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The customer

The University of the Highlands and Islands is an integrated university encompassing both further and higher education; part of a new breed of tertiary institutions, the only one in Scotland and one of only a few in Europe. The distinctive partnership of 13 independent colleges and research institutions is locally based and rooted in communities, but with national and international reach, as part of a regional university structure.

With 40,000 students at the heart of the university partnership, the curriculum across both further and higher education is designed to meet current and future local and regional needs and to attract other students to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to study.

The challenge

The small webteam manages a diverse content footprint across 12 separate websites – the university and 11 of its partner organisations. With the recent focus on WCAG standards, the university saw an opportunity to not only improve standards compliance but also improve the user experience in the process.

The content and accessibility auditing tools which ship with our search engine – Funnelback – offer tremendous added value. Using them allows us to view our site differently and gives us the information we need to work through issues and errors in order to improve the experience for all our website visitors.

Duncan Ireland
Web Manager
The approach

The webteam used the content and accessibility auditors available in their search engine Funnelback. The results of this gave them the insight needed to firstly improve accessibility to comply with the WCAG standards. It also enabled them to review content quality and identify content that was not helpful to end users. Their audit identified hundreds of duplicate pages and content that was out of date.

The university updated content across the site removing duplication and out of date content and ensuring all content complied with WCAG standards.

In collaboration with Squiz they also improved the way their search was implemented. With the partners spread across the a sixth of the UK landmass, it was important to ensure users received search results relevant to their local search query. The university implemented a search instance for each partner, ensuring each site had its own search functionality and content auditing reports to provide the level of granularity required.

The results
  • Increase in site rank from third party search
  • Improvement in page load time through eradicating spurious markup
  • Massive reduction in duplicate content
  • Improvements in search accuracy creating a better search experience
  • 100% reduction in reported accessibility issues, improving compliance with WCAG standards

With the ability to easily generate reports, the webteam is now able to quickly identify and address new issues in content and accessibility across all sites. The team has also pulled learnings from the reports anecdotally, helping to prevent similar errors from occurring when creating and publishing new content by providing training and best practice advice to content editors.

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