GO will be going this Summer, to be replaced by a new home for students and staff to access University systems and services and find information to support their studies or work. This series of blog posts will explain some of the changes that are coming…
GO has been Edge Hill’s staff and student portal for a long time: the current version can trace its routes back 10 years. In that time it’s had over 100 million views and used for a total of 290 years.
The initial launch of GO was the first time we had a single point of access to a range of services for students such as the VLE, email and module re-enrolments, plus links to support and information.
The platform introduced single sign on for many services meaning you could log in once and be signed into a range of systems without having to reenter usernames and passwords. Before GO users would often have to remember different passwords for each system.
While GO has served us well, we perhaps haven’t given it as much TLC as we would have liked over the last couple of years and it hasn’t kept up to date with the latest technology and ways people access services online.
While the main Edge Hill website has a responsive design – it adapts to show well on mobile phones and tablets as well as desktop computers – GO’s main interface does not which means a non-optimal experience for the fifth of users accessing from a phone. The main site sees over a third of visitors from a mobile device so there is potential for growth if we improve the user experience.
When GO launched there was a trend towards providing users with the ability to customise their user experience. We followed the example of sites like iGoogle and Netvibes in pulling in widgets from both our own services and third party sites and presenting them in a single dashboard. These could be added and removed, and the whole page customised to suit the user.
There were two main problems with this approach. Firstly, it is difficult for staff supporting students to know where to find information as it’s not necessarily in the same place, or may have been removed entirely. Secondly the adoption rate of customisation features was very low, and while it was welcomed by a small proportion of users, it didn’t garner enough use to justify significant further development.
Ten years is a long time in IT and a number of the underlying systems that power GO are a little long in the tooth and approaching the end of their life, with better alternatives available.
Next time we’ll be looking at some of the thinking behind the development our new student and staff homepages.