So, we have arrived at the point where you’ve dreamed up some digital engagement strategy magic for your Extension program that, once deployed as a Salesforce site, will advance Extension’s mission of serving Oregonians. That’s great! What now?

What’s the time commitment?

The next questions are the obvious ones: what does a CRM project look like in real life? What decisions will need to be made and how will it move from inception to deployment? And… how much time do we need to get the job done? Let’s review a pretty typical framework that helps answer that very question.



Step 1: Assessment, resulting in a Project Charter

Duration: 3 weeks

Time commitment: 15 - 20 hours


Time commitments

The CRM project team will consist of the primary stakeholders inside your Extension program and the Navigator digital engagement strategy team. Work sessions will be scheduled in advance to allow the project team to meet for about four to five hours per week.

Objectives

The team will focus on establishing what reporting needs exist for the program. In other words, what data points need to be delivered to governmental bodies/agencies, division leadership, program leaders, constituents, or other audiences. Decisions based on this assessment will lead to planning the CRM app design to facilitate collection, analysis, and delivery of that info using Salesforce. The info we glean from this step yields the set of Project Requirements.

Project Requirements

The operational features of the CRM software that provides the functionality needed for the project to be successful. In other words, if each and every requirement is satisfied by the performance of the CRM software, then the overall project is a success.

Deliverable

Once the Project Requirements are established, we express an agreement to proceed with development work using a Project Charter document signed by the team members. Now, the project may move ahead.

Project Charter

A project charter is a formal, typically short document that describes your project in its entirety — including what the objectives are, how it will be carried out, and who the stakeholders are. It is a crucial ingredient in planning out the project.


Step 2: Develop, test, iterate... and repeat

Duration: 4 - 8 weeks

Time Commitment: 2-3 hours per week


Time commitments

As the Salesforce developer, I will be engaging in dev (development) cycles that fulfill our project requirements. This does mean the time commitment of other members of the team will be relatively low. The primary requirement is time spent reviewing the individual deliverables provided by the developer and providing thorough feedback and/or approval. Review sessions will be scheduled to correspond with incremental milestones reached during each dev cycle. The sessions are expected to occur on a weekly basis.

Objectives

The goal here is to produce working CRM components, to test each one thoroughly, discover what works and what doesn’t, and then create new iterations of the components until they meet everyone’s behavior and performance expectations.

Deliverable

The Salesforce source (programming) code that delivers the functionality needed to satisfy the project requirements.



Step 3: Deploy, CRM training

Duration: 2 weeks

Time Commitment: 15-30 hours


The light at the end of the tunnel appears! As we run our project through its final paces, and conquer our last set of bug reports, all we are left to do is celebrate our new CRM app  that’s ready to launch for the world to see! Our party will include cupcakes and/or some organic, nut-n-berry muffins, plus a round of high-fives for everyone who contributed to the project’s success. This is the point at which full deployment of the new source code means the new CRM app is “live” for your target audience to access online.

Deployment

The deployment of a project is the final step that makes the new CRM app available to your users and the broader public. Now that beta testing has been completed, the app is ready to be used for actual work.

Time commitments

Build it and they will come? Well, no, we know better than that. Your team will benefit from a new CRM app only to the degree they’re informed about best practices and how the app becomes a digital tool they can turn to in their day-to-day work. As we did back in the day when Microsoft Word or a web browser was first introduced to our daily routine, a strong “habit” can be hard to establish, but progress should be steady and consistent.

The Navigator team will be there to schedule periodic trainings as well as provide ad hoc support.

Objectives

The goal is for everyone on your team to make a contribution to the success of new CRM practices. The highest rate of success will come from nearly everyone pitching in to the effort. The Navigator team will coordinate with the leaders in your program to ensure we set the appropriate expectations and respectful approach to the time constraints you face during this time.

 

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me (Mark Kindred) as I begin a phase of needs assessments, as a step toward producing a long-term CRM strategy. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring my work is in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The digital engagement team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.


 

Clock icon created by bezier master from Noun Project.

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.

Imagine if you could ask your smart speaker to search the OSU Extension website for events located near you, or ask Siri to find all of the blueberry pruning publications in the OSU Extension Catalog?

Alexa, ask OSU Extension what upcoming Master Gardener events are happening near me? 
Siri, show me all of the OSU Extension Catalog publications on pruning blueberries

While this isn’t a reality today, we designed the website to be “exportable”, giving us the  ability to send content to multiple platforms. This might take the form of a virtual assistant, like Alexa, a smartphone application, a chatbot, or whatever the future brings. None of this would be possible without all of that structured content that you all have been creating.

Today, we can interact with machines in highly intuitive, natural ways through smartphones. Virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri have changed the way we interact with machines, using technology like Natural Language Processing (NLP). 1

How people interact with computers is no longer limited to the mouse and keyboard. Recent advances in Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and voice recognition software are rapidly changing how we interact with our devices and computers. Remember when we all used floppy disks, rotary phones, and VCR’s? Do you miss them? Keyboards and mice are also destined to become relics of the past. Talking to your phone feels kind of strange to most people, myself included. I typically just use Siri for settings reminders, alarms, and timers, but much more is possible.

Siri, remind me to create a blog post on August 2nd at 2:00 pm.

For me, this is much faster than launching a program, typing and entering the date and time. Let us know how you are using virtual assistants by leaving a comment below.
OSU Extension digital strategy diafram

Here are some interesting statistics on voice activated searches. 2

  1. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020
  2. About 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020
  3. 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker in 2017. That number is predicted to rise to 55% by 2022.

Providing an engaging, high-quality online experience is a key element to the success of the Navigator project. This online experience can be enhanced by website personalization. In the future, users will be able to create a personal profile by selecting the topics, programs, projects they are interested in, and their location. We can then provide a customized dashboard highlighting the latest tagged content, local events, and much more. Our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) will be able to provide additional insights into users interests, based on previous interactions with Extension. Here is a simple example of how this might work. “Bob” participated in a canning workshop last fall. Chances are he might be also interested in becoming a Master Food Preserver. Knowing this, next time Bob visits the website, his dashboard displays information on the course and how to register.

Preparing for the future – part one

 

Recent website updates

  • Members of topic committees are now able to modify content tags.

 

_______________

1 https://www.axelerant.com/resources/articles/conversational-commerce-integrating-bots-with-drupal-commerce

2 https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/04/10/voice-search-statistics-2018

Arriving at effective use of CRM (see “What exactly is a CRM?“) practices will require collaboration between the O&E digital engagement team and the Extension faculty and staff who create and foster valued relationships with partners and constituents across Oregon (basically, all of you, right?).

All of that collaborative work is done by people.

The single greatest factor to allow people to perform better together is trust. In the case of building a CRM practice together across the Extension Service, I’m thinking of trust we will build upon in these areas:

  • Our shared goal to follow through on OSU Extension Service’s organizational mission
  • The urgency of collecting information about partners and constituents in a shared resource — a database
  • Constant vigilance on issues such as the safety and privacy of all information
  • Safeguards on the responsible use of information that is shared among Extension programs
  • Ongoing availability of training and support to help use the CRM in effective ways

The current reality across Extension is the manner in which contact information is used across various programs relies on pieces of contact information saved in different formats, tucked away in different locations, accessible by separate people who communicate sparingly with each other.

Meanwhile, by virtue of their varied interests and involvement with various events we offer, constituents navigate their way through a number of Extension programs, showing up in contact lists owned by different units.

The result is ongoing outreach efforts that land in their mailbox or email In box from disparate Extension program areas. The potential exists for them to become bombarded with messages from Extension… how are we to measure the efficacy of all our outreach time and expense in this current system?

We can do better!

The Navigator team is making plans for our CRM future

The hope, then, is we collaborate to create a new system together.

As our trust — in each other, in our ability to build effective partnerships, and in the awareness how CRM practices save time and build efficiencies — grows, so will our ability to design new online tools to tackle the unique challenges we face as an organization. The Navigator team can’t face these challenges alone! Our planning and design phase relies on your inclusion in understanding where the day-to-day business needs are and how to address them with appropriate, scalable solutions.

And about that training and support

Workshops and training sessions will be recorded for viewing year round.

As we work through the latter half of 2019, the number of opportunities to interact with the O&E digital engagement team for consultations, trainings, and partnerships will steadily increase. We look forward to working with you!

Our conversations will provide hands-on guidance as to how to use a CRM for your program’s unique business needs. We’ll strive to use multimedia with an aim of broadening availability of learning resources to everyone who needs them. We will have recorded webinars and in-person sessions, viewable online at any time.

If you have any questions about how to begin thinking of the CRM as your next tool to streamline communications, our team is ready to hear from you and listen to your unique view of Extension from where you’re at.


About the O&E digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me (Mark Kindred) as I begin a phase of needs assessments, as a step toward producing a long-term CRM strategy. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring my work is in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The digital engagement team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.


Meanwhile… Extension Website updates.

New example program pages have launched since our previous blog post. These are great examples of how you can lay out your content for program participants, volunteers, and other people who are involved with or interested in your program.

Blog Post for Monday July 22 2019

Take a video tour and hear feedback

Do you still have people calling to ask how to find things on the website? Have you not revisited the Extension website since after the launch? You may be surprised how things have changed over the past year. This tutorial walks you through the four key ways to get reoriented to the website.

https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

Share this video with your colleagues and clients, and consider posting these announcements on social media or in newsletters this summer.

Take a tour of the updated OSU Extension Service website to see different ways to find the science-based information you want. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

What’s the resource you’re looking for? Here’s 4 ways to find it on OSU Extension’s website. Watch now. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

Interested in what’s changed about the OSU Extension’s website since you last looked? We welcome you to start exploring again. https://youtu.be/zWC1UgT1qis

Or send them to the “How to Use this Website” help page that is in the footer of the website. Also, when you talk with someone new or respond to an email, consider asking how this person found you. What did they Google? Why did they click on your resource? What did they do once on the site? You may be pleased to hear what they found and what else would be of interest.

Web updates

You’ll notice several new places where we are collecting feedback directly from website visitors to inform our work.

To see the comments, web groups can click a “Feedback” tab on your content or group pages when logged in.

Also, a reminder to add the photo credit and/or required citation (e.g. Creative Commons attribution) when adding an image to the site. Just click on the “Edit” button after uploading it to find the caption, photo credit and photo credit link fields. This can be helpful when we get contacted from outside media that want to reprint an article or use an image.

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.

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.

“Why is adding content so complicated?”, this is a question I’ve heard frequently since the website launched last year. The short answer is we’re creating Structured Content. All of those individual fields you see when creating an event (i.e., topics, programs, counties, short descriptions, etc.), these fields help us create structured content.

When your program’s event is tagged with a topic, it displays on the corresponding topic page. If you tag your event to the surrounding counties, it shows up on the event list on those counties. This increases the reach of your event.

We recently added ‘Local Focus Areas’ for county office groups that appear on the county’s “What we do” page. Local focus areas provide a way for counties to share information about your local Extension activities, work, or research. Local focus areas are intended to act as a link between counties, programs and topics.

Once a local focus area is created, other offices can link to it. When tagged with a topic, a link to the topic page automatically appears on the local focus area page. Pretty cool, but wait there’s more. When your focus area is tagged with a topic, an “In Your Community” page is generated on the tagged topic’s page. The page displays a page with a map showcasing your county’s unique work, and connects the high number of new visitors who enter the site through topic pages to learn more about what is in their county.

In your community page

Learning how to add content to the OSU Extension website does take a bit of patience, planning, and time. I think you’ll find this time well spent. In part two, we’ll explore how structured content fits into website personalization, CRM integration, chat bots and other possibilities, as we prepare for the future.

Preparing for the future – part two

Coming to a location near you

We are in the process of scheduling regional in-person website workshops. We are looking at dates in September and October and will let you know when they have been finalized. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us, submit a help ticket, or visit the Extension web guide.

Recent website updates

  • Ability to ‘feature’ an announcement to show it on your county’s landing page. By default, the newest announcement is displayed.
  • Tabbed sections, like on BEPA 2.0, are now available for use on program pages.
  • Fixed problem with misaligned map markers.
A “typical” computer/tablet/smartphone setup makes a lot of assumptions about the abilities of the person using it. For example, it may assume they are able to see a screen, hear sound from a speaker, type on a keyboard, and manipulate a mouse. These assumptions are not always correct. When this is the case, people use “assistive technology” to access websites. Some examples include:

  • “Screen reader” software that reads web page text out loud for people who can’t see it on a screen.
  • Braille devices that present web page text for people who can neither see a screen nor hear spoken text.
  • Special keyboard navigation for people who have trouble controlling a mouse.
  • Voice command or eye tracking software for people who can’t use a mouse or a keyboard.

Assistive technology doesn’t only have to do with what we might consider a “disability”. It also includes, for example, automatic translators and “night modes” on cell phones.

We want our content to be available to all Oregonians. Plus, it is legally required to be accessible to all people regardless of ability. So, our website needs to work with all assistive technology.

Our team makes sure that the framework of the Extension website is accessible. This includes the navigation, search functionality, and other shared features. However, content authors need to help ensure that the content on the site is accessible as well.

For content authors, there are three main rules for accessible content:

  1. Make all content available as “true text” (i.e. highlightable with your mouse).
  2. Use text formatting correctly to provide structure and meaning to content.
  3. Don’t make assumptions about the technology visitors are using to access the content.

True Text Content

“True text” is text that you can highlight with a mouse. Screen readers cannot read any content that isn’t true text. That content is unavailable to people using them. Therefore, all content must be available as true text in some form.

Most of the content that you enter in the Extension website will be true text. There are only three situations where you need to worry about this:

  1. Images that contain text
  2. PDFs that contain scanned documents
  3. Videos and other multimedia

Images Containing Text

When an image contains text, it needs to be available as “true text” somewhere else on the page. The “Alternative Text” field exists for this purpose specifically if the text is not too long. Here is an article about writing alt text with some examples.

If the image conveys information without text, include a summary of that information. This can be in the page’s body text or the image’s caption or alternative text.

PDFs Containing Scanned Documents

Sometimes, when you scan a document, it comes to your computer as an image. This has all the same problems as other images. To test if a PDF contains true text, try to highlight the text inside it. If you can’t, you will need to recreate or fix the document. University of Washington has created a good article about fixing inaccessible PDFs.

Videos and Other Multimedia

In general, all videos should have captions at least and, ideally, a transcript. The transcript should include text shown in the video if it is not part of the transcribed speech.

If you use YouTube’s automatic captioning, check that it doesn’t generate anything problematic.

Text Formatting

Many people think of the text toolbar as a way to make text look a certain way. But working with that idea may make content confusing to visitors who do not see web pages the same way you do. Really, the purpose is to mark certain text as having a certain meaning or purpose. Here are the controls that can mark content this way:

  • Bold (“B” icon): Marks text that is important. A screen reader might read it in a different tone/volume or single it out.
  • Superscript (“x2” icon): Marks text that is superscript, such as in mathematical equations or chemical names. This is not for footnote references (there is another control for that) or making text smaller. In the latter case, screen readers might not read the text correctly if they assume it is part of an equation.
  • Subscript (“x2” icon): Marks text that is subscript, such as in mathematical equations or chemical names. This is not for making text smaller. Screen readers might not read the text correctly if they assume it is part of an equation.
  • Footnote (“a1” icon): Creates a reference to a footnote at the bottom of the page.
  • Blockquote (“ icon): Marks a chunk of text that is quoted from another source. Do not use this just to indent text.
  • Link (chain link with “+” icon): Marks text as being a link to another page. The text that visitors click on to follow the link is called the “link text”.
  • Bulleted list: Marks text as making up a bulleted list. Do not use dashes, asterisks, etc. to create bulleted lists. This control encodes the text so that assistive technology can tell it is a list.
  • Numbered list: Marks text as making up a numbered. List. Do not type out numbers to create a numbered list. This control encodes the text so that assistive technology can tell it is a list.
  • Heading dropdown: The headings are the most important text in a piece of content. People who are able to see text on the screen are able to “scan” content by scrolling. People using screen readers do this by listening to the headings before diving into the full text. This is common behavior, so it is important to use headings correctly. Here are some tips:
    • Always start with “heading 2”. For further levels of headings, go in order. I.e. do not go from heading 2 straight to heading 4.
    • Use headings to separate sections instead of horizontal lines and/or bold text.
    • Do not use this dropdown as a way to emphasize text. This prevents the scanning functionality of screen readers from working as intended.

There are a couple of formatting controls in the text toolbar  that only create visual elements on the page. These are invisible to screen readers, so don’t rely on them for meaning or organization:

  • Pull quote (next to block quote icon): Displays some text in a large, stylized font.
  • Horizontal line: Creates a gray horizontal line.

Accessible Writing

There are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your content makes sense to all visitors.

Meaningful Link Text

Another common way for screen reader users to “scan” a page is by pulling out and listening only to the links. Therefore, it is important that link text is meaningful by itself. It shouldn’t rely on the surrounding text. It should describe what the user will get if they click on the link. Here are some tips for writing meaningful link text:

  • Don’t use the raw URL of the link by itself. E.g. instead of “https://google.com”, use “Google”. This is particularly important for software that may let a person say the link text to “click” it.
  • Avoid the phrase “click here”. When that text is read on its own, it is completely meaningless. It is also exclusionary to people who are not using a mouse. In general, instead of saying “Click here to do X”, you should say “Do X”.

Acronyms and All-caps

Acronyms are the only words that should be in all caps. Text in all capital letters is more difficult to read for visitors with Dyslexia. Screen readers may also assume words in all caps are acronyms and mispronounce them.

Symbols and Special Characters

When you need a symbol that is not on your keyboard, copy and paste it from another source. Don’t “fake it” with letters you can type. For example, don’t use a superscript letter “O” to fake a degree symbol (°). Other examples are trademark symbols, multiplication signs, and letters from other languages. Here is a site where you can copy many special characters. Note that most of these characters have special meanings and are not for decoration.

Data Tables

Tables are very visual and so difficult to encode in a way that assistive technology can make sense of. Here are some general tips:

  • Don’t upload a table as an image.
  • Only use tables when necessary. If possible, use lists or other ways to display the information.
  • Use the simplest table possible. E.g. avoid cells that span more than one row/column.
  • Contact EESC if you need help setting up an accessible data table.

Inclusive Writing

When you are writing, avoid assuming that visitors are using the website the same way you do. Particularly:

  • Don’t reference the position or appearance of visual elements on the page. Not everyone can see these, and even if they can they won’t always look the same. Instead of “the orange button” or “the button to the right”, say something like “the button labeled ‘Buy Now’”.
  • Don’t refer to actions that depend on the device or software the visitor is using. These include “click”, “right click”, “scroll”, pressing keys, opening a particular program, etc.

Accessibility Resources

There are many, many resources on the web about accessibility, and OSU has some of its own. Here are some of our favorites:

  • IT Accessibility at OSU: Information and resources about accessible web pages, documents, and multimedia. Also includes OSU policies on accessibility.
  • WebAIM: An organization that aims to improve web accessibility throughout the Internet. They have great articles and tools.
  • Developing Accessible Web Content from Section508.gov:  Guidelines for creating web content that meet legal requirements for accessibility.
  • W3C Accessibility: This organization developed the requirements that determine compliance with accessibility laws. They have a very in-depth guide to meeting these requirements.
Some characteristics of the people Extension serves across Oregon—our consituents or clients—are changing. Broadly speaking, digital literacy, for one, is a big driver of some of the changes we see in people’s behavior. Perhaps we see some web traffic head to Google search that we’d like to see arrive to the Extension web site.

Naturally, our goal is to retain and enhance people’s awareness of the unique expertise and perspective brought to their questions and challenges by OSU Extension Service.

The prevailing thinking on this topic, across many areas of a client’s day-to-day activities—from banking to purchasing an item to seeking out a workshop from a local Extension office—is the degree to which it helps to receive communication messages that appear personalized to the individual. The sensation of “wow, this is just for me!” Whether it’s a postcard in the mailbox or an email message in the IN box, in those cases where it’s the right information coming to them at just the right time, we can expect that message to be well received. We would expect it to be perceived as relevant and worth their immediate attention.

Pause for a moment to think how many emails land in your own IN box and go unread? In cases where we can increase the relevancy of that subject line and the information inside the message, we can seek to change the nature of that problem.

Opportunities abound to personalize!

So, the challenge we set before us is to discover ways to begin delivering timely information in a personalized way. To achieve this goal, you devote some time to creating a strategy fitting the unique aspects of your corner of the Extension landscape. In collaboration with O&E’s digital engagement team, you’re then outfitted with the appropriate mix of CRM tools to meet your needs.

From there, the next steps are powered by your own creativity! It may help to see an example? I recently brainstormed one simple workflow that I thought would make a big impact. Let’s walk through it.

A simple example

We can imagine a face-to-face class that takes place and some hot topic emerges, organically, from the discussion. One idea we can have as the instructor/facilitator is to follow up to send relevant, topic-related resources to that cohort. The steps would look like:

  • Login to the CRM immediately after end of class
    for timeliness
  • Create a custom email message; fill it with relevant links
    use an email layout template for expediency
  • The new email delivers out to the cohort
    only the people from that specific class
  • The cohort is able to continue the discussion
    perhaps by linking to a discussion board where they can share ideas quickly online

And it doesn’t stop there…

There happen to be so many ways to implement personalization that they don’t all fit in a single blog post. I would even like to begin exploring “proactive customer service,” which is a strategy by which we answer people’s questions for them even before they ask them and that just seems like it will be an exciting option. Look for it in a future post!

What ideas can you dream up? I would welcome your vision of a personalized experience for your constituents, clients, and partners! Send me your ideas?

We can’t personalize what we can’t track

In the example above, we see a chance to really effectively communicate with a distinct audience. But there happens to be prep work needing to be done to achieve that success. Let’s discuss some of the ways a CRM platform will help us get there.

  • create the list of names and email addresses for program participants—our Contacts
  • track registration for upcoming classes
  • the ability to track attendees for each class—the cohort
  • use a simple filter to end up with a list of Contacts making up that specific cohort
  • quickly pull from a set of beautifully designed email templates
  • rely on the CRM to provide email delivery directly to each person
  • then… sit back and wait to hear from satisfied clients!

About the O&E digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me (Mark Kindred) as I begin a phase of needs assessments, as a step toward producing a long-term CRM strategy. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring my work is in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The digital engagement team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.


Meanwhile… Extension Website updates.

  • If you missed the May 31st webinar training, you can now watch the recording. You will learn about Managing County Landing Pages and Local Focus Areas. County pages have a new description section. You are able to move information about your county farther down the page, if needed.
  • We have switched the map technology used on the site. You’ll notice some difference in how it looks, but the intent was to make it function in all the same ways. One improvement worth noting: the process for entering an event location is simpler. You can type in the address—no longer need to find it on the map. Also improved: the map on the Find us page is wider.
  • Our History page in the About menu is recently published. Check out the historical photos of Extension, which also serve as a great example of how programs and local programs, such as 4-H and Master Gardeners, can add and display images on their pages.