Content is hard

I’m stating the obvious here but content is hard!

We’ve just come out the other side of an intensive project working on updating a large chunk of our research content. Luckily I haven’t been doing it alone – I’ve been able to share my content trials and tribulations with a colleague in our Research and Knowledge Transfer department who’s been leading the project (thanks Helen for keeping me sane!). Between us we’ve been working with various researchers and web officers across the University, who’ve all been essential in getting this work done. It’s been a truly collaborative project that for me has also meant meeting lots of new people across the University, which is always good to do.

The Research website

The aims

Our academics are making a real difference to the world with research breakthroughs in areas such as healthcare, life sciences, engineering, sustainability, and business and management. I knew that already but working on this project has really brought to light the fantastic work that’s going on across the University.

The main purpose behind this piece of content work was to show the world the breadth, diversity and impact of research that is taking place at the University. This work is ongoing but we believe we’ve made massive progress on improving both content, functionality and usability.

Updating, moving and migrating

What we’ve had in the past (and still presently for some areas) is pockets of research content living in various microsites including Centre and Academic School websites. Our aim is to have all research content living in the research site, so that it not only reflects a true picture of the amazing research that goes on across the University, it should also provide a smooth and intuitive user journey for our audiences, rather than content being hidden away or hard to find.

As with many projects, we started with an audit and then a list of recommendations. After that we worked with researchers and web officers on updating, migrating, restructuring and moving various bits of research content into the research site based upon our recommendations.

We now have six out of eight Research and Knowledge Transfer Centre websites living in the research site and we’ve made good headway in moving other bits of research content from School sites. Alongside this, we’ve developed signposting pages (on Academic School sites for example), so that users can still get to research content from those routes.

There is now more consistency in structure and content, for example on the Centre sites that we’ve been working on, they have a basic structure that includes content such as:

  • People
  • Facilities
  • Featured Projects
  • Ongoing Research
  • Expertise
  • News and Events

Here’s a few examples of what we’ve been working on. Click on the images to visit the pages.


Updated functionality and usability

Two key parts of this project were to:

  1. Provide different ways for users to find out about a particular topic or area of research
  2. Have a central place for staff profiles

In answer to these two requirements we developed the following:

1. Index of Research Topics

Index of Research Topics.

We’ve made lots of updates to this index, which now shows a more accurate picture or our research expertise.

2. Find an Expert


We now have a central directory of research staff profiles, whereas before the profiles lived only on the School and Centre sites.

This was a mammoth undertaking due to the different systems that are in use for staff profiles across the University. Profiles are not in one system yet but we have pulled everything together for now – so that users can find an expert more easily and from one place.

Visit the Find an Expert directory.

Content is hard!

All in all this has been a difficult but rewarding project to work on. Content work (and in fact web work in general) can often be overlooked (unless it’s a full-on ‘look and feel’ or design change) with day-to-day updates and improvements going unnoticed (although we hope they are noticed by our users, as that’s who we’re doing it for after all!).

This project has involved so much detailed work from the audits to the ‘bitty-batty’ bits of updating, the overall strategy stuff and of course building working relationships with colleagues across the University. All of this combined has resulted in some massive improvements in our online research presence that we’re really pleased with.

Your feedback

Please do have a look around the research site. If you have any feedback, thoughts, questions or ideas we’d love to hear them at

Also we’d be interested to hear your mammoth content project stories, so please share them in the comments box below!…

One Comment

Helen Horsman

Yes, this was a toughie, but the results are great. Thanks for all your help so far and ditto on the support we’ve had from everyone else. I’m looking forward to getting the rest of the Schools content and the Centres to the top level too, then we’ll have a great resource internally and externally. It’s good working with you and I look forward to more of it in 2014.

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