To T4 or not to T4, that is the question 

As the Web Project progresses well into the build phase I thought this would be a good opportunity to check back over one of the biggest decisions made in the process so far; our choice of Content Management System (CMS).

The consideration to change CMS came following a technical workshop undertaken as part of the research phase run by Deeson, the digital agency who are working with us to help us deliver the website. Throughout the tender process Deeson showed confidence in challenging our thoughts and preconceptions. It was for this reason that we chose them as the agency to work on the project, and it proved worthwhile when they emerged from the technical workshop with the suggestion of reviewing our CMS.

The aim of the technical session that they ran was to assess the technology and systems we currently use for the website. Being the platform our website runs on, our CMS, TerminalFour (T4) was at the centre of their focus.

After digesting all of the information that was thrown at them, and after spending a day locked away in a room in South Tower, Deeson came back to us with a number of risks and concerns. These concluded with a number of recommendations, one of which was that we consider switching our CMS provider.

The three key concerns that were raised around continuing to use T4 were the way our site was set up/built, the customer service support offered and the platform’s functionality and stability. The build of the website is down to us; however, the customer service support and functionality are something T4 are responsible for.

Here is how they have been addressed:

Customer service

T4 have recently drastically increased the size of their client support team. This coupled with a new approach to account management from them has seen a vast improvement in customer service and subsequently our working relationship. Issues and queries are both resolved far quicker. We’ve also been working with them to develop and test new functionality.


The current university website runs on T4 version 7.4. This version has been superseded and is now a legacy system; the user interface is outdated and bugs/quirks are no longer addressed. It has however been replaced by a new shiny version 8.

Some of you may have had a glance at version 8 in a webinar ran last year (if you missed it you can find the recording on YouTube). The main difference for you is a new and improved user interface.

TerminalFour version 8 interface
The new interface in version 8

Key areas of the product have been reworked for example; an improved direct edit feature for easier editing, analytics integration and workflows for content governance.

TerminalFour version 8 Google Analytics dashboard
You’ll now be able to get Google Analytics stats from your content within T4

T4 have also changed the way they operate to work in short sprint cycles. A platform of this scope will be constantly evolving and it will have bugs. But for us their change of approach means more regular product updates, quicker bug fixes and a more stable platform.

Site set up

We have been testing T4 version 8 for a while to fully explore the platform. The most favourable approach would be to rebuild our website in a fresh blank installation. Starting with a clean slate is a much bigger job, however it will give us the benefits of:

  • negating any issues from upgrading
  • setting up the product how we’d like it
  • restructuring the site both externally on the site and internally with T4 based on the extensive research Rob has previously mentioned.

To sum up…

We’re happy that the concerns identified have been addressed. We’ve made the decision to rebuild the website in T4 version 8, a decision that has been ratified by the Web Project Advisory Board.

As a piece of software T4 provides us with a solid base for managing content. But how that takes its form on the public facing website…well that’s down to us. It’s how we build on top of it to develop the functionality we want for an amazing website and T4 gives us the platform to do this.

The crux of it is that a CMS is only one part of what makes a website tick. You can have the best CMS in the world, but it needs to be set up properly, governed consistently and users trained to an appropriate level otherwise it will fall apart.

This will be taken into account during the project, with a fully revamped training programme and a new content governance model. Details of this will be circulated in the coming weeks, watch this space…

What’s going on with social media?

We’re always talking about social media, regardless of whether you use it or not, it is always on the periphery. Recently, however, it has come to the very front of our attention. Between Facebook’s data issue, Snapchat’s controversial update and the emergence of a whole new channel, Vero, it seems that it is firmly in the limelight and is picking up pace. In the ever changing world of social media we’re seeing changes at a more intricate and detailed level.

So, what’s going on?

We’ll start with the most controversial one of all, shall we? The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal was a disaster that many people in the sector were waiting to happen. Facebook’s short sighted and lax approach with data has seen 87 million users have their data improperly shared with and used by a third party without their consent. Cambridge Analytica, a company focused on creating psychological profiles of voters to help its client to win elections, claims to purely be using the data for academic purposes, this is somewhat under question by the majority. Naturally, this has caused Facebook’s share value to plummet and has seen Mark Zukerberg become very publicly vocal about the direction of the company.

This all came at a very bad time for Facebook (if there ever is such a thing as a good time for a colossal data breach) as they have also recently addressed user complaints about their algorithms, breaking away from one that put focus on business accounts and refocusing on showing us content from our ‘Friends’. A strong move for Facebook to make but sadly it has been overshadowed by the breach. So, if you’re seeing more images of your Aunt Margaret’s beloved dog and less from Marks & Sparks, the algorithm is why.

From algorithms to updates

From one floundering channel to another; Snapchat has seen, what is arguably, its most challenging year to date. Since rising to the dizzying heights of nearly 200 million users at the end of 2017 Snapchat started falling short of the mark later in the year, stagnating on the stock market. To help address this issue Snapchat released an update which Snap Inc hoped would see the popularity of the app grow. Unfortunately it was gamble that didn’t pay off and resulted in a whopping $1.3 billion drop in their share value following a tweet from “the Queen of Snapchat”, Kylie Jenner, stating that she was “sooo over” the channel.

Since then there have been more dramas for the channel with Rhianna calling it out for allowing an ad trivialising domestic violence and Chrissy Teigen vocally jumping on the bandwagon leaving Snapchat town. It remains to be seen the long term effect that this will have on the channel; however, it seems that another update is being sent the users way. The response it will receive is hotly anticipated but ultimately the question remains; how many more high profile users will denounce the channel, and will the users follow?

From floundering to soaring

Right now, in the ever changing world social media where one foot wrong sends a channel into a freefall, Instagram seems to be a bit of a star student. Despite an algorithm change last year that took away chronological feeds and replaced them with feeds filled with content based on content it thinks the user wants to see, Instagram keeps going from strength to strength. Outstripping Twitter and Snapchat in terms of monthly users the introduction of (the very Snapchat like feature) ‘Stories’ on Instagram has done nothing but see the popularity of the channel grow. Even an issue with a racist gif on its newly released gif feature was just a flash in the pan of bad news with the feature being taken down almost instantaneously to fix the issue. Of course, it could be put down to the current focus being on other channels that this bit of negativity seems to have flown largely under the radar, but it could also be that Instagram is really targeting what social media audiences want. They have addressed the issue around the algorithm and are in part moving back towards a more chronological feed, a subtle yet effective change that is directly addressing what their audience is calling for. A shrewd move. What we shouldn’t forget at this point, however, is that Instagram is owned by Facebook, so any success Instagram has Facebook has too, and likewise any failings Facebook has should bring Instagram into equal question.

And a new social channel is born

Another slight blip in the world of Instagram came in the form a reasonably ‘new’ social channel: Vero. Dubbed as “the new Instagram” by many it promises social media users something that no other channel can currently promise: an algorithm-free newsfeed. Dubbed “True Social” it was created by Lebanese billionaire, Ayman Hariri, with the focus of becoming an ad free, connection focussed channel that would allow users to get see content they want from the people they want as opposed to what businesses pay for them to see. It is totally ad free and promises a chronological feed – something many social media users are crying out for. It has been around for a while but it recently picked up speed when a number of influential Instagram users announced that they were now using it.

The speed it picked up saw Vero face its first public issue: it crashed. It became so popular – seemingly overnight – that the app became unusable by many, resulting in a large flurry of disgruntled users. With overnight popularity comes the skeletons in the closets and very quickly Vero saw it’s ethics brought into question with some users calling out the all majority male task force (1 in 23 of the named team on their site is female and she features at the bottom of the page) and a quick Google of co-founder Ayman Hariri shows political ties and connections to a business that mistreated migrant workers. It seems that these skeletons may have had an effect on its audience because it seems that the Vero storm took place in a teacup.

In the ever evolving social media sphere this is a channel to watch and it will be very interesting to see if this fledgling channel will grow into something bigger.

And finally, Twitter

Interestingly, all is quiet on the Twitter front. Aside from #TwitterLockout which took place in February and was addressed instantly by Twitter referencing their terms of service as by way of explanation, Twitter hasn’t been in the news at all. Which given the disruption across the rest of the sector is a little surprising. It remains steadfast as a staple for instantaneous news for its users and remains reliable. They say no news is good news but in a market that is moving so quickly and constantly will no news see Twitter fade off? Unlikely. While ever the world looks for its daily fix of Cvofefe Twitter will carry on business as usual.

What to expect when you’re expecting…a new website

The redevelopment of the main website,, is well underway and we’re inching ever closer to the June launch date. While this is an incredibly exciting time there is still a lot of work to do before the launch and, unfortunately for us, it isn’t simply a case of flipping a switch and marveling at our handy-work. This is going to be the start of a continuous approach to managing and developing our web presence.

What should I expect to go live in June? What happens after the new website is live? Are you sorting out the site search issues?

If you’re asking these questions, read on!

What will be going live in June?

In June we are working to deliver the new website look and feel. This will incorporate the new brand and the assets that have been developed as part of this. Considering we have in the region of 12-15,000 (yes, that’s fifteen thousand…) pages of content to migrate we will be working in a very agile way. Obviously this doesn’t give us a lot of time, so what we won’t be able to do is rewrite and restructure the whole site by the launch day.

Homepage hero image including search
Example of homepage hero including the site search entry point

The priority for June is to migrate a significant proportion of the current content from our current website to our new website, translating this raw content into new components and top level structures. To do this we will be enlisting an ensemble of students to help migrate the content.

Throughout this process we will be using quality assurance processes to review and approve every page as the content gets migrated. So while the content will not have been rewritten, there will be a process by which we can catch any errors as we go.

While we’re pretty good at what we do, the sheer volume of pages that will go live in one day may result in some bugs here and there. To tackle this we have set up a reporting tool which will mean that all members of staff will be able to report bugs for us to fix. Details on this process will be made available around the launch date.

So what happens next? Content redevelopment!

Once the first phase of the website goes live (and we’ve had a quick weekend off – I’m sure we are going to need it!) we will move into a more intensive period of content redevelopment. Over the next 12-18 months a member of my team will be leading a round of successive projects to rewrite and restructure many areas by working with the teams and departments most relevant to each section.

University of Derby Online will be the first project we undertake as it will be technically complex due to the move from it’s existing platform on to TerminalFour.

Through this process we will be looking to re-identify the content owners for each of these areas and get commitment from these key TerminalFour users across the University to audit the pages to an agreed schedule. It’s no good having a shiny new website if the content on it is outdated, poorly written or factually incorrect. As an institution we are rightly accountable for the content on our domains and sub-domains, and we need to manage them with this in the front of our minds.

At this stage we do not have a specific schedule or fully prioritised list of the content review process, but we will be in touch with the relevant teams as we move through this. If you have any specific areas you would like to ensure are put into the schedule, please email

Say hello to our new site search (or ‘Insight Engine’) – Funnelback

Our existing site search solutions (there are two different solutions in place) are being retired in favour of something much more advance suitable for our business. The new site search functionality will enable us to do a whole host of cool things:

  • Categorise search results in as many ways as we want, using these categories within specific search results.
  • We can trigger custom results to be included if specific search terms are used. If a user searches for a course name, we can insert a custom result encouraging them to book an open day.
  • Create custom search entry points throughout the site, presetting certain filters/options that are more aligned with the context of the users search usage.
  • Search multiple search collections with just one search.
  • Complete customisation over weighting of results. For example we could look to increase the weighting of international-related search results to traffic browsing from outside the UK.
Visual of search results
How our new site search appliance might look.

While the system offers us a huge amount of customisation, it relies on a lot of work to maintain some of the more technical features so we will be rolling these out over an extended period of time.

So it really is exciting, but busy, times!

While there is still a huge mountain to climb over the next few months, it’s shaping up to be an amazing website that the whole University will benefit from. We’re excited, so we hope that you are too!