Sprint 7 review: A new dedicated fees site structure
This sprint has seen the team deliver on a new site structure for a standalone fees website whilst continuing our ideation, prototyping and testing process to create critical new content to address top student tasks. We’ve also considered how well search is performing for students seeking fees information.
Sprint focus: Refine content and flow for student top tasks, and finalise recommendations for a new structure for all fees-related content.
Dates: 27 February – 11 March (10 working days)
Aims this sprint
We set out this sprint to:
- Agree how best to structure all web content for which the Fees Service team is responsible, taking into account a range of considerations including:
- student experience
- ongoing editorial requirements
- search engine and analytics insight
- technical and process constraints
- enquiry channelling goals
- Audit the relevancy and accuracy of fees-related website search results.
- Map out and understand other essential costs across our programmes so we could begin to structure this content consistently in postgraduate degree finder entries.
- Review school deposit policies across the estate and establish whether it is feasible to standardise this.
- Understand the fees status process for all audiences and collaborate on potential content solutions
- Align with fees colleagues on content surrounding cost of study and the way we serve this information, before designing and testing potential solutions with students.
Once again, we ran an end of sprint review meeting with colleagues from the Fees Service which enabled us to demo what we’d built and what we’d learned through impromptu user research with students.
New site structure
Having considered a range of options, and their pros and cons, we established that the best route forward was to build a new Student Fees website from scratch. This means we will also:
- Remove all fees-related content in the existing Scholarships and Student Funding website.
- Significantly overhaul how we present information about fees in the central ‘studying’ theme website.
- Provide guidance and support to web publishers at school and college level to align their content with the new provision.
This approach brings a number of benefits:
- Addresses the major usability issues we observed when we watched students attempting their top tasks on the Scholarships and Student Funding website.
- Simplifies the content management process for both us and our Fees Service colleagues going forward by separating from funding-related content.
- We can prioritise presentation of top tasks via a new website homepage.
- We can present filtered website search results that relate only to fees.
- School-based colleagues can deep link into the more appropriate points in the revised content structure more easily.
- Enquiries on fees-related matters can be better channelled to support greater self-service, and more effectively monitored for insight that informs further improvement.
This new approach is an interim step, towards a more coherent and integrated digital presence for prospective students in the future.
Running this mini-project is enabling us to better understand the business of the Fees Service, and build strong working relationships with that team.
With these in place (and with similar arrangements in a number of other central service areas in the coming months) we will be in a much stronger position to plan and execute a future student website experience. This moves us on significantly from the great strides we’re taking here.
Health check – fees related website search results
When using our website search to look for answers to common fees questions, are students being served with the results they might expect?
We presented the results of an internal search audit, scrutinising page results returned against the top-100 search terms across the Scholarships and Student Funding site and central PG pages.
The good news is that the results were overwhelmingly positive, with relevant links ranking high. There were a few interesting exceptions, including misplaced and irrelevant returns against some common search terms like:
- How to pay
This is exactly the point of the audit of course, allowing us to hone and adjust any inaccurate returns, ensuring a more efficient search experience for students.
We’ll be carrying out a similar audit towards the end of sprint-8, as we near delivery of the improved fees experience and our new information architecture.
Charting other essential costs
Other essential costs are a vital consideration for students when planning their future studies. We need to provide this information in an accurate and consistent manner across our different programmes.
Team content designer, Jill Stevens, presented on her work:
- Mapping which programmes have other essential costs
- Establishing a prototype for essential costs after collaboration with fees
- Drafting initial guidance on essential costs for schools
Mapping the other essential costs proved a real challenge, because each School hosts (or doesn’t host) that information on different parts of their sites – so tracking them down was quite complicated.
Nevertheless, we managed to rein them in, and now have a much clearer idea of all programmes that have deposits, application fees or additional costs. This also allowed us to draft the initial guidance on essential costs for schools.
Through the next sprint we’ll polish the guidance a little more and draft an introductory email for schools, detailing the new process for adding other essential costs info into the Degree Finder.
Standardising school deposit policies
Many of our Schools have different deposit policies which makes it difficult to present coherent and accurate summary information on the central postgraduate study website.
Jill Stevens presented on her review of school deposit policies across the estate in a bid to answer whether it was feasible to standardise these.
After mapping the schools that have their own deposit policies, we could see that they:
- Provide specific information not present in the central deposit policy
- Often have differing terms (and are therefore not interchangeable)
- Use clearer language that the central content could benefit from
Therefore the team recommended that we:
- Keep the central website deposit information but bring it up to date, ensuring it marries with specific phrases and language present in the individual deposit policies
- Retain the individual School/College deposit policies as they are
Previewing new content for fee status and cost of study information
Following on from our work in Sprint 6 and our continued collaboration with fees colleagues we repeated our ideation, prototyping and testing process, developing content for:
- Fees status
- Cost of study
Lauren Tormey walked everyone through the results of that work, previewing the draft content with fees colleagues. There was broad agreement that things were in good shape – ahead of any further content refinement and internal QA.
The fee status progress in particular will help streamline the enquiry process, supporting the work categorising points of enquiry and understanding the enquiry management process (scheduled for Sprint 8).
The growing concerns around the Covid-19 virus caused us to halt our usual usability testing practices with students on campus.
While not a blocker as such, we haven’t engaged with students in quite the way we would’ve liked during this sprint. We need to rethink our approach to testing going forward.
The University’s response to the growing situation is also having an impact on the availability of Fees Service colleagues, and we need to be ready for further disruption to both our teams in the weeks ahead.
We kick off Sprint 8 next week, our final sprint focused on the fees service – leading to delivery of new website content and structures for students’ top fees-related tasks.
Already we can see changes to working practices. As I write this, our team is adapting to working from home and our Fees Service colleagues will likely follow suit in the coming week.
I expect our planned timelines will need to be revised, but our focus remains the same:
- Finalise areas of content that correspond to student top tasks and Fees Service priorities, evolving the information architecture as we go.
- Design and deliver our proposed approach to enquiry channelling using EdWeb forms.
- Complete our technical discovery work and deliver enhanced presentation of fees tables.
- Trial key points of interaction with students (or at least staff who interact regularly with students) to ensure major usability issues are avoided.
- Plan and develop guidance and communications materials to help school and college-based staff keep their websites in step with these developments.
Track our progress sprint-by-sprint
We’re summarising our work as we go, so everyone knows what we’re doing (and what we’re not).
If you’ve any questions, get in touch.