We're always looking at ways of making our site easier to navigate and from looking at our statistics it's clear we get a lot of traffic from our red bar navigation. Therefore, we thought it was time for a reappraisal of this to help our users navigate quickly and effectively.

After lots of trials we settled on completely rebuilding our drop downs. These drop downs enable users to take a shortcut to the page or sub-page they are looking for, while also giving us a chance to link to key documents and events which we feel need highlighting.
From a design perspective, we felt a drop-down menu allows a ‘busy’ layout to be tidied up (and our site is over 11,000 pages!), with all of the sub-categories hidden away awaiting a mouse-over. Firstly, we needed to think about the action that users need to take to activate drop-down menus and decided that they would only show when clicked. The advantage of this is that the menu remains in place whether the cursor remains in the area or not. This therefore removes one potential source of frustration.
The 'mega-menu' on our new
International landing page

The next stage was to focus on the content and this was the most time consuming part of the process (which it should be!) We ran an audit of our most searched for/visited pages and cross referenced this with our key messages to ensure that we are guiding our users both where they want to go and to what we want them to see. This gave us our large range of links in related groups. We then authored a number of headings to group them together and put them into relevant column layouts.

The important thing here was to not offer too many options, save extra clicks where we could, and make sure we did plenty of testing (both with users and with different browsers). From this we also decided that our 'mega menu' would span the entire width of the page allowing it to be much more tidy and easy to read.

Our final big consideration was how this would work on a mobile device. As our site is responsive (and after lots of testing) we decided to avoid clutter and to focus on keeping it simple. We felt it would be easier if these long menus did not display at all on the smaller devices (i.e. smartphones) as too much content on smaller screen sizes regulated our main content.

So there we have it! The 'mega-menu' is now live and we'll be continuing to monitor the stats very closely to see if they've had the desired effect before developing them yet further...
It's Hannah here - it's been a little while since I contributed to our team blog, partly because Paul has much more interesting things to say, and partly because I have been out and about all over the campuses trying to coordinate the filming of a new University film!

I guess those of you in the know will be experiencing a sharp intake of breath at the mere thought of seamlessly organising four faculties, 19 different academic departments, a Students' Union and more than five locations - but actually this time around it is all going pretty well (famous last words...) I have a lot of 'virtual' contact with students via social media, which is one of the best bits of my job, and it's been good to get out of the office and to talk to some of our students face to face!

Under construction: the new PG Centre
I first worked on this project in 2010, just after I joined the Uni, and I suppose this time I know more people, have more friends in different offices and, most importantly, we have even more to show off. The new accommodation has opened, the PG Centre is almost finished (see photo from the tour I managed to wangle my way on to) and we have a number of new facilities that should make for a great visual spectacle (fingers crossed!).

What's more, we're working with a company who really seem to understand what Bedfordshire is all about and be enthusiastic about promoting what's on offer here. After a number of promising meetings with some very good production teams, we opted for Spectrecom for a number of reasons - including an additional angle on filming which we're really looking forward to seeing in the first edit! (More on that in future blogs...)

Video is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal (the last version of the film had over 25,000 views in less than a year) but I think it can sometimes be difficult to approach it in an analytical 'marketingy' way. For this update project, we are focusing on the role the film will play in our wider conversion strategy, in terms of social engagement, online PR and mobile marketing, and the metrics by which we will judge its success as a project.

In other news, I have also been writing our submission for the CIM Marketing Excellence Awards, which gave me a chance to really interrogate the part social and video had to play in our clearing campaign, and produced some interesting findings to inform our campaigns going forward. So, we'll keep you updated and hopefully all our hard work will be rewarded with a night of celebrations on 6 March next year...watch this space!   

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