Category: General Web

Page or Site Redirects

Redirects are important when webpage URLs change on your website. There are many reasons why this could happen:

  1. your site’s root folder name may need to change because your department is going through a name change
  2. you may change the name of a folder or subfolder
  3. you may move a page, folder, or file
  4. you may delete a page, folder, or file

When any of these actions occur, it is important that a proper redirect is put into place. This ensures that the old URL continues to work for any users who find it or have it saved.

Redirects help preserve the search engine rankings that you have built up over time and shows search engines that you responsibly manage your website. A failure to place or request proper redirects can leave your users frustrated with 404 errors and can cause your search engine rankings to plummet, making it harder to find your website moving forward.

Placing or Requesting Redirects

If your website is in OU Campus, the UMC web team will manage redirects for you. All we need are two pieces of information:

  1. the old URL(s) (e.g.: https://www.mtu.edu/umc/services/web/)
  2. the new URL(s) (e.g.: https://www.mtu.edu/umc/services/digital/)

If you are deleting content, you may not have a new URL. However, we can still redirect that content to something relevant (at a minimum, your homepage).

Email cmshelp@mtu.edu with the redirect information and we will place your redirects for you.

If your website is not in OU Campus, you may still be able to request a redirect through Central IT. Email your website, old URL, and now URL to ithelp@mtu.edu and they will let you know what they are able to do.

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Proper Content and Page Structure

The following tips are meant to help CMS liaisons with day-to-day maintenance of basic content on their websites.

Paste as Text

If you paste content from a document or email into OU Campus, you will likely get a bunch of bad code added behind the scenes that will effect how your webpage will look at function. To avoid issues, try clicking the “Paste as Text” button before pasting your content or use the Ctrl + Shift + V key combination.

Paste as Text shortcut
Paste as Text shortcut

The negative to pasting as text is that you will have to do some formatting manually (adding bold, adding links, etc). However, this will ensure that your website meets brand standards and works correctly on all devices.

Headings

It is important to use proper HTML headings instead of bold paragraphs or single lines of text. To apply a heading style to a line of text, put your cursor inside of the line of text and then select a heading level from the left-most dropdown menu in OU Campus. The same method working in other online applications, such as Google Docs.

Heading Order

Headings must follow a logical order to be compliant with web accessibility requirements. Your page’s title is automatically the H1 of the webpage. Any headings that you use should begin with H2. If you “nest” headings—in other words if you have a subheading of a heading—you should not skip heading levels. If you have an H2 and you want to follow it with with a subheading, use an H3. If you follow that with a subheading of “equal weight”—use an H3 again. A subhead of a subhead would be an H4. Once you are done with subheadings, you can return to the H2 level. For example:


Heading 2 Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam aliquam lorem dignissim, ultricies lacus quis, venenatis lacus. Suspendisse vitae malesuada velit, ut ullamcorper sem. Sed ut dignissim tortor. Nullam eu lectus sapien. Cras at nulla nec nisl posuere elementum. Nam mi nibh, consequat vitae placerat non, blandit id est. Maecenas vitae massa et enim rhoncus pellentesque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Heading 3 Subheading Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam aliquam lorem dignissim, ultricies lacus quis, venenatis lacus. Suspendisse vitae malesuada velit, ut ullamcorper sem. Sed ut dignissim tortor. Nullam eu lectus sapien. Cras at nulla nec nisl posuere elementum. Nam mi nibh, consequat vitae placerat non, blandit id est. Maecenas vitae massa et enim rhoncus pellentesque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Heading 3 Subheading Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam aliquam lorem dignissim, ultricies lacus quis, venenatis lacus. Suspendisse vitae malesuada velit, ut ullamcorper sem. Sed ut dignissim tortor. Nullam eu lectus sapien. Cras at nulla nec nisl posuere elementum. Nam mi nibh, consequat vitae placerat non, blandit id est. Maecenas vitae massa et enim rhoncus pellentesque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Heading 4 Subheading Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam aliquam lorem dignissim, ultricies lacus quis, venenatis lacus. Suspendisse vitae malesuada velit, ut ullamcorper sem. Sed ut dignissim tortor. Nullam eu lectus sapien. Cras at nulla nec nisl posuere elementum. Nam mi nibh, consequat vitae placerat non, blandit id est. Maecenas vitae massa et enim rhoncus pellentesque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Heading 2 Subheading Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam aliquam lorem dignissim, ultricies lacus quis, venenatis lacus. Suspendisse vitae malesuada velit, ut ullamcorper sem. Sed ut dignissim tortor. Nullam eu lectus sapien. Cras at nulla nec nisl posuere elementum. Nam mi nibh, consequat vitae placerat non, blandit id est. Maecenas vitae massa et enim rhoncus pellentesque. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.


You should not use headings to achieve visual-only results. For instance, if you have an announcement that you want to stand out, but which is not a heading for the content afterward—you should not use a heading. Always think of screen reader users when you are adding headings to your webpage.

Headings Inside of Right Sidebars and Sliders

When using a right sidebar or slider, please consider the title of the sidebar or slider to be an H2. Any headings that you add should begin with the H3 heading, because any content added would be considered a subheading of the title of the sidebar or slider.

Ordered / Unordered /Bulleted Lists

If you want to list items or links, with or without numbers, please use an unordered or ordered list. This helps screen readers used by those with disabilities and helps search engines understand your content. When creating an unordered or numbered list, you do not need to also include paragraph tags.

Correct Code

<ul class="none">
     <li>Bullet 1</li>
     <li>Bullet 2</li>
     <li>Bullet 3</li>
</ul>

Incorrect Code

<ul class="none">
     <li><p>Bullet 1</p></li>
     <li><p>Bullet 2</p></li>
     <li><p>Bullet 3</p></li>
</ul>

If you do not want to use bullets, you can add a class of “none” to your unordered list.

Correct Code

<ul class="none">
     <li>Shortcut/Link 1</li>
     <li>Shortcut/Link 2</li>
     <li>Shortcut/Link 3</li>
</ul>

Incorrect Code

<p>Shortcut/Link 1</p>
<p>Shortcut/Link 2</p>
<p>Shortcut/Link 3</p>

Use of ALL CAPS

We have systematically removed the use of ALL CAPS from our web design due to growing concerns that it is difficult to read. Please keep this in mind as you create headings on your websites. If you must use ALL CAPS, please do so sparingly.

Replace & with “and”

Do not use ampersands where they are not appropriate—spell out the word ‘and’ instead. This includes in headings, titles, and sentences. The official name of most departments and buildings do not include an ampersand. In addition to improving readability and professionalism, avoiding using “&” will also ensure that your webpage content is compatible with other technologies.

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Writing Good ALT Tags

ALT tags (also known as Image Descriptions) are a very important feature involving all images on any given website. Moz does a good job of explaining what ALT tags are. Please take a moment to read up on what ALT tags are and why they are important. Moz also provides some tips for how to write good ones.

There are many uses for ALT tags. The most well-known ones are:

  1. Screen readers will speak the ALT tag of an image for users who cannot see
  2. If an image cannot be loaded due to some sort of network or IT error, the ALT tag will display instead
  3. ALT tags boost search engine rankings and can help your website’s images display in Google search results

Guidelines

We need to write meaningful Image Descriptions for any images that we put on our websites at Michigan Tech. Not only is it a legal requirement, but it is also the right thing to do. When writing ALT tags, please keep these guidelines in mind (borrowed from WebAIM):

  • Be accurate and equivalent in presenting the same content and function of the image.
  • Be succinct. This means the correct content (if there is content) and function (if there is a function) of the image should be presented as succinctly as is appropriate. Typically no more than a few words are necessary, though rarely a short sentence or two may be appropriate.
  • DO NOT use the phrases “image of …” or “graphic of …” to describe the image. It usually apparent to the user that it is an image. And if the image is conveying content, it is typically not necessary that the user know that it is an image that is conveying the content, as opposed to text. If the fact that an image is a photograph or illustration, etc. is important content, it may be useful to include this in alternative text.

Other tips include:

  • A good rule of thumb is to keep ALT text between 5 and 15 words
  • Do not worry about keywords or SEO. Just focus on describing what is in the photo. SEO should be considered a side benefit and not the goal for writing good ALTs.

Examples

Here are some good examples of Image Descriptions. Note the concept and/or function in each:

  1. Graduate student taking notes during a class lecture.
  2. Facilities Management staff member leading a safety inspection.
  3. Chemistry students in lab safety gear, testing vials of liquid.
  4. Aerial view of Michigan Tech’s campus.

Notes: In example #1, if it isn’t important that the student is a graduate student, you could simply say ‘Student’. For #2, if the user is already on the Facilities Management website, you could simply say “Staff member”. Same with #3; you could simply say “Students”. In #4, if it was important to mention that the campus was snowy in the photo (for instance if the website was about winter in the Keweenaw, you would say “Aerail view of Michigan Tech’s campus on a snowy winter day”.

CMS Use

In Michigan Tech’s OU Campus CMS, there are a couple places you may come across the need for Image Descriptions. The first is the “Description” field when you are inserting an image onto your page or in a snippet. The second is in the “Image Description” field of the MultiEdit Content screen for both pages and personnel items.

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Google My Business

A free service called Google My Business lets small businesses update their search engine listing. This is particularly useful for Michigan Tech departments who focus on sales, who run promotions, who have distinct hours of operations, and/or which attract and serve tourists.

Customizable Content

Google My Business lets you customize various aspects of your business information in Google search results, including:

  • Address
  • Hours of Operation, including special hours for holidays
  • Phone number(s)
  • Photos of your business (inside and outside)
  • Promotions/Sales
  • Website

You are able to make edits online and through the My Business app. Edits are fast and easy. Customized content shows up in the right sidebar of desktop Google search results. Results show towards the top of mobile Google search results.

Google My Business search results
Google My Business search results

Who Can Make Edits?

In order to make edits, you must either claim your business through Google or receive Admin access from the entity who has claimed your business for you. University Marketing and Communications has been strategically claiming businesses to protect them and to be able to share them with the appropriate managers across campus. If you would like access to your business through UMC, please email webmaster@mtu.edu.

Once you have access, you can log in online and review your business’s profile to make edits. If you have any questions about using the interface, please email webmaster@mtu.edu and we can set up some time to assist you.

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New Headers and Footers

Today we’re launching our new headers and footers. For many years now, we’ve offered our headers and footers as iframe codes, which worked well, until our new template came along in 2016. The new brand brought in different dimensions, styling, and navigation. This caused us a bit of trouble as the new dimensions and functionality would not work with the iframe setup found across various Tech-associated properties. This led us to seek out a new, long-term approach for headers.

Problem

Iframes are an easy way to embed pieces of content from other websites. However, they are limited in their integration with subpages. Our main issue dealt with height: all iframes were locked at 100px high. Whereas the new header changes in height depending on navigation type, and if the header is loaded on a mobile device. The same issues were found on the footer as well; the footer iframes simply can’t show enough detail, leading to contact information and other relevant links being cut off.

Solution

Use JavaScript! The new headers and footers are built with JavaScript which solves the issues mentioned above. The new headers allow you to have our horizontal navigation found throughout Tech’s site; you can pull in navigation from the CMS or build your own. Customize the navigation font size, the header type (same as before: mini, logo-only, full), custom search location, and to follow Tech’s main template: fixed header to stick to the top. Footers ship with the default contact information for the university, but information from a CMS site or custom contact information can be fed in.

Get Your New Header/Footer

Integration

Set up your new header or footer starting here. Then, copy the HTML/JavaScript snippet into where the banner(s) should show on your page. If you used our iframes in the past, you can just replace the iframes with your new snippets. And that’s it! Nothing difficult, but now you have a header or footer that follows the same style and technical build of the CMS banners. If you have any questions, please feel free to email cmshelp@mtu.edu.

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Website and Content Backups

There has been some confusion over what our CMS does and does not back up as a part of its revision process, so the purpose of this blog post is to clarify things. This information is accurate for both Percussion Rhythmyx and OU Campus.

Content Backups

Enterprise Content Management Systems store pieces of content. You have a Generic Page which stores the meat of your webpage’s content. However, there is more. Think of a sidebars and sliders (Highlights). Images. And navigation—made up of Navons. There are also Files. Maybe some Script items or Personnel Information items. All told, any given webpage is made up of 50-100 total individual items.

Any CMS does a good job of keeping track of revisions for these items. Each revision is basically a backup of that individual piece of content. As long as an item is not deleted (purged), we will have a history for that item. If the item is deleted, then its revision history is also deleted.

Webpage Backups

Enterprise Content Management Systems do not store webpage backups. If you want to see what a webpage looked like on January 12, 2012, you won’t be able to in an easy manner. That is because you would have to comb through the multiple individual content items that make up that particular webpage. What’s more is that you won’t be able to determine if any content items were deleted between January 12, 2012 and today. So, even if you combed through all the related content items that comprise a webpage, you still may not have an accurate picture of what it looked like on a specific date in the past.

Information Services provides short term webpage backups—typically 30 days—to guard against losing content in the event of server failure or other technical issues. This does not help with long-term history of your website, however.

Alternatives

Over the past ten years of using a CMS, we have found that it is very rare to need to reference a specific webpage backup from more than a week or two in the past. The web is constantly evolving and websites are meant to be living documents that change frequently. Clients who house important records on their website—such as the Registrar—develop internal processes to back up and keep records outside of their website.

The free online service Internet Archive: Wayback Machine is a great tool for looking at the history of webpages. It crawls various webpages across the Internet and takes and stores snapshots. It is limited in that it does not take snapshots daily or sometimes even monthly. It is a great place to start, though, if you need to find a general history of a particular webpage.

If you are concerned about backing up your web content for internal or even legal reasons, such as your policies and procedures or course requirements—and you do not have an internal process already in place—we recommend subscribing to a paid service that will automatically create webpage snapshots for you. The Internet Archive and other vendors have subscription services with different features and price points. If you are interested in subscribing to a paid backup service, contact cmshelp@mtu.edu and we can discuss your needs and budget.

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