The evolution of the people pages on the University website | firez
Web Services

The evolution of the people pages on the University website

One of the first things many of us do these days when we connect with someone new is Google them. In a professional context, this might involve checking someone’s LinkedIn or looking up their profile on their employer’s website.

In the same way we use our social media to present the best of ourselves to the world, University people pages they are a way for staff to showcase their roles, responsibilities, research topics and achievements to a diverse audience. Potential students, researchers, collaborators, future employers, and even the media may all have reason to visit these pages at one time or another. Even internally, they work as a way to find out someone’s contact details and areas of expertise.

Pages in 2019

We launched people pages at the end of 2019 and these have provided a page for almost everyone working at the University (over 3000 people!). Two of our original goals were to ensure that the information on these pages was accurate and to provide a semantic page structure that Google could easily index and display. These fundamentals have not changed: someone who lands on your page will see at a glance who you are, what department you belong to, what you teach and what you are looking for (where appropriate).

People Page Design Sprint Workshop in 2018

Your name, job title, position and contact details are automatically pulled from the HR Data Feed (P3) when you sign up and cannot be changed by the Web Services team. This ensures that the information is always correct: if your job title changes or you get married, the information HR holds will automatically reflect on your page. You can add a photo – ideally participating in one of the regular photo shoots – and write your biographical information, information about your role within the University, research and teaching.

An example of search content:

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This really is your showcase to explain what you do. Taking into account the various audiences that may visit your page, it’s great if at least the first paragraph here is written in a way that someone who works in the media, or a student thinking of coming to study here, can understand. You can then continue to provide more detailed content that is appropriate for fellow researchers/collaborators. You can choose to highlight selected publications here and we can add a link to the Discovery Research Portal so that your most recent publications are always available. We have also added the ‘gallery’ element to the pages, so you can add different images (photos or diagrams) of your work or events.

New types of content

The behind-the-scenes work has opened up new possibilities, which means that we can now insert different types of content into the page, reusing material that appears elsewhere on the website. If you’ve been involved in a press release or feature, received awards, or are offering PhD projects, visitors to your page will be able to see it right away. The really clever thing is that once these feeds are set up, it takes very little effort on your part or ours to maintain them. With the use of appropriate tags, we can automatically bring relevant content to the page.

Press releases

In the days before a content management system, a link to a press release had to be added manually, and we’d also have to rely on someone to notify us that it had been produced. Now, whenever the press office issues a press release, they simply add the name(s) of the staff involved and it will appear on your page, along with the summary text and a thumbnail image of the story. It is beneficial when recruiting for both potential staff and students as it can help convey the image of a vibrant department. It also helps keep your page fresh and up-to-date, which is good from an SEO perspective.

A tag here:

The evolution of the people pages on the University website | firez

I’ll add the story here:

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This does not even apply to purely academic staff members – any University staff member will see the posting of relevant content:

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Similar to press releases, we’ve added a feed to show any awards a staff member has received. These are also tagged with a staff member’s name so they automatically appear on the page. This was specifically requested by the School of Life Sciences and has proven useful throughout the University. It’s an easy way to demonstrate the prestige of a department.

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PhD projects

The last bit of tagged content that goes into a staff profile page is the list of PhD opportunities where the staff member has been tagged as a supervisor appointee. Even if we have a searchable list of doctoral projects, how prospective PhD students find them varies. In many cases, a student can connect with a researcher at a conference, or simply learn about her work, search for it, and then find the projects she’s overseeing directly from her staff page. Personal connections and interests are key here. On the staff page, a summary of the project opportunity is entered and will automatically disappear from the page once the deadline has passed, again saving you a lot of manual checking.

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Use of people pages throughout the website

In addition to pulling information from other sources about a person’s profile, we can also do the same thing in reverse, putting the information into a content type we call a « manual people list. » For school or departmental sites, all personnel in that group are automatically directed to the « People » page, as follows:

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However, there are sometimes occasions when we may wish to view a manually curated list of personnel, such as members of a specific research group or committee. As with the development of our rewards component, work has been done on the Life science website which provided an impetus for it but was invaluable throughout the website.

We are now able to group staff members by adding their names and choosing which fields we want to display next to them, such as phone number, email address or photo. We are even able to add supplementary information such as research interests or a specific role which may not be the same as their job title but is relevant to the particular group. You can see it in the screenshots below:

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The flexibility here makes this a powerful content type. We can view the information in various ways: a complete profile with photos as above or a more concise contact table:

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Again, this development leads to less maintenance for everyone. While this type of content is « manual » in the sense that we choose which staff members to view, it is automatic in the sense that the staff will be removed when they leave and are no longer in the HR system. This means that pages are kept up to date and users will not be frustrated by encountering contact information that is no longer relevant. It also ensures that human error, such as typing the wrong digit of a phone number, is reduced, as the central database is used.

Overall, the work we’ve done over the past couple of years has been of enormous importance in linking, reusing and surfacing different types of content on the website, as well as reducing maintenance overhead and improving accuracy. The Staff Pages are just one area that highlights the interconnected nature of our content and how we can use every bit of it to maximum benefit and ensure that both you as staff, and our external users, get the most out of it. .

If this post got you thinking about your page and would like to update your bio, research or teaching content, read our guide on updating your data.