Added Features

So I’ve been setting up things for the new Center for Innovative Design and Instruction website and in the process I’ve had the need to add a few new features to the website. A few of these I have wanted to do for a while just to allow you more customization to the pages and more flexibility for your needs. First of all are the new page options. These page options will hopefully allow you to make specific pages for marketing needs that you may have. I’ve seen for example sometimes you may need a page with just a Google Docs form on it or something, and often times with our normal page layout, with the left menu and left contact form and all that stuff, the page can get pretty cluttered. So I’ve given you the ability to remove page elements on a page-by-page basis.

The items you are remove from the normal page template are:

  • Main Navigation Bar
  • Footer Navigation
  • Left Blue Sidebar (This will also remove the menu and contact form)
  • Left Inquiry Form

You can use these as you see fit. You can create a dummy page and mess with these options to see how they work but just in-case the above isn’t obvious enough, I’ll just quickly go over them:

The main-navigation bar is the bar with the 5 buttons that says Prospective Students, Current Students, Degree Programs, Faculty Staff, Community Visitors. I could see you removing this if you are creating a special landing page of sorts where you might want to keep people on there or fill out a form. I could also see you using this for those of you who have a Business Resource Center. You could keep your BRC navigation on the left, and remove the top navigation so people don’t get confused about which navigation is the correct one to use. This essentially allows you to make a “micro” site where your “main-nav” can be the left navigation because the top bar navigation would be gone.

The footer navigation bar is pretty much the same however, this doesn’t remove the blue footer, it only removes all of the links. I could see you using this for the same reason you might remove the main-navigation.

Removing the left blue sidebar allows you to essentially create your content the full width of the page. This could be used for landing page purposes in combination with removing the main navigation and footer navigation. You might want to use this format depending on your page content, etc. I used this for a search results page on the new CIDI site. I will eventually get you guys a site search thing too, but for now it’s not there.

I added the ability to remove the left inquiry form because I know sometimes you have a page where you might already have a request for information form. Having both forms can get confusing so I added the ability to remove it from a page so you don’t confuse users.

Menu Images

The other feature that I put back into the CMS is the ability to add images in lieu of text for the menus. This was in the older version of the CMS, and I simply put it back. You can see a reason you might want to do this on the main distance site in the prospective students section. I took it away because it was getting a little out of hand, but I added it back now that all of the images have been removed. Please use this feature sparingly as text is usually better than an image. I am only using it in this one section to better publicize the new transfer tool. I’ll probably switch it back to text after a while.

In order to do this simply put in a image tag where the text would go for a menu item. An image tag should be as follows: <img src=”link-to-image.ext” alt=”Link Text” />  Please remember to add the alt text so that way people who don’t have images will get the appropriate link text. Make the alt text whatever you would put in there for link text if there was no image.

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Frequently Asked Question

I have made some changes to the Frequently Asked Questions portion of our CMS to hopefully aid in the usability of this feature. Basically the FAQ is now able to be organized by topic and it is also searchable by students. When I say it is now able to do these things, I mean it will be in a few weeks. It is currently set up on the main distance site at distance.usu.edu/faq/. The FAQ only has a few questions in it currently, but over the next few weeks we are going to populate the FAQ with questions we have received from our Request for Information form requests and Live Chat requests.

The FAQ feature will be then placed on all of the websites, in the [location.usu.edu/faq/] page as it is on the distance site. Any FAQs that you make on your site will be searchable in the FAQ as well as questions from the main campus FAQ. Any questions that we create here that apply to all students at all campuses will be marked as such and searchable in your FAQ pages. Any questions that apply only to students here on the Logan campus, will not be searchable on your sites FAQ. We are going to be reviewing questions on your FAQs, if you have them, and if they apply to all students we will remove them from your FAQ and add them to the global FAQ list to be indexed and searchable by all campus sites.

If you have a FAQ already, no real action is necessary at this time. The only thing that will need to be done is to add categories to your FAQ items. Currently all of your FAQs have been placed in a General category. You can get as granular as you like with the categories, but placing them in categories will help people search through them better. Please let me know if you have any questions. If you do not build any faq questions, your FAQ will simply contain all of the global FAQ items that we come up with. If you would like to submit questions to the FAQ, please email me with common questions that you get from students.

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.

Special Code References

So we have some special functions that I just want to put in a single list for reference. This list may grow as we add more, but for now here they are.

Embedding Forms : ||form(12)||

The form embedding is for any forms created with the CMS. The form number can be take from the URL when you are editing the forms. The forms can be embedded before or after any other text.

Embedding FAQ : ||faq||

Embedding the FAQ on a page is simple too. You must have a FAQ created before you can embed one obviously. The FAQ will be essentially a title for each question and the users can click each question to view the answer.

Embedding Directory : ||directory||

Embedding the directory on a page is simple too. You must have a directory created before you can embed one obviously. The directory will automatically add a sorting feature so users can sort based on the different personnel categories.

Redirecting Users : ||location(http://URL.com)||

If you’ve ever wanted to create a simple URL to redirect users to another location, such as a Google.doc, departmental page, etc. you have the ability to do so. Simple type in ||location(http://%5Byour URL here])||. You must make sure that the WYSIWYG editor does not make the text a link or it will not work. If the link looks click-able in the editor then you did it wrong. Click on the link text and then click the broken chain button to remove the link but leave the text. This can be done on any page of the website aside from news and/or calendar items.

FAQ/Directory

I added the FAQ and Directory to the CMS as well recently. These are pretty straight forward ports from the old CMS to the new and there aren’t any changes. The only thing you need to know how to do is embed them in the site. I made that sick easy as well. ||faq|| and ||directory|| will display each respectively. If you have any issues please let me know, but I think all the kinks are worked out. If you had a FAQ or a Directory I already went ahead and made the change for you, so no worries there. Just for future reference.

CMS Forms

So I’ve finished up some coding this week and I am going to write a few posts just covering those items and some other requests that I have come across so they are written down for reference. The form builder has been ported over to the new CMS. It works about the same. I removed a few things you may not even notice though. One thing I removed was the option to create a numeric text field. I thought this was silly, so there is just the options for normal text field (short) and longer text area.

You can retrieve the form data on the same page. Just scroll to the bottom of the form and click on the “View Form Data” if there is any data that is. It will then output the data on the screen and you can download it in an excel file if you wish as well as clear the form.

In order to embed the form on a page just type in ||form(#)|| where the # is the number of the form. The number of the form can be easily found in the URL on the form builder page. Just look at the URL and it will be the number found at the end of the URL.

Other Options

Honestly our form builder is pretty bad. It’s limited in the way it can display the data to the user as well as the data that comes back in the database. I would HIGHLY suggest you use Google Docs to build your forms and then embed on the web pages. Honestly no one will know the difference. If you use one of the simpler themes, they go relatively well with our website too. To embed a form on the site, you need to get the code from the Google Doc. When you are logged into Google Docs and viewing the spreadsheet version of the form, click on Form->Embed for in a webpage. A pop-up will come up and you can copy and paste the code it gives your straight into our page editors when looking at them in HTML view. The only thing you will need to change in the code is to change the width to 700 and the height to 800. That is about the sweet spot that I have found.

Google does a better job at outputting the data and giving you charts and graphs to view the data. I don’t have any desire to duplicate something Google has built so I suggest you use that when you can. If you need any help embedding forms, just let me know and I can help out. Again, please use a simple theme, no need to get cute with a form.

 

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.

CMS Backend (part 2)

Today was a busy day. I pushed out a lot of code and as I did so, I realized this thing needed to be different, that thing needed to be changed, etc. The CMS backend is basically 99% functional at this point. The only thing I am holding off on allowing access to is editing page URLs once they are created. The reason is I really can’t do that until all content is saved in our database and I make some other front-end changes after that. However, everything else should be working. There was a small option I had to add for pages dealing with embedding ColdFusion code.

Embedded Forms, Directories, etc.

Some pages on the website have code something like #REQUEST.sitefeature….#. If you have any code like that on a page, you must check the little box that says “has CF code.” What this will do is put a <cfoutput> tag around your entire content box. There are some caveats with this, but the only one you will probably run across is that if you need to use the # symbol. If you have that box checked and you need to use the # symbol, simply put two of them. That might sound strange, but it’s the way it is at the moment. We don’t use the sitefeatures on many pages, so you probably won’t ever come across this issue. Basically if you check the “has CF code” box, and view the page and something is broken, you might need to email me to ask me what needs to be done.

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New CMS Backend

So…. the CMS backend has moved to the new application that is going to house all of our applications. There are some features that are currently not working, mainly on purpose because I am doing some big changes behinds the scenes in order to move ALL of our content into our database. I could go into details about how our current system works that makes it limiting, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, our content currently is located on physical files, not backed-up, rather than in a database. Over the next few weeks we will be migrating the websites into our database… well, you will and I’ll explain how.

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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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