Many of us use the Extension website mostly or exclusively for adding and organizing content, so we don’t always know how our audiences use or experience the site. Google Analytics records some quantitative statistics such as the number of visits a page receives, but it’s hard to imagine the actual human beings behind the numbers. When you say that a page got 10,000 pageviews, all that you know is that the page was requested that many times. If you want to actually improve the content on the page, you need to ask more “qualitative” questions such as:

  • Did these visitors find the information they were looking for?
  • What did they do most often on the page? 
  • Were they able to understand the content?

This summer, EESC implemented a few new features on the Extension website that collect qualitative data and answer these kinds of questions.

Collecting audience feedback

The first feature is a “feedback widget” on the right-hand side of every page:

When a visitor clicks on the widget, a small window comes up asking them “Did you find what you were looking for?” They then score a page on a scale of 1-5 (represented by smiley faces). After they score the page, they have the opportunity to leave a comment and, optionally, their email address if they would like a response to the comment.

Another way we are collecting visitor feedback is a “poll” we have set up on all 4-H pages. We can set up similar polls on other pages, but we decided to focus on 4-H for the summer because we knew 4-H members would be using the site heavily for fair season.

This window, asking “Quick question: How can we improve this page? Is anything missing?”, pops up from the bottom of the page after a visitor has had a chance to look around for several seconds. When they comment, they also have the option to leave their email address if they would like a response.

Finally, at the bottom of most pages, visitors see a small form asking “Was this page helpful?” They can select “Yes” or “No” and have an option to leave a (non-public) comment.

So far, through all three tools, feedback has been left 10,126 times. Of these, 8,659 (~86%) were positive. Comments were left along with the rating 1,175 times.

Finding the feedback on your content

Content authors and group members can view feedback on their content directly through the Extension website.  

To view feedback (including comments) for an individual piece of content, go to the content and click the “Feedback” tab under the content’s title. It is near the “Edit” tab.

To see an overview of feedback scores for all content in a group, go to that group’s group content page (the list of content in the group). Then click the “Feedback” tab under the group name. This will take you to a list of all content with feedback in the group. To see the comments left for a particular piece of content, you can click on “Details” in it’s row on this page.

Seeing audience behavior

EESC also has access to a tool to create “heat maps” of individual pages. A heat map is an overlay over the page that shows where visitors to that page click (or just hover) their mouse. Where people click more often (or hover longer), the colored overlay is brighter. For example, here is part of a heat map of a previous version of the home page:

Heat maps are very useful for figuring out what controls on the page people use the most. When you know that, you can prioritize what controls or links should be in these more prominent spots. If you have made changes to a topic page, county page, or program subpage and want to see what people are clicking on or how far they scroll down the page, please contact us and we can work with you using this tool. 

Takeaways and lessons

EESC has been using data from visitor feedback to plan several improvements for the site, including:

  • Several users left comments to the effect that they couldn’t figure out phone/visiting situation with our Portland office, so we are planning to make some small design updates for that page that will make it clearer.
  • We noticed that several visitors who left a comment saying they were unable to submit an Ask an Expert question were all using a particular version of the Android operating system. This gave us a clue about where to start looking for glitches in the system.
  • We used heat maps to help with designs for several program landing pages and the website home page.

Feedback, particularly comments, can also be very useful to content authors. Many times a visitor will ask a follow-up question or request further information that maybe wasn’t originally included, and they can reveal places where the information isn’t clear or is outdated. It’s useful to look at the “feedback” tab when updating your content.

Here are some general tips for improving content based on common visitor feedback:

  • Use high-quality, illustrative images. Many users comment about the images (or lack thereof) that go with an article. Most are asking for images on articles that don’t have any, and others compliment the quality of our existing images.
  • Keep your writing as short and clear as possible. When giving positive feedback about our content, visitors often use words like “succinct”, “concise”, “brief”, “clear” and “quick”. These are qualities that leave a positive impression on readers and make the information easier to understand and use.
  • Put important links on the main page (i.e., not just the sidebar). From heat maps, we know that when visitors first come to a page, they often skip over the sidebar and focus on content on the “main” part of the page. This is especially true on mobile, where the sidebar gets pushed to the top of the page before visitors can get any context. Quick link bars are a great option for highlighting important links, such as links to newsletters, event lists, or active social media profiles.

Sample positive feedback

The Extension website has an overwhelmingly positive rating from visitors, and it is important that everyone who has contributed it hears it. In that spirit, here are just some of the supportive and positive comments left by visitors to the Extension website. You may also want to look at these as examples to get ideas for your own content:

  • 4-H forms and events
    • “I really appreciate the details you have put here for us to have access to on the weekends! Thank you for helping our kids!!” [State 4-H record books pagekudos to the state 4-H team!]
    • “Thank You So Much. We don’t have enough info about Record Books and this helps outs Tremendously!” [Benton County 4-H record books pagekudos to the Benton County 4-H team!]
    • “Great page and really like that you can share the link with others!” [Horse judging and hippology contestkudos to the Clackamas County 4-H team!]
  • Educational articles
    • “Wonderful article! I would love to learn more in a part 2. We just bought a home with highbush blueberries in poor condition and are wondering how to best reclaim these plants.” [How blueberry plants develop and growkudos to Bernadine Strik and the Ag/Berries content team!]
    • “Thanks. Your comments are greatly appreciated. They have given me a new perspective on how to deal with Powdery Mildew early in the season.” [How to deal with a vineyard powdery mildew outbreakkudos to Jay Pscheidt and the Ag/Wine grapes team!]
    • “Thank you very much for the information provided in this article. I am just thinking about pasture and have no experience. This is a great start for northern pasture growers and I hope it will be beneficial to my starting out.” [Pasture and grazing managementkudos to the Ag/Dairy team!]
    • “Lots of information and the pictures really helped thanks.” [What are those worms in my firewood?kudos to the Forestry and Natural Resources team!]
  • Educational collections
    • “Thank you so much for making this information available, and all the work that went into it! I appreciate it very much! And thank you also for making it affordable, this is a huge help to me. Have a great day!” [Native plant gardeningkudos to the Ag/Home Hort team!]
    • “Thank you for making so much of your information easily available! So grateful for it.” [Poultry resources for small farmskudos to the Small Farms team!]
  • Educational videos
    • “I like them. Easy to try out, and following the steps well.” [Basic steppingkudos to the Better Bones and Balance team!]
  • Events
    • “We love the OSU Extension Service. You have provided a wealth of information to us over the years and we are so thankful. You are always gracious and kind and willing to share your knowledge, expertise and tips! Way-to-go, Beavs!!” [Master Gardener Fall Festivalkudos to the Lane County team!]
    • “I am hoping I can go!!! I currently do my own chili meat but have not had any formal education in pressure canning meat. This looks great.” [Pressure canning convenience foods workshopkudos to the Deschutes County team!]
    • “All of the information that I needed was on this page. Great job!” [Thinning and Selective Management in Mature Forestskudos to the Clackamas County team!]
  • Focus areas
    • “Moving in the spring to Salem. Looking forward to starting a new garden. I’ll be back to this site… (and back, and back, and…)” [Community Horticulture, Marion Countykudos to the Marion County team!]
  • Program information
    • “Excellent lessons for seniors! I will use them in my Cooperative Extension Classes in NJ Thank you!” [FCE Lessons, health topicskudos to the Family and Community Educators team!]
    • “I’m new to Oregon and hungry for any information about my new home. I have always wanted to be a Master Gardener and am delighted to have the possibility to combine these two goals. Thank you very much!”’ [Linn/Benton MG, How to joinKudos to the Linn-Benton MG team!]
    • “Thank you! You took the frustration out of finding the info. This was one of the main reasons I wait until the last minute to fill out my forms – to avoid the hassle. Now, it seems it will be easy, so I can and will do it right away in the future!!” [Metro MG 2019 volunteer log sheetkudos to the Metro MG team!]

(Some comments have been edited for readability.)

1. Reuse events from last year

Events on the Extension website automatically disappear from lists and search results once the date has passed. However, the records still exist in the system, so if an event occurs annually, you can reuse the content from the previous year. This has several benefits:

  • You can save effort now by reusing work from last year. All you need to do is update the dates (and flyer if there is one).
  • Visitors who may have bookmarked last year’s event (or find it through Google) will see current information if they visit the page again.

Instructions:

  1. Go to the group content page for the group that you originally entered the event in.
  2. If you remember the title of the event, you can search for it. Otherwise, you can select “Event” in the “Type” filter above the list of content.
  3. Once you find the previous year’s event, click the “Edit” button next to it and update the dates. This will put it back in event lists and search results.

2. Store files in Box

Box is OSU’s file storage platform. Anyone with an ONID account can store unlimited files on Box and share them with other employees or the public. Box was created specifically for file management and has many useful features, including:

  • File versioning – if the document changes each year, you can easily replace the old file with the new one without changing the link.
  • Privacy settings – you can set files up so anyone (the public) can access them, only people who know a specific password, or only people with an ONID account

Instructions:

  • There is documentation about using Box on OSU’s Box page and our Website user guide.
  • Some tips for effectively setting up files in box:
    • To share a file or folder with the public, click “Share” next to it. Then, turn on the “Enable share link” toggle. It is very important that you set the dropdown below the share link to “Anyone with the link.” Otherwise people will need to log in with an ONID to see the file.
    • There is a link near the share link box for “Link options”. This is where you can set a password to protect the file or get the “direct download” link (which allows visitors to download the file directly without seeing it in Box first).
    • Be sure to set one of your coworkers as a co-owner or editor of the file, in case you leave or otherwise can no longer access it someday.
  • When you have the “share link” for the file, create a program resource and select “External website” as the resource type. This will give you a field to paste the link.

3. Break up long pages

If you have long pages that are difficult to scan, there are options to make it a little easier: page section settings and nested pages.

Page sections:

For most page sections, you can configure:

  • Background color (alternating background colors is a good way to break up the page)
  • List style (you can make lists more condensed by using a “Text list” style, which doesn’t display images with items in the list)
  • Section id (you can use section IDs to create a “table of contents” at the top of the page that links to sections further down)

Instructions:

  1. Edit the page
  2. At the top of where page sections are configured on the edit screen, there are two tabs: “Content” and “Settings”
  3. When you switch to the settings tab, you can configure options for each section

Nested pages:

One of the best ways to help a long page is to break it up into several shorter pages. Then, to prevent the sidebar from getting unwieldy, you can nest the new pages under the original, so they only appear in the sidebar when the parent is selected.

Instructions:

  1. Go to any program page that shows the sidebar and click the “Reorder Pages” button at the bottom.
  2. On the next screen, you can drag the pages into any order you want. To nest one page under another, drag it under and to the right. When you’re done, click “Save order”.

4. Look at peers for ideas

One of the best ways for you to get ideas for your own pages is to look at pages from programs similar to yours. Here are some programs that have been set up with some of the website’s new design features and serve as good examples:

5. Think about all your audiences

Programs produce content for many audiences, including:

  • Prospective members
  • Current members
  • Volunteers/leaders
  • Program faculty/staff

It is, in general, usually best to organize content according to audience, and depending on what audiences your program serves, we may recommend options outside of the Extension website for content (e.g. the Extension Employee Intranet or an OSU WordPress blog).

Another audience that all programs have but that often gets overlooked is the general public. There are many reasons why the public would be interested in content produced by a program, including:

  • They utilize the services provided by program volunteers (e.g. MG plant clinics)
  • They are affected by the program’s outcomes or impacts
  • They want to learn the information taught to program participants, but for whatever reason can’t participate themselves

However, visitors often perceive program pages as being only for active participants in a program. So, if you produce program-related content for the general public, make sure it can be found through topic and county pages, where the general public is more likely to look.

This spring, we launched a feature on the Extension website called “focus areas”. These allow counties to highlight the work they do around a particular topic or topics, and were intended to serve as a link for visitors between the statewide educational content on topic pages and locally relevant events and programming on county pages. Now that focus areas have been live for a few months, we took a look at analytics to see how effective they have been in meeting the goals we had for them.

Here are the basic stats for focus area pages, for the period of March 20, 2019 – August 7, 2019:

  • Pageviews: 3,655
  • Average time on page: 1 min. 17 sec.
  • % Entrances (views where it was the first page viewed on the site): 26.59%
  • % Exits (views where it was the last page viewed on the site): 28.78%
  • % New visitors: 61.53%

These stats (the low time on page, entrance, and exit rates) suggest that visitors are using focus area pages as a navigation tool on the way to the content they want to see. This is what we want to see. Additionally, the percentage of returning visitors to focus areas is significantly higher than for the site as a whole (38.47% vs. 13.12%). 

Here is a graph showing how visitors get to focus areas:

A majority (~57%) of visitors to focus areas click on focus areas from a county page. Of those, around 35% do so on the county’s landing page. The second most common way people get to focus areas is by searching on Google or another search engine, which makes up a majority of the “Entrances” in the graph above.

On focus area pages, counties can:

  • Select topics to direct visitors to and related experts to contact in their county. 
  • List programs and events offered in the county related to that topic. 
  • Highlight individual pieces of educational content that are especially relevant to their county, such as newsletters. 

Here is a graph describing where people go from focus areas:

We see that 37.86% of visitors find content of interest and click to it from the focus area – if this type of information has been featured. Watch or read how to do this in our Website User Guide.

Finally, here are the top 10 visited focus areas up to now:

  1. HAREC Plant Pathology Diagnostic Laboratory Services
  2. Douglas County Home Garden and Landscape
  3. Benton County Forestry and Natural Resources
  4. Douglas County Forestry and Natural Resources
  5. Deschutes County Home Garden and Landscape
  6. Lane County Home Garden and Landscape
  7. Washington County Home Garden and Landscape
  8. Lane County Forestry and Natural Resources
  9. NWREC Berry Crops
  10. Douglas County Livestock and Forages

Ideas for improving county focus areas

Here are some things you can do as a member of a county group to improve your county focus areas:

  • If you offer services at your office, make sure to add them to the website. Some of the more popular focus areas are those that give information about services for the public, such as laboratory services, pressure gage testing, and supplies for checkout.
  • Make sure to tag your county events with a topic. Events are displayed on focus areas based on the topic(s) they are tagged with. Analytics show that a lot of visitors to focus areas are interested in the events listed there.

EESC will also use this data to make design and functionality improvements for focus areas, which may potentially include making them more visible on topic landing pages or linking to them from content pages themselves.

Recent website updates

OSU recently updated the version of WordPress used for their blog platform. If you use an OSU WordPress site you will see some changes, including a new text editing interface called the Gutenberg Editor. Links to training instructions have been added to the OSU WordPress instructions. Please contact us if you need any help with the new editor, including turning it off.

This summer the OSU Extension website turned one! With one year of analytic data on how people are using the site, we have more insight into how the site is performing and how things have changed since launch.

Basic site stats

June 1, 2018 – June 1, 2019

  • Pageviews: 2,826,166 (up 107% from previous year)
  • Document downloads: 314,605
  • Average time on site: 1 min. 34 sec. (up 71% from the previous year)
  • Bounce rate: 66.77%

Content type stats

Content type Views/downloads/clicks Avg. time on page
News story 481,653 5 min. 53 sec.
Article 344,624 4 min. 39 sec.
Program landing page 312,666 1 min. 2 sec.
Program subpage 278,857 1 min. 46 sec.
County landing page 155,697 1 min. 51 sec.
Featured question 141,128 5 min. 18 sec.
Topic landing page 136,122 1 min.
Catalog publication 128,372 N/A
Event 112,987 2 min. 21 sec.
Program resource 111,952 N/A
Collection 54,827 1 min. 38 sec.
Focus area/county subpage 38,953 1 min. 11 sec.
Online resource 36,396 N/A
Announcement 21,679 1 min. 33 sec.
Educational document 20,107 N/A
Social media link 19,308 N/A
Newsletter 16,854 1 min. 59 sec.
Newsletter issue 14,922 1 min. 16 sec.
Project 7,850 3 min. 3 sec.
Video 4,721 2 min. 22 sec.
Project subpage 562 1 min. 21 sec.

Top 10 visited pages

  1. Small Farms landing page (75,663)
  2. Home page (75,159)
  3. Are there male and female peppers? (61,318)
  4. Don’t be timid when pruning grapes (33,179)
  5. Programs list (28,647)
  6. What are short day and long day plants? (25,163)
  7. Monthly garden calendars (23,910)
  8. Locations list (23,665)
  9. State Master Gardener landing page (23,315)
  10. Gardening topic landing page (22,952)

How visitors get to the site

  • Search (e.g. Google): 839,379
  • Social media: 68,809
  • Links from other sites: 56,815
  • Other (email links, bookmarks, typing URL from printed material, etc.): 173,528

Top search terms

What people search for once on the Extension site:

  1. 4-H or 4H: 832
  2. Soil testing or soil test: 719
  3. Compost tea or compost tea brewer: 673
  4. Horse: 384
  5. Jobs: 345
  6. Master Gardener: 330
  7. Canning: 297
  8. Forms: 275
  9. Calendar: 262
  10. Blueberries: 230

What people put into search engines (e.g. Google) to arrive on the Extension site:

  1. OSU extension service (or similar): 1,195
  2. [county or city] extension: 944
  3. Feeding bees dried sugar: 212
  4. Maggots in compost: 131
  5. What do quail eat: 107
  6. Pruning apple trees in summer: 76
  7. Food preservation 68
  8. What do robins eat: 67
  9. Glycemic load chart: 53
  10. Fungus gnats: 51

Changes since launch

As more content has been added to the site, the number of people visiting the site has increased. In June 2018, 81,755 users visited the site, while 109,065 visited in June 2019 (70% increase).

People appear  to have an easier time finding what they need. Usage of search was slightly lower June 2019 than June 2018, meaning people are having more success finding what they need through browsing. Additionally, the number of pages people visit in a session has gone down, while the average time spent on a page is up. This suggests that people don’t need to view as many pages to find what they are looking for.

Going forward

Over the next year, EESC will continue to collect data from web analytics. We will also begin to collect qualitative information through usability testing, site surveys, feedback forms, interviews, and more.

Thank you

A sincere thank you to everyone who has helped make the website a success by: entering content, reviewing documentation and help materials, asking questions at webinars and trainings, meeting with us to discuss content strategy, or any of the other ways Extension faculty and staff have contributed to our web presence. We hope  this time next year we will have even better results to share with you.

Use topic pages and tags so visitors find educational content

When visitors come to the Extension website, they want to see what information we have to answer the question on their mind or to discover what’s new. Topic menu pages (which include the landing page and the “Browse all Resources” pages for each topic) are a primary way for them to browse educational content.

  • Topic landing pages: 122,450 pageviews, 78% of visitors clicked on a link
  • Topic “browse all resources” pages: 15,038 pageviews (since rollout in October), 86% of visitors clicked on a link

The data shows that content is much more likely to be seen if it is tagged with a topic. On average, a piece of content on the site has received 57  views/downloads/clicks since November 2018. However, pieces of content tagged with at least one topic have received an average of 69 during the same time.

This effect is even greater if the content is featured on a topic landing page. Pageviews/downloads/clicks of content increases threefold (average of 319%) while the content is featured on a topic landing page compared to the period before it was featured.

What you can do to make sure visitors see your educational content:

  • Make sure to tag educational content with a topic. For most content types, the field where you can select the topic is in the second collapsed section on the edit screen.
  • If you tag content with a topic, be sure to also tag it with useful keywords so it is easier to find on the topic’s “Browse all resources” page. See the Tagging Guidelines in the Extension website guide.
  • Work with the topic’s committee to feature content that is especially important to audiences or seasonally relevant. Learn more about topic committees.

At this time, more than 1,000 events have been entered into the Extension website. These have been viewed over 60,000 times. To see the most effective ways of setting up events on the website, we looked at some analytics data for these events since launch.

The top events by views were:

  1. 2019 OSU Small Farms Conference
  2. Clackamas County 4-H Tack and Bake Sales
  3. Insights into Gardening Conference (Benton County)
  4. 4-H Wildlife Stewards Summer Camp
  5. High Desert Leadership Retreat (4-H)
  6. PNW Tri-State 4-H Professional Conference
  7. PNW 4-H Horse Judges’ Training
  8. Growing Farms: Successful Whole Farm Management
  9. Exploring the Small Farm Dream
  10. 2018-19 Oregon 4-H Shooting Sports Mail-In Tournament

Events can be listed in several places: on county pages, on program pages, on topic pages, and on the all Upcoming Extension Events page. Here’s the breakdown on how many people click on events in these places:

  • County pages: 8,797
  • Statewide program pages: 7,347
  • Local-level program pages (4-H, MG): 12,507
  • Topic pages: 1,687
  • All events page: 1,107

We also looked at some data about what visitors do once they get to an event page:

  • On average, they spend 2 minutes and 26 seconds on event pages
  • Documents on event pages (i.e. flyers) were downloaded 10,779 times
  • Links to other sites from event pages, including registration links, were clicked 15,719 times

From this information, we can make some recommendations for more effective events.

What content authors can do:

  • Enter events in the site as events: event pages are viewed much more often than announcements or newsletter issues.
  • Don’t spend time making announcements for events unless necessary: adding an announcement to promote an event doesn’t seem to contribute much to views on the event. Of visits to event pages, only 1.8% came from clicking on the event from an announcement.
  • Make sure all event information is on the event page itself, not just the flyer: 83% of people get their information from only the descriptions on the events or online registration pages, and it is more accessible.   
  • Post events well before they happen. The most viewed events were posted six months before they occurred on average.
  • Make sure your events are seen by all the right people: many of the most popular events are those that are aimed at a wide audience geographically but a narrow audience in terms of topic. Make sure information about events is tagged with the appropriate counties, programs, and topics, so people can find events related to their interests and locations.

What EESC plans to develop based on feedback about how people are tagging events:

  • A design for topic pages and the “all events” page that allows visitors to more easily find events close to them.
  • A design for county and program event lists that highlight especially relevant events separate from others (based on location or subject).
  • Improved integration between events on the OSU Extension Website and OSU’s calendar system.

Recent improvements to events by EESC:

  • Option for events that take place online only (e.g. webinars).
  • Ability to indicate when an event happens multiple times within a specified time period, so you only need to enter that event once.

November 30 marked the six-month anniversary of the launch of the new Extension website. With this milestone, we now have a good amount of analytics data to use as a comparison point for content, design, and other improvements going forward. For example, we’re using this data to

  • Decide where to focus our efforts on design improvements and determine what kind of improvements are needed.
  • Feature popular content on topic and other pages
  • Create best-practice guidelines for entering effective content.

 

Here are some highlights and statistics over the last six months (May 31 – Nov 30 2018):

Basic Site Stats

  • Page views: 1,207,631
  • Visitors: 431,155 (423,667 new)
  • Average time spent by visitors on the site: 1 minute 42 seconds

Top visited pages

  1. Search results page (see what people search for on the site below)
  2. Home page
  3. When to pick and how to ripen pears to perfection
  4. Programs list
  5. Using Coyotes to Protect Livestock. Wait. What?
  6. Find Us page
  7. Gardening top level topic page
  8. Statewide Master Gardener landing page
  9. Are there male and female peppers?
  10. Statewide 4-H landing page
  11. Monthly Garden Calendars
  12. Metro Master Gardener landing page
  13. Ask an Expert form
  14. What are those worms in my firewood?
  15. Clackamas County landing page
  16. Home Food Preservation topic page
  17. Big maggots in your compost? They’re soldier fly larvae
  18. What are short day and long day plants?
  19. Don’t toss those tuberous begonias – save for next summer
  20. Coffee Grounds and Composting

How people find the site

  1. Searching with Google or another service (303,833 users)
  2. Typing in the URL, using a bookmark, or clicking on a link in an email (81,727 users)
  3. Clicking a link on a social media site such as Facebook (32,920 users)
  4. Clicking a link on another site (27,409 users)

What people search for on the site

  1. “canning”
  2. “4-h” or “4h”
  3. “horse”
  4. “compost tea”
  5. “forms”
  6. “master gardener”
  7. “soil testing”
  8. “jobs”
  9. “calendar”
  10. “record book” or “record books”
  11. “publications”
  12. “blueberries”
  13. “compost”
  14. “tomatoes”
  15. “compost tea brewer”
  16. “food preservation”
  17. “state fair”
  18. “cervis”
  19. “soil test”
  20. “employment”

If you are interested in more in-depth analytics or analytics for your content specifically, contact the EESC web team.

Here’s to the next six months!