A computer displaying an accessible PDF created by the Facilities Directorate staff

Accessible websites and documents

One in five people in the UK have a disability (visual, hearing, motor or cognitive) that could make it difficult for them to access the online information. Additionally, more young people with registered disabilities are entering Higher Education than ever before. It is therefore crucial that University services can be used by as many customers as possible, communications are effective, and nobody is excluded from accessing important information.

The FD Marketing, Sales and Communications team, working with the Central Communications team and IT Services, set about creating a customer focused culture across all FD services to highlight the critical importance of digital communications being accessed by more people. This was implemented by making all websites and online documents accessible to as many customers as possible, ensuring they conformed to government guidance, and specifically achieving Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, level AA.

In collaboration with IT Services, the team identified the websites and services that failed the accessibility standard and implemented a three-stream approach (websites the team could move into IT’s accessible ‘Design System’ project; websites that fell outside of this system due to additional functionality requirements; and documents uploaded to websites that were not accessible) to making the improvements. As a result, significant improvements were made to the documents visible on all customer-facing websites in addition to auditing online documents and making necessary fixes to make them accessible. Once work was completed across all three project streams, the team delivered training and advice to clients.

Furthermore, the team worked hard with internal customers and stakeholders to improve the process of creating “designed documents for web” to further embed its commitment to accessible documents. For instance, the team worked with FD Health and Safety to produce an updated and fully accessible PDF document detailing University health and safety standards for contractors. A fully digital document proved useful as it could be easily updated, was more cost effective for the team, and easier to use for Contractors, who were able to navigate quickly to the relevant sections.

Significant improvements were made to the FD’s three commercial websites (catering, sport and conferencing) and the team continue to work with IT to test and measure the improvements on a regular basis.

Web accessibility will remain an ongoing priority for the FD Marketing, Sales and Communications team. The team continue to work across the University with IT, Disability Services and Central Communications to continuously improve communications and ensure online services can be used by as many customers as possible.

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021

GFaL cafe staff attending to a customer

Effectively communicating safety and reassurance messages

As Government restrictions were eased after the first Covid 19-19 lockdown the University undertook the complex and multifaceted task of safely reopening the campus to welcome back its students and staff.

Ensuring everyone was aware of social distancing guidelines, fully informed and safe during their time back on campus was the key goal of the communications produced and coordinated by the FD Sales, Marketing and Communications Team.

The team’s communications goals were threefold:

  • Ensure staff and students were updated about the buildings reopening
  • Provide comprehensive and reassuring information videos on how staff and students could use the campus safely
  • Communicate safe practice, and inform customers of the behaviours and standards required to keep everyone safe through effective signage

Throughout, the team worked together with colleagues from the University Communications Team, Student Education Services, Estates, Cleaning Services, Security Services, Campus Support, Procurement and Wellbeing, Safety and Health to deliver the communications requirements for safely re-opening campus.

To support building managers to safely reopen buildings a detailed communications plan was produced which gave guidance to all building managers on when and how to produce coordinated communications for returning staff and students. Templates for emails and notices assisted managers to save time and ensure communications were clear, consistent and effective. As buildings started to reopen, a bespoke webpage which detailed buildings and specific rooms to be re-opened along with estimated timescales was created and regularly updated.

A series of videos were produced to effectively communicate the significant work undertaken to make the campus Covid 19-secure. Working across the University, and service areas in the FD, to assess the needs of various customers, the team created four videos (one general student safety video and three customer reassurance videos for catering, sport and accommodation customers) that showed footage of cleaning and safety measures as well as new procedures.

The success of the videos became evident quite quickly as social media engagement exceeded all University benchmarks. The general video, showing COVID 19-19 safety measures on campus, had over 30k views and became the most shared content ever made on the University’s official Instagram account. The three videos for accommodation, sport and catering generated over 18k views.

In creating effective signage solutions to ensure everyone followed safe practice when back on campus a ‘simple is best’ approach to messaging, language and visual style was adopted. Early in the process, communication took place with cross-University groups (set up to deliver reopening) that a university-wide signage system would be developed in the form of an agile and flexible, user friendly ‘one-stop-shop’ signage catalogue.

In collaboration with the Procurement and Print and Copy Bureau, the system was designed to create a fit-for-purpose, online ordering system. Potential external suppliers were also identified to enable order timescales to be met. The team successfully met all deadlines, delivering the first draft concept within one week, with the full online ordering system and catalogue going live within three weeks of the project’s start. Engagement with relevant, expert professionals and key stakeholders from across the University ensured all signage on campus was clearly understood and followed by users.

This was a truly University-wide initiative undertaken from the outset, it was agreed the team would be timely, open, honest, and transparent in all communications which resulted in the successful communication to users about the safe reopening of buildings in an effective and organised manner. The team were praised further by other University-wide colleagues for producing communications plans and videos which they could use for their customers.

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021

Three students walking outside the student residence Central Village

Using digital transformation to drive the customer experience

With traditional University Open days cancelled the University quickly moved to offering online Open Days.

As campus was closed due to Covid 19 19 the University developed an alternative digital open day experience to launch at the beginning of July to support the 2021 student recruitment activity. As part of this, the FD Marketing, Sales and Communications Team provided innovative digital solutions to highlight facilities to future students.

The challenge for the FD Marketing, Sales and Communications team was to adapt each service area’s needs into an innovative digital format, to deliver the best online open day experience for their prospective students. The process started with the team coordinating the information from each Service, producing a full audit, to minimise duplication across teams, of what each area would normally contribute towards an Open Day, and working with them to identify how this could best work digitally.

To simplify the experience for the prospective students, a native Open Day landing page was created, it performed as a hub of content and information about each service area such as University Residences, The Edge and cafes. The pages took influence from the main University’s open day pages in order to provide a cohesive experience for the user and provided tracked links back to the main University’s Open Day web page content. Furthermore, the team delivered and supported internal Service areas in new ways by using new digital tools to enhance the user experience.

The team collaborated with the University Marketing team, who were leading on the virtual open days, to provide images for the virtual campus tour, this ensured prospective students gained a good view of how the University residences, catering outlets, gym and sport facilities looked like both inside and out.

In supporting the Sport and Physical activity team to showcase the sports offer at the University, the team created a virtual presentation that was delivered to students and managed the live online Q&A chat session answering questions prospective students asked during the presentation.

Accommodation teams online virtual experience was enriched with accompanying blogs written by real students to replicate the work student ambassadors would have done face to face on previous open days. Also, once a long-term project to create 360 virtual tours of the halls of accommodation was completed the team created a webpage where all the videos sat together making it easier for visiting students to find what they needed.

Lastly, the team produced a suite of animated graphics for use on social media to introduce the University catering service to prospective students.

Digitising these experiences enabled the FD Marketing, Sales and Communications team to collect more data and effectively monitor the impact of the content that will be used to inform decision making for future open days.

The need for swift adaptation of the open day had many positive impacts on the team and for its FD Service teams. These included the digitisation process which prepared the FD Service teams for any further virtual open day experiences. The improved online assets and resources by default created a better online experience for prospective students and going forward will continue to form part of a hybrid experience to reach new markets and engage with audiences in a more meaningful way.

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021