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A user-centred realignment of the University of the Year’s website structure and functionality.

NTU are one of the largest and most influential higher education institutions in the UK and the second most sustainable university in the world. A university that opens its arms to all, they were the first to sign up to the Government’s social mobility pledge, demonstrating a commitment to improving the prospects of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We are driven by our determination to become the University of the future. By addressing the themes within our current University strategy, University, reimagined, we are tackling social injustice, valuing ideas and creating opportunities.”

Nottingham Trent University

NTU commissioned us to run a web discovery project looking at how their primary website should be structured to be more relevant to the needs of the University’s external and internal audiences, while still reflecting NTU strategy, key messages and unique position.

Our challenge was to improve the structure and journey for the multitude of user groups that frequent and help them build a website that reflects the wide-ranging activities the University is known for.

Strategy and user research 🔗

After an earlier platform migration project had been completed, the University had released a new strategy which was not reflected in the website’s structure. It was essential that the key points of the strategy were reflected in the website’s structure and subsequent content.

During a workshop with the NTU marketing team and Senior Leadership teams, we looked at NTU’s existing user research and identified blind spots for further exploration. Together, we discovered more than 80 user groups and hundreds of user stories which would be used to inform the key audience, user journey and structure recommendations we would make. We continued to develop and explore areas of research by conducting staff and user surveys and stakeholder and audience interviews.

Information architecture recommendations and testing 🔗

The structure of NTU’s existing website reflected the organisation’s internal structure rather than the needs of its users and focused heavily on student recruitment, neglecting the institution’s other activities, such as research and business services. Our approach was to explore the University’s key audience groups and how the website should serve them first, which would, in-turn, help NTU meet its strategic objectives.

We continued to develop the user needs research by analysing the data we’d collected and looking for key themes and patterns. Using this analysis and the University’s strategy, we devised a user-centred Information Architecture (IA) candidate which we then tested on real-world users using Treejack.

Internal engagement 🔗

NTU’s previous web project had been mostly conducted behind closed doors with the wider University having visibility into the project prior to launch. This led to frustration among the broader group of stakeholders, which the University were keen to avoid. With this in mind, we set out to run the project in an open and consultative manner, with extensive stakeholder involvement and regular progress updates through an internal project blog.

“From initiation right through to production the guys were always open, friendly and helpful. They coached us to make the right decisions but accepted our constraints, quickly finding an alternative solution. Kind revitalised our stakeholders, the website and our team.”

Operations Manager and Product Owner, NTU

Feature recommendations and delivery 🔗

It became apparent that revising the structure alone would not solve some of the problems with the site. We, therefore, provided an additional set of suggestions for features that would enhance the site’s user experience by easing frequent tasks, or by providing additional, alternative structures for grouping content in order to tell clear, big-picture stories.

After the recommendations presented to the University Executive Team were approved, they needed to be implemented. We collaborated closely with NTU’s internal digital team to draft wireframes for the new templates required, prototype the new features and producing visual layouts for the revised site navigation and key pages, and offered development and integration support.