Department's new website: built on your feedback

Here's a riddle for you: what's the most straightforward way of presenting 1000+ courses in one website?

Oh, and consider that the solution will need to address all of the following concerns:

  • courses might be as short as a single day in duration, or they might last one, two or more years;
  • prospective students might be interested in any of a hundred subject areas, ranging from surgical science to architecture, music to medicine, languages to archaeology, literature to nanotechnology, and more;
  • some courses might be best-suited for people living in and around Oxford, while some are ideal for students from across the UK, or around the world;
  • students might be keen enthusiasts, hobbyists, working professionals or complete beginners; they might have previous degrees or they might have no experience of education beyond school;
  • they might be studying to advance their career prospects, to obtain a qualification or simply looking for personal enrichment, and;
  •  the people who visit the website will range in age from their teens into their 90s; some of them will not be comfortable using computers

This was the basic brief eighteen months ago, when we started the redesign of our website – nearly six years after the previous website was launched in the autumn of 2010.

Improvements you can see:

Our courses are now grouped by subject

Our old website categorised courses by format – for example, all the 10-week classes were grouped together in one place, all the weekend courses in another, award courses in a third place, etc. In the new website, courses are viewed by subject, regardless of the length of the course. 

We made the change to subject area groupings in response to student feedback. Many of you wanted to progress through more advanced courses, and wanted to be able to see the road ahead more clearly. (It's very common here for students to begin studies on short courses, and then continue on to an Oxford award or degree.) The new website makes it easier to see the full range of courses on offer (and also courses in closely-related subjects) without the necessity of clicking into different parts of the site.

Search results are easier – and faster – to sort

Let's say you're Interested in a 10 week creative writing course, but you're only able to take it on a Tuesday night,  in the town of Reading. Our search results now contain a series of check boxes in the left-hand margin that let you toggle different filters on and off. And our crack team of web developers has set this up so the list changes almost as fast as you can tick the boxes on and off.

You can book more than one person on a course

This was a much-requested feature! Now it's easy for you to book yourself and your partner/spouse/friends/children on a course at the same time, simply by adding their information during the enrolment process. This feature also streamlines enrolments for professional development: one person can enrol work colleagues onto a course, all in one go.

The enrolment process is quicker and more straightforward

We paid a lot of attention to this one. We edited these pages to make them clearer and better organised so that our shopping basket and purchase pages would be clear easy to navigate and clear.

Larger type, and better arrangement of pages

We've enlarged our type and repositioned the page content in ways we hope will make the website more 'readable', regardless of the device you're using (phone, tablet, desktop computer).

The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is certainly true in today's web. Pictures are memorable, they aid in memory recall, and they help convey the excitement of our courses and the experience of studying here. 

Improvements you can't see

We've streamlined the code 'under the bonnet'

The code that runs on our new site has been completely retooled by our talented web development team. The new code is more efficient, and this lets us implement suggestions and changes from our users quickly and easily.

We know when there are problems

We’ve built an error reporting system, which notifies us when problems occur, so we can fix them as quickly as possible.

The page content you're reading is easier to manage now

We’ve created a new content management system which lets us work collaboratively to add new content and keep information up to date.

And we're not done yet

We decided to launched our new site the moment we felt that it would deliver a better experience than our old site. But websites evolve – they are never truly 'done'. Therefore –

We'd love your feedback

Before we released our new website, we asked students and friends of the Department to test it for us, and we implemented many of their suggestions prior to launch. We want this collaborative approach to continue!

Every page on our site has a 'website feedback' link at the bottom of the page. Have you found something that didn't work as you expected? Do you have a suggestion how we might do something better? Please do let us know!

Published 10 June 2016