SPT Web redesign


Building on 6 years of service

We’re very proud of our close working relationship with the Institute of Physics, to whom we’ve been providing design and development, strategic consultancy and R&D services since 2008. Much of our work for the IoP has been focused around their Supporting Physics Teaching (SPT) programme, which helps physics teachers across the UK improve their own knowledge and teaching practice. Over the years we have developed a large library of resources for SPT, covering over a dozen major topics. You can read more about them here.


Quality with constraints: a responsive re-skin

When Professor Ian Lawrence, one of masterminds behind SPT, approached us in late 2013 with a request to redesign the Supporting Physics web presence, he made one key proviso: that the design require ‘not much change to the html’ – a seemingly innocuous request that was to prove quite a challenge.

The IoP use a publishing system that creates both PDF and HTML files by compiling and re-interpreting text and markdown code in a pool of thousands of TeX file ‘nuggets’. Changes to the HTML structure of the pages would have to be kept to an absolute minimum to avoid having to edit and re-proof the IoP’s countless nugget source files. Furthermore the IoP wanted to target desktop and tablet devices and for the layouts to reflow in different device orientations.

The BC design and front end development teams analysed the Information Architecture and HTML structure of the existing SPT pages, along with their source TeX files, quickly identifying opportunities to improve navigation, legibility, overall usability and to generally enhance the user experience.

Once the new designs for the SPT pages and their family of content styles were approved, we re-skinned the existing web pages using CSS only, and then began carefully introducing a few key new elements, such as navigation menus. The BC development team painstaking tracked each change so that production scripts used to generated the HTML pages from TeX files could be updated accordingly with the minimum of confusion.

Two rounds of user testing and minor revisions ensued and then IoP’s TeX-factory began cranking out the hundreds of pages that make up the Supporting Physics Teaching online resources. The resulting site is due to go live in early Summer 2014.