By Sasha Arms, on 3 November 2016
The new About UCL website has launched this week at: www.ucl.ac.uk/about
The relaunch follows an extensive process of technical and user research, user testing and iterative redevelopment.
Key findings from our early research showed that the About UCL website serves multiple audiences, and that users expect to find top-level information about UCL on the website, with links to full information elsewhere on the UCL web estate.
Audiences and content
Given the nature of the About UCL website, it caters for a particularly large number of audiences. This involves a balancing act to deliver information in a way that meets most users’ needs.
We honed in on the audiences our research showed were the main priorities: prospective students, prospective staff, and partners who may want to work with UCL. Current staff and current students are also audiences the About UCL website attracts.
However, we were pleased to find commonalities in these audiences’ content needs and how they expected the website to be organised. In addition, the fact that our research strongly showed users wanted pared-down content, with links to fuller content on other UCL websites, helped us create a stripped-back information architecture that delivers users directly to summarised information.
Old About UCL home page:
To redevelop the About UCL website, we followed a rigorous website development process following industry best practice. This included:
- background research, which involved interrogation of statistics via Google Analytics, one-to-one interviews with UCL stakeholders, desktop research e.g. review of ‘about’ sections of other websites, and an online survey to identify key audiences and content needs
- analysis, which included the identification of user-centred site objectives, developing success criteria and measures, identifying a list of content and undertaking card-sorting exercises with key audience groups, developing an information architecture, producing page description diagrams (PDDs) and identifying desirable multimedia and visual assets
- development, which involved creating a new Sandbox website, iterative development and user testing with key audiences using desktop, iPad and mobile phone platforms.
User-centred website objectives
The objectives we identified following the user research were:
- practical information: signpost users to key related information about UCL and top-level information about the university
- university achievements: depict unique, impressive and inspiring information about UCL
- UCL life: stimulate engagement with UCL achievements, activities and compelling factual information
- sense of place: create a feeling that UCL is modern, exciting and authoritative.
New About UCL home page:
New website characteristics
The key new characteristics of the new About UCL website incorporate all the prominent findings that emerged during the website redevelopment project.
- Content is organised into new sections: who, what, why, where and how. Many participants in our card-sorting exercises and user testing identified this as a clear way of organising information on this website.
- Each of these sections also broadly aligns with the key messages UCL released earlier in the year. A collection of case studies can be found in each section of the About UCL website, relating to the topics covered in that section, e.g. case studies about UCL’s people, past and present in the ‘who we are’ section.
- Key statistics appear throughout the website. Users called on us to find a more visual way to depict some of UCL’s top achievements and unique selling points. The infographics of these statistics are also available to download in a .zip file, so that staff can easily reuse them in their own communications.
- New content has been added to the About UCL website to meet users’ needs. This includes information about UCL’s institutional plans and strategies, a 360 (virtual reality) tour of UCL campus highlights, and examples of UCL’s research and community impact.
- Some of the content from the former About UCL website remains on the site, but in an updated format, such as the history section.
- The website is mobile and tablet friendly after being redeveloped using UCL’s Indigo design pattern library.
As with all our website relaunches, we will revisit the site in a few months’ time to ascertain how users are interacting with the new design, and will continue to make iterative developments to the new approach as appropriate.
Visit the About UCL website.