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How Higher Education can get even more value from Siteimprove

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“ The key benefit of Siteimprove is having everything in one place, so we don’t have five different products to maintain – five different logins, five systems that all look different. One tool, one dashboard, one login. That’s better value than buying them individually, and it just makes it all so much easier to manage. ” - Lucy Anscombe, Web Development Manager, November 10th, 2020 

Organization

 

Company: University of Stirling

Industry: Higher Education

Country: Scotland, UK

Employees: 1,500+

 

Challenges:

  • Website transformation project: rebuilding University of Stirling’s complex website infrastructure from scratch
  • Maintaining high-quality content after the redesign
  • Dispersed teams responsible for uploading content – with variable results
  • Complying with the Public Sector Web Accessibility Regulations by the 2020 deadline
  • Proving value of a tool to department during challenging times
  • Tackling COVID-19 student recruitment challenges

Solution:

  • Embedding Siteimprove web governance processes into their website management
  • Using Siteimprove QA to monitor the quality of new content being added to the site
  • Always making the biggest impact by using Siteimprove Analytics for prioritization
  • Coordinating content editing and monitoring with the Groups tool
  • Using Siteimprove Policy to catch and remove reputation-damaging errors

Business benefits:

  • Relaunched with a slimmed-down, higher-quality website
  • An inclusive site that meets Public Sector accessibility standards – optimized for a wider audience and avoiding non-compliance reputation damage
  • Error-free, on-brand content that serves as a recruitment tool for future students
  • Saving time and resources by using an all-in-one tool for their website needs

 

Summary

 

The higher education sector’s approach to digital has transformed over the last few years, with universities finally realizing the critical role websites play in their marketing campaigns and for driving student recruitment. According to the 2019 E-Expectations Report students and parents both rated Higher Education websites as the single most influential, reliable recruitment resource when selecting a university. And with the ramifications from the Brexit vote, fierce competition within the sector, rising tuition fees, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more important for a university to have a website that differentiates it from its competitors.

Today, a website has the power to foster trust, build relationships, and bolster a university’s reputation. But it can’t do any of that if it doesn’t work properly – as many universities are now discovering.

In 2017, the University of Stirling embarked on an ambitious digital transformation project to rebuild their online presence, transforming their dated website into a world-class competitor.

Lucy Anscombe leads the Web Development Team in Stirling’s Communications, Marketing and Recruitment Directorate, working with Content and Social colleagues in the wider Digital Team. They worked alongside a dedicated Project Delivery team to transform the University website.

With the scale of today’s sites, website redesign can no longer be quality assured manually – which is why Stirling turned to a trusted tool to guide them through the process. “The first university website I managed was around 19 years ago, and it was about 30 pages – and I could have told you what was on all of them. Now with tens of thousands of pages, it’s no longer possible for one person to monitor them” says Lucy.

 

Challenges

 

Redesigning a higher education website from scratch

In 2017, the University undertook a major project to transform their main website, to improve the way they reach and engage with audiences. The old website was dated and had mushroomed to over 20,000 pages. Much of the content used inconsistent designs and had been through three different content management systems in the preceding decade. “There were over 400 people around the university that had editing access without any centralized governance, and it showed.”

Fortunately, the University’s senior executives understood the power of digital – that today, a university’s website is their shop window. They chose Siteimprove to support the redesign. They utilized a separate instance of Siteimprove that lived on the university’s development servers so as the new site was being built in parallel, they were able to test it on Siteimprove. “It was really useful to have it running not only on the live site, but also on the new site that was being built in the background.”

The redesign helped the university get the fresh start they needed, with a goal to identify, purge and replace 100% of redundant, duplicate or low-grade content.

“Every single page in the new site was built from scratch, with around 6,000 pages at launch. It was a huge cull!” Lucy recalls.

Once the redesign was complete, Stirling found that their Siteimprove subscription continued to offer value. Maintaining the quality of a refreshed website is one aspect of website redesign that can quickly fall by the wayside, so Lucy’s team made sure to embed Siteimprove into the fabric of their web governance processes. Using Siteimprove’s Quality Assurance module ensured only consistent, on-brand, and error-free content was present on their revamped site.

 

Solutions

 

Embedding Siteimprove into a university’s web processes with Siteimprove Quality Assurance

After fixing the disastrous results of having too many web editors (and too little oversight), the Digital team wanted to safeguard their brand reputation by ensuring content was only uploaded by trusted employees. Dispersed teams tasked with managing different groups of content – often with no quality checks in place – is a challenge many universities face. This can lead to duplication, non-compliance, and deviations from the university’s web standards. Helpfully, Siteimprove’s ‘Groups’ function is built to tackle this issue by enabling better coordination.

“We have around 30 groups set up in Siteimprove. The groups are usually based on the content owner, as they might own disparate sections of the site. It enables us to group pages together, and say ‘that belongs to X’.”

Along with using Siteimprove Quality Assurance for content quality checks, including broken links, things that have gone awry with content, and misspellings, the team are passionate about getting maximum value from Siteimprove’s other tools – and they still don’t believe they’re leveraging everything they can squeeze out of it.

 

Prioritizing tasks made easy with Siteimprove Analytics

For a small team with limited resources, choosing which areas to focus on that deliver the greatest returns can be a challenge. That’s where data-driven tools add value. “We use Siteimprove’s Analytics module to help us prioritize where to focus our efforts. We use the tool to see problems – like a list of misspellings or broken links, alongside the number of page visits, so we can target the pages that are getting the most traffic to fix first.”

 

Better web governance with Siteimprove Policy

Stirling also uses Siteimprove Policy to uphold their website standards and prevent reputation-damaging errors – an absolute must in today’s competitive higher education market. High-quality, error-free content helps students gain a better understanding of the experience they are likely to get at a university. “It’s priceless because with the scale of sites now – running into tens of thousands of pages – there’s no way that if someone comes to you and says we need to get all references of Joe Bloggs off the website, you can do it!”

While Policy is most often used as a content tool, Lucy’s team have found it’s equally useful as a development tool. “The code search capability of Siteimprove Policy is phenomenally useful. We use it to double-check decisions before we make changes sitewide. We get approached by Siteimprove competitors, and that’s something that not many of them offer.”

Added to that, with the pandemic showing no signs of abating, term dates and teaching methods in higher education are changing at short notice, alongside frequent updates to critical information that’s needed for students and staff. Using Policy ensures content is everywhere it needs to be, when it needs to be – and that content that is no longer accurate is quickly scrubbed from the site.

 

Using Siteimprove Accessibility to comply with accessibility legislation

One of the biggest website challenges for higher education in 2020 has been accessibility. With the latest phase of the EU Directive becoming law on September 23 2020, universities now must be compliant – or else face fines and penalties. Naturally, Siteimprove Accessibility is getting a lot of use.

“We’re working through all the accessibility issues daily to make sure we’re compliant. We check every day to see what’s outstanding and that’s been invaluable. We can see stuff sitewide at a glance – whereas many of the other tools are just one page at a time.”

 

Tracking cookies with Data Privacy

Another trend that will only continue to expand in the years to come for higher education is data privacy. Stirling recently opted to add the Siteimprove Data Privacy module to their toolbox. “It’s going to help us massively with tracking cookies, because we are about to implement a cookie control tool to meet GDPR legislation and it will let us monitor what’s coming on and off the site.”

 

Business benefits

 

Proving ROI for digital tools

Higher education margins have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But even in 2019, nearly one in four universities were in deficit in England. This challenging financial environment makes an all-in-one website tool especially attractive to those working in the sector.

“Every year, we have to justify the products we buy – and universities are particularly squeezed this year. The key benefit of Siteimprove is having everything in one place, so we don’t have five different products to maintain – five different logins, five systems that all look different. One tool, one dashboard, one login. That’s better value than buying them individually, and it just makes it all so much easier to manage.”

 

Your digital estate is your estate: the future of higher education

For the first time ever, universities have been shuttered across the globe, which has led to a massive change in how they perceive and use their websites. “We have a loch and a castle on our campus in Stirling, and it’s stunning, but many staff and students have been remote since March 2020, and we’ve not had any on-campus open events. Our website is now our campus. And that makes it even more critical to ensure it’s accurate and that we maintain our quality standards.”

Naturally, the move to e-learning has led to a massive increase in work for higher education digital teams, from the smallest things, such as moving posters from corridors to online, to the very pressing issue of recruitment. Even before the pandemic, changes to the way universities are funded and the lifting of the cap on student numbers in England, along with attempts to reach the lucrative international student market, have transformed student recruitment into a battleground. “Recruitment is more challenging right now, so we need to be at the top of our game! If we have a site that has errors, or broken links, fails to be accessible, or students can’t find what they want, there are a hundred other places they can go to instead.”

So, would she recommend other higher education institutions use Siteimprove? The answer is a resounding yes.

“There are other tools, but with Siteimprove it’s all in one place, and that’s the main selling point. There’s nothing I’ve come across that I can’t normally find a solution to using Siteimprove.”

As a parting comment she adds, “Before we spoke, I didn’t need to ask anyone how we’re using Siteimprove at Stirling, because it’s embedded in everything we do."

Organization

University of Stirling