Category Archives: Websites

The Magic Bullet

We have added a new feature to the websites that I will need your help with going forward. We have added a marketing tool to all pages that are primarily used by prospective students. This has to be added by me from here, but I went through all the websites and tried to get all the prospective students pages, tuition pages, advising pages etc. However when you create any new pages that are primarily used by prospective students, it would be a good idea to add this tool to those pages as well.

What I want from the webmasters, is to take that into account when creating new pages and let me know if you think the page you are making is primarily marketing driven, is for prospective students, etc. Any pages like that I need to know about so that I can use this tool on those as well.

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The Anatomy of a Search Result

So I have added some page options to better help us with Search Engine Optimization. These new page options will also help your sites with social sharing and just good web practices in general. Essentially up till now, we have left sites like Google and Facebook in the dark as to what our pages are about. They make their best guess and move on. However there is a better way. For each page on the website now you can customize four things. These four things are:

  • Meta Title
  • Meta Description
  • Meta Image
  • Meta Keywords

Two of them are crucially important and two are less so. I’ll cover each of them so you know how they work. I ask that you set as a goal to update these four fields on each page of your website in the future. No need to rush out and get them done tomorrow. We haven’t done them in this long, it won’t hurt to wait any longer. I would just put it on the to-do list and work on it when you can. We “might” be doing these from here in the future as part of an overall SEO marketing strategy, but for now we are not.

example

Anatomy of SEO

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New Feed Limits

You can now control the number of items shown in your homepage feed. Most of the sites are not using Facebook in their feeds and 10 items is a bit much. Especially since the new items on there are sometimes 50-60 days old. Log into the CMS and on the site editor page you can change the number of the items to a lower number if you like. I find that 5 is a good number for most sites as far as date of items as well as page length. Play with it to find the number you like best depending on the frequency of news/spotlights/Facebook posts for you. Try not to go too short or too long though.

The feed generates itself every 30 minuets so the longest you would have to wait would be 30 minuets to see the change.

Mind the Media Manager

So I’ve finished the media manager. You actually have a lot of power at your finger tips too… I’ve given you the ability to upload new media, delete old media, rename old media, and replace old media with updated files. This gives you the ability to break things. I will try to add some more stuff to lock it down a bit more, but I don’t want to restrict your abilities too much, because I think the more freedom you have to do things, the easier time you will have. Here are a few things to keep in mind when managing your media.

  • Don’t delete an image or pdf unless you are sure you don’t need it. You can only see files in for your website, but just be sure you aren’t creating a dead link.
  • When replacing an old file with a new one, be sure it is the same file type. (pdf for pdf, xls for xls, etc.) You can change it afterwards, but this will help avoid problems.
  • When renaming a file be sure not to change the file type or remove it all together. If it doesn’t have an extension, it won’t work.
  • Images may be larger than they appear. Click on the image to see it full-size. Please don’t upload images that are huge in size. (visually/physically). If you need help saving a file to a smaller file size let me know. The easiest way in Photoshop is to go to File->Save for Web & Devices. At the top click on 4-Up. You will see four options with their associated sizes and quality. Pick the smallest size that still looks decent. I am thinking of showing file sizes in the media manager so we can all go through and do this. If a file is HUGE we should download it, save it for web, and replace the old one. Large images = long load times = hurts Google SEO rankings.
  • I would probably not delete ANY banner images. Even if the spotlight is over, you can still view past spotlights in which case the image would be missing.
  • In the future you will be able to use previously saved files for Banners. All in good time.

I would like everyone to do some house-keeping here as well. If there are files in here that are garbage… let’s get rid of them. I know I’ve recently added some workload to all of you, but there is no rush with getting the images cleaned up. Mainly I’d like to first focus on getting all of your pages saved in the database. Then you can work on getting these images cleaned up. Again… removing un-needed duplicates. At a later date I think we’ll worry about getting the file sizes shrunk down.

Degree Program Banners

I know the webmasters have been asking for this for a while… and they are almost done. You can see one of these banners right now as we are doing a push for the MSHR cohort that starts this Spring. The banner is posted on your websites as of right now. These banners, one for each degree, will be posted to SmugMug very very soon. Promise. On a side note, there are a total of three banners posted to your sites currently from our office, maybe four. If you NEED a spot, please let me know and I can take one down. All four are pretty important, but I understand if you need the space, so just email me.

I have a few tips for you as well. These deal with spotlights and the orientation.

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CMS Backend Changes

Currently I am in the process of moving our current CMS to the new application. There isn’t a ton of the CMS that will be changing, but there will be some added features that should make your life easier. In order to prepare you for these changes, I’d like to just cover the direction we are headed. The goal with these changes, as with many of the changes we are making in the applications we work with, is to provide a single place for all users to log in and do their work, in addition to provide added functionality and stability to the applications overall.

Page Editor

The new CMS will all be in one place. There are pros and cons to having in page editing in addition to a CMS back-end. However the manner in which the front-end page editing was done actually added work in the back-end and the only benefit was that it was easy to find the page you wanted to edit and you could sort of see what the page would actually look like. All content editing when we make the change will happen entirely from within the CMS back-end. News/Spotlights, Left Menus, Page Content, etc. From the page editor you will have a link to easily view the page on the website. What we will gain from the page editor being in the back-end is you will now be able to see ALL of the pages on your sites. Hopefully this will prompt you to remove some unused pages if there are any. The new page editor will allow you to create any URL want as well. You won’t be limited to just one folder deep, or asking me to make a folder for you. You can make your URLs whatever you want them to be. Also, all of our page content will be located in the database, which means when server upgrades happen or anything like that, no page content will be lost. Here is a screen shot of the development version of the new page editor.

Page Editor

CMS Page Editor

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Upcoming Website Additions

So I’d like to cover some of the changes that are coming soon so that everyone can include them in their own sites in the manner that they choose. I’ll be pasting in some code that you can copy and use for your pages as well as the current links for reference so you can see what they look like. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Please note none of these changes will work on your sites until I make these changes public as dependent files will not be available to style your pages.

You don’t have to use all of these elements, but I’ll list them all just so you will have reference.

Future Students Page

The development version of this page is currently located at: http://rcdedevb.usu.edu/contentchange/distance.usu.edu/prospective_students/

Menu Icons

In order to add the icons with text under them like I have them on the future student page, you will need to paste the following code into your html.

<div class=”futureHorizMenu HorizMenuShort”>
<a href=”http://rcdedevb.usu.edu/degree_programs/”&gt;
<img src=”http://rcdedevb.usu.edu/contentchange/assets/img/cap.png&#8221; alt=”Degrees &amp; Programs Link”><br>
<h3>Degrees &amp; <br>Programs</h3>
</a>
</div>

You would replace the text in the href=”[TEXT]” to be the link you want and replace the text in the src=”[TEXT]” to be the location of the image you want to use. Just a quick run down of what the code is doing. The outer DIV is the container of the image and text. The classes futureHorizMenu and HorizMenuShort defined its size, and how it interacts with the elements around it. Within that is an anchor link that wraps around an image and some text. The <br> element within the H3 element is no necessary for shorter pieces of text, but I wanted Degrees & Programs to be two lines. If you only want a single line of text, remove the <br> element. <br> stands for break and creates a link break. Continue reading

Viewing a Cached Copy of a Webpage with Google

Have you ever wanted to roll back the clock. Maybe to a time when you were younger, more fit, and had more energy. I know I have. Now Google can’t help you with that, but it can roll back the clock on the internet. Google automatically caches copies of each webpage it scrapes. It does this for many reasons that are unimportant to us, but it can be helpful to see how things were. The resulting view is not always perfect, but neither is time travel.

Step One: Search for Your Site

Simply go to google and search for your site. I am using Tooele as my example so I am searching for USU Tooele in my Google search. The website should be the top result. Hit the quite large double arrow to the right of the search result as shown here. Then click on “Cached”.

Step Two: You’re Done

And that’s pretty much it. You can now review the old links and add them back to your new homepage menu in case you forgot to do so. Who said time travel wasn’t possible?

How to Use the USU Template

You may or may not know but in order to facilitate university wide web design efforts, the USU web designer has provided a template that can be referenced in order to implement his design styles on our pages. It uses a method known as class declarations that you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll first quickly explain a bit about class declarations and how they are used and then show you how to use the USU template on your own content pages.

Classes & Styles

In the most basic sense, each piece of a webpage is made up of html elements. Paragraphs elements are assigned with the <p> tag, containers are assigned with the <div> and <span> tags, ordered lists are specified by the <ol> tag, un-ordered lists by the <ul> tag and so on and so forth. These elements are read by the browser and then displayed appropriately. These elements have some default styling defined by each browser and then can be overridden by using CSS style sheets.

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The Missing Link

It has been brought to my attention there are some common dead links on some of the sites. The most common one is the contact the webmaster link and the other that is missing on some sites is the contact us link. Both of these links are found in the footer of the websites on all pages at the bottom right corner. I think almost everyone does have the Contact Us link working, but I thought when I checked a while back some were not. I know a ton of sites, I dare to say all of them, have broken webmaster links.

This most likely stemmed from the way these were initially setup in the first place. I’ll explain where these two links are pointing to and how to fix them.

How to Tell Where The Links Point

If you hover over either link in most browsers (my example uses Firefox) you should see a tiny bit of text show up in the bottom left corner of your browser that shows the link location. You can see where these two links point to in the screen shots below:

Link

Contact Us

Webmaster

So the first link ends in a / which means it is looking for an index.cfm file in the contact directory. The Webmaster link is looking for a webmaster.cfm file in the contact directory. If you click on one of them and it doesn’t exist then you need to make the one that does not exist.

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