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Silva outage – Wed May 6th 2015

By Web and Mobile Services (WAMS) , on 27 April 2015

Dear Silva Editors,

Outage – no editing – Wed May 6th between 5pm and 8pm

Next week Wednesday between 17.00pm and 20.00pm there will be NO editing in Silva.

Please pass this on to the relevant Chief Editors, Editors, and Authors.

We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.

Best wishes,

Web & Mobile Services

User Research: Undergraduate Prospectus

By Rik Williams, on 18 March 2015

I’m , Web Content and User Experience Manager at UCL. I’m responsible for leading user research activities which help make sure that ucl.ac.uk meets the real needs of its customers and the university.

On the 2nd and 3rd of March WAMS and PAMS headed to City Interaction Lab to assess the usability of the new Undergraduate Prospectus branch of the website. Recruiting students is an essential function for the UCL site. Indeed the Prospective Students section underpins at least 26% of all visits to ucl.ac.uk, even though it only has ±1% of the webpages.

We found that the new site is generally effective, and improves upon its predecessor, but that there aspects that we can make easier to use for the customer.

What we did

We recruited seven participants who were representative of the cross-section of our prospective undergraduate student customers. We set scenarios which were mapped to the principal tasks, user journeys and content areas across the Prospective Students site. For example we made sure that we tested not only the new Undergraduate site but also those which support it, like Accommodation and Visit UCL. We asked our participants to think-out-loud as they completed the scenarios using a range of devices, like tablet computers and smartphones.

Usability test

What we learned

The PAMS team observed a video feed of the testing sessions in an observation room (ably facilitated by Alex Pardoe from ISD). During these sessions they recorded how they thought the websites helped or frustrated the participants as they attempted to complete the scenarios. These observations where then grouped by type and severity in a short workshop after the last research session.

Ranking Workshop

Three things that worked well

A representative quote:

A good-looking website on top of the fact that it’s a really helpful website discussing pretty much everything I could think of about the course itself.

— Participant 3, during the end of test interview
  1. Finding a degree course (A-Z, Subject Area) worked very well. The process of finding collections of suitable degree programmes was very efficient and intuitive. There is scope to improve aspects course search to make it more consistent and effective, but in general it worked very well.
  2. The degree template has to structure and present a complex and voluminous range of content for a programme. This template is effective, in particular its primary navigationn which links to each of the sections on the page. This was especially true on mobile devices where this navigation responded well to the screen size of the devices used.
  3. Finding entry requirements for a degree is an essential task but the content needed is very complex. This is because our customers come from all over the world and many education systems. The mechanism for grade equivalences is discoverable, easy to use and better than (most) of the competition.

Three things that need improving

A representative quote:

I feel very frustrated to be honest. I [just] don’t know why I’m being asked all this information. I don’t feel very comfortable about it.

— Participant 2, during the CRM form completion task
  1. a hierarchical approach to content design undermined user journeys. For example: it is very difficult to move between the undergraduate website and the accommodation website. Future projects will need to consider user journeys by making sure that they are defined, join-up and are achievable.
  2. users tended to satisfice when looking for information. This meant that they often didn’t find the optimal content for their tasks. For example: they would find a selection of scholarships on a degree page but miss the link the index of all scholarships.
  3. the CRM form, which allows prospective students to register their interest in UCL, is very hard to complete. This is because of its complexity, scale and the need to create an account with UCL.

PAMS and WAMS will be working on implementing solutions iteratively as we work on the Prospective Students site.

Find out more

Contact WAMS if you would like to learn more about how effective your website or application might be, along with the other services we offer:

Disabled publishing ‘in the future’

By Web and Mobile Services (WAMS) , on 19 February 2015

Dear Silva users,

If there are any Silva Editors out there who have used a facility in Silva to put a future date when a certain page should be published,
please take note: we have had to disable this particular feature.

If you’re not sure what this means, you’ve probably never used used it… so ignore.

If you have any questions regarding this, do email silva-support@ucl.ac.uk


Web & Mobile Services

CMS Invitations to Tender have gone out

By Susan M Farrell, on 6 February 2015

The Invitations to Tender for the CMS project went out to five suppliers yesterday. Bids are due back on 12 March … which will be a lovely birthday present for me!

New undergraduate prospective students website

By Susan M Farrell, on 6 February 2015

We’re really proud to announce the arrival of a new website for undergraduate prospective students. We’ve spent the last few months working with Publications & Marketing Services and I think you’ll agree that it was worth it!


Finding info for Silva CMS

By Web and Mobile Services (WAMS) , on 5 February 2015

Since we changed the ISD website, some of you may have found it hard to find guidance on how to do certain things in Silva.

I’ve made some changes: you will find all the ‘how-to’ guides as before.

You now also have information about what you can do in Silva and the training, manuals etc.


What’s happening with the new CMS?

By Susan M Farrell, on 23 January 2015

We’ve been talking about the new CMS for ages, so what’s actually happening? Well, we are going through an EU tender process to procure our new CMS. This means that there are three stages to the procurement:

Pre-qualification questionnaire – at this stage suppliers are asked to answer a whole range of questions about their company and their way of operating as well as what technological solution they are proposing.

Invitation to tender – this is the stage when the suppliers must answer some in-depth questions about the solution they are suggesting and provide details of costs.

Presentation – this provides an opportunity for UCL to quiz the suppliers further to ensure we are happy with what they are offering. We are also including a hands-on session at this stage. This is where the suppliers make their CMS available for a few content editors to have a go. This will enable us to judge how easy the CMS is to use rather than relying on the suppliers to tell us.


Currently we are just concluding the Pre-qualification questionnaire stage. We have had to score the 21 questionnaires that were submitted and decide on the top 5 or 6 suppliers. These suppliers will then be invited to tender.

I will keep you updated as we go through this process.


New websites launched

By Susan M Farrell, on 23 January 2015

As ever, we’ve been really busy over the last few weeks and we’re keen to let you know about a couple of our new websites:

The Life learning site which advertises all UCL’s short courses.

The Research impact site that showcases UCL’s research through case studies

Watch out for our new websites particularly the new Undergraduate prospective students’ site that’s going live in early February


Dan Jackson leaving

By Web and Mobile Services (WAMS) , on 18 December 2014

Today is Dan Jackson’s last day with Web & Mobile Services.

We are very sad to see him go but would like to wish him all the very best!

Thanks for all the work you’ve done for UCL, ISD and WAMS.

Web & Mobile Services


By Web and Mobile Services (WAMS) , on 11 December 2014

For those who attended WebNet on December 3rd, 2014, those who wanted to attend but couldn’t and also those who never thought of attending:

  1. LectureCast of WebNet December 3rd, 2014 – with speaker Dan Jackson (WAMS) and Paul Boag (Headscape) – 55 minutes.
  2. Paul Boag’s Digital Transformation for HE (pdf to download)
  3. User-testing website – to get users video-ed whilst testing
  4. Free user-testing website ‘Peek’ with generic tasks
  5. Crazy Egg website – to see where people click on your site
  6. Don’t make me think by Steve Krug – if you have time to read a short book…
  7. Hemingway App – to help you edit long paragraphs

Paul Boag at WebNet 2014 at UCL