IWMW 2011 blog » guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011 Supporting UKOLN's IWMW 2011 event Fri, 20 Apr 2012 08:43:04 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.1.4 What to do When Your Web Team is at Risk… http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/27/what-to-do-when-your-web-team-is-at-risk/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/27/what-to-do-when-your-web-team-is-at-risk/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2011 07:00:04 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=525 Continue reading ]]> Kevin Mears from the University of Glamorgan Web team has attended IWMW before, but this year can’t make it due to some restructuring that has been taking place in his department. It’s clear that a lot of people have been through this process and many more will do during the forthcoming year. Kevin has written a blog post on his thoughts on being at risk and how lesson’s learnt at last year’s IWMW helped him get through. He has managed to attend this year’s IWMW as a remote attendee and once again enjoyed Ranjit Sidhu’s talk.

About the Process

A little over two months ago nine senior developers in the development division were identified as at risk of redundancy due to the need within the department to make cost savings. A painful process for those concerned, no doubt happening in universities across the UK. I was one of those developers and now that thankfully the process has ended and I am still gainfully employed, I thought it might be a useful to share my experience and some of what I learnt.

At IWMW 2010, there were generous helpings of pessimism about the imminent choppy financial waters, but also some great tips on how to go about navigating through. Particularly pertinent was Ranjit Sidhu of Statistics into Decisions (SiD). His talk suggested a series of approaches that web teams can use to demonstrate the measurable benefits to our organisations of the sites that we develop.

Despite the fact that we haven’t wholly implemented the advice and provided ROI information to those who matter, (in part due to the nature of how our webteam is structured) it was the emphasis on demonstrable benefits and activity that struck a chord with me. Allied with the shock to the system of a letter telling me I might be out of a job, I was galvanised into digging into what the team does and presenting that so that people making decisions about our futures were fully aware of what we do and the implications of us leaving the University.

What we Did

As a group we decided that presenting a series of information rich slides would be the most digestible and relevant format. We figured that during the process the decision makers would be seeing lots of lengthy reports and proposals and that we should make use of our ability to digest and present well structured, relevant information possibly with the added benefit that we would potentially have something at the end of the process that would be like a team CV. (As an aside it occurred to me that the logical next step would to create a site where this could become an ongoing resource. Just need to find the time.)

We began collecting data on the sites that we run. Nothing too difficult, but numbers that would offer some kind of perspective. One example was categorising the sites we run by department to make it clear that we provide a service for the whole organisation. I suspect that we aren’t the only web team that has marketing has it’s major stakeholder, and it’s easy to forget how many people that we cater for. That was a nice reminder for us.

We thought of other measures that might be relevant and help people judge – Number of Pages, yearly Pageviews, Number of Databases, Number of documents, Users trained, Number of feeds – all of which provided people not intimately acquainted with our activity an overview. It also surprised me. I was amazed by the thousands of documents that we host and it was also good to be reminded how many people rely on the platforms we provide. I’m sure that a detailed examination of the stats could find problems with our methodology, but the point was to present our activity in the context of a conversation about value and effectiveness.

In our other slides, we talked about Ruby on Rails and Django, which we use to power the majority of our sites. We mentioned our ongoing efforts at going Agile, including some stats from the Pivotal Tracker system we use. We also included some testimonials from stakeholders, rough estimates of costs to replicate what we do, some things about the experience and commitment of the team, screenshots of sites and other areas that we have worked in.

These were to try to give a picture of how we’ve developed a way of working over the years, and that it would pretty difficult to recreate that once it’d been dismantled in a round of cuts. A particularly useful slide was the one showing how we worked on a particular project. Github provides some nice charts and the impact one shows commit activity.It showed all of the team committing code throughout the project in parallel. Not remarkable maybe, but so much nicer when displayed.

What I Learnt

Surprise, surprise it feels bad to be given a letter labelling you as ‘at risk’. The real revelation for me was, once I had recovered from the inevitable dent to one’s confidence and realisation of the gravity of the situation then I felt galvanised by the process of pulling together all the relevant information. Having a focus made me feel like I was back in control of my destiny. As a web team we work intensively on sites, release them and then move on to the next one,only revisiting the site when it becomes ‘tired’. It struck me that better and more proactive measurement is possibly a way to stay more in touch with one’s sites whilst simultaneously broadcasting the good work we do. Maybe everyone else already does this?

When we have so many things that we would like to develop; Social media, personalised content, responsive design, open data and many more that it’s all too easy to neglet the presentation of what we do. By doing that I think that we not only do oursselves a disservice by being taken for granted, but also the organisation’s that we are in, because they need to know that by investing in commited , skilled and passionate developers they get very real tangible benefits.

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University Case Studies from Squiz and Funnelback Search http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/25/university-case-studies-from-squiz-and-funnelback-search/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/25/university-case-studies-from-squiz-and-funnelback-search/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2011 08:00:55 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=416 Continue reading ]]> Squiz and Funnelback Search are looking forward to exhibiting at the IWMW once again this year. Last week, Squiz held a pre-IWMW seminar in London featuring a number of talks on Web Experience Management Solutions, including two case studies from universities which may be of interest to IWMW2011 blog readers.

Daniel Jackson, Development Manager at City University, presented a case study of their recent web project to redesign and rebuild the university’s two corporate websites and create a new intranet for staff and students. This huge undertaking incorporated a new CMS (Squiz Matrix), new search engine (Funnelback Search), new servers, new network, new content, new IA, new design, new business processes… the list goes on!

Dan’s talk took us through the project process from inception to completion and delivered a lot of useful information and advice along the way, such as their use of domain driven design to determine appropriate focus areas for their site content. Dan also showcased their course finder – a user-friendly tool, powered by Funnelback Search, which makes the university’s course information easy to access and navigate. You can view a summary of the case study, along with the presentation slides, on the Squiz Blog.

The second case study, presented by Kris Collins, the University of Bedfordshire’s Online Marketing Manager, detailed their ongoing project to completely redesign and rebuild their website – it’s due to go live at the end of July. The overhaul includes migrating from their old CMS, which was too technical for content-editors to use and was no longer able to meet the demands of the site, to Squiz Matrix – a much more user-friendly and powerful CMS.

A key requirement for the new site was that it had to take into account the constantly increasing number of users who access the site from mobile devices. The solution was to build the site with a responsive web design which adapts according to the width of the user’s browser, making it equally usable on a desktop computer or mobile device. The responsive design is a great way to meet the needs of the mobile users without requiring additional resources for maintenance of a separate mobile site or application.

Again, there is a summary of Kris’s presentation and his presentation slides, on the Squiz blog.

Squiz and Funnelback work with a large number of clients within the Education Sector to help them to achieve their business objectives through tailored web solutions. We’re exhibiting at the IWMW this year, so pop by our stand to find out more about our work with the higher education institutions. In addition, don’t miss Funnelback Chief Scientist David Hawking’s plenary session “Search Engines in the Fight Against Institutional Impecuniousness” in which he will be discussing ways in which search can be used to increase efficiencies and income.

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Win a Kindle at IWMW 2011! http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/22/win-a-kindle-at-iwmw-2011/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/22/win-a-kindle-at-iwmw-2011/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2011 14:43:14 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=407 Continue reading ]]> All attendees of this year’s IWMW have the chance to enter a competition to win a Kindle. Siteimprove are offering the prize as part of an effort to help raise the awareness in the potential to save money through having the best results possible on your website’s internal search engine.

SearchImprove, Siteimprove’s hosted internal search engine, gives you complete control over your search’s look and feel, ranking weightings, promoted results, language policies and much more, as well as providing detailed search statistics, such as conversion rates. Recently these features were put into practice at Leeds City Council, in which a rolling four month case study was able to demonstrate potential savings of over £3,500 per year on the top five search terms alone. This was achieved through making simple configurations that can be made in a matter of minutes by any SearchImprove customer.

To enter the competition to win the Kindle, Siteimprove have prepared an entry form which includes four multiple choice questions about the use of each entrants internal search engine. The forms will be available from their exhibition stand. A summary of the results, as well as the draw and Kindle presentation will take place on stage during Conclusions Session on Wednesday 27th July.

In recent years Siteimprove have established a real presence within higher education, with 33 of their 130 HE customers worldwide being based in the UK. Almost all of Siteimprove’s HE customers are users of their content quality assurance tool called SiteCheck, but in the past 12 months the first two UK based universities have started using SearchImprove to help ensure visitors are presented with the most relevant search results available.

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B7: Maximising Institutional Webmaster Impact http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/19/b7-maximising-institutional-webmaster-impact/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/19/b7-maximising-institutional-webmaster-impact/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2011 19:04:46 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=376 Continue reading ]]> This may be a bit late in the day considering how long Marieke has been asking us all to say something about our upcoming IWMW2011 sessions, but I’m afraid the allocated time for a particular “job” always gets lumped toward any actual event associated with it and it’s only this week I’ve got back on wavelength with the abstract I supplied months ago for this particular parallel session.

So here’s what I’m trying to do (Wednesday 11:00-12:30) in B7: Maximising Institutional Webmaster Impact. Not that much by me actually, but together a lot! I’m hoping to facilitate a collaborative authoring, by all of those attending, of a document by the end of the workshop. That document will be the result of an hour or so’s intense deliberation on how institutional webmasters can be more effective at their work. It will form a series of recommendations, grouped under relevant sub headings, which we’ll also confirm during the session.

I’ll be trying to use Google Docs with nominated group collaborators so that we have the result immediately.

I’m keen to use my own (possibly old fashioned and outdated) definition of a “webmaster’”, although this also will fall under scrutiny and possible amendment by the audience! However in the early 90s when the web was in its infancy, webmasters were the exceptional people who took on both a technical and business head, along with the challenge of wide scale education and coordination, who were the harbingers of radical change and the stalwarts who stood by visions that others took a long (often very long) time to understand! I would ask Why should that definition be different today?

We’ll start by discussing and reaching common ground on the roles and responsibilities of a “webmaster” and possibly obligations of a “good” webmaster that may never make it into a job description. We’ll then look at areas where a webmaster needs to be or could be effective, and for each area, under primary direction by a separate audience group, we’ll compile proposed recommendations for optimising effectiveness, maximising the positive impact on the institution.

I will of course be interjecting with some of the thinking I’ve been doing. I’ll be referring to recent Netskills workshops where we have taken participants on an excursion through many aspects of maximising online resource effectiveness (MORE).

I’ll also be tossing in ideas from Stephen Covey, Edward de Bono, 37 Signals, and Malcolm Gladwell along the way, just to keep the stewing pot well mixed with high level clear thinking approaches.

So if you’re coming, then start getting your thoughts together on what you think a *real* webmaster should and could be and we’ll commence a (hopefully) very productive sparking session on Wednesday 27 July! And you’ll all get a credit as a co-author of the document we’ll publish at the end :-) .

The slides I’ll be using to coax the discussion are now on Slideshare with the other IWMW2011 slides.


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Welcome to Reading http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/13/welcome-to-reading/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/13/welcome-to-reading/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2011 08:00:36 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=265 Continue reading ]]> Alex Brannen, Director of Communications at the University of Reading, has written us a guest blog post introducing Reading, the University and the Digital Development team.


We’re looking forward to welcoming you all to Reading later this month. For those of you who don’t know us or the town – yes we are still officially a town but we hope to have city status by next spring – I hope the following whets your appetite!

The Maiwand Lion, Forbury Gardens, Reading by Jim Linwood

Built on biscuits, beer and bricks in the nineteenth century, Reading is better known these days as a university town and the main population hub for the one of the wealthiest areas in the European Union; one that is home to a thriving business community, with particularly strong emphasis on ICT. Whether we are Europe’s ‘Silicon Valley’ or not, employment in ICT is certainly a main stay of the region and is some 300% above the national average. Not surprising perhaps when businesses based locally include 13 of the world’s top 30 global brands, such as Vodafone, Microsoft and Cisco. As a consequence, Reading has the third highest percentage of employees in knowledge-intensive businesses after Oxford and Cambridge. I am also assured by those in the know that Reading is a great shopping destination and still sells beer!

The University and town mirror each other’s fortunes to some extent. Reading has weathered the worst of the economic downturn – it was awarded the accolade of ‘best European city for infrastructure’ in the Financial Times’ Foreign Direct Investment awards for 2010. The employability of our 2010 graduates is the best it has been for a decade. Reading is a multicultural town with the third most ethnically diverse local authority area in the south east. At the University, our first international student came to study here in 1904 from Kenya and these days we have well over 100 nationalities represented on campus.

The University’s main Whiteknights campus is situated in 130 hectares of lovely parkland a mile from the town centre (buses every ten minutes for those of you coming by public transport). The campus, which will host IWMW 2011, is a real selling point of the university, especially to under graduates. As I write we have just had our busiest summer Open Day for a decade with over 4000 prospective students enjoying the good weather with hardly a mention of tuition fees.

Foxhill house, Whiteknights Campus by pandrcutts

Where does the University fit into the increasingly complicated structure of higher education? We’re a member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities, combining world-class research with excellent teaching. We have a top 200 world ranking, strong applications per place, a sense of history but looking forward to an international future. Maintaining the high satisfaction levels for the Reading student experience is at the heart of much of the current thinking at the University and we hope you’ll see and enjoy much of the recent £380 million investment in the campus while you are here.

Our digital communications sits within the University’s communications department and has responsibility for developing plans, policy and codes of practice for our digital presence, co-ordination and management of digital communications across all platforms and improving the University’s digital presence in terms of technical, editorial and visual quality. The team aim to provide the support and platform to allow staff across the University to generate and own the information and to be innovative with our digital presence. We are currently undertaking a review of our digital activity and structures within the university to respond to a growing demand for digital services in the university and to set a clear strategy for future delivery of digital comms.

We want to reach a point where the digital presence forms part of everyday operations of the University. Key to the success of this aim is a requirement not to stifle innovation and experimentation. We see digital communication co-ordination as a soft delivery with an informal style. One initiative we are considering is further developing a system of part chargeable, part free work. We cannot provide the University’s digital presence ourselves but we can provide direction, facilitation, training, project management and up-skilling for colleagues throughout the university.

The Digital Development Team at the Univeristy of Reading

Do take the chance to talk to my colleagues in the digital team about our digital plans while you are here and I trust you enjoy the accompanying Reading experience.

Alex Brannen
Director of Communications

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Survey into Institution Web Management http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/08/survey-into-institution-web-management/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/07/08/survey-into-institution-web-management/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2011 08:00:21 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=293 Continue reading ]]> Not enough time, not enough people, not enough budget. These were some of the major obstacles for institution web managers back in 2009, according to some research funded by Eduserv.

At the time Andy Powell, our Research Programme Director, said:

there appears to be a continued emphasis (particularly amongst senior members of higher education institutions) on using the web as a way of “marketing the institution to new audiences” rather than meeting the ‘business needs’ of existing members of the institution such as lecturers, students and researchers and other staff.

… despite the growing recognition of value there is a perceived mismatch between the expectations put on the web team and the level of resources made available to them leading to significant ‘time pressures’ for many teams.

Take part – you could win a HD digital camera

Two years later, has anything changed? We’re inviting IWMW participants to take part in a survey to find out.

The survey will run until 20 July and should take only 5 minutes to complete – and if you do, you’ll be in with a chance to win a HD digital camera.

Free Workshops

The survey findings will help inform some free workshops for Institution Web Managers that we’re planning to run in October or November each year – you can sign up to receive updates on this when you fill in the survey. You can also visit our stand at IWMW to find out more – or just come and say hello!


Eduserv has been around since 1988. We started life as a collection of services run by and for the education community, based at the University of Bath. We negotiate licences for software and data, develop OpenAthens for single sign-on to resources, and create content-managed sites for the public sector. We also provide a range of hosting services, and have recently been selected as the infrastructure partner for the UMF-funded Cloud Pilot for universities and research.

Find out more about what we do at www.eduserv.org.uk. Eduserv will have a stand at the IWMW 2011 Exhibition.

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B5: Open data; a little goes a long Way http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/06/21/b5-open-data-a-little-goes-a-long-way/ http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/2011/06/21/b5-open-data-a-little-goes-a-long-way/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 08:38:02 +0000 guest http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/blog/2011/?p=105 Continue reading ]]> This year’s parallel is a follow up to the one I (Chris Gutteridge) gave last year entitled Looking at Linked Data.

In March 2011, the University of Southampton launched the data.southampton.ac.uk service with some core datasets from the university.

So has it been a success?

Recently I got asked what the success criteria for the Open Data project was. This is very difficult to define but for me it will be when the open-data-service is so much part of business-as-usual that people on longer want an enthusiastic hacker running it! I’m looking forward to talking about the good ‘ole days when open data was a new frontier and nobody even had an ontology for coffee types or bus timetables yet.

The Open Data is starting to get put to use to:

  • People are using the bus times pages (I need to make the interface better, I know!)
  • Our upcoming campus mobile phone app will use some of the location data
  • I’ve been asked how the service could aid with student induction– eg. help people find what’s available, and where it is.

The other thing ticking along is getting live hookups to databases. Right now it’s all done with one-off dumps, we want to be showing the living data. The dump-and-email approach is fine for getting started but now it’s time to do the far less glamorous job of making the back-end more automated. I’m still working on getting energy use data per building, and I’ve a lead on recycling data!

If you want to find out more about some of the techniques used including dealing with the owners of the data then come along to my session. I’ll then show some of the resulting services.

I blog at http://blogs.ecs.soton.ac.uk/webteam/ and http://blogs.ecs.soton.ac.uk/data/

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