New Student Welfare Site

This week we released the new front end to the Student Welfare Service. This is one of the SSDS websites that was in desperate need of a facelift, so I’m delighted the services staff members have been supportive of the developments over the summer. I think this has come after the realisation that the website gets more ‘footfall’ than the office, 300,000+ hits in the last academic year according to Google analytic. Making it clear that the website is often students first port of call.

I’m hoping this impetus continues, as the welfare service is a high demand service and the staff members spend an extraordinary amount of time seeing students face-to-face. It is my belief that continued investment of time in the website, will enable a more ‘self-help’ approach to the services, ensure the face-to-face service is quality and not necessarily quality.

Here is the new homepage of the website (coloured boxes used for explanatory purposes):

Student Welfare Service homepage explainedThe style of the homepage has taken inspiration from the new Careers Service site. This has always been my development strategy for the SSDS websites, implementing new approaches in Careers (formally Student Development) first, partly due to their higher level of engagement with technology, driven by Stuart Johnson. The developments we make within Careers are then implemented in the other services. This has been a tougher decision this time around, due to recent changes in SSDS, that has seen Careers become a more of a standalone service, as partly reflected upon in Stuarts blog. Nevertheless, I feel service structures are not necessarily important to students and, especially when it comes to the website, useability is the most important. The style and design I’ve come-up with I think achieves this on both sites.

The design of the page incorporates several service requirements: The three core areas of the Student Welfare support are: International Student Support, Financial advice and accommodation issues (Living in Leicester, see below). These are presented most predominately on the page (red area) and ordered in of most demanded, in accordance with Google Analytic stats. These are each represented by a clickable graphic, in my current favourite style of picture with opaque black rectangle and white text.

However these are not the only thing the welfare service offer support students with, therefore a method of directing users to these services was required. These have been put under the heading General Welfare Advice (green area), the challenge with this was to come up with an imaginative method to link to these. General Welfare WordcloudThe shear broadness of the areas of support made it difficult to think of a single photograph that encapsulated this. Therefore I decided a Wordcloud seemed most appropriate, which I made this in Photoshop. The jigsaw background represents the integrated nature of the service and the words are the full range of areas that are supported and advice is available. This may have to be quite a flexible image, as more categories may need to be added if more areas of advice are included in the site.

The wordclound image is accompanied with a button stating “see all areas of support”. I felt this was necessary to make clear the image was clickable and lead to further content (see below).

The other areas of the homepage are:

  • Featured (blue area); this is the most flexible area of the page, this will change change depending on what the service is promoting or what is felt to be most important at the time.
  • About Us (orange are): These are key necessary links to contact details etc. These are accompanied by a picture of the Percy Gee building, where Welfare is located. This image is the one thing I’m a little uncertain about on the page, this was unfortunately the best image I could find of building.

Alongside the development of this new homepage I have designed the supporting General Welfare Advice page. This encapsulates all the areas the Welfare Service supports, the links to these areas are in the same style of the images on the homepage. Most of the images where easy to chose, the only area I had to be cautious with was Care Leavers, due to the sensitive connotations associated with the area, I couldn’t use a stock image of a University of Leicester student, therefore I used a stock image from our Shutterstock collection.

General Welfare Advice On this page I have turned the navigation on, the navigation is alphabetical, where the order on the main body of the page is once again based on Google Analytic. The navigation, as with all navigation on the Plone system, is a representation of the website structure. This is the new structure of the Welfare site:

Welfare Website Structure

On this diagram starred items (*) are excluded from the site navigation. The site has taken reorganisation and developments at all levels to achieve this. Here are some highlights of the redevelopment:

Living in Leicester

Living in Leicester structureThis area has had quite a dramatic overhaul, previously the focus of this area of the site was focused on University Accommodation, in particular the pastoral system and Sub Wardens. But for reasons that are far too dull to discuss on this blog, this type of information has moved to the actual University Accommodation website. This has meant a change of focus to this area of the site toward private accommodation and living in the Leicester Community. This sites isn’t complete as yet as all the information is grouped under the label ‘Private Accommodation’. We propose to restructure the site as shown here, including features like campaigns, that will give students a chance to engage in community activities, which I’ll blog more about in the future.

Transition to Higher Education

I wisk I knewThis area of the site currently list a series of tips for new students coming to study in higher education and links to solutions or advice relating to those tips. The tips themselves were gathered during a workshop with current students.

Also within this area of the site we are encouraging further user contributions by asking students for more tips.

Faith

This area enables users of different faiths to explore where they can celebrate their religion in Leicester and places of worship. The front page of this area includes all the symbols of the major faiths, these were all from Wikipedia and covered by a Creative Commons Licence.

Finance

This area is by no means complete yet, but we have been developing it with a bottom up strategy, having done a lot of development in the areas of: Banking Benefits, Budgeting, Pre-Entry Funding and Pregnancy. This is thankfully due to my colleague Julie Boggon’s new found enthusiasm for the website. I have to say this is one achievement I’m very proud of, because ever since I started in my role, Julie has been, not a technophobe, but uninterested in technology and her Finance website. However this summer we have worked together on the design and the potential of the site, and also done some training. Now she has embraced the technology and even at one point said she’d “become addicted”.

We still have some work to do on this site including a new front page and also some reorganisation of the content. When we started developing a few years back, Julie believed we should organise the content alphabetically in the navigation. Thankfully she’s finally agreed that it can be organised under key headings relating to areas of support. She’s had a think about this and here is the schematic we’ve come up so far.

Finance website plan

So they are the developments thus far, as more improvements come online watch this space.

 

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