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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Project delay brings opportunities

While it’s been disappointing to push back our go live dates for our future state project, our developers have been making best use of the hiatus and we’ve achieved some things that will benefit us in the longer term.

Delay to release and go live

As Neil blogged about back in May, we’ve had to reorganise our plans due to issues faced by the team delivering EdWeb 2. Because we are building our prospective student future state on this platform, we can’t progress on schedule because they can’t.

Neil’s blog about our revised timeframes

Taking advantage of the delay

While this delay has been frustrating for me as the person leading our technical development, it has created space for a couple of opportunities:

  • Collaboration with IS Website and Communications
  • Development of a beta (preview) website

Collaboration with Website and Communications

When we paused our development work, I worked with EdWeb 2 technical lead Billy Wardrop to integrate our development resource (supplied by our agency partner TPX Impact) into their development sprints.

Through this collaboration we were able to help deliver areas of functionality that we need, but are also priority for Website and Communications.

By helping to get critical functionality delivered, we have alleviated a little of their pressure, getting EdWeb 2 closer to being ready for release to the whole University. Plus, we’ve ensured that the functionality is fit for our needs too.

Some of the areas we collaborated on are:

  • Reusable content assets
  • Custom JavaScript
  • Development process improvements and mentoring

Reusable content assets

EdWeb included a feature to create reusable assets which can be placed into any page. This was also needed for EdWeb 2, and is important functionality for our programme pages.

Some fields in our content model will be populated using default content which school editors can choose to keep or replace with their own content. This functionality allows for content which meets the needs of the majority of programmes to be easilly reused, while still giving flexibility to create bespoke content for programmes which need it.

We worked together to deliver this functionality so that the whole of EdWeb 2 would benefit.

Custom JavaScript

EdWeb allows site editors to request custom JavaScript be uploaded and made available for them to add to their site or specific pages within their site.

This feature is something we made heavy use of on our websites, as it allows us to embed the Unibuddy widget and other interactive content on specific pages.

During our collaboration, we were able to deliver this functionality for EdWeb 2 to match what is available in EdWeb, even going as far as to provide additional capabilities to make managing custom scripts easier.

Having this available will ensure that when the prospective student web presence migrates to EdWeb 2 we’ll be able to continue to present interactive content to our users.

Development process improvements and mentoring

As well as delivering new features for EdWeb 2, we also worked together with the development team in Website and Communications to enhance the software development processes, provide training and documentation.

While this didn’t directly result in new features for EdWeb 2, it did lead to more reliable and robust processes, which results in a more stable platform for users and website visitors.

We also had the opportunity to work on many small bug fixes and mentor junior developers in the development team. This has been by far the most rewarding experience for me, empowering other people learn and grow their skills, knowing that you’ve helped them on their journey, is a great experience.

I have also really enjoyed getting work more closely with the development team in Website and Communications, and getting to know some of the team who I hadn’t previously work with.

Development of a beta (preview)

While we were helping Website and Communications, they also prioritised a few things we needed to be able to publish some preview pages (also known as a beta release in software development circles).

While this isn’t what we originally planned this is opening up a valuable opportunities for the whole team.

  • It is allowing Lauren and our content designers to collaborate with schools on new programme content.
  • For Carla to run analytics on live pages that students can interact with independently.
  • For Pete and Nicola to run additional user testing.
  • And for me to learn how well our solution works in the real world.

All of this will feed into improvements to the software and website experience, and I’m already seeing and beginning to plan for technical improvements we can make to the software when we restart our development in the new year.

We’ll be blogging more about the beta release and what we learn in the coming months.

Read more

More blog posts about the future state project

More blog posts about the beta (preview) release

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