“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.

Use topic pages and tags so visitors find educational content

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

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

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

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

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

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

A complete, searchable guide to the Extension Website is now available online: beav.es/extension-webguide

This guide contains all information and instructions you need to work with the Extension website as well as tips and tricks for advanced users. For those of you who are already familiar with the site or just need a quick refresher, it includes several quick start reference documents.

We welcome questions and feedback and hope that this will serve as a valuable resource to Extension employees who work on the website.

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

The top events by views were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What content authors can do:

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

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

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

Recent improvements to events by EESC:

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

For this  week’s post, we thought we’d start the year with a couple of tips that can save you time and frustration.

Select lists

Did you know most select lists on the Extension site are searchable? 

Just place your cursor in the select field and start typing and select.

Scenario where this would be helpful:
You are creating an event and want to tag additional counties. Just place your cursor in the select field and start typing. As you type, matches will start to appear, once you find the county you are looking for, select it by clicking it. This technique is especially helpful for selecting items from long lists, like topics.

Linking to files on Box

A common situation we come across is the need to link to documents which change often or yearly, such as a registration form. Box is a great solution for this. After uploading a document, copy the URL (web address), then use the URL for creating a program or online resource, or link to the document on a subpage. See the Box section on our File Management guide for more information.The file can be set as private (only a select list of people can access it), viewable for anyone at OSU (requires ONID authentication), or anyone with the link can access it. Once you have created the link, you can modify the file, even replace the file with the current version. Your link on your page will always work and return the latest version of the file.

Scenario where this would be helpful:
Let’s say you are a 4-H agent in Morrow County and you need to post a form for Morrow County 4-H website. By uploading the form to Box, you can replace the file each year without changing the link on your website. Then if someone has the link from last year, you can be assured that everyone is accessing this years form. Added benefit — if the form shows up in a Google search, the link will go to the current version, not last years, or the 2012 version.

New to Box? Visit the Getting Started with Box page or contact Victor Villegas for personalized help.

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

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

 

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

Basic Site Stats

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

Top visited pages

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

How people find the site

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

What people search for on the site

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

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

Here’s to the next six months!

If you are new to working on the Extension website, or need a refresher, then here are some getting started tips and answers to frequently asked questions. Hopefully, it will help avoid common missteps when still learning the new website structure.

  1. How you add content to the website is less based on where you are located and more on your role. In the previous website, you entered things on your county site. Now you enter information together with your group (see Who is going to enter all this content?).
  2. Every group can add an event or newsletter. Whoever creates the newsletter, must continue to be the group that uploads subsequent issues (which show up automatically on the newsletter page).
  3. EESC uploads any catalog publications to the site so your group doesn’t have to. If a catalog is not on the site, then it’s probably been pulled to be updated.
  4. You can see who uploaded a certain piece of content and in what group by going to All Content Overview. There is also a link to this on the My Groups menu page when logged in, just in case you forget.
  5. Any member of a group can make a change to the group’s content, but contact the author, if reachable, about changes. If you see something that should be unpublished until it can be further reviewed, contact EESC.
  6. When mentioning an Extension faculty or staff person on a webpage, just hyperlink their name to their profile page. This way if their contact information ever changes it only has to be updated there and not all around the site. Adding someone as an author to an article (step 3 of edit screen) creates this link too.
  7. If the content relates to more than one topic, then it can be tagged with all topics to display many places. This way people can find information in the topic they are searching on, but be careful about not over-tagging (it needs to be relevant).
  8. Content Teams can get confused about an Article vs. Educational Document so a good table that helps you to see the difference is in the content team guide “Deciding the Type of Content”. Also see File Management and Getting Content Organized on the Website.
  9. Program Groups have the useful function of tagging a program resource with a category. Then, it appears automatically with a title and description on a page with the same category selected in its Program Resource List (which you can see in the page’s edit screen). This way you don’t need to hyperlink to the program resource.
  10. Office Groups subpages, which are the side menus on county office pages, are meant to describe the physical location and facilities and serve as a landing spot for local relationships (i.e. a place to direct people on the website to find staff, events, or newsletters). They can also be pointers (e.g. orange button links) in this transition period for people to know where to find things, especially as educational content is now on topic pages instead.

See the FAQs and the Training page of this blog to learn more specific answers or to questions that may come up for you farther down the road. And of course, always feel free to email our web support team.

Do you have annual research reports and not sure where these should go? What about a journal article published outside OSU? Or a weekly alert that comes from your research? We have some answers to guide you in knowing whether or not this research content should go on the Extension website and next steps based on that decision.

On November 1, the archived county sites go away so if your content team hasn’t reviewed the content to see if there’s anything to update and move over, then it’s still easy enough to do in the next weeks. After that, it becomes harder once the server is taken down and the content files are backed-up in Box folders.

For combined stations or others with research related content:

If you have further questions or suggestions related to research or archived content, please contact the EESC web team for more information and discussion.