Last week we launched a new homepage design for the OSU Extension website. Additional design refinements for the homepage will be coming soon. Homepage updates include:

  • New feature to sharing three key statistics. (This will also be available to content groups for program subpages and collections.)
  • New footer for the OSU Extension website. This is the black section at the bottom of all pages on the OSU Extension website.
  • Easy ways to find information for local county offices, including a direct links to each county’s event page.
  • A new design for homepage featured content. This will highlight awesome content across OSU Extension.
  • Ask an Expert featured questions.

Check it out, we’d love to hear what you think! Share your feedback.

 

Come see us at the OSU Extension Annual Conference!

These are our sessions:

 

Extension Website Lightning Talks
Jennifer Alexander, Mark Kindred, Amerie Lommen, Bryan Mayjor, Michele Scheib
Wednesday, 9:15-10:00am

The Extension website is more powerful than many realize. In this session, we will present short lightning talks on tips and tricks for using the Extension website and related tools, reporting impact (including Digital Measures), best practices and requirements for web content (including accessibility for visitors with disabilities), and news about upcoming milestones in Extension’s digital strategy, including CRM development.

 

DIY Extension Marketing
Ann Marie Murphy, Nicole Strong (TBC), Michele Scheib, Erik Simmons (TBC), Chris Branam, Kym Pokorny
Tuesday, 1:30-2:45pm

Creating awareness of the value of Extension and recruiting participants and volunteers is often top of mind and can be a challenge for Extension offices and programs. This session will bring tools, ideas and experience to help you market Extension in your county and region from a variety of people and perspectives. Come prepared to share one of the most effective 2019 marketing efforts from your county or program!

 

Building a CRM Practice in Extension Programs: the How & the Why
Mark Kindred, Carrie Berger
Wednesday, 10:15-10:45am

The Extension Service is scaling up its use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software as a digital tool to increase efficiency and strengthen productivity. For each program across Extension, the scope and scale of a CRM practice will differ. This presentation will highlight the steps undertaken to assess, plan, and implement a CRM practice using Salesforce. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and why this digital solution was necessary for helping the program achieve its goals.

 

Extension Efficiency and Growth Opportunities
Jamie Davis (TBD), Amerie Lommen, Mark Kindred, Jeff Sherman, Kelsey Knight, Kevin Leahy, Raul Burriel
Thursday, 1:00-2:00pm

Join us for a panel that will help foster ideas for social resilience and growth mindset, intergenerational marketing, community engagement, sustainable growth, keeping up meeting and event attendance within the community, reaching the next generation, and more! The panel will feature: Jamie Davis (Social Media), Amerie Lommen (EESC/Web Strategy), Mark Kindred (CRM), Jeff Sherman (non-traditional community engagement models), Kevin Leahy (holding meaningful meetings; getting community to attend Extension events), Raul Burriel (tech/media strategy)

 

Internet Productivity Tips & Tricks: Getting the Most Out of Your Web Browser and Online Search
Victor Villegas
Wednesday, 10:15-10:45am

Learn how to get the most out of your web browser, increase your productivity and find information faster online.

 

Information table at the conference

We will have a table on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Come find us and ask questions. We’d love to see you!

 

 

UPDATED 11/26/19: The new OSU Extension website homepage has been launched! Check it out, we’d love to hear what you think! Share your feedback.


A new design for the OSU Extension website homepage will be launching soon!

Updates include:

  • New feature to sharing three key statistics. (This will also be available to content groups for program subpages and collections.)
  • New footer for the OSU Extension website. This is the black section at the bottom of all pages on the OSU Extension website. This is viewable now.
  • Easy ways to find information for local county offices, including a direct links to each county’s event page.
  • A new design for homepage featured content. This will highlight awesome content across OSU Extension.
  • Added Ask an Expert featured questions.

Keep an eye on the homepage over the coming days to see the updates.

 

Come see us at OSU Extension Annual Conference!

As you plan what sessions you’ll attend, consider these:

 

Extension Website Lightning Talks
Jennifer Alexander, Mark Kindred, Amerie Lommen, Bryan Mayjor, Michele Scheib
Wednesday, 9:15-10:00am

The Extension website is more powerful than many realize. In this session, we will present short lightning talks on tips and tricks for using the Extension website and related tools, reporting impact (including Digital Measures), best practices and requirements for web content (including accessibility for visitors with disabilities), and news about upcoming milestones in Extension’s digital strategy, including CRM development.

 

DIY Extension Marketing
Ann Marie Murphy, Nicole Strong (TBC), Michele Scheib, Erik Simmons (TBC), Chris Branam, Kym Pokorny
Tuesday, 1:30-2:45pm

Creating awareness of the value of Extension and recruiting participants and volunteers is often top of mind and can be a challenge for Extension offices and programs. This session will bring tools, ideas and experience to help you market Extension in your county and region from a variety of people and perspectives. Come prepared to share one of the most effective 2019 marketing efforts from your county or program!

 

Building a CRM Practice in Extension Programs: the How & the Why
Mark Kindred, Carrie Berger
Wednesday, 10:15-10:45am

The Extension Service is scaling up its use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software as a digital tool to increase efficiency and strengthen productivity. For each program across Extension, the scope and scale of a CRM practice will differ. This presentation will highlight the steps undertaken to assess, plan, and implement a CRM practice using Salesforce. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and why this digital solution was necessary for helping the program achieve its goals.

 

Extension Efficiency and Growth Opportunities
Jamie Davis (TBD), Amerie Lommen, Mark Kindred, Jeff Sherman, Kelsey Knight, Kevin Leahy, Raul Burriel
Thursday, 1:00-2:00pm

Join us for a panel that will help foster ideas for social resilience and growth mindset, intergenerational marketing, community engagement, sustainable growth, keeping up meeting and event attendance within the community, reaching the next generation, and more! The panel will feature: Jamie Davis (Social Media), Amerie Lommen (EESC/Web Strategy), Mark Kindred (CRM), Jeff Sherman (non-traditional community engagement models), Kevin Leahy (holding meaningful meetings; getting community to attend Extension events), Raul Burriel (tech/media strategy)

 

Internet Productivity Tips & Tricks: Getting the Most Out of Your Web Browser and Online Search
Victor Villegas
Wednesday, 10:15-10:45am

Learn how to get the most out of your web browser, increase your productivity and find information faster online.

 

Information table at the conference

We will have a table on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Come find us and ask questions. We’d love to see you!

 

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.

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

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

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

Collecting audience feedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding the feedback on your content

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

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

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

Seeing audience behavior

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

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

Takeaways and lessons

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

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

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

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

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

Sample positive feedback

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

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

(Some comments have been edited for readability.)

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

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

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

Cleaning the content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Web updates

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

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

What I thought would be fun is to walk through a few actual screens people see when using the Salesforce CRM.

If you’ve never logged in to Salesforce (or any CRM) and have wondered what it is like to experience that work flow, this will be a brief window into the way this powerful software works.

There is too much to fit in just one post! But it’s worth it to try to reveal some of its features.

And not just any screens… What I will cover today is a few steps in the process of sending emails to Extension partners or constituents from directly inside the CRM and, furthermore, explain why that’s a good idea.

Let’s get started.

For a recap of posts related to Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) …

  1. What exactly is a CRM… and why should I care?
  2. Steps to build CRM capabilities for an Extension program, and how long will it take?
  3. How collaboration across Extension leads to effective use of a CRM

How it all begins…

The benefit of operating in a CRM is it provides the ability to make data-informed decisions. Check out the way this dashboard fills the screen with targeted details about an ongoing set of outreach efforts—emails, text messages, and the like.

With dynamic feedback in front of you, showing how your audience is responding to recent outreach efforts, you can step up the pace of new messages. Or perhaps the better choice may be to switch gears and reach out to folks by phone because their email response rate shows up as lower than everyone else’s.

The CRM provides the info you need to make the best choice on process and timing. Now, let’s review varying levels of email delivery.

A-B-C basics: let the CRM deliver your message

From Salesforce, sending a single email is handled on a screen that, once you take a look, bears a resemblance to any webmail software. You’ll feel right at home crafting all the parts of the message, just Salesforce does the work when you click the Send button.

Options for customizing the email message mean you have added flexibility here. It enables you to communicate with your constituents in ways that align with your team’s plans for providing support.

For instance, the email can be sent from you or from the organization and you can modify this aspect on-the-fly (right before you send). An example: if the person receiving your email chooses to reply, you may need that reply to go to a group mailbox—as it is reviewed by the team, there’s a greater chance of reacting to it right away—so in that case, send out from the team’s group address.

Not only can you customize, but the message is saved as an “event” right in the CRM. Read on to find out more about message tracking.

Step it up! Smart tools for bulk email delivery

We already know there are times when a critical message needs to be sent out to a wider audience. Think of advertising the opening of registration for a new workshop. Or an advisory committee meeting has a new start time and all committee members need to be notified right away.

In the below screen shot, we see a sample Salesforce screen showing a list that has been filtered to reveal five people set to receive your next message. The purpose of this Pending Approvals screen is to restrict the actual delivery of messages until details are fully approved by the right person on your team.

Using a special set of features in the CRM, not only can you quickly send all five people an artfully designed template-based email — a process that from this screen requires exactly two clicks — but, in fact, you can also choose to pause for a moment and add personalized comments of your own.

NOTE: we will cover email templates in more detail in a future post

So, you decide to add a personalized message to one recipient. You would use a screen like the one below. On the left side of the screen, a text box for Introduction above, and an open text box for Conclusion below it, permit personalized comments to appear at the very top and, optionally, bottom of your beautiful, HTML-format message.

Not every email can be handled in this way, but for parts of your communication plan that are incredibly repetitive, this technique can add a lot of efficiency. It’s time I am sure you would like to gain back!

Message tracking — measure the results, improve as we go

Of critical importance to us as the total number of messages we are expected to send and receive shows signs of increasing dramatically, is appropriate analytics we can use to better predict how our outreach efforts will perform.

For example, your team just used the CRM to send a message out to a large group. So far so good.

The first draft was a wall of text, a step-by-step guide instructing each recipient how to carefully negotiate a sign-up process. Your team waits to see if every recipient follows through on the steps. Do they open the email? Will they read it all thoroughly?

Or… you suddenly recall another team member’s brainstorm of placing a visually appealing photo at the top of the message. Nothing compares to a photo of OSU Extension faculty immersed in an engagement with smiling young people, who are excitedly learning about forest ecosystems. So, you wonder, would that have been a better way to engage with this audience?

Thankfully, you have the CRM dashboards you can turn to for answers to these important questions! Check out the sample screen above, offering up an Email Performance report.

This is another reason we use the CRM. Through the power of advanced analytics gathering, it collects up vital details of key performance indicators such as email open ratesclick rates — i.e how many times did the “Read more” button in that third paragraph receive a click — as well as the dreaded unsubscribe rates, which we all agree should never happen, because Extension info is just too fun and interesting!

NOTE: enhancing email message relevance as a means by which to prevent people from unsubscribing from emails is a critically important process. It is based on processes to which we can all contribute. More on this at a later time.

Conclusion and (a little) more to think about

If you are reading this far, I thank you for catching up on the power the CRM brings to managing message delivery and analytics data gathering.

Some related (and intriguing) features we haven’t yet talked about include:

  • The CRM can send SMS text messages. too
  • Pulling up one of your contacts in the CRM displays a history of messages you sent them via the CRM
  • Microsoft Outlook plugins are available to bring some CRM capabilities right into standard emails
  • Instead of manual delivery every time, certain messages can go out automatically, using customization options within the CRM

If you would like to hear more about any of these features, please reach out to me any time for discussion. I’m here to assist.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Reuse events from last year

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

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

Instructions:

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

2. Store files in Box

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

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

Instructions:

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

3. Break up long pages

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

Page sections:

For most page sections, you can configure:

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

Instructions:

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

Nested pages:

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

Instructions:

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

4. Look at peers for ideas

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

5. Think about all your audiences

Programs produce content for many audiences, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step one: establish ownership and roles

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

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

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

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

Step two: design and document content processes

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

Plan

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

Review

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

Publish

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

Revise

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

Step three: produce supporting documents and tools

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

Guidelines that EESC provides and encourage you to use include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destination

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

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


Extension website updates

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

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

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

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

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