New Template Advantages

There are a number of advantages to the new CMS Templates that we are offering beginning on August 1st. They include:

  • a wider webpage width that is more inline with industry standards
  • a drastically improved design with areas for more visuals and multimedia
  • a responsive template that fits all devices from wide-screen TVs and desktop monitors to smartphones and tablets
  • a larger font for easier reading
  • Schema.org data tagging to increase search engine optimization
  • new tags to make webpages ready for social media sharing
  • added accessibility code to achieve WCAG 2.0 AA and AAA conformance
  • horizontal navigation

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Creating a Social Media Content Calendar

“What should I post on social media?” It’s one of the most common questions the social media team at Michigan Technological University hears. Most folks understand a stagnant social media page isn’t favorable, so most people are anxious to regularly produce compelling content that will engage their audience. Here are some things to consider when planning content for your Michigan Tech-affiliated social media pages:

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Promoting Your Michigan Tech Event

You’re working hard to plan an event at Michigan Technological University. Now all you need is people to show up. How do you make that happen? Pro tip: it takes more than a Facebook event page. Here’s a few nitty-gritty event promotion tips for our Michigan Tech campus community:

Begin Promotion About Two Weeks Out

This means your assets, like designed posters, should be completed two (or more) weeks before the event. Of course the bigger the event, the more lead time required.

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External Links and Beware of the ‘Link Trolls’

As a web manager, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to keep your content “fresh” and accurate. It is a lot of work when you have 50+ webpages to manage along with various other job responsibilities. Making CMS updates typically falls under “and other duties assigned”—making things particularly difficult.

The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of External Linking

We link to a lot of external websites—ones that Michigan Tech does not own or control. We link to resources about the local community and lodging, responsible research practices, and the products that our university uses. We link to information about disabilities. To our corporate partners’ websites. To sponsors, writing tips, and career advice.

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Flexibility/Usability Tradeoff

As the flexibility of a system increases, its usability decreases. It sounds simple, but yet is so difficult to understand. Intel has a couple nice examples of this. Flexibility has costs. I would argue this holds true in general, but for now let’s focus on the web.

Making it ‘Foolproof’

Murphy’s Law claims, in part, that “nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.” In basic terms, you cannot plan for everything. Rather, you should design and code for the critical mass of users needed to make your website successful. When you go overboard on flexibility, you decrease efficiency, added complexity, increase time, and spend more money for development. You may deliver a user experience that is worst than what you started with.

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Why We Are Going Responsive

When universities or corporations redesign their website, the trend is to ‘go responsive.’ There are a few important reasons, beyond being trendy:

  • Mobile usage is exploding: More than 33% of our web traffic is on a mobile device and that percentage increases every few months. Our Athletics website has already seen “the flip” where more of their traffic is via mobile than any other platform.
  • Consistent user experience: if your customer is used to your desktop website, they should have a similar experience on a tablet or mobile phone. This is ensured by serving them a responsive website that adapts to their screen size. We believe in serving the same content, regardless of the screen size. Smartphones are fully capable of displaying all of the content that a desktop machine can.
  • It is recommended by Google: Google will boost your search engine rankings if a user is searching on a mobile device and your website is ‘mobile friendly.’ Although Google also values a separate version of your website as being ‘mobile friendly’, they recommend that your website be responsive.
  • Cost effectiveness: in the long run, it is easier to make your website responsive than it is to maintain two or more separate versions of your website. With multiple website copies, it is easy to be lazy and develop for ‘desktop only’ and then have to redevelop for the other screen sizes. A responsive website puts the focus on all screen sizes and one code base.

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Navigation Benchmarking

Our websites will be upgraded in August as a part of our ongoing brand initiative. We will no longer use a left navigation structure as the only choice for our websites. Beginning August 1st, top navigation will be the default CMS option and will be supplemented by left navigation on internal pages that require it.

Although there are numerous advantages to this approach, our decision was supplemented by reviewing 125 universities classified as division one institutions. Our goal was to determine what type of navigation structure was common in higher education. We reviewed the main homepage, alumni association homepage, and one internal academic webpage from each university.

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Image Carousels are Dead

Why do people always ask for image carousels, especially on their homepage? Ok, I understand that sometimes it is politics. “I can’t feature just one topic on my department’s homepage. Can we add seven images, so no one is mad?” Sometimes it is because novices thinks that it “looks cool.” Sometimes people see it on one website and think they should copy the effect. None of these are good reasons for an image carousel, though. Continue reading