Thursday, 11 June 2009

Plans for a Student Development website

The creation of Student Development gives us an opportunity to re-think our web sites. It's important that the new site reflects the recent structural changes to the various teams, but what is perhaps more important is that the new site isn't just a merging of the current Careers and SLC sites but an opportunity to re-think how we present ourselves online. Matt, Fran and I have been meeting over the past couple of months to scope out the project. The purpose of this post is to update you on our progress so far and invite your comments. You can view the draft site at Note that the draft site is pretty much empty at the moment so it can only give you an idea of structure and layout.


The criteria we have established for the site so far are as follows:
  • users (especially students) can find what they want quickly and easily
  • the navigation is easy to use
  • the navigation uses self-explanatory and active language, where possible
  • the structure is flatter to avoid 'burying' of items
  • there are good cross references across the site to avoid 'siloing'
  • the text is simple and concise
  • there is good use of imagery
  • pages are frequently updated - especially via dynamic feeds
  • users can subscribe to RSS feeds, where appropriate
  • the old URLs will still work
  • there are clear areas of responsibility for different teams (an internal criteria)


We have decided to give each team its own folder (apart from Information Systems, Publications and Publicity - which doesn't need one) to help ensure that areas of responsibility are clear. So the top level folder structure will look like this:
  • Learning Development
  • Career Development
  • Research Student Team
  • Work-related Learning (and probably a separate one for Enterprise?)
  • Community Liaison
  • Employer Liaison
However, given the need for self-explanatory and active headings, we intend to re-word the folders to be more useful for the users of the site. Our suggestions are...
  • Learning Development becomes Develop your academic skills
  • Career Development becomes [Suggestions please]
  • Research Student Team becomes [Suggestions please]
  • Work-related Learning, Enterprise and Community Liaison becomes Get the experience you need (with sub-headings Work placements, Enterprise, Volunteering)
  • Employer Liaison becomes Information for employers
There will also be an additional folder at the top level called Information for staff.

Each team folder would then follow the same (or similar) structure, as follows (with suggested active headings in brackets). Employer Liaison may need a different structure altogether - again, suggestions welcome.
  • About us
  • Resources (Find a resource)
  • Consultations (Make an appointment)
  • Workshops (Come to a workshop)
  • Events (See our events)

Sample screen shots

Figure 1 shows the top level Student Development page. Note that the dynamic feeds are populated from the associated feeds at the team folder level. So, for example, events and news in the Research Student Team folder appear both in the Research Student Team folder (on its own) and at the top level Student Development page (aggregated with events and news from all the other team folders)

Figure 1: Top level Student Development page

Figure 2 shows a sample team folder level page (Postgraduate researchers). Note that at this level each team can also have their own Help with... area that is specific to their site users. The events and news items at this team level (as explained above) will feed into the top level Student Development page.
Figure 2: Example team page - Postgraduate researchers

Other elements of the project

In addition to the site itself we will be reviewing the editing permissions of the site under the new structure and also running some training on how to use different elements of the content management system.

What happens next

Please let us know your comments, either by commenting on this post or speaking to me, Matt or Fran. Thanks!


  1. That all looks sensible to me Stuart.
    This has been our first year with a 'proper' website for volunteering so we will want to review how it has worked. Is the plan to have the changes ready for the new academic term?

  2. This looks great.
    Just a couple of concerns/comments. In publications, when I refer readers to further information on our (old Careers Service) website, I quote then explain how to find a particular page, e.g. "see A-Z Search" or "see Resources" (rather than put a direct link to a particular page - these tend to be rather long, the web address may change and, also it is hoped that students might discover other things on the website if they have to go through a couple of clicks). So, can the "A-Z Search" and "Resources" buttons remain, please, as well as an automatic re-direct to the appropriate bit when someone types in

  3. We can re-direct to the career development pages - unless that would scuper things for the other bits within careers, e.g. community liaison? And A-Z - yup, we'll need to include that too. Thanks for comments :)

  4. would it be appropriate to call the RSt folder something simple like 'Postgraduate Researchers' or Doctoral Researcher development or something along those lines?