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
  • Click the “Feedback” tab under the content’s title. It is one of the blue links 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).
  • 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.)

A trip to the apple orchard this past weekend led to rows of trees available for picking. Fallen apples lay scattered across the ground; low branches held a few ripe pieces in easy reach. This season, the website content is in a similar situation. Fallen apples represent the bushels of content that need to be cleaned up. The low hanging fruit is a handful of easy tasks to get started on.

If we want our visitors engaged and involved with Extension, then we have to be active too in providing relevant and current resources. If our online content becomes outdated, such as an article with crop statistics from 2002, then potential clients may begin to wonder about our advice. It’s easy enough to update, or leave out, time-dated information if it’s not essential to the article.

Updating your web content maintains trust and loyalty with Extension’s audiences. It also helps search engine optimization and builds the confidence of new visitors about our authority on the topics.

Cleaning the content

A year ago, the majority of archived county and program sites on Drupal 6 sites went away for good. The flurry in putting content on the new website meant some content didn’t get thoroughly reviewed. Others got left in Box unless someone asked for it.

Do you have content that needs a second look? Some of the low hanging tasks could include:

  • Look on your groups page, filter by “events” and archive any old events that no longer need to be visible to the public.
  • Ask EESC for a spreadsheet that shows all content for your group listed by publication date. Then start reviewing the oldest among them. If you’re unsure it’s worth updating, search around to see if there’s content that is similar or think about how it could be repurposed.
  • Look at the the Box files or content in your groups folder marked “draft” to see what could still be reviewed and published.

While you need to look for accuracy and completeness of the content, EESC is contributing to this process too.

  • The publishing team is copyediting your published content. Also, they are adding formatting that helps with website readability. They are currently 20% through all the web articles.
  • The web and content strategy team is fixing broken links and changing published content to correct content types. This mostly means changing educational documents to more accessible articles.
  • The administrative team is tagging catalog publications to improve findability. They are also helping with missing photos or image quality.

You can keep track of what we’re doing by looking at the “Revisions” notes tab of your content when logged in. If there are major changes, then we will email you directly with questions. Learn more in the web guide.

Keeping on top of content’s health is best managed when pruned a little each day over the winter months. Set a maintenance plan, and then come spring your resources will be fresh and ready for new growth. This will make our web visitors very happy.


Web updates

In case you missed it, last week’s blog post shared what Salesforce looks like to someone using it. This can help you in better understanding how a CRM (customer relationship management system) works.

Thank you to all the Extension program area leaders for sharing your goals with EESC in October. This will help inform our communications and content strategy over the next year. Stay tuned!

Box logoOver the last month or so I’ve been traveling around the state giving regional website training workshops. At these workshops I’ve been promoting Box for file management, especially when you have files that change on a regular basis. One of the weaknesses of Drupal, is file management. Box offers some features to make up for that.

Programs like 4-H and Master Gardener™ have quite a few forms for volunteers and participants. Updating these forms and uploading them to the website each year can be an arduous task. 

This process involves logging into the website, locating the old file, removing it, then uploading the new file. The problem with this method is the link to the file changes. What if someone bookmarked last years form, or the file wasn’t deleted? This can lead to the dreaded Page Not Found (404) error, or a Google search result that links to last years form (not good). 

This is where Box excels. With Box, you can create a URL to the file that doesn’t change, even when you replace the 2019 form with the 2020 form. Replacing a file is a snap, and Box is version controlled. Each time you replace a file, a copy is saved in the version history. So if you make a mistake, or want to see what the old file looked like, or even revert to a previous version, you can do that right in Box. 

Box shared link settingsYou can also use Box to password protect individual file(s), or folders. Have you ever wanted to provide volunteers access to files require a password to access? This is quite simple with Box. You can even create links that expire after a particular date.

Box is far from a perfect solution however. Setting the direct link to a file is not intuitive process. It is quicker to initially upload your files to the website. Yet using Box will save you time in the long run. The initial set up is tedious, but you only have to do it once. When it’s time to update your files next year, login to Box, replace the old file and you’re done. 

See our webguide (beav.es/extension-webguide) for detailed instructions for using Box to manage files. Visit the OSU Box website for complete documentation.

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.

The website brought a lot of content together from all different parts of Extension, created for different purposes, at different times and sometimes published by non-Extension faculty. Everyone has come across an article or two where they wonder “Is this content accurate, useful information for Extension’s audiences?”

Content teams, along with the program area leaders, have started discussions that can help to shape content quality decisions. Questions touch on process and guiding principles, such as:

  • Should we put everything we write on to the website? If not, how do we decide?
  • Who should be involved in the review process, and at what stage in content publishing?
  • How do we determine what makes for “quality content” for our diverse audiences?

An articulated content strategy helps content teams to identify a roadmap to follow.

Step one: establish ownership and roles

Half of Extension faculty and staff can publish content, which is coordinated through content teams or web groups.

Use the content overview tool to search a content title and see what team or group a piece of content belongs to, and contact the team leader or group coordinator if you see questionable content. Your feedback can help them to see other perspectives and their response inform yours.

Roles and responsibilities, outlined earlier in 2019, clarify how people fit into the content development cycle and their relationships to each other.

Among those roles, teams and groups need to discuss who controls the content quality, holding relevant content authors accountable to content guidelines, standards and policies that will be explored in the next steps.

Step two: design and document content processes

Content may be written by author(s) but it is the content teams and program leaders that need to work together to plan, review, publish, and revise the content. It helps to share a common set of tools and expectations in this content process.

Plan

Statewide planning meetings can set the stage for a participatory process. Together you can review audience analytics and determine the content purpose, gaps to fill, and plans for the year. It can also help decide what content isn’t needed based on strategic priorities. Set up a content planning spreadsheet in Box to keep track of content to be created.

Review

A peer review checkbox and name field appears on all articles if your team wants to use this as part of the publishing process. It currently means at least one other colleague looked at it, but does not mean the same level of scrutiny as catalog and journal peer reviews. Content that is questionable can also be put “in review” by the team or group to keep it from public view until the issue addressed.

Publish

A team needs to decide if they will independently upload articles, appoint an uploader on the team, or find program/research assistants or students to support this. These people need to be aware of the guidelines, standards and policies discussed below. An editorial calendar can help schedule content to be published at key times.

Revise

Many are familiar with the EESC directed process to review and update Extension catalog publications more than four years old. Content team leaders need to coordinate a similar process for their team’s articles and educational documents; EESC can help by setting up automated notifications and maintenance reports to use.

Step three: produce supporting documents and tools

Ground rules for doing content right can help to address differences in opinions. EESC has outlined some key recommendations or requirements below. Content teams and groups can adapt and expand on these to establish what makes for “quality” content.

Guidelines that EESC provides and encourage you to use include:

  • Messaging maps to create consistency of voice and tone depending on the audience
  • AP style and plain language guidelines for standard language and format of content
  • Readability formatting for a web page (which is different than a print publication)

Standards mean there’s a correct way to do things, and an expectation this will be followed, such as:

  • Web instructions of what content goes on the Extension website, and how to enter and tag it in the content management system; see the quick start checklists to make this clear
  • OSU and Extension branding requirements

Since these guidelines and standards can be a lot to learn, EESC will help by reviewing content after it is published and making minor changes or suggestions on how to improve. More information is in the content requirements and best practices section of the web guide, or request a specific training.

Policies are critical to follow to be inclusive, ethical, or not put us at risk, this includes things such as:

  • Copyright rules
  • Non-discrimination and accessibility laws
  • Personal data protections

Information about this is in the legal requirements section of our web guide. Also OSU’s Web and Mobile Services is offering “Accessibility Basics for the Web” trainings, including information about the OSU Policy on Information Technology Accessibility. Offered Oct. 3, Dec. 5, 2019 and Feb. 7, April 15 or June 4, 2020.

Destination

Teams and groups need to keep a pulse on what is going on with their online content and scrutinize not only if it is accurate but also if the overall quality meets our expectations.

Keep those discussions going, work with EESC to set up some shared tools and communicate the guidelines, standards and policies to group members working on the website. Then before you know it, you will have arrived at a functional content strategy.


Extension website updates

You can now see all featured questions on a single page.

The “seasonal” tagging field now allows multiple options to be selected for a piece of content.

Minor fixes have been made in the display of phone and email on county landing pages.

Collections now have the formatting options: standard teaser (thumbnail image, title, short description), grid format (3 card size images and descriptions next to each other), and plain list without images. After adding a “collection section” see the settings tab.

Thanks to Joseph Phillips, Content Strategist for the Examined Web, for ideas from his article “A four step roadmap to good content governance” for this blog post.

UPDATED 7/30/2020

We want people to understand what OSU Extension does and how it is relevant for their lives. This isn’t easy, we provide resources for many topics and our impact is challenging to summarize.

The county page design has places to share different parts of our story. Below are recommendations for text to use.

County landing page

Page title

Use OSU Extension in Malheur County for the page title. This is a road sign to show website visitors where they are on the site.

Intro text

Show the ways your county helps Oregonians. Share the breadth and relevance of OSU Extension. And make it easy for them to find the many ways they can learn with us. Keep it brief. Keep the words simple and easy to understand. And the text easy to scan.

We recommend using this text:

OSU Extension’s network of teachers, experts, mentors and volunteers is at your service, across Oregon and here at home. Learning with you. Sharing knowledge. Putting lessons into practice.

 

When we work together, we can create positive change in our communities. Helping farmers and gardeners grow healthy foods. Strengthening our economic and ecological future. Helping people of all ages, families and communities thrive. And much more. We’re here to help.

 

How we serve you
We provide reliable, research-based education and advice to help you make informed decisions. Access is affordable—often free. Learn through one-on-one conversations with experts, workshops, conferences, publications, hotlines, online classes, and youth development clubs and activities.

For the intro, avoid sharing how we work — or who we are (this comes later).
Don’t include:

  • Our program names
  • About trained-volunteers
  • Community partners
  • Academic terms (use ‘gardening’ instead of ‘horticulture’)
  • Complex things we do, using terms the general public isn’t very familiar with: ‘collaborative community coalitions’ or ‘family and community health’
  • The word: problem(s)

First we help them understand what we do, then we tell them how or why we do it.

The intro text was developed by Ann Marie Murphy, our OSU Extension Marketing Manager. The text matches the language we’ll use for the new OSU Extension brochure.

 


‘What we do’ page

Intro

This is a great place to share more details on how we help Oregonians. And how we provide our services.

We recommend using this text:

OSU Extension faculty, staff, and trained volunteers work alongside partners across Deschutes County to provide educational workshops, activities, and services tailored to the unique industries, natural resources, and people in our communities. [Optional history info, for example: We’ve been working in Jefferson County since 1935.]

 

Oregon State University’s land grant mission drives us to conduct research and share research-based education to minimize community risk, improve economic vitality, and promote personal and environmental health.

 

[Optional partnership info, for example: OSU Extension is a partnership of USDA at the federal level, OSU at the state level, and Harney County.]

We don’t recommend including:

  • Our program names (i.e. Family and Community Health). Include this information on focus areas.

Note: The “what we do” section provides some concrete examples of information that can be learned about in this county. About section can be a great place to include impact information, this displays further down on the page.


Focus areas

Titles

Create concise, easy to understand titles.

  • Is the title is getting too complicated? Perhaps there are too many topics contained within one focus area. Try breaking it into multiple focus areas.
  • Is the title too long? Try removing some of the information or adding it to the description.

Title example:

  • Livestock
  • Home food preservation and safety
  • Small Farms
  • Field crops
  • Nutrition and healthy living
  • Youth activities

Description

Briefly outline the benefits. The description text shows on the “What we do page”.

Example title and description:

Activities for youth
4-H empowers young people with hands-on learning experiences to help them grow and thrive. By creating a safe and welcoming environment, young people develop the skills needed to make a positive impact on the world around them.

Home garden and landscape
We provide research-based information for backyard gardeners and green industry professionals, including regional specific information.


Make it easy to read

  • Read the text out loud. Are there sentences where you need to slow down? Is the sentence long? Try breaking the information up into smaller sentences. Consider removing some information.
  • Write for a general audience. The target audience for county landing pages is the general public. Aim for an eighth-grade reading level. Use terms that are general and understandable for people unfamiliar with OSU Extension. Avoid using program names and internal jargon when possible.
  • Write directly to the reader: Whenever possible use ‘you’. We serve you. Avoid ‘clientele’, ‘customers’, and ‘audience’.
  • More tips: See writing for the web.
  • Helpful tools:
    • Hemingway Editor: Estimates the reading level. Highlights text that is hard to read. Is free. See how to use Hemingway Editor.
    • Jargon tool: A very easy way to see what words are jargon. Rates how well the words are known.

Working together on county pages

We will be collaborating with each county on developing their county pages. This will include optimizing the use of the website’s design, refining landing pages and creating focus areas.


Website updates

  • Checkout the updates to the statewide 4-H including user-friendly menu and the great way they are using the website’s designs! Nice work!
  • There is a new youth development topic page. It is ready for programs and focus areas to add this topic tag to your content. Educational content for the public can show on this topic page.

The past couple of weeks sparked some new possibilities to test out, in hopes of resolving ongoing requests from content teams. Everyone has a role in making this possible. What then is the role of the content strategist? It involves listening for commonalities, looking for bright spots, and asking questions to facilitate people thinking about strategy.

Currently, group conversations have generated insight into:

  1. Facilitating workflows that can support a new way of doing things.
  2. ­­Creating a way to share human interest stories that show the value of Extension’s work.
  3. Improving access to resources in ways that audiences want.

1) Workflows

A lot goes into identifying, writing, reviewing and tagging content that only experts in the subject can do. Entering, coordinating and managing educational content by the content team, however, needs further discussion.

Events, announcements, newsletters, and county focus areas can all still be managed by the county office groups. Educational content, however, shifted to the program areas. Regardless of where faculty are stationed, the content is valuable regionally and statewide, and no longer seen as tied to a county. Who then is best to enter and manage this content of the statewide teams? How do we leverage existing resources to do so?

Some new ideas include:

  • Write into your annual work plan 5% of website responsibilities that go beyond creating and updating content, so that your time as a team member is acknowledged and supported.
  • Shift responsibilities and offer incentives, so a champion wanting to spearhead this innovative change can take time to set up topic pages and tagging guides as needed to organize and maintain content.
  • Leverage support professionals from the program area, such as education program assistants or research assistants, to learn the entry, tagging, and coordination processes.

2) Stories

“We need to capture the essence of who we are as a community in Extension and how we meet the needs of our communities,” said Anita Azarenko recently at the Quarterly Conversations. She asked, “How do we put feeling back into our website?”

Content analysis published in the Journal of Applied Communications* found the majority of awareness campaigns on agricultural websites used logical appeals with education-based and fact-based content. However, content with emotional appeals can be more effective in connecting with and being remembered by web visitors.

Stories showcase the value of what we do for the public by putting a face to our work. Publishing stories ourselves in addition to media coverage can increase the longevity and reach of our stories, and help show people how they too can benefit by being engaged with our programs. EESC is moving forward to capture these stories and to find the best way to showcase them online.

3) Audience navigation

Technology can level barriers for some, and be a learning curve for others. Audiences come with all different preferences and skill levels. The new content management system helps to customize how content is displayed, even for the audience that just wants a straight list of resources in one place.

Topic landing pages came out ten months ago so teams could organize the content based on audience needs and interests. The “custom topic sections” can gather similar content under easy to skim headings. Keywords (which are now easier to modify) can help filter less relevant content. Links to these resources can still be reached from county page focus areas if people enter the site that way, and topics continue to evolve based on content developed and how audiences look for it.

We’ll continue to work with faculty on improving audience access to resources they depend on in the coming months.

Web updates

  • A recording is available from Quarterly Conversations on Extension’s digital strategy.
  • Updates to the faculty and staff directory fixed filter functionality, added new filters and fixed links to county, program and unit/department on profile pages
  • A pesticide safety disclaimer is now an option to add in English or Spanish on articles (just check the box on relevant content)
  • Content that appears in web-based newsletter issues and or collections now have an attribution stating this connection.

* Assessing the Content of Online Agricultural Awareness Campaigns Joy N. Rumble, Quisto Settle, and Tracy Irani, This research is available in Journal of Applied Communications: https://newprairiepress.org/jac/vol100/iss3/10

The active summer season means lots of newsletters are packed full of advice and opportunities for volunteers, participants or general audiences. The Extension website hosts 70 monthly or quarterly newsletters from across the state, and a quick look at some can give you new ideas to try out.

If you don’t already post your newsletters on the Extension website, find out how to set up your newsletter. It will highlight your most recent issue and automatically show archived issues as well.

1) Make the connection

If you have a long list of upcoming events in your newsletters, follow the example of Lane county’s newsletter and add a link to the event posted on the Extension website, so people can learn more and register. Lane County filled up its classes thanks in part to its promotion in newsletters, on the website and across social media. If your newsletter also is sent in a print version, just provide the URL to your local program or county/combined station’s event menu page (this can be standard in every issue).

2) Make it consistent

Check if you are aligning your information across the Extension website, your newsletter and your social media. This includes cross-promoting content, since people like to access information different ways. Also, consider consistent branding with font, colors, and tone, such as in Woodland Notes.

3) Make it meaningful

Metro Master Gardeners newsletter does a good job of writing to “you” rather than just about “us” when trying to encourage participation in opportunities. They include information about why it may be of interest to them and what they can expect. They also include helpful reminders with links to where to find forms and FAQs volunteers need on the Extension website.

4) Make it simple

Keep your articles short (less than 500 words) and consider linking to the full article on the website or in Box to read more. They may be more likely to click if you write not as an organization, but as a person working on issues your readers care about. See a comparison example of a reworked original newsletter made simpler. Also, consider if readers only skim your newsletter’s headlines, will they still understand the gist of it?

5) Make it relevant

Look at your analytics to see what people are clicking on if you use an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp), so you know what readers like and can do more of it. If you have a newsletter on the Extension website, contact the web and content strategy team to see how many people are viewing or downloading it. You can also gather interests of your audiences, and segment your list to send different information out based on those interests.

6) Make it actionable

Make the majority of content focused on today or tomorrow. Always provide a next step, even if it’s something simple like “Learn more” with a link to an OSU catalog publication. If you do highlight past events in order to thank those who were involved, share how it connects to the future and give specifics to show the positive impact their contributions have made.

7) Make it last

Small Farms News is a great example of having your educational content live on beyond the month it was published. As part of the archive process, they convert their PDF they uploaded to the web-based version, which means the main articles get added separately and featured across the site, not just in the newsletter.

8) Make your life easier

Many newsletters, such as the Linn County E-news,  find the design, delivery, and managing of email lists easier with an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp, Constant Contact). People can subscribe, share or remove themselves from your newsletter lists on their own. It also notifies you and cleans up defunct email addresses, and helps to improve chances the e-news will reach their inbox and get read.

Do you have other suggestions? What do you like in a newsletter?

Recent Web Updates

This past month we updated the website groups contact lists. To see if you are listed correctly, or to find out who is in a specific content team or county office or program group, check Content Teams / Web Groups. The web and content strategy team sends updates to the leaders and coordinators of these groups, and they then forward it on to their members and gather any feedback to share back to the team.

Google Insights analyzes search phrases people use when searching the Internet, and found one trend they call the Age of Assistance. This fits well with what we do at Extension. Audiences come to the Extension website to find helpful resources, and in today’s online world they skim the content to quickly see if it meets their needs.

Google Insights discovered people are increasingly researching everything to either know what to expect or to make decisions.

People ask for:

  • Specific ideas (e.g. recipe ideas)
  • Things to avoid (e.g. pesticides to avoid),
  • What is best for me in my situation (e.g. best with my soil type).

They expect to find these answers online. Did you write your content in a way to come up in these type of searches?

Writing for the Web vs. for Print

Once on our website, will they decide to stay? When an article looks difficult to read, it sends a message that the topic will be difficult to do. By applying some simple changes to your content, you can make it more readable, and it will also encourage visitors to dig in and use it.

Some examples include:

  • Lead with the most important point
  • Break content into short, readable chunks

Many have done this already with content online; see a comparison table for even more user-tested guidelines when Writing for the Web.

Highlighted Points

You may have seen pull quotes in magazine articles, where an important or interesting sentence is enlarged and stylized. You can now do this for articles on the Extension website to catch the attention of browsing visitors. Just copy the sentence you want, paste on a separate line, highlight it, and click the “insert pull quote” icon in the tool bar.

Social Media or E-News Blurbs

If you took the time to write and post an article, then take a second to think how you can promote it so people want to click and read more.

The Teaser section of the editing screen includes a description field that shows up in search results and can be used for e-newsletters. On articles and videos, there’s also a new place to craft a Facebook post or short tweet, which will come in handy in the longer-term digital strategy.

Getting Started

For new content added to the website or when you’re reviewing existing content, keep the above suggestions in mind. However, for the several hundred articles already published on the Extension website, the EESC publications team will copyedit articles using the EESC style guide and apply these practices along the way. The content stays published while EESC and the Content Team leader work on revising and approving it. It will not affect the publishing process nor visibility of the content to the public. Here’s the process for content team leaders and links to learn more:

Read the full details of this EESC Copyediting process in the Extension Website User Guide under Managing Content.

List of changes to the web guide

When we have updates to the website, we will let you know at the end of all our future blog posts. Here’s one not already mentioned above:

There are new tagging fields on educational content to be used for internal reporting and sorting as part of the future digital strategy.

  • Season – is there a specific time of year this article or video is about?
  • Marketing Category – is there a specific theme this content fits?
  • Audience – is this content meant for a commercial or home audience?
  • Language – is this content in a language other than English (this was an existing field)?
  • Diversity and Inclusion checkbox – is this article or video specifically representing or addressing equity or social justice issues?