode, allowing you to see a lot more of the campus at once.

Hopefully this will make it easier to navigate around our ever-expanding campus.

We know that there's still a lot of other functionality that you'd all like added to the map - like being able to search for rooms and buildings - we're hoping to work on some more of these kinds of features in our upcoming sprints, so stay tuned.

Monday, 27 October 2014

This week's screening: Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

Next up in our regular series of lunchtime digital screenings is a usability test demo by Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability and Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-it-yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems (both essential reading!).

In this short video (25 minutes) Steve will run through an example usability test - if you've ever thought of running a usability test yourself but aren't sure what types of questions to ask, this is a great place to start.

Everyone welcome, feel free to join us in HG17 Heslington Hall this Wednesday at 1pm.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Sprint notes for sprint 30

Course pages

Paul's work coding the newly designed course pages is close to completion, as is the first batch of content which is being developed. We're hoping the first pages will be ready to publish by the end of our next sprint (and we're quite excited!).

Digital content principles

As part of developing a consistent style for the University's digital content, Tasha has published six crucial digital content principles (internal only), available on our wiki pages.

A more detailed digital style guide is in the pipeline awaiting one final review.

Excellence Hub events

We've streamlined the process for adding Excellence Hub events, making it much easier for the Universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to publicise events for high-achieving school and college students.

Currently there are 280 places available for subject taster sessions at York for students in years 7 - 11, and further sessions for sixth-formers at Sheffield and Hull. More events will be added throughout the year.

Site Manager survey

It's not too late to give us your feedback on the Web CMS! We'll keep the survey open until the end of the month, but don't delay, fill it in now!

Quick wins

Some of the smaller improvements we've made this sprint include:
  • Setting up the shortcuts you'd expect to be in place - e.g. york.ac.uk/hr. This should make a significant impact on the number of 404 errors we receive each month.
  • Moving more of the remaining old-style homepage layouts into the new multiple-columns format. It's so much easier to edit your columns!

And finally...

Don't forget to come to our Digital Screening and Show and Tell sessions (internal only), to learn more about what we've been up to.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Sprint notes for sprint 29

Sprints seem to go by in a flash lately. We've just wrapped up another busy two weeks, so here's what we've been up to...

Course pages

We've continued our work with an external agency on a new design and content for course pages. In the first instance these are for five departments, but in time the new design will be available for everyone.

The design of the page is done, so in this sprint just gone Paul has been busy building the code. In the sprint we're starting now, we'll hopefully finish that work and start integrating with the CMS.

In parallel with the coding work, we're also working on the new content for the course pages. It should all come together in the next few weeks...

Country pages

Following on from the focus day last sprint, Paul and Tasha have forged ahead with new country-specific pages for prospective international students.

Paul's been working on the details of the design and implementing it in the CMS. Tasha has worked with colleagues in the International Office to plan content development.

Content development toolkit

Producing web content isn't as easy as it looks. It's easy to put text and images on a page of course, but making that content effective is much tougher.

Tasha has continued work on a content development toolkit which will help us and everyone else at York to create consistent and compelling content.

We've finished some big-picture digital content principles this sprint. In the new sprint we're working on a nitty-gritty digital style guide, then hopefully we'll be ready to publish.

Site Manager survey

We've published a survey asking for your feedback about the web CMS and would really like as many people as possible to fill it in. We'll keep the survey open until the end of the month, but don't delay, fill it in soon!

New post in the team

Also this sprint, we've been working on a job description and advertising particulars for a new post in the team.

Watch this space for details coming soon...

Bits and bobs

There have been lots of small(ish!) jobs this sprint too - everything from amends to Study at York pages to scoring big piles of tender documents. If you're interested, you can see more on our wiki (UoY only).

Don't forget to come to Show and Tell (UoY only) and our digital screenings (UoY only) to find out more about what we're doing and learn with us.