Tuesday, 8 June 2010

We need a new front page

Our current Student Development front page has served us well for nearly a year now. When I wrote about the plans for it a year ago I explained the criteria for the design and the proposed structure. Since then the structure of the front page has remained largely unchanged but there are now reasons to update it, here are the three main ones:
  1. we are running out of front page space, especially as more and more of our work involves more than one of our teams (for example, the Leicester Award);
  2. we need to give certain themes of our work more prominence - principally careers and support for postgraduate researchers;
  3. we need to make it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for (pushing out information to Facebook and Twitter has helped a lot in this regard but we need to make the front page itself more immediately self-explanatory)
I intend to stick with the same folder structure underneath the front page as it reflects our team structure and makes the administration of the site much easier to manage. The different teams that make up Student Development are as follows:
But the front page I propose to change to reflect three main themes (that Matt, Fran and I came up with last week) under which we think the work that each of the teams do should fit. The suggested themes are as follows.

Succeeding in your studies

To include academic skills development for undergraduates and support for research postgraduates (the latter's web pages we will be restructuring over the summer - I blogged about some ideas last week)

Gaining experience

To include work placements, volunteering and business and enterprise opportunities - for undergraduates and research postgraduates.

Planning for a career

To include the support offered by the career development team (whose web pages we will also be restructuring over the summer) and the Research Student team - for undergraduates and research postgraduates.

I'm hoping these headings will simplify things and so help us address the three reasons mentioned above. In terms of how it might look on the page here's a mock up (I'll figure out the relative sizes of the columns later) - click on the image to enlarge it.

I'm really interested to hear your comments; staff and especially students. Some questions to consider:
  • do the themed areas cover everything?
  • are the themed areas termed correctly?
  • will the proposed changes address the reasons for change (1-3)?
  • does the draft layout make sense?
  • do you have any other ideas or suggestions?


  1. Hi ,
    I really like the reduced areas down to three main ones - will look at it more closely later to see if anything is missed!

  2. Very difficult to come up with three succinct titles to fit everything into, but I think the ones you have are good. It would be good if the space for the three themes was bigger than in the mock up, but you do mention re-sizing above.
    Maybe at the bottom of the front page,if space, we could have a tag cloud like on the right of this page, for quick lnks to the most common things students look for.
    With regards to front page space? When I look now, the current set up has a big white space at the bottom, is this not space that can be used at all?
    I do like the jobs and placements portlet, will this be kept at the top level?

  3. I like the use of the three headings, I'm thinking that the Leicester Award could be under either Gaining Experience, or Planning for a Career. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi,

    I really like the new structure - it's very clean and easy to naviagate. I also think it sums up what SD does very succinctly

    As regards the terms for each of the new three sections, it would be useful to seek feedback from students to ensure they understand the headings when looking to locate certain information ie. Where would you click to go make a careers guidance appointment/gain feedback on a CV/ search job vacancies/ etc

  5. I really like the structure, too. The Leicester Award fits into both the careers related categories so (rather unhelpfully) I don't know where I think it should go! In the about us bit, do we need something for University staff?

  6. Salutations,

    Leicester Award could be under both methinks. No reason why it can go in both.

    Stu/Fran: re: our discussion on a central point for jobs and internships, do you envisage changing that sdet up or do you plan to keep it the same? By the way - I like the 3 themes idea !

  7. Yes - will re-size the titles. Re the tag cloud unfortunately Plone doesn't support tag clouds - or at least we don't have a plugin for it. The white space at the bottom could be used for something - but nothing too important as it's cropped off the bottom of a 1024x768 screen. We could combine the news and events feeds at the bottom?

  8. I thought gaining experience but open to suggestions

  9. Great stuff Stu.
    A little user testing would go a long way - not a great time of year to do it I know, but if you can ask just 5 students to take a look at it (at the end of a consultation perhaps?) I'm sure the information they give you would be invaluable. See Jakob Neilsen for user testing stuff. Can you run crazy egg or any other analytics on plone pages? If so, this would give you some more data about where people are clicking (as Alan for specifics, I don't know how to set it up but I know he has used heat maps/ analytics to redesign his blogs).

  10. Brilliant - thanks Jo. V good advice. Will follow those things up

  11. I don't know whether this is relevant but I know when I'm on the SSDES webpage I often search for things rather than looking for a link... I know there's a "Search Site" function but would it be possible to put a search box related only to student development? There's so much you guys do that you can't fit it onto one page! Will comment more feedback later :)____

  12. Plan to keep the central point for jobs and internships - and make it more prominent if we can

  13. Thanks for comment. Unfortunately the search is the whole university (plone) site only. There had, until recently, been a check box that said "search this folder only" but that confused people because it didn't apply to just SSDS but whichever folder you were at in the section and below - so you could miss stuff. Consequently ITS turned it off :( We could make more of this kind of list though - What do you think

  14. PS Is 'Planning for a career' the right phrase? Is it encompassing enough?

  15. Thanks. Are you happy with the term 'Succeeding in your studies'? And what would you like listed under there (bearing in mind it needs to include PGs too?

  16. The list would be helpful if people don't click on the right heading for what they're looking for - it would mean that people are more likely to stay on the site if they find help easily which is what you're trying to achieve, right?

    As for the three headings, I think they work well!

    The topical box could be used as a news box or a 'what's on today' box. As you do on facebook and twitter, constant reminders of events are helpful because I know that many of my friends in first year don't know about the sessions you run in the library which could really help them!

    Just a quick question related to that; do you run any workshops which teach people to reference properly? because myself and my friends have never been taught and keep getting it wrong. I also don't know if you do this already but send out emails via departments and then students are more likely to pay attention to emails!

  17. I think this proposed front page is great - really succinct and clear.
    I have couple of comments - iI'll come and talk to you, Stu.

  18. Thanks for more helpful comments. Re referencing - try our Referencing and bibliographies study guide or our more comprehensive Harvard referencing manual (if that's the system you use). For specific advice you need to see your information librarian - Hope that helps

  19. I like the three new headings as it directs students to the most relevant parts of the website rather than having to guess what sorts of things might gain them experience for example.

    Topical things could be called, 'Current Topical Information' or 'Be involved with...' or 'Get involved with...' and maybe instead of the box currently called 'About' it could be called 'Who are we?' or 'who we are!'

  20. Jackie Skelton14 June 2010 at 11:28

    The EL team have all looked at the front page and think it is great however we do not feel the link for employers is obvious enough. The page obviously needs to be student facing in many regards but we are certainly not selling our services to employers. We suggest therefore a tab or box on the page which remains separate for employers. As it stands at the moment it appears insignificant and an add on to the section "about"

  21. I was wondering about that. Thanks for the comment. Will try and make it more prominent - I think you're right