Monday, 8 June 2015

Digital screenings - learn with us every fortnight

Every fortnight on Wednesdays at 1.15pm we run screenings of webinars or recorded conference presentations about all things to do with digital comms. We do this to help keep our knowledge up to date and to provide a very informal opportunity to discuss new approaches to what we do.

Anyone is welcome to join us and we publish details of what's coming up on Twitter and on a wiki page (UoY only) in advance.

In the past we've learned about:

  • Workflow for responsive redesign projects
  • Pair writing for effective content creation
  • The future of social media marketing
  • User-centred photography
  • Using HTTPS for all website traffic
That's a pretty eclectic list, but that reflects the nature of what we do! We wouldn't expect most people to want to come every time, so feel free to drop in just occasionally.

This week we're going to learn about programmatic advertising. We'll be in Derwent College room D/L/049 and will start at 1.15pm sharp.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Using Google Analytics and other tools to visualise how our global navigation gets used

One of the big challenges of a responsive design, especially for a large site like ours, is how to tackle navigation.

When you're designing for large screens there's a lot of horizontal space available, so you can include quite a lot of links without feeling that you're overcrowding the page.

Our header navigation is fairly typical of other university websites, with links to all the major areas of our site and links for our main audiences.

Our header contains 15 links and a search box
Counting the links, there are 15 in total, plus a search box. Here's the full list:

  1. Homepage (via logo)
  2. Study
  3. Research
  4. Business
  5. Departments
  6. International
  7. About 
  8. News
  9. Events
  10. Contact
  11. Jobs
  12. Visitors
  13. Alumni
  14. Current students
  15. Staff
So, how do we fit all of these links in to a design that's going to work on small screens? Actually, let's take a step back and look at a different question: do we need all of these links in the first place?

Looking at the numbers

Taking inspiration from the GDS post on 7 ways we’ve used Google Analytics ‘outside the box’, I wanted to get an idea of how our users are moving between the main parts of our website, and whether they were using the global navigation links that we provide in our headers.

Google Analytics isn't great at answering this type of question directly, so first of all I exported a load of data using Supermetrics Data Grabber for Excel, looking at what the sources of traffic were to all of the pages that are available in our global navigation. 

Configuring a report in Supermetrics Data Grabber
I grabbed the data for the whole of last year so that any seasonal variations were taken into account. Supermetrics Data Grabber can handily download unsampled data, which is another problem that Google Analytics has when you try to look at big picture problems over a long time period.

Some of the raw data - not pretty (yet)
I then started to clean up the data, replacing the path names with plain English labels and adding values to show what level in the hierarchy we were looking at.

This is already quite useful, and allows me to quickly answer questions that would be time consuming in Analytics.

For example, if I wanted to see how many pageviews the staff homepage gets that come from either the Study or Research branches, I just need to tick a few boxes and Excel's filters take care of the rest. (If you're interested, the answer is 4,450).

Excel's filters are a quick way of segmenting traffic


We can then go a step further and put this data into a pivot table.

The table below shows branches of our site along the top, and the pages that are available from our global navigation down the side, so we can see how much traffic is going from one area of the site to another.

Expressing these numbers as percentages and applying some conditional formatting lets us see some patterns. Right away we can see how the homepage is acting as a major jumping-off point to the other areas of the site (which shouldn't come as a surprise).

Patterns begin to emerge

We can also see which parts of the site have strong linkages between them, and where the links are weaker.

What next?

We're still making sense of this data, and are looking at other sources such as CrazyEgg and search logs, but we're getting the strong feeling that we don't need to provide as many global navigation options as we do currently, and certainly not as prominently. The homepage is the exception to this as it's a starting point for a diverse range of users, but most of the time it's more important to present users with links related to the content that they're looking it rather than links to completely different areas of the site.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The return of Show and tell - find out what we're up to...

After a brief hiatus Show and tell returns next week with an extended format - not only can you get to see and hear what's happening in the world of digital you'll also have the opportunity to get updates in relation to print, internal communications and all things marketing.

This extended format follows our restructure which took place in January. Our former Internal Communications, Editorial and Creative Content and Student Recruitment Marketing teams merged with Digital and together we now form the Strategic Marketing and Digital Communications team. We've got lots of exciting things planned and many already in development so do come along to our Show and tell sessions and find out what we're up to.

Our next session is scheduled for Monday 9 March - 10:30 in D/056 Derwent and we’ll have four sessions on the following topics:

  • Insights from this years focus groups - Ali Sherratt
  • What did our brand perception research tell us? - Alison Kerwin
  • Student communications: insights from our competitors - Christine Comrie
  • Recent photoshoots by John Houlihan and Mark Woodward - Jilly Lovett and Dodi Beardshaw 

As always keep an eye on our wiki (staff only) for details of future events.

We hope to see you there.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Updating the campus map

The interactive campus map was launched a couple of years ago, and one of the first things I was assigned to do was to update it a little bit. In particular, we wanted to be able to deep link to individual points the map and to have more information about a site pop up when you click on the markers.

Deep linking will make it easier for locations around campus to link to the map with their location highlighted. It's been requested from a few places so I'm happy to say it's now in place. When you click on an individual building you'll see that the URL in the address bar updates with a hash reference at the end (the "#heslington-hall" bit in Going directly to that URL will open the map zoomed in with a marker dropped in that particular spot.

The information pop-ups currently display the name of the location, which is handy when you're looking at all the cafes around campus and need to know which one you're looking at! We're getting some ideas about what other information would be useful to include in the pop-up. If you've got any ideas, let us know in the comments below.

We've got lots more plans for the map, including a location search and room search to make it even more useful for students, visitors and staff. Watch this space over the next few weeks!

Friday, 6 February 2015

You (auto)complete me

Following on from the introduction of our new search engine last month, we've just rolled out a new feature to help make searching our website easier.

Searches from the homepage and other top-level parts of the website (Study, Research, etc) now show autocomplete suggestions once you've typed in the first few letters of your query.

Clicking a suggestion will take you to the search results for that term. The suggestions all match content that appears on our website, so the results you get should always be relevant.

Happy searching!

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, 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.