The last stop on this year’s regional website trainings concluded last week at the Coos County Office in Myrtle Point. I traveled across the state with stops at the Malheur and Union County offices (Eastern Region), Wasco and Deschutes County offices (Central Region), Klamath Basin Research & Extension Center and Josephine County offices (Southern Region), Marion County office (Western Region), Washington County office (North Willamette Region), and the Tillamook and Coos County offices (Coastal Region). Thanks to Amerie Lommen and Victor Villegas who helped out during the workshops. We live in an incredibly beautiful state. 

It was great seeing familiar faces, meeting people who I’ve only known through email, and getting to know many others. Overall, 72 people participated in the workshops. Kudos to the Regional Directors, office managers, and the others who helped schedule and coordinate the workshops. 

While I’m very familiar with the technical aspects of the Content Management System, seeing how users actually interact and create content was helpful. Thanks for sharing your process, questions and feedback! If you attended one of the workshops, and haven’t taken the post workshop survey, please do. Your feedback will help us as we plan next year’s workshops. 

If you didn’t have an opportunity to attend one of the workshops, or need more help, you can request an individual or small group Zoom web conference with me. Let me know if you are interested.

Topics that generated the most audience reaction

Box shared link settingsUsing Box for file management

Programs like 4-H have forms that change every year. In the past, to update a form, you would need to login, remove the old file, upload a new file, and change the link. Is there a better way? Did you know you can set up a shared link to directly download a file bypassing Box completely? Another great feature in Box is the ability to replace files without the link changing. This is a big plus. Users will always get the current version of the form. We recommend that you don’t include the year in your links. By not including the year, you won’t need to change anything on the website next year. The drawback of using Box  is that it takes longer initially to get things set up. The plus is next year all you need to do is replace your forms in Box and users will get the correct form, without you making any changes to the website. Box also allows you to password protect files and folders with a password you set. Creating a password protected folder is a great way to share information with volunteers. See the Extension Website User Guide for more information.

Page sections

Did you know that you can change how lists are displayed? We have multiple display options. In the Page sections area on the edit screen, click the Settings tab. There you can choose the list style. See the For Advanced Users: Page Section Settings for Custom Design page on the Extension Website User Guide for details.

The screenshots below show the same list of items but with different list styles.

List (search results) 

Grid (teaser cards)

Text (bulleted list)

For those of you who didn’t get an opportunity to participate in the workshops here are the handouts we provided to attendees.

Top 5 things you can do to help improve the Extension website

  • Simple ways you can improve the website.

Extension website help and support

  • Learn where to get website help and support.

How can you keep content fresh on the Extension website? By repurposing what you are already doing. Also, by taking another glance through what you have and edit it with a readability or diversity lens.

Tapping into current efforts

Taking a newsletter or blog piece you have written recently and turning that into an article can be a straightforward way to add new content to the website.

Other content teams have latched on to an idea of locating and revamping older catalog publications as a way to avoid starting from scratch.

When you find yourself answering the same questions, providing familiar advice, or doing another standard presentation — turn these into quick articles or videos that you can refer people to online in the future. Short answers to featured questions are popular with web visitors.

Similarly, when you publish new research in different places, such as a journal article or  association report, take a new slant or go more in-depth on one aspect to write a web article that speaks to Extension audiences too.

Adding content with purpose

It’s not just enough to add content when you have it. To make this effective, you need to add content for the right reasons.

These include meeting programmatic goals and audience needs, which we will be working more with teams to better define this year, and then map out content with this in mind.

It also means taking time to think about how people skim content on the website, and about all audiences we are trying to include. A couple tips in our guide on our training page can help you take a fresh perspective on your existing content:

If you have questions or other suggestions, please reach out to our web team to let us know.

Keeping content fresh, current, and accurate on the Extension website means knowing the tools to keep existing content maintained. In certain cases, you may want your content to be invisible to visitors if it becomes out of date. Or, you might want to review the content another person updated before it gets published.

There are three ways to make content unpublished:

  • Draft: The content needs to be finished/reviewed before it gets published.
  • In Review: The content was published, but has been taken down for review.
  • Archived: The content was published, but is now out of date or no longer needed.

At the bottom of any edit screen, you will see these options in a drop down field above the Save button.

You can also see the status of all content at a glance on your group’s list of content.

Note that if you “Edit” a piece of published content and set its state to “Draft”, the previous version of that content will remain visible. To hide all previous versions, set the state to “In Review” or “Archived” instead.

To see the public version of the content, click on “View” tab. To see the latest draft of the content, click on the “Latest version” tab. These tabs are visible below the title on the content’s page. You can also see a “Revisions” tab, where all the past published versions can be found and reverted back if needed.

When you save a piece of content, you can enter a “Revision log message” to describe the changes you made or why you made them. These messages get displayed in the Revisions tab.

It is recommended for educational content or annual events to “archive” rather than delete. Deleted content will no longer be accessible and cannot be restored. Archived content can still be found on the Group Content page when logged in if you want to update it and republish. It also helps avoid the content being inadvertently added again, since the reason it was “archived” can be noted in the revisions field for future reference.

Read more in the user guide under Managing Content. As you do some housekeeping of your group’s content, reach out to the web team if questions come up. Thanks for your work to keeping the quality of content reflecting the valuable service OSU Extension provides the broader community.

With more than one way to add a program application to the Extension website – as an announcement, a program resource, an event, or text on a sub-page – how does one decide the best approach? One case example could help give insight into this question.

We took a closer look at 16 Master Gardener training programs* that had an electronic application (printable PDF or online form) linked from the website to see the audience’s actions.

What did we find?

  • Application links were seen more than 10,000 times and were clicked/downloaded nearly 2,000 times. This is a good 20% conversion rate (i.e. the number who downloaded or clicked on the application, divided by the number who viewed it).
  • Among the Master Gardener programs, 8 uploaded the application and 7 linked to it (1 did both). The applications available for download performed better.**
  • Only one program put a direct link to the application on their main program landing page, but they didn’t have higher success in conversion rate than anyone else.
  • However, programs that had an “announcement” showing on their main program landing page had higher average conversion rates. We could interpret this to mean that people who are specifically looking for applications with the intent to fill them out, find them through announcements.

  • Links to applications that were shown on a sub-page (usually the “How to Join” page) were seen more often than those that were only shown in an announcement or event. We could interpret this to mean that people who are not yet decided about applying or who are learning about it for the first time, find it through the sub-page menus.

Recommendation

Add the file or link to the application as a “program resource” that displays on a “How to Join” sub-page. Then create an announcement that references that program resource or the page itself.

Do you have other questions that you want to see if analytics can answer about your audiences? Get in touch with the web team to ask your question.

 

* The remaining Master Gardener programs asked visitors to get in touch with a person to apply or receive application materials, so these need to be tracked off-line.
**It would be useful for all the programs to see how many people actually submitted applications once they clicked to an online form or downloaded a PDF application. In the future digital strategy, online forms may be preferable for ease of processing and tracking applications.

Just in the past week, website communications with various county, program, and content teams about how to better search on the Extension site led to one convergent idea:

  • Keywords don’t often take me to the publication I want.”
  • “The way material appears (or doesn’t) seems to be highly dependent on keywords.”
  • “I didn’t know the right keywords to use in order to access the information I wanted.”
  • “I’ll need to give our working group members info about [keywords], so their work is findable.”

The content teams responsible for entering educational content (e.g. articles, videos, etc.) not only will want to “tag” all content with a topic, regions, languages, but any additional tags would get typed into the “keywords” field.

Additionally, for content that doesn’t use keywords (e.g. program resources, events), any important words that someone may want to search on to find the content should be somewhere in the text or title.

The more thought put in to this up front, the easier it will be to find the content again later on.

Keyword Guidelines

Keywords are the only “tags” on the site that requires content authors to type in their custom word instead of selecting it, so please follow these guidelines while doing this.

If you’re not the only one to enter content on a certain topic, you could create a “keywords to use” guide for your working group and other web content teams that may be contributing relevant content. These types of suggestion tools can be loaded into Box and shared.

You can also send EESC a list of keywords you want added to specific catalog publications, since keywords are a new field in that system. This way when catalog publications import to the Extension website, they will be easier to find.

Keywords Use

Keywords allow content to show higher in search results, and help you and visitors to narrow down the results too.

 

The URL from those filtered searches can also be copied to share with others or put into the orange “button links” on program, county, and topic pages.

Search the Extension Website

Dairy Topic Page (Edit Screen)

Dairy Topic Page (Saved View)

Do you need further training on this or have other questions or suggestions? Let the web team know.

Moving to an organization-wide content strategy is a major shift. We must remain vigilant, as it’s easy to slide back into the comfortable status quo zone of thinking about the minutia of “website design” instead of customer-focused “content.

Extension faculty and staff aren’t responsible for “updating a website” or “webpage.” In this dynamic site, Extension faculty and staff are responsible for adding and editing content in the website. This means investing time in auditing, evaluating, and identifying content that is relevant, sharable, and appropriate to integrate in the Extension website.

Benefits of the new site

  • Content management system is used as intended – to post in one place and tag to show up where ever it is relevant.
  • Customer-focused website – internal feedback and preference informs our decision making but does not drive it.
  • Building with the end in mind – managing our content in this way allows for integration and personalization down the road, as we eventually add a customer relationship management tool (Salesforce), targeted and segmented marketing communications, and connections between our content and other OSU systems in the future.

Challenges of the new site

  • Major change in how we think and act – requires significant training time and one-on-one and group discussions.
  • Is a work in progress – minimal viable product means starting basic, and then designing and adding functionality based on how it is being used.

Change is hard and usually involves complex conversations and rough patches before people adjust. As we move forward EESC will continue to meet with program areas and content team leaders to learn their perspectives, get internal feedback about the site, and share information from the site (e.g., content status, analytics) to help inform strategy and content decisions.

We also invite you to help us get in touch with external stakeholders, who could do usability tests and help us better understand their needs as well.

Excerpts summarized from OSU Extension Website Strategy Report, July 2016

You are not alone in asking this question, “Who is going to enter all this content?” In the future, it will be less daunting as new content arrives more evenly spaced. With any big transition, however, the amount of initial content to sort through is a big task. One that is currently being addressed in different ways, and the only way through it is forward.

Assigning the responsibility

To meet the need, some of Extension’s program areas designated a content team leader’s time as the main point of contact for doing all the initial entry. These team leaders set aside other responsibilities or spread it out over many months to accomplish this.

Other program areas hired students in the summer to learn how to enter content given to them by content team members, which then the teams reviewed and published. Similar funds may need to be considered for an ongoing student.

Some teams looked to their research/program assistants to support the entry. This means adding these people to the content team web groups and training them on how to enter content through those groups, especially if this will become on ongoing solution. County office staff could help enter events and newsletters for the content team.

If needed, instructional guides created by EESC are available for training those who will be doing the entry.

Importing the content

In some cases, the EESC can help to automatically import this content if it:

  1. Has been consistently maintained content so it is up-to-date and of high quality
  2. Corresponds to a content type in the new website (e.g. newsletter, video, etc.)
  3. Is possible to separate from the rest of the content for export purposes (e.g. has a separate content type or tag rather than one field of mixed text, images, and hyperlinks).

If you feel this is true for content you are reviewing for inclusion, contact the web team for more details.

Culling the content

If entering content takes time, then consider only moving content that meets the needs of Extension audiences. Is it worth moving over? Are only some links on the page worth keeping? Will the information be useful or keep people engaged in our work?

In preparing for this new website, EESC worked with Close to the Customer at OSU to do market research. The most valued aspects of a website (in a survey of 300 Oregonians, half who knew about Extension) included:

  • Frequently updated site content – 58%
  • Information from a recognized source – 45%
  • Information tailored to personal interests – 38%

As your team looks through content you want to move over, ask if the content is current, reliable, and/or accurate. If not, you can always save it to Box for improving later as part of new content planning. The Getting Started section in the user guide also helps to explore other places content could be moved if not a good fit for the Extension website.

While the end is in sight for transitioning content, these next several months are critical to laying a foundation for a larger digital strategy — one to take us further down the road to tailoring our content to individuals’ interests and ways they want to engage with Extension.

Have you ever received a call since the launch with someone asking “Where do I find ____ on the website?” Since the Extension website looks different than in the past, people may need guidance to find where information they use has moved. EESC is working with program teams and county-based faculty to find one-click solutions to ease the transition from familiar to new. At the same time, educating volunteers, partners, and the public on the way the new site works can help in the long run.

What is the short answer you can give people on where to start? How about: “Try typing what you’re looking for in our Search field at the top of every page.” You might also add: “If you don’t see what you want on the search results page, then you can try filtering down the results by checking different categories.”

This is usually the quickest and easiest path for someone looking for something in particular. There’s also the “Ask an Expert” option on most pages for specific questions.

For someone wanting to find what Extension offers in general, then you might suggest: “Check out our About Us menu that includes latest news. Also browse the different resources through the Topic menus. These are at the top of every page in the black menu bar.”

If someone seems interested to get involved, you may want to point out: “You can also find the county office in the Find Us menu. County offices have listings of events near you, programs that you could participate in, and often a newsletter with upcoming and local activities.”

If you feel you want to do trainings or newsletter articles for your volunteers, partners, and the public on navigating information on the new Extension website, then let EESC know what short how-to videos, articles, or handouts would be helpful for you to share. Also, watching this 10-minute video on Navigation and Search on the Extension website can get you feeling prepared to guide others in finding what they need online.

The internet by the nature of its design connects people together, but it isn’t only about reaching audiences out there. On the Extension website, it’s also about connecting with our own colleagues within OSU. Here’s some reminders about ways you may need to talk with each other when adding and sharing content.

Reduce duplication

Before putting up new content, whether an event or resource, search to see if it’s already on the website first. If it is, then you can just have it tagged for the place you want it to also appear. What if you aren’t part of the group that put up the existing content? Check who is and email/call them with your request.

Make content relevant

When finding content on the website, maybe it doesn’t have information included that you feel is needed. For example, it is missing the location of the event in the short description or title, or it is written for a commercial audience so doesn’t address small producers. Or maybe it just shouldn’t be up there. Check who created it and email/call them to share perspectives.

Evaluate content

When faculty or professional staff who are not on Content Teams are looking for content on the website and it’s not there, sometimes it may just be in the queue waiting to be entered. Other times it has been overlooked or needs to be discussed among the content team. Check what web group it relates to and email them for a status update.

Learn from others

Many people are seeing what others are doing in adding content to the website and replicating what they like about it. Find out who is in the county, program, or topic group of content you like and email them to see how they did it.

For each of the ways above, the steps to connect with the right people are the same:

Reaching out to each other helps to streamline information, make it reliable and relevant to audiences, and teaches us about the variety of ways to approach our work.

As more content is added on the OSU Extension website, our EESC web team begins to get more requests for how to organize content for specific audiences. There are different ways to appreciate what this website can do, and how you can be a partner in using the tools.

How the Website Helps

Tagged content

The website already does a lot of the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to.

  • You add one piece of content and it displays many places based on the tagging and categorizing you input.
  • Update the original content later and changes will show up across the site, too. Easy!

While you may have less control in setting everything up on a particular page, it’s less likely to be a hassle in keeping the site maintained with current content and design updates over time.

Related resources

When visitors are reading content on the website, at the bottom of the page they can see “Related Content from OSU Extension.” This is generated automatically based on the type of content they just read and may answer other questions they have.

Topic pages

Content teams put up the majority of educational content on the website, and it mainly displays across topic pages or in searches. These teams can add videos, articles, documents, etc., and each piece can be tagged for a topic. Topic pages only show content tagged with that topic.

More You Can Do

As the topic pages grow in the amount of content, it’s harder for the visitor to know what key content to focus on. Also, county pages sometimes want to point people to topical content narrowed down to their regional focus. What can be done?

Add keywords

Adding custom keywords can help visitors narrow down what they see on each topic page. It’s easier if the keywords are kept up as a clean list. Keywords also makes it easier to group specific educational content tagged for a program, such as when you scroll down the sections of the Master Food Preservers publications.

Monitor topic pages

Right now, topic pages are organized by topic committees and also automatically show the most recent content tagged with the topic to keep these pages fresh. Sometimes content is mis-tagged or duplicated and it’s easier to spot on these auto-populated Browse Resources section on topic pages. If you see something out of place, log into the site and use this All Content Overview tool to search who created the content and ask that group to make the change.

Create collections

If individual pieces of content are related, a content team can manually gather these together in a collection. A good time to use this is, for example, the monthly gardening calendars. Others use it to group content topically or regionally.

  1. From your content team group page, create a “collection
  2. Add introductory text describing what the collection is about. For example, see Poisonous Plants Commonly Found in Pastures.
  3. Add a collection section (subheading) and select collection items from existing content in the system (video, article, etc.). Note: You can reorder these if you add each collection item separately with the “Add Collection Item” button.
  4. Then tag the collection with appropriate topics and/or programs.

This collection will show on tagged topic pages. A county can add the collection as “featured content” on their main county page or as “highlighted content” on a local focus area. It will also show on program pages that have a section for “Program tagged content list” if tagged for that program, such as a Regional Gardening Information section in Master Gardener local programs.

Drawbacks to collections  are that they must be maintained by the content team. This can be time-consuming. As new content is added to the website, it will also have to be manually added to the collection. This doesn’t happen automatically as it would for content tagged with a Topic. Collections may have gaps if new content is not added or if all related content wasn’t added when first creating the collection.

Collections are an option that serve a specific purpose and are not a solution for all needs, especially where the website is helping to organize the content already. If you have questions about this, then reach out to the EESC web team.