May 8

Students’ Union website features

I meant to do a Students’ Union website review for years. There is so much information on the website that it would take ages to write this post, so I’m just going to write about some of the features you can interact with. The only features I won’t talk about in depth are the administrative side of societies (as I am not an elected member, so I don’t have permissions) and events/calendar (as they seem to be mostly used by societies).

A fellow student mentioned frustrations at the site a couple of years ago. I felt the same at the time, though after spending a few hours navigating the website this week I actually think it’s really well put together. And it gets better year after year. I think there are some features that are incomplete, but I think it’s more to do with lack of usage by members rather than poor design.

I’d like to see more social areas. But I also understand there may not be a need for it. After all, the SU have a presence on most of the large social media platforms and the university’s digital tool kit is full of items that could be used for this purpose. I’d like to see areas where previous minutes of union council meetings are published, alongside a forum. I’d especially like to see a blog hub with competitions/incentives. I know I’m probably one of very few who would like to see this.

The website is powered by MSL, who work with loads of other SUs too. You can see the similarities if you look at the site maps of various SUs (eg. Brighton, Sussex, Chichester, Essex, Kent…). I recommend using the site maps as I find them easier to navigate then the numerous tabs and drop-downs.

Profile

When you edit your profile and you see the dozen options available you’ll probably think this website will be great for networking. Half of these features appear to be inactive, or unutilised.

  • Show full profile to friends working
  • Show full profile to public not working
  • List age in years working
  • Display birthday (will show year if age listed) working
  • Show course of study / Allow friends to find by course working / unsure if this is working, I need someone to tell me, there could potentially be a problem with this as I’m the only person doing my course
  • Show list of friends not working, but maybe I just don’t have friends(?)
  • List latest blog posts I don’t have blog permissions
  • List latest forum posts the forum has been deactivated, when it was active my posts weren’t shown
  • Show upcoming (public) calendar entries  unsure, though I haven’t added/joined entries
  • Show list of memberships / Allow friend to find by memberships working / unsure if this is working, I need someone to tell me
  • Show list of interests not working, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere I can add interests
  • Show photo galleries working
  • Show events I plan to attend not working, though there doesn’t seem to be an option to join events
  • Show events I attended not working, though there doesn’t seem to be an option to join events

Commenting on news stories and blogs

This is something I do often on the site, I’m not sure if anyone gets a notification when I do as the only person who ever responded was Shile. I also haven’t seen many people comment on news stories or blogs. The one person I remember is Parker in March. The news articles and blogs are archived quickly, so there may be people in the past who’ve commented more often – I have no way to see.

The news stories are available at brightonsu.com/news/ and all blogs are listed at brightonsu.com/blogs/blog/

Change It

This is another thing I do often on the site, and it’s frequently the reason I visit the site. Change It are the ideas students submit that get discussed in union council. You can vote up or down to give ideas priority in the union council meetings. If you look at the current ideas you can see that they are between four-five months old. I know some of the previous union councils have been below quorum so that might explain the age of the ideas. You can submit an idea through a handy Google form at brightonsu.com/changethings/changeitform/

Friends

I’ve sent 29 friends requests over the past year or so. They are still showing as pending. I am not sure people get notifications if they receive a request. Also, if anyone has ever added me I do not remember receiving a notification and my friends page has never changed. There are four friend finding options – the only one that works for me in typing in the name. I am able to find people on my course, but I’m the only one so I’m unsure if this feature works. If I try to search by any other course, nobody ever shows up.

Message Centre

The Message Centre is where you can email members in bulk, however you cannot seem to filter by individual societies (but I believe you can if you go in via the admin page). There is a list of individual recipients, I am unsure whether they are just society members, users with active accounts on the website or all students? The numbers are unclear so I wouldn’t be able to hazard a guest. You can also change your contact settings so all notifications from societies go to certain email addresses.

Societies

I love this part of the website. The society tab is full of information. You can search and join by looking at the A-Z. Once you join you go to your basket and complete the transaction (it’s free, but set up like an online store). You can see your memberships at brightonsu.com/memberships/ and your transaction history at brightonsu.com/shop/transaction/.

App

I know there has been talk about an app for years. When I worked with the Springboard team I spoke with a student who was researching the need for a SU app a couple of years ago. I think this could be great, I liked community.brighton.ac.uk (you can see old versions on wayback machine https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://community.brighton.ac.uk/) and I miss having a place like this for communicating with the wider university. I think that we have so many different ways to communicate that it’s hard to pick one to focus on, and the changing nature of technology means we are often experimenting with newer ways. If there was to be a SU app I’d love it if it could embed all the features I’ve discussed above and use of the events calendar.

Webhelp

This is a newer part of the website and I only noticed it a month ago (I think) but it may be a revitalised old area. Webhelp is brilliant. It is a feature our website has been needing for years!


Posted May 8, 2017 by Nina ☃ in category Tech

About the Author

PGCert Inclusive Arts student and administrative assistant.

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