Friday 16 December 2011

Targeting trial complete!

Three weeks ago I started a trial using the Google DFP system for targeting the banners on our homepage for our internal audience, something of a try it an dsee approach.

Well, the good news is that it has worked rather well! Using the IP check with DFP we targeted anyone within the domain. This has reaped some interesting results:

Up to a 1.1% CTR on internal banners which has been great for promotion of our internal services!

Below is a screenshot of the external site as seen by an internal viewer:

If you compare this to the live external site ( then you can see that the messaging is very different!
The only outstanding question now is how much more can we do with the system, text snippets that are changed on IP or country details would work or maybe looking at the idea of selling some spare impressions off...?

Monday 28 November 2011

Our social media activity is now award winning!

After a rather speedy taxi ride to the Oxford Belfry on Friday night the UoB digital team attended the CIPR PRide Awards (yes, the uppercase R is on purpose)! The evening was fantastic and we walked away with a Silver Award for 'Best use of Social Media'. A fantastic endorsement of the work that the digital team have put in over the last 12 months and hopefully enough of a reward to spur us all on to win again next year!

Congratulations to the team, we'll now need to find more space on the wall alongside our other awards!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

It's time to target our content!

With the launch of the new homepage design on we also rolled in a new banner management system (Google AdManager) at the same time. This runs the four banner buttons underneath the Course Finder search. The idea initially was to look at running UK & International variants of banner content using the geographic filtering options available within the system. For example, if you are coming in from China you would see a different banner to someone visiting from London. Clever stuff, especially as the creatives can be totally different and draw on local preferences on colour, tone of voice, etc.

But, the option we didn't initially think about was far closer to home! We know from our analytics that the externally facing website receives traffic from our internal audience, current students, staff, etc. So why not target banners for them! AdManager allows us to target on IP address or domain name, so our first trial is to put up a banner, targeted at our internal domain, that points students to their Gmail account.

It's simple to put in place and will allow us to highlight events, services and information to our current students without it interfering with our marketing message to prospective students. A win win situation for all and incredibly easy to implement!

Thursday 17 November 2011

We're on Google+

I've finally created a profile for the University on Google+ anyone know what to use it for yet...

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Hello new homepage!

The new homepage is live!

We've made a number of changes to our new homepage:
  • More social! Twitter, YouTube & Share/Like buttons are now on the homepage
  • Scrolling news articles
  • Four new buttons (Google DFP powered)
  • Easier navigation to courses
It's been a major tweak rather than a redesign but allows us to present a number of key areas in a much clearer way.

Getting social

We have always been keen to promote our social media channels and so are using 'Share This' to embed a number of social buttons in the footer.

More news!

We've added in a new scroll n the news stories, this replaces the tabbed layout and allows for additional news stories to be displayed.

New button banners

The four new buttons across the middle of the page are running from the DFP Ad Manager system from Google which allows us to keep track of the number of impressions and clicks the banners get. More exciting is that it allows us to run a number of visuals to test which one generates the most clicks with weighting options built in! It also allows us to run banners with scheduling and impression counts on them so no more calendar notes to take banners down!

The part we are most excited about is the geo-targeting options which allows us to localise aspects of the site for our international audience. EU and International banners are substituted in should the visitor be from outside the UK.... genius!

Course links

Alongside the course finder we now include links to the listings for FD, UG and PG courses.

So that's the initial refresh of the homepage done, next on the list is an improvement to the course finder and ideas around how to improve the homepage banner!

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Course layout page is now live!

The new course layout page is live on the website!

Following a number of feedback sessions, usability testing and a review of the importance of structuring our data we have rolled out the new course description layout and it's looking great!

You can see a live example here:

That's another project ticked off the list, next we're looking at the homepage design!

Monday 10 October 2011

It's time for a re-design... already!

We've been live for two months now and the feedback has been coming in thick & fast with a real mixture of positive comments, suggested changes and negative feedback. The biggest issue for us at the moment appears to be the use, quality and display of SITS IPP course data.

We always knew that this would be our trickiest area to get right when the site launched and so we have collated the issues that have been raised and will be re-designing the layout and content of the course pages. We'll be going primarily for a re-skin so this is essentially 'project 1.1' with a short turn around time!

The reason this has come about is because of the way we pull data onto the site. I put togther a quick diagram (below) to explain this to our key stakeholders.

As you can imagine, pulling external content onto the site can come with some interesting challenges. Although we can force some limited formatting via Matrix we really need to work on cleaning up the data within IPP itself. So, only 523 course to re-write!

To help our visitors find the course content they are really interested in we are also going to look at a change to the layout of the course content. This will involve embedding more imagery, video content and quotes and bringing the core course content to the surface whilst burying some parts that need to be there but are of less interest.

Interesting couple of weeks ahead but keep your eyes peeled for a new look to the course section... after only 8 weeks live! 

PS. The visual update to the blogs template is on the list!

Thursday 15 September 2011

We're live and our heads are spinning!

Image ref:
It's been almost exactly a month since we launched the new website and I am finally at a point where I can add a new blog post about it... that shows how manic it's been over the last 4 weeks!

So, the good things:
  • We're live and the site looks lovely!
  • The performance is great
  • The feedback about the design has been positive
  • We're only using a fraction of the CMS capability so lots to roll out shortly!
  • Squiz Analytics is going to be rolled out tomorrow
  • We're pulling dynamic course content
  • We're pulling dynamic contact details
and the bad things:
  • We have a lot of work to do on course content and making it findable
  • We have a lot of work to do on improving our contact details
Pulling in external data and putting it into an easily viewable site structure has meant that errors are easily picked up on so we're busily correcting our data sources so bear with us!

However, the general feedback has been that the Easy Edit Suite for editors is a million times easier to use than the previous system. Which is good but does mean that we are now approving a huge number of changes through our new workflow system!

What we're all looking forward to now is the next few months of picking the site to pieces and looking at how to roll out new functionality and as we have Funnelback in the mix as well we'll be able to pull in some more external data!

More updates to follow and I won't leave it so long next time! ;)

Friday 29 July 2011

Go back a little to leap further...

Well, this is embarrassing, after an 8 month project it looks like we're going to need another 11 days to sort out our new website! Having run into some rather serious hardware & DB issues I have decided to delay the launch of the website for a few days to allow us all to put those finishing touches in place.

So, to all you IWMW 11 attendees that I was speaking to keep your eyes peeled a little longer!

Don't worry, it'll be worth the wait... ;)

"One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again."
Henry Ford

Wednesday 27 July 2011

IWMW Event 2011: Responding to change

The IWMW Institutional Web Management Workshop is being held at the University of Reading this year and i've finally managed to make it to one! It's currently day two and the Embedding Web 2.0 plenary has just finished. The event seems well attended and it's given me a great opportunity to finally meet some of the people I have only spoken to via Twitter!

The sessions yesterday were very good, I managed to get myself into the Parallel Session entitled 'Content silos and how to overcome them'. This was all based around how best to improve working across all faculties and departments. The key points that came out of it were that there needs to be better ways of sharing content so, clear tagging, good metadata, well structured site and workflows. Luckily we seem to be putting all of those in but it was interesting to hear feedback from other universities who aren't! Some of the people I spoke to yesterday had a huge number of sites, project sites and faculty content all in different CMS's and running different designs which sounds like a complete nightmare!

The key points from yesterdays sessions were broken into a number of heading but the two that stuck in my mind are:

  • You need to have strong editorial guidelines
  • Bear in mind the audience, channel and media relevance
  • Go in heavy on the metadata & tagging
  • Clear ownership of content is needed
  • Workflow rules should be in place
  • Regular content audits are essential
  • Carry out regular survey & user feedback sessions
  • Taxonomy
A good starting point for breaking down the silo mentality apparently!
So, day two is well under way and it's almost time for the Online Privacy talk. If you wanted to get an idea of what is happening during the day you can follow the hashtag #iwmw11 or check out the website:

Thursday 21 July 2011

Presenting at Westminster Abbey was an experience!

So last week Squiz asked if I would be kind enough to present a preview of the new website and an overview of how we go to where we are today. A brilliant opportunity for me to highlight the very exciting functionality we have on the new homepage and a chance to show off the new design.

The venue itself was great and Imogen Levy (@teppie) from Westminster Abbey (@wabbey) was even nice enough to give the audience a tour of the Abbey afterwards.

The presentations from Imogen (Westminster Abbey) and Dan (City University) highlighted that we are all facing similar issues at the moment. How do we address the increase in mobile traffic, how do we highlight course information and how do we compete in an ever increasingly competitive market. Thankfully we all seem to have solved the majority of the issues and the ones we haven't we can 'borrow' from each other!

You can find a copy of my presentation below and it even has a sneak peek of the new design on the last slide!

View more presentations from Squiz

Friday 1 July 2011


A quick posting to highlight the latest revision of the Socialnomics video from Erik Qualman. I posted the original version a few months back and have used it in presentations as a good intro to social newbies... Enjoy!

Thursday 30 June 2011

Google have been rather busy...

By now i'm sure most people have at least heard of the +1 button from Google, we're currently working out where to put it on our websites for a trial run.

But, alongside the announcement of +1 comes two more interesting and rather low key releases. The first being Google+ and the second being Google's addition of social media tracking within Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.

Google+ appears to be the latest social networking attempt from Google and will hopefully take into account the lessons learnt from Buzz & Wave! The idea involves a number of strands, listed below and will be available on your mobile (Android, Apple, Blackberry, Nokia/Symbian, Windows Mobile) through a mixture of native apps and web apps.

Circles - An interesting way of sorting your contact into more manageable groups, family in one circle, friends in another.
Instant Upload - I love this idea, I already have an expanded Picasa account and it's pretty obvious that this will have some tie-in further down the line. The idea being that all those photos and videos you have on your mobile can be stored on Google+ in a private album. The best part is that the upload happens automatically, no need to remember to upload manually!

Sparks - Hmmmm, search & RSS combined maybe?

Huddle - A group texting facility sounds interesting, i'm assuming there will be a heavy tie in with Google Voice at some point.

Hangouts - Rolled into the whole package is also Video chat (a swipe at Skype/Facebook?) that you can use between selected friends or whole groups of people.

At the moment it's in limited release but you can register your interest here:

The second roll out is additional code for Google Analytics, not as visually exciting as Google+ but looks great for anyone interested in +1, Like and Tweet action!

Tracking is listed under a new 'Social' navigation option and appears to only be available via the new version of Analytics. If you fancy having a go then you can find further details below: 


Friday 10 June 2011

Debadge YouTube option now available!

In a surprising, yet very welcome move YouTube has delivered two new functionality improvements. The first is that all videos (above 480p) will have HD preview images displayed wherever the video is embedded. It's a little bit of a surprise that this hasn't been implemented earlier but great news for us as we shoot all content in HD!

The second improvement is far more exciting though, you can now remove the YouTube logo from your embedded videos and all you need to do is add a snippet of code to the end of your URL (?modestbranding=1). What a genius idea from YouTube and a real step forward to open up the YouTube model to people who wish to outsource their video hosting but aren't keen on the branding put on their content.

We just need to look at if we would want to use this on our site now!

Read the YouTube blog posting here.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Squiz Matrix training... done!


Wow, what an intensive two weeks we have all just had! Our first taste of getting hands on with our new CMS and we have all come out of it with questions, solutions, ideas and some impressive grades!

Lead by Dave (@dletorey) from Squiz we had 4 training sessions packed into 2 weeks to cover everything we might need when the new site launches.

MATR 101 - The basics!
MATR 201 - Using the system as an admin (complex!)
MATR 210 - Forms and other things!
MATR 330 - Design, look & feel, CSS, etc. (@3ur0g33k was happy!)

The sessions were all out of the office and down in London at Squiz HQ in their training rooms and this really helped with keeping us all focused on being trained and not distracted by the phone & email. Thankfully, there was also a steady supply of tea, coffee and biscuits to keep us all going!

So, what was the training like?

Really good! The system is far more powerful than we first thought and as this is only stage one of our roll out plan I was able to map a lot of functionality onto the next phase as well. From pulling content out of site to the Simple Edit Interface we were all really impressed with the tools we will have available to us 'out of the box'. This allows us to launch with a brilliant new site, years ahead of where we are at the moment, and still have functionality in reserve to roll out of the next 12 months.

What will be interesting is when we come to train our editors on the system and what their reaction will be to the new edit interface. We're quietly confident that it will go down well as it is far easier to use than our current system but then you never can tell what peoples reaction will be!