Step by step guide

Building a website in the College Content Management System

Showcase area

Determine your aims and objectives

Do you really need a website?

Before requesting a new website please take the time to consider whether you really need it.  Read this helpful presentation: What is a website for and what should I consider when developing one?

What are the strategic aims of your site?

When requesting a new site, the objectives should always be stated, eg.

  • Assist with recruiting undergraduate students
  • Communicate research results to chosen audiences
  • Facilitate administration within the organisational unit (OU).

Suitable metrics and the frequency at which they are to be gathered and evaluated should be decided to measure how effectively the web site is meeting its objectives. These may be direct, eg. the percentage increase in student applications after the web site is first published or indirect, eg. web site statistics (number of overall 'hits', number of 'pages' requested and which are the most popular requests, domain-analysis, eg. how many requests come from different domains).  Google Analytics data is collected for all pages within the College's CMS and can be used to monitor these metrics.

Determine the audience(s) and their needs

The web site should be designed and operated to meet the requirements of the audience(s) it serves. This entails some understanding of the actual needs and preferences of those audiences. Audiences for a given web site may vary over its life so some form of regular audience-monitoring might be useful.

Examples of audiences could include:

  • Prospective postgraduate students for the OU
  • Administrative staff within the OU
  • Teaching staff concerned with a particular course
  • Alumni of the OU
  • Prospective research sponsors
  • Scientific journalists

It is strongly recommended that you undertake some user research and testing before developing your site architecture and content.  Read the skills programme presentation about User testing techniques .

Request a new CMS site

Request your site

The requesting department or division is responsible for providing a suitable resource to develop the site. This may be a member of their staff, a student or a contractor. For standard websites, the site developer will liaise with the ICT Web Team to agree basic details about the site, and identify any training needs. Communications/ICT provide initial training, support during site development and a review prior to the site going live, but does not offer a site creation service.

The website owner should first agree the site development with their Faculty Web Officer who will then send the details for the new site request to the ICT Web Team using the ICT Service Desk process. In order to set up the base site, some basic information about the new site will be agreed. This will include:

Once this information is approved, a "skeleton" site will be created with permissions set up for site management and administration. Training will be scheduled.

The site developer can begin building their site, supported by the online help guide or the ICT Web team as needed.

The URL will not be implemented until the site has been reviewed and is ready to go live.

Plan your content architecture

Develop a content architecture

The information architecture for your new site is how you will organise and arrange your content.  How you choose to structure your site shoud be based on user and competitor research you have done as part of the initial planning for your site.

  • Try and group similar tasks or related information in the same section
  • Consider the language you use for your navigation and section headings - ensure you are using words that your audiences are using to find content, not just your internal organisational structure and language.  Check out our recommendations for standard site navigational terms.
  • Test it out - ask your users what they would expect to find in each of your proposed site sections - listen to the words they use and double check your content matches their expectations


Develop your content and build your site

Develop content

To ensure a professional end product:

Quality assurance and site launch


Before launch it is essential to assure the quality of a site through thorough testing which should encompass:

  • Previewing your site on a number of different devices to ensure you are content with the ordering of your content on desktop, tablet and mobile views
  • Checking that all links, including buttons, are live and link to the proper web page or documents
  • Reviewing spelling, punctuation, and grammar - no errors and adheres to house style guidelines. Get someone else to proof read your copy.
  • Checking that contact information is correct
  • Spacing appears correctly and consistently  
  • Accessibility best practice has been followed
  • Images used are relevant to the content on the page
  • Content is "chunked" into easily scanned sections; bullets used when appropriate
  • Content of links to outside sites checked to make sure that the site does not contain material that would be considered inappropriate

Central checks

Once your site has been through all testing and quality assurance checks Contact us to arrange a review. The review aims to ensure that the site conforms to the requirements of accessibility legislation and to College standards, and will include a review by the College Accessibility Officer. Following review, ICT will advise on appropriate steps to make the site live.

Launch communications

Communication is an important part of any site launch.

In order to optimise search engines finding your new site, it is important to ensure you have links incoming to your new site.  Once your site is launched, it is recommended that you:

  • Consider other College and external sites that could sensibly link to your content, and approach their website editors to ask if they will include a link on their sites.  For the A-Z of admin and services, and research groups and centres, please contact Peter Gillings
  • Contact Peter Gillings to discuss how to ensure your new site features in the College search engine results when certain keywords are entered
  • If you are launching a revamped existing site, consider who may already be linking to your content, and ensure they are notified of your new site so they can amend their links

Consider whether you need to communicate about your new site to your primary audiences.  Preparing a communication plan will help to identify:

  • Who you want to reach
  • What you want to say: tailor the significance of the site launch to the particular audience by explaining how you want each audience segment to use the site
  • Why the site development was undertaken (based on the business case)

It is best to restrict broad communications until and when the site is final and live.

Keep content current

It is important that Content Managers and Content Owners continue to update the site to maintain site visitors' interest and to keep them returning to the site. Regular monitoring of site traffic statistics can provide some indication of site use and popularity. Feedback or Contact Us site functions provide a useful vehicle for feedback.

Content maintenance tasks include:

  • Ensuring that information published on a web site tracks changes in the primary content base: Such processes may be manual or automatic but they must happen.
  • Editing existing content
  • Developing new additional content
  • Removing out of date content
  • Refreshing the presentation. A major presentational overhaul is desirable at least annually with smaller changes taking place at 3 and 6-monthly intervals
  • Updating news, events or photographs used throughout the site
  • Dealing with enquiries and queries

It is recommended that site owners schedule in regular reviews and ensure responsibility is clear for maintaining each section of the site.

Manage faults and complaints

A malfunctioning web site can cause actual damage – to its owner, to the College and to third parties. For example:

  • unintentional inclusion of defamatory material could result in a libel claim from a third party,
  • a hacked site could be used to launch a 'denial of service' attack on a third party computer whose owner could then have a claim against College under various statutory measures.

The legal threat is real with potential personal repercussions on College officers. It is essential that:

  • Procedures are in place for handling complaints about content, eg. allegedly outdated or unlawful material. These procedures must include steps for immediate removal of suspect content and the issuing of an apology while steps are taken to revalidate it or establish its legal innocence. The College Secretary must be advised.
  • If the College is advised of a serious technical vulnerability, then immediate action will be taken to close down the site.
  • Procedures must allow for out of hours cover.

It is important that each site has a named website owner and that if they leave, your Faculty Web Officer is notified of their replacement.

If your site is for a specific time period, plan its decommissioning

Decommissioning your site

Website owners should consider how and when the web site will be decommissioned, especially if it relates to a temporary event, eg. a conference or other one-off event.

Decommissioning will involve not only removal of the web site itself and its content but also determining how future calls to it will be handled. For example, it might be desirable that any call to the website for a major academic conference should be redirected to an archive containing the conference proceedings plus an explanatory message, rather than just being returned with the standard 'page not found' error.

Don't forget that other sites may have linked to the site you are decommissioning, so try and notify editors of sites linking to you of any changes.