Knowing your audience and capturing interest

Jane Tanner

Jane Tanner, Web Marketing Officer for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies

Count to ten!

That is how long you have to spark interest in your web page! A visitor will decide within approximately 10 seconds whether he or she stays on your page or bounces off elsewhere.

When we create sites, we act as though people are going to pore over each page, reading our finely crafted text, figuring out how we’ve organised things, and weighing their options before deciding which link to click.

What they actually do most of the time (if we’re lucky) is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their eye. There are usually large parts of the page that they don’t even look at. In fact they act like Ginger!

So how do you capture their interest

Analyse your audience

Firstly find out anything you can about your audience. An understanding of your visitors’ mindset is a critical factor in capturing their interest and attention. A postgraduate and undergraduate student will be looking for very different information.  An academic may be looking for something else completely.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my users? Make up a persona for each category of visitor and put yourself in their shoes.
  • What do they come to my website to do and in what sequence?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • What is their level of English?
  • What is their level of understanding of my subject?

And don’t try and guess what your users are thinking. Ask a student or organise a user-testing session. We can help with this.

Identify your target audience

After a thorough analysis you should be able to determine the specific audience that you are reaching and what makes them tick. This is your target audience. Gear all of your website content to these people and provide them with the information they are seeking in a way that they will appreciate.

Focus your website content

  • Get to the point straight away. Put your key messages at the top of the page with your key words and phrases in the first two paragraphs;
  • Use their language.  Think about the words they will be looking for and will understand. If you have to use technical jargon, make sure you pad it with lots of everyday language so that it is easy to read and understand.
  • Anchor your reader.  Use eye catching ‘call to actions’ to lead your user to the information you want them to read. This could be apply for a course, book an open day, watch a video or download a brochure.

More about writing for the web can be found on the web support site.

If you need help with anything you can always ask your Web Marketing Officer for assistance.

Jane Tanner,
Web Marketing Officer for the College of Social Sciences and International Studies

The basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Getting your website or web page in the top 5 of a search engine results page is what we all strive to achieve. This basic guide will get you started with everything you can do while using our content management system, SiteManager by T4.

Well written, unique content

Search engines look for well structured, uncluttered, original content. It actively penalises content that has simply been copied and pasted from elsewhere, or is very hard to read unstructured text. Google especially favours web pages that are easy for humans to read and understand.

Headings

Make use of the drop-down menu in the tool bar that usually says “Paragraph” or “Format”. Use it to separate and highlight your content as I have done here with the steps. Search engines use this as an indicator of importance and relevance.

There should only ever be one “Heading 1″ on a page, this should summarise the whole page in just a few words. Headings should then follow in an hierarchical fashion so that it’s easy to scan through a page and work out what the proceeding paragraph is about.

Do not use bold for headings. It is ok to use it in moderation within paragraphs, it should be used for emphasis within a sentence and nothing more.

Page (Section) and URL names

One of the most effective changes you can make to your page is to include your target keywords in the name of the page (section in T4) and in the URL. Try not to use acronyms as search engines have no idea what they mean.

In T4 SiteManager you can set the page name and URL on the General tab when you modify a section

T4 Page name and URL example

Note the name and Output URI fields

In the above example the page name is very descriptive, but would be too long for a URL, in the Output URI field you’ll see this has been shortened to just contain health-safety, much better than HaSECaM!

Links

Links to and from your page are very important. Search engines analyse the sites that are linking to you for relevance and authority. For instance; If the BBC uses one of our press releases and creates a news story on their website, they will usually link back to the relevant page on our site. This will help our page massively because the BBC page is relevant, its content discusses the same subject as our page. Secondly the BBC is obviously highly respected so search engine deem it to be an authority on what is a good page to link to or not.

Social media

This has become increasingly important over the past few years, search engines presume that if a number of people are ‘liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘tweeting’ or ‘blogging’ about another site, it’s probably worth looking at. The more people discussing and sharing the item linked to your site, the more influence this has on search engines.

Social media is an important tool for your business, if you require advice on how to use it please see the Social media guidelines section on our website.

Additional help

Every month the web team provides T4 drop-in sessions that you can attend and ask questions about building web sites, please check your emails for dates and locations.

Contact your Web Marketing Officer for more information.

Alastair Brown,
Web Marketing Officer for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Our new research gateway

Jenna Richards

Jenna Richards

An introduction to our new research gateway from Jenna Richards, Web Marketing Officer for Research and Knowledge Transfer.

When an article in the Guardian titled ‘Where are Universities Hiding all their Research?’ dropped into my inbox it got me thinking about what Exeter could be doing to better showcase all our fantastic research. As a University we weren’t showing off the impact of our research to our best ability and there were loads of great stories out there just waiting to be told.

So I started planning…

Fast-forward a year and we have just launched the new research gateway – a feature-led page designed with multiple audiences in mind which showcases our research and its real world applications.

The page has a regular research feature giving our audiences an in-depth look into an area of research and how this can make a difference. These features alternate with business features aimed at industry stakeholders giving the lowdown on some of the great work our students and academics are doing in the business arena.

The research gateway

The research gateway

We also run three regular ‘in focus’ pieces. In the researcher in focus section our team talk to academics about their research and achievements while partnership in focus delves deeper into the some of the great work we are doing with external partners, detailing how these relationships came about and developed. We also look in detail at our research groups and centres in the group in focus. These features tell you more about the real-world applications of the research being undertaken by the group or helps businesses understand how these groups may be able to work with them.

The launch of the research gateway has made a massive difference to the number of research and business stories we are able to tell. But the journey from idea to launch was a long one.

My first task was to think in detail about our audiences. Who are they? What do they want when they come to the research pages? What do they want to do on these pages? And what do we want them to do on these pages?

Armed with this information I could now start thinking about the kind of content we needed to produce to appeal to those people and just as importantly how I would resource the creation of that content.

When considering content it was important to have the wants and needs of our audiences in mind at all times. For example the business community primarily want to know what we could do for them. Academics (past, present and future) want to know what ground-breaking research we are doing in their area and want more information about our current academics.

It was also essential to prove that the team could create regular copy for this new page. We started producing copy nine months before the page was launched – and have published an average of three articles a week ever since! This is a closely managed process. We are constantly on the lookout for stories and we meet weekly to discuss ideas and set the agenda – I usually have stories planned in at least a month in advance.

The next stage was design. How do we create a front page that directs people to all the relevant places in the research and business sites whilst showcasing our research and providing links to all the stories we wanted to tell?

A general rule in web design is that if 90 per cent of people are doing it that way you should do it too. However 90 per cent of universities don’t take this approach to communicating their research, so we were already breaking the mould. I decided to look at news websites for ideas as they also convey a lot of information on one page and have a similar type of content.

I produced some initial drawings of my ideas and handed them over to our web designer to work his magic. A few months later we had a site that was ready to put in front of users and see what they thought.

The experience of sitting down with target users, observing how they use the site and gathering their feedback is invaluable. Based on their feedback we made a number of changes before the final site was made live.  We quietly put the page live at the beginning of May and have been really pleased with the feedback we have received so far.

It is too early to do any in depth analysis analytics to see how the page is performing but generally views have increased since the page was launched. There is also some evidence that the pages are performing well in search engines and driving visitors to the site.

Future plans are to investigate which types of stories drive substantial traffic to the pages and build on these ideas. We are also investigating how we can syndicate our content to other websites and blogs.

If you have any story ideas please contact jenna.richards@exeter.ac.uk.

Jenna Richards
Web Marketing Officer for Research and Knowledge Transfer

Mentions and @replies on Twitter

Andy Morgan

Taking the time to actively comment on people’s tweets can be a great way to start conversations and build relationships and networks on Twitter. Mentions and @replies are the tools that allow this to happen

The @ symbol is used to denote every Twitter account’s unique username – the username for the University’s main account for example is @uniofexeter.

Mentions

When you include someone’s username (with the @ symbol and no spaces) within the body of a tweet this is called a mention.

Followers who see your tweet will be able to click on the username of the person you mention to find out more about them and follow them if they choose.

The person you mention will receive a notification that will appear in their notification tab when they next login to Twitter. Here they’ll be able to see your tweet along with any other tweets that mention them. By default Twitter also emails users when they receive a mention (this can be switched off but many people don’t bother) so it can be a great way of getting the attention of specific people even if they are not following you.

The number of notifications you have is indicated by the number hovering next to the notifications tab

You might mention people for lots of different reasons, for example:

  • to ask them a question
  • to respond to something they’ve said
  • to ask them to re-tweet something to their followers
  • to make a complaint (the public nature of Twitter can make this a very effective way of getting problems resolved quickly!)

Follow Friday

There’s a friendly tradition on Twitter each Friday where you mention accounts that you think are worth following in order to;

  1. get your followers to follow them too, and
  2. acknowledge that you like what they’re up to

You’ll usually see these with the hashtag #FF or #FollowFriday.

@replies

If you begin your tweet with somebody’s username this is called an @reply, these can be used to reply to or comment on a specific tweet that has gone out.

@replies are still mentions and therefore the person who’s username you include will still receive a notification, however your response will only show up in the home feeds of people that are following BOTH your account and the account you are replying to – users following one or the other will not see it.

To send an @reply click the reply icon next to the tweet you want to comment on and the compose box will open with the original tweeters username automatically inserted at the start.

@replying in this way will mean that your tweet is linked to the original tweet, and people who see it will have the option of viewing the original message too.

A common mistake

You can still start a Tweet with somebody’s username even if it is not an @reply, however this is one of the most frequent mistakes I see on Twitter.

Many people (usually businesses wishing to promote their products or services to our students) contact the current students account (@uoe_students) with our username at the start of their tweet in the hope that this will automatically be seen by all of our followers – it won’t. Again only the people following both accounts will see it, so fewer than just tweeting normally.

This Tweet would only appear in the feeds of people following both @Head24a and @UofExeterSport

Andy Morgan
Web Marketing Officer for Academic Services 

More appropriate and useful images

A poor quality image will add little to your page and can look unprofessional

When you choose an image or graphic for the University website it is important to consider how appropriate and useful it is for the page on which you want to use it.

Remember that people do not spend a long time reading online and their eyes are often drawn to images first. A good image can be a useful visual clue in letting visitors know what the content of the page is about and that they are in the right place. When combined with a caption they can be an effective way of highlighting your key messages.

Some of the main considerations when selecting images are:

Context

Does your image relate to the content? Abstract or generic pictures do have their place, but ensure that the image you use is relevant and doesn’t change the meaning of the text. Think about who the audience is and what your key messages are – try to select a picture that supports or illustrates these.

Take care when using stock photos containing images of staff and students on pages about sensitive topics, such as obesity and mental health, as they may not be happy about their photo being used in this way.

Quality

Is your image good quality? Images that are blurry, dark, or out of focus will add little to your page and can look unprofessional.

If you try to enlarge a small image (e.g. one that has been previously cropped for another use) it will become pixelated and grainy, so it is always best to resize an original image file, if possible.

Quantity

It is possible to add several images to a page, but again you should consider whether this supports your aims for the page or makes the page look too busy and detracts from the text. Usually one or two images will be enough, but don’t be afraid not to include an image if you do not have an appropriate one.

Date

Are you using a recent photo? Staff members might feel that a photo taken twenty years ago is more flattering but it is better to use one that is current so they can be recognised as a point of contact. Also be wary of using photos that include staff members that have now left the University.

Equally with all the recent development on campus make sure that photos of buildings are up to date as this could be confusing.

Overuse

Does your photo appear in several places on the site already? Some of our stock photography has been around for several years now and a number of the better shots have been overused. If possible it’s better to avoid reusing these.

Hidden dangers

Always look at what is going on in the background of photos as this can be problematic. Beware of photobombers getting up to mischief!

Watch out for signboards and slogans or logos on t-shirts – you don’t want to accidentally endorse a controversial message.

Permissions

Check that you have permission to use an image before publishing it online. People often wrongly think that it is acceptable to search for images through search engines such as Google Images and download them to use on their own webpages. Watch out – this is likely to infringe copyright and could lead to a hefty fine. Ensure that you have obtained the image owner’s permission (preferably by email) to use it before publishing online. Don’t forget to credit them in the caption or text. You can read more about sourcing images and copyright in a separate post.

If using images that you have taken yourself please be aware that you need get any students, staff or members of the public that appear in the shots to sign a form to say they are happy for their photo to be used on the University website

Take care when using brand logos. These often have strict guidelines surrounding their use, so make sure that you adhere to them. If the logo has a white background you also need to put a 1 pixel grey border around the edge to prevent it looking as though it is floating on the page – if you’re unsure how to do this you can ask your Web Marketing Officer for assistance.

Sally Cowling
Web Marketing Officer for the Medical School 

Think carefully when changing web page addresses

Sarah Williams

Sarah Williams, Web Marketing and Editorial Officer

You will have learned in T4 training how to rename a section, and also drag and drop sections to reorganise your site structure. Both these operations are really helpful when you’re creating new sites, letting you refine your structure as you develop the content, until you are happy to launch it to the World Wide Web for people to start using it.

But be warned – once your site is live and people have been using it for a while, moving pages around and renaming navigation labels can potentially change some or all of your web addresses – also commonly referred to as ‘URL’ (Uniform Resource Locator) or ‘URI’ (Uniform Resource Indicator). This change will break links to your site and adversely affect your site users and search engines’ ability to find your content.

Renaming sections and media library categories

Sections in the T4 site structure and category folders in the T4 Media Library have names that can be changed, but they both generate folder names in the web addresses of the published pages and media items such as Word documents or pdfs. So changing one folder name can break many existing links to your pages and documents.

Bear in mind that if a section name is changed for a section that has subsections, all those subsection pages will change their web addresses too.

Moving sections

If you move sections into other sections, they will inherit folder names from any new section above them in the structure, thus changing their published web addresses.

Impact of changing established web addresses

A change to a web address can result in broken links in other pages that point to the original address, because

  • external site links use the old address
  • regular users of the page have it bookmarked under the original address
  • people have shared the original link with others on social media
  • the old address has been used in email campaigns and/or printed literature or communications that have already been sent out or are still being distributed.

Inbound links from authoritative sites have a big influence on the way search engines rank a page in search results, so it is in your interests and those of your users not to make pages harder to find by damaging their search strength when the search robots crawl broken links.

Whilst the navigation in your restructured site will change, the versions of your pages at the original locations will not necessarily be automatically removed from the server by T4, so these can potentially still be navigated to from external sites, or even from other University web pages if hard-coded links have been used. But these old pages will not be updated by T4, and will become more and more out of date, presenting further confusion to your users if they haven’t been removed and the old addresses redirected to the new ones.

Handling change effectively

In general it is best to avoid changing web addresses as much as possible. But if change is genuinely necessary and you have good reasons for it, there are things you can do to minimise the risks and retain your pages’ findability.

  • In the case of section names, you can change the name but preserve the original folder name in a page’s web address by using an Output URI in your section, if appropriate. This way the section name change won’t alter the web address. Unfortunately, you cannot do the same for Media Library categories in T4, so any changes will change document links and will require redirects.
  • Discuss any planned URL changes with your Web Marketing Officer or the central Web Team beforehand. They can advise on potential problems and ways to avoid damaging users’ ability to find your pages.
  • They can set up redirects on the web server from old addresses to new ones, which will allow existing links to the original locations to continue to take people to the right place, preserving the search engine strength of your pages.
  • If they are aware of planned site changes, they can also manually remove old pages from the web server once your new pages are published.
  • For links to other University of Exeter pages managed in T4, do get into the habit of using section links rather than hard-coding them as external links. Section links are updated automatically in T4 whenever the target section you are linking to is moved or its address changes, preventing internal links from breaking.

So, when planning such changes, be aware of the impact you can have on your web addresses, and how this affects your users’ experience of your site. It’s not that you should never make changes, as change can also improve the user experience overall, but you need to be very sure you have good reasons for altering the site structure and renaming sections, and weigh up the risks involved. You can then plan into your project some precautionary steps to reduce the impact on your site’s visitors and search engine visibility.

To refresh your understanding about section names and how T4 uses them, see the ‘Naming sections’ guide on the Web Support site.

Sarah Williams,
Web Marketing and Editorial Officer

Rethinking the Undergraduate Study website

On February 20th we launched a brand new Undergraduate (UG) Study website. This is the website that showcases our undergraduate programmes to prospective students around the world. It’s the most popular part of our site, attracting more than 6 million external pageviews each year from more than 200 countries and territories.

The new site has been designed to meet the changing demands of visitors to our website, including the use of mobile devices, which has seen a 15-fold increase over the last two years. We also met the technical challenge of incorporating rich course information from iPaMs, our emerging Integrated Programmes and Modules System.

UG Study - responsive course pages

UG Study – responsive course pages

Planning and preparation

We refresh the UG Study website every year, but for this year’s full redesign we went back to first principles and asked ourselves fundamental questions about who our prospective students are, what they want from a website and how we could best provide it.

  • We listened to prospective students who told us where the UG Study website fits into their information-seeking habits, what they want from the website and how this differs from, for example, the printed prospectus.
  • We reviewed websites across UK, US, Canadian and Australian higher education looking for inspiration and examples of best practice.
  • We looked at the sites of large charities and public bodies to help us understand how they encourage their visitors to engage with them.
  • We examined sites which supported ‘big decisions’, such as estate agents, healthcare providers and financial institutions to better understand how they helped visitors to find the right product for them.
  • We read research papers and industry reports to understand that visitors to university websites expected to find familiar user interfaces and tools from ecommerce and social websites, such as search filters, expandable panels and tabbed content.
  • We analysed our web traffic and discovered that course pages, visit day pages and application information account for almost all the traffic to the site, and that almost 20% of visits to the site were made by mobile users.

Designing and building

Based on our research we designed a new scheme for the UG Study site. We aimed to give the pages a more contemporary feel, to increase the amount of space we could use for content by introducing a horizontal navigation menu and to create a set of responsive page layouts which would dynamically adjust to the size of screen the site was being viewed on.

We developed wireframes to represent our main page types and began the ongoing process of testing with potential users of the site and improving our designs based on their feedback.

Creating a single page which will adjust to display well on different devices requires content elements such as text and images to show and hide, resize and reposition depending on the size and orientation of the screen. Responsive design adds a great deal of complexity to content planning and the team had to learn new ways not only to code the website but also to create and manage the content.

Integrating data

We knew from our research that prospective students wanted to find detailed breakdowns of the courses they were considering. To allow us to deliver this, we developed new methods to import data from the iPaMs database into our Web Content Management System. Not only did this present huge technical challenges as we pulled content for more than 300 programmes from one database into another, but with colleagues in the Colleges and the Marketing Team, it required an enormous amount of work to ensure that the data was current and accurate.

Adding search

We built a new ‘course search’ tool, developed using Funnelback, our website search engine. This allows us to index only the UG course pages and bring back results in a form which can be sorted and filtered by criteria such as course duration, location and study options.

Testing

Once the site began to take shape, we involved the whole team in testing it for content, appearance and functionality on a huge range of devices. With a site built for smartphones and tablets it’s no longer enough to look at it in the most popular browsers on a desktop PC. We conducted detailed testing on more than 20 different platforms, choosing those combinations of device and browser which were most popular amongst our users. We could have tested five times as many.

Sharing our work

We took the developing site around the University, demoing it to groups and meetings in every College and involving hundreds of staff members, incorporating their feedback and comments as we went.

Launch and beyond

The site was launched on 20 February after more than 12 months of thinking, planning, experimenting, constructing, populating, data-cleansing and testing, testing, testing, all of which was undertaken by the Web and Marketing Teams, with great support from colleagues across the Colleges and Services.

Traffic patterns in the month since the site went live are very encouraging, suggesting that users are engaging with the site more than with its predecessor.

  • We have seen a 43% increase in the number of pageviews per visit to the site
  • a 58% increase in the average visit duration and 
  • a 54% decrease in the bounce rate (i.e. the number of visitors who leave the site immediately after arriving).

Looking specifically at mobile visitors we have seen even more positive results including

  • a 77% increase in the number of pages per visit and 
  • a 142% increase in the average visit duration.

We think the new site is a big step forward. It achieves what we set out to do and, we hope, meets the needs of today’s prospective students. We will continue to learn from the users of our site and to improve it further in the weeks and months to come.

Take a look at the UG Study site and let us know what you think in comments.

Rob Mitchell
Web Editor

Sourcing images and copyright

Forum Opening Day

Forum Opening Day by Ally Brown
http://www.flickr.com/photos/allybrown/7135361371/sizes/l/in/photostream/

When sourcing images for use on our University web pages it is important to ensure that you have the relevant permissions.  It is a common misconception that if an image is readily available to copy from the web (using a search on Google Images for example) it is free to use.  Anything created and published on the internet is automatically covered by copyright law and if you fail to obtain permission to use an image you could be at risk of a fine.

Do not assume that because the web is so big and everything on it available so freely that no-one will ever find out what you are using. Copyright owners can go to great lengths to ensure that their images are traceable online.

An increasing number people are making their work available online under Creative Commons licenses. These allow creators to easily communicate which parts of copyright law they reserve and which parts they waive. The image above of the opening of the Forum taken by Ally Brown in the Web Team is available to download on Flickr.com and you can see the simple one-page Creative Commons license that Ally has set up to communicate how he is happy for the image to be used.

If no such license is obviously available then you should always obtain formal permission for any image that you wish to use.  Bear in mind that the perceived owner could be using an image illegally and it is your responsibility to make contact with the original owner. Ignorance is not justifiable grounds to avoid a fine.

After securing permission be aware of any stipulations of use, for example images available for web but not print, or any specific credit that must accompany the image. Even if the owner doesn’t insist on a credit it is always courteous to include one. When using an image in the right hand ‘www Image with Caption’ template in T4 the template includes an optional field for including a copyright acknowledgement.

More information on copyright is available on our Web support site but the golden rule is if in doubt, don’t use it.

Useful image sources

However, all is not lost!  There are some useful image sources available, some of which are free:

  • Assetbank – an extensive and growing archive containing University commissioned photography for use in promotional publications, including the University website. To request download of any images contact your Web Marketing Officer.
  • Morgue File – contains photographs freely contributed by many artists to be used in creative and commercial projects by visitors to the site. You are asked to credit the photographer when possible but this is not required.
  • Fotolia – a huge image bank of free and affordable royalty-free photos and illustrations for web or print. Many of its images are free and others are available from £0.63p.
  • stock.xchng  – a community of professional photographers and amateur enthusiasts who offer their works for public use free of charge or at minimal cost. You need to register to use the site and download images but membership is free.
  • Get snapping!
    You can of course use images you have taken or created yourself.  Please do bear in mind whether the images are appropriate for use on the University website though.

Helen Evans,
Web Marketing Officer for the Medical School 

Getting started with Social Media

Social Media IconsSocial media is a great way of reaching and interacting with your audience. Many of us use it in our personal lives and want to use it professionally as well.

Building and maintaining an engaging professional social media presence can be very rewarding but also time consuming. Before you set anything up make sure you have the resource to keep it going in the long-term. It will need to be checked and updated on a daily basis.

In order to engage your audience using social media you need to have a two way conversation. Spend time commenting on and replying to things your target audience have posted in addition to sending out your own messages.

Dormant or sparsely maintained accounts look unprofessional and can give the impression an active project, group, centre, team or service is no longer running. Broadcast only accounts can be just as damaging because you are not engaging with your audience.

In many cases we would prefer to send your messages through our corporate social media accounts such as the @UniofExeter Twitter and University of Exeter Facebook presences. These accounts have large number of followers and can give your messages much greater exposure than an individual social media account.

If we then identify a need to set up your own channels we can advise you on best practice.

Before you open a social media account please consider:

  • What resource you have for the ongoing maintenance of the social media presence.
  • What do you want to say?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to do?
  • And, determine which social media mechanisms your audience uses (eg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).

Please also contact your Web Marketing Officer to discuss your requirements, ideas and options.

If you do run your own channels you must behave appropriately and remember you are representing the University, even if it is a personal account. You must behave in a respectful, relevant way that protects our reputation and follows the letter and spirit of the law.

We expect everyone who participates in online commentary to follow the University’s social media guidelines, you must make sure you have read the guidelines before setting anything up.

Types of social media

There are many different social media sites that can be used for different purposes, such as: 

Linkedin

LinkedIn: Aimed at professionals. It is easy to get started and you can use existing email lists to search for and add people to your contacts.Remember to update your personal profile regularly to notify contacts about your activities. You can also recommend contacts for their professional skills – and be recommended by contacts in return.

You can join groups to communicate with others in your field and can ask and answer questions related to your area of work. The ways of engaging with other users makes LinkedIn a useful site for networking and collaboration.

For more details see the University’s guide to LinkedIn.

Twitter

Twitter: This requires more patience than other forms of social media but your posts have the potential to reach a far wider audience.

The best way to start on Twitter is to:

  • Follow people with similar interests.
  • Make your profile interesting and relevant to your work.
  • Engage with others – if someone tweets something of interest make sure to reply to it.

Remember that your Twitter account is an ambassador for you and the University so avoid getting involved in sensitive subjects that could damage your reputation.

Facebook

Facebook: When targeting students Facebook could be ideal, but if you have research or other academic interests in mind it could be the wrong place for your target audience.

Academia.edu: A social media site geared towards academic researchers. Using Academia.edu you can:

  • Update your status with relevant current events that may be of interest to others.
  • Upload, track and download academic papers – sometimes as they are being written, as academics ask for peer reviews of drafts.
  • Pose questions to your followers in a similar way to Twitter, but with a much higher character limit.
  • Invite colleagues to the site.
  • Create an easy road map for potential future collaborations.

Academia.edu may be better suited to collaborating with existing contacts rather than making new connections or boosting the profile of your research.

Wikis: A simple website that allows the creation and editing of linked web pages. They are useful for a number of people to discuss a topic, plan a meeting or share ideas because all contributions on a topic are kept together and in order.

The University of Exeter wiki gives you some information on how to use wikis. You can apply for a wiki via My Exeter.

Blogs: A very quick and simple way for anybody to publish content to the web without having to establish or maintain an entire website.

Blogs are ideal for publishing news and updates, for commenting on external events and issues, and for linking to and interacting with content on other blogs.

You can set up a University blog via My Exeter.

Jenna Richards, Web Marketing Officer for RKT

Developing iExeter – our student facing app

What is iExeter?

iExeter screen shot

iExeter is the free, student app that provides anybody studying at one of our Exeter or Cornwall campuses with a range of tools and information on their mobile device. Anybody can download and use the maps, PC finder, library checker, job listings and other areas but by logging in with a student id users also get bespoke tools such as their personal timetable.

The platform we use is provided by oMbiel and it works on Apple, Android and modern Blackberry phones – although anyone with a different type of phone can access iExeter through the web version as long as it is internet enabled.

iExeter allows us to offer students useful information and tools that they can access wherever they are. This not only makes accessing their services and systems easier, but it also works towards improving the student experience at Exeter.

Student uptake

Since its launch in August 2012 we’ve seen a really high uptake from students, with over 22,000 registrations and nearly 2.5 million individual sessions. The most popular feature within iExeter is timetabling, followed by the campus maps and the full Freshers’ Week guide that is available from August to October each year.

Recent changes and developments

Throughout December and January I have been testing the new version of iExeter, which has a completely different appearance and improved stability and usability. The Apple/iOS version has already been released, and the Android one is going live very soon.

Last month we saw the arrival of Max Goss who will work alongside me to develop new features into iExeter. We also extended our license, allowing us to offer a variety of different apps to different users and to improve and build on the existing student facing features.

Future plans and changes

Over the coming weeks Max and I will be making some further additions and major changes. We’ll be taking the personalisation a step further so users on different campuses will only see information that is relevant to them. We’re currently testing several new features including ELE and live transport times to and from campus, which we hope to launch this month.

Whilst iExeter is currently focussed on the student experience we now have to the option to expand on this to a wide range of potential users. If you have any suggestions that would improve on iExeter please let me know at b.richards@exeter.ac.uk. This could be a new feature, the integration of a system or an idea for an entirely new application that would benefit one of the key stakeholders to the institution.

The app can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App StoreGoogle Play and Blackberry App World. You can also view a web version of the app.

Ben Richards, Web Marketing Officer