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So you’ve got yourself a Drupal site, and it’s feeling a little neglected. Maybe it doesn’t have any friends and nobody plays with it anymore. Why not bring it to one the Drupal Open Labs? Or maybe you don’t have a website yet but you’ve always been thinking about getting one. Why not stop by and try one out? At the Open Labs, someone might let you play with theirs.

Think of the Open Labs as a sort of 4-H club for website owners. The free program has been around for a while as part of CWS’s suite of web training and support services, but this quarter we’re giving the sessions an adrenaline injection in the spirit of experimentation. We’re planning to hold extended sessions weekly through March, and we’ll not only have our Drupal trainer-in-residence, Sher Fenn, on hand, but we’ll also bring developers, site builders, graphic artists and writers.

We’re looking for web property owners who want to improve their sites. Bring your projects to the lab and we’ll assemble a team on the fly to either workshop solutions right on the spot or set you on a course to continue to work on your own with confidence. Are you lacking a robust web support team? Well now for two hours per week you’ve got one. Oh, and the program isn’t restricted to just Drupal. We welcome other web species as well, from WordPress to garden variety HTML.

So bring your neglected pet projects or even your major initiatives to the lab and let’s poke ’em with a stick and watch what happens.

Here are the dates for the upcoming labs. And you can sign up here. We hope to see you there this winter.

  • January 22, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • January 29, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • February 5 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 12 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 19 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 26 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 4 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 11 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 25 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Photo: Oregon Digital Collections)

The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

An emotional connection

Whenever a police car is following along behind me I get this overwhelming sense of panic and fear. Usually they speed ahead or turn off in other pursuits but for that instant I am frozen thinking about all the possible laws I could have broken. It doesn’t matter what city I’m in, if they are a sheriff, state trooper or even campus security they all bring that same reaction. For many reasons (media, TV, personal experience) over time the law enforcement brand has developed this emotional connection.

That is exactly what we should strive for in our marketing efforts, although probably along the lines of hope and positivity instead of panic and fear. If we can create that kind of emotional response when people encounter our brand we will have joined the elite.

Ignore their minds connect with their hearts

Sometimes we get stuck trying to force our “Strategic message” on audiences that can’t relate. A great example of this is our Brand Statement. “Oregon State University is an authentic community, whose accomplishments, inclusive excellence, innovation and leadership promote a healthy planet, wellness and economic progress.

Your average human doesn’t think in these terms, that statement is really hard to understand. They don’t have a history of higher ed nomenclature to pull from. The base instinct that we are actually going for is “OSU, yeah they are super smart” or “OSU, they always impress me”.

Our typical pattern would be to do a very good job of storytelling. We would find a research breakthrough and if we were good we would come up with a way to make it relatable. It could be in written form, story, video, web site, etc.. Then if we were really good we would have systems in place or ways to make sure that content had maximum exposure.

Does that sound familiar? The content was created from an institutional perspective. The likelihood of creating an emotional response is pretty low. What if we came at it from a different direction? What if we created content with the purpose of getting people to think “wow, they are super smart”. We could come up with content that taught people something and not academic sense, more on a real life level. I bet if you made a list you could think of five things that you have always wanted to learn or maybe it’s five life hacks you learned in the last year.

Here is my list

  • Learn how to be an average singer. I don’t want to be a rock star I just want to be able to sing karaoke and people not hate it.
  • How to bake chocolate chip cookies? I’m terrible at anything culinary and learning simple recipes was super useful.
  • What are the best house plants and how to keep them alive? Plants are great to have around but I used to kill everything. A simple guide on what plants are easiest to grow and how to keep them alive would go a long way.
  • Poetry, I have always had an interest in writing poetry but I have no clue where to start. A basic guide would be really helpful in potentially unlocking something I’m passionate about.
  • How to change a flat tire. It seems silly but this is not a skill that you are born with and is useful for everyone.

So imagine we developed a series of content that accomplished all of these things. They were branded OSU but just cut right to the topic, no bull, no core messages. Imagine if you learned how to sing from a YouTube series? Wouldn’t you have a great connection with whoever provided that? The positive experience would transfer to the brand, people would consider us to be knowledgeable only because they had an experience where we taught them something as simple as how to change a flat tire.

Not only does this simple transference happen, but the content we would be producing is much more shareable and has a chance to reach a much larger audience. Even the best breakthrough research content has a limited audience and it is also temporal. Todays innovations are old news tomorrow.

Disclaimers

  • This is just one example and it might not even be a good one. It just represents the shift in how we could be connecting to our audiences in addition what we do now.
  • The OSU brand statement is not meant to actually show up in any collateral it is by definition steeped in academic terms. I very much believe in our brand statement and think that it is quite well written. It is just the easiest example I could find.
  • My visceral reactions to law enforcement, following me, no way reflects how I actually feel about them. I am deeply thankful for the men and women who dedicate their careers to protecting our communities. It’s also quite possible that the negative emotion tied to their brand is a good thing. It might help keep crime in check.

-Kegan

-Kegan


The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

Maximizing reach

So much of advertising depends on reach. It doesn’t matter what medium or channel you are considering. Before you can drive engagement and deliver conversions you have to start by reaching your audience.

Sometimes reach at a university ebbs and flows outside of our control. During the summer months reach is diminished. Students leave, faculty go on vacation and our physical touch points start to dry up. The same goes for our digital space, during these months some of our audiences have fewer reasons to go to our home page. The natural (unpaid) forces that provide motivation for people to enter our funnel temporarily dry up.

EndofYear
Commencement 2015

There are also a few times each year where our natural reach is maximized. During commencement our touch points increase. Parents, siblings, alumni, current students, etc. all coming to campus, some for the first time in years. Web traffic analysis shows that this is also a peak time for the university home page and core sites.

As bargain hunting marketers we make an effort to pounce on the opportunity. Every year our department composes features about our graduates often including stories and videos detailing their exploits and possible career options. This allows us to celebrate the university through the stories about some really interesting people. These are particularly useful in targeting our prospective parent demographic. Parents want to imagine their students getting a degree and moving on with the job of their dreams and we happily share examples with them. Callie our storytelling guru and Darryl, the lord commander of video production, usually pair up to make excellent content.

Here is one student from this year’s graduating class.

Normally these profiles would be inserted into our carousel towards the top of the Oregon State home page. Without going on a rant I’ll just say I’m not much of a carousel fan. Typically this feature of our site has a 1.3% click through rate. You can spin that number however you want, but to me it isn’t good enough. This year we decided to try something new.

Going outside of the box

It is unrealistic to consider completely redesigning our home page for this one use and the current design was never constructed to be very flexible in terms of layout. We decided that there might be a way to augment it with some small CSS tricks in order to take advantage of this temporarily increased reach. Oliver (one of our graphic designers — which is oversimplifying his amazing talents, but I digress) came up with the concept of adding functionality that allowed the home page to essentially slide away revealing bonus content. The thought would be to make it feel like you were finding a secret or something hidden. Making an emotional connection rather than the expected experience with the carousel. The simple act of changing the background to an image, instead of a color, might register with the users that something has changed.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

After talking it through we came up with a fairly simple solution. We inserted a new graphic that when clicked slid the main content area of the home page to the right revealing our special commencement feature. This was done with one line of jQuery and absolutely positioning the commencement feature underneath the main container with CSS. We played around with all sorts of ideas, but this seemed like the best compromise. We didn’t want to impede the user experience by forcing people to go through this feature, but we also wanted it to be interruptive enough that it would be noticeable.

After clicking the button in the left corner of the page the main content area slides to the right exposing our hidden content.

After clicking the button, in the left corner of the page, the main content area slides to the right exposing our commencement feature.

The results are in

By attaching event tracking to the button, that activated the animation, we were able to track how many times users interacted with our marketing Frankenstein feature. During the 14 days that this feature was on the home page it was “opened” 3,956 times by 2,652 unique users. Those numbers in isolation tell me that at least some people figured out how to interact with this new feature and absorbed some of our storytelling goodness. A few of which probably clicked on it a few times for the fun of it.

A more complete pictures comes into play when you know that there were 101,906 unique users that visited the home page over that same 14 day window. Giving us a usage rate of 2.6% (amount of unique people who interacted out of the total unique people who possibly could have). That is almost double our standard CTR of the carousel, so in some sense you could consider this a smashing success. I also heard anecdotally that people enjoyed the hidden content and generally thought it was a pretty cool feature.

However, I can’t help but feel a little pessimistic. Capturing less than 3% of our users just doesn’t feel good enough. There are all sorts of reasons why I could explain it away. Maybe the button was not very noticeable. Maybe people saw it, but there were no visual queues for them to know that it was clickable. Most likely people saw it and didn’t care. Those users show up wanting to fulfill whatever task they came for and have little interest in being caught our web.

I suppose the takeaway here is understanding that these natural cycles exist and that they can be a valuable tool for maximizing reach. It is also important to explore new techniques and creative ways to capture your extended reach. We proved that it can have a positive impact, but we also found we have plenty to learn when it comes to understanding our audience and the best way to connect with them.

– Kegan

-Kegan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just got back from Austin. Here are my notes from some fantastic panels and keynote speeches. There is a lot to get through, but hey, stick with me.

The Real Responsive Process

These guys talked about the theory behind it, why we should be doing it, and most importantly admitting that it’s okay to not completely understand it. It’s new, give yourselves a break.

Here are the speakers, you can follow them on Twitter and check out what they do in the responsive world.

 

Steve Fisher @hellofisher

 

http://hellofisher.com/secret.php

http://republicofquality.com/projects/interactive-style-tiles/

 

Samantha Toy @SamanthaToy

 

http://styletil.es/

http://www.samanthatoy.com/

 

Yesenia Perez-Cruz @yeseniaa

 

http://happycog.com/  

http://www.cognition.happycog.com/article/one-size-fits-none

 

Aaron Gustafson @AaronGustafson

 

http://easy-readers.net/books/adaptive-web-design/

 

 

He mentioned this site as an alternative to Bootstrap http://foundation.zurb.com/

 

“Still discovering, still don’t totally know what we are doing, if I’m honest.”

“Knowing that you don’t know everything is key.”

 

Tina Roth Eisenberg

@swissmiss

 

 

http://www.swiss-miss.com/

Scroll down a while on that site and you can watch her keynote, I like having it on in the background while I’m working. She founded and runs these businesses:

http://www.creativemornings.com/

http://teuxdeux.com/

http://tattly.com/

http://www.studiomates.com/

She’s a pretty cool lady, it’s a Swiss thing I guess. I like how a company she founded goes on to produce more great companies, must be a pretty great feeling. E.g. Studiomates are responsible for:

http://symbolset.com/

http://editorially.com/

She said something that really stuck with me… “Stay away from people that are fond of disliking things.” I like that.

 

Dennis Crowley – Foursquare CEO – The Future Of Location

@dens

 

https://foursquare.com/

He talked about something that I have never really thought about, location visualisation. The shape of a place can be defined by check-ins. E.g. JFK airport isn’t just a dot on a map, it is a space defined by the location of people within it. Areas defined by density of people.

This is a video he showed, it illustrates the point well. https://vimeo.com/52883962

 

Let Conscience Be Your Guide, Moral Design.

@rjowen

 

http://www.convercent.com/

The things we use change us. 6 principles of moral design.

 

 1. Moral design is restrained.

– “Good design should be as little design as possible.” Dieter Rams.

– Respect restraint and constraints.

 

2. Moral design improves harmony.

– Sustain and improve balance and order.

– Never solve one problem by creating others.

 

3. Moral design is dynamic.

– Value the imperfection that comes from crafting real things.

– We should have a healthy fear of perfection. If it is perfect, it is static.

 

4. Moral design requires craftsmanship.

– Good things come from good craftsmanship.

– Think about people when you are creating things for people.

– This was made for me.

 

5. Moral design is honest.

– Does not pretend to be something other than what it is.

– Design is a promise.

– Is it achievable?

– Will it make people better people?

 

6. Moral design is organic.

– Treat the user, design, brand, environment as one organism.

– What is healthy for one thing has to be healthy for all other parts.

– Nothing good can come to the brand at the expense of users.

 

If your values are not being practiced in tangible ways, then they are bad for you. They are meaningless.

“Do the right thing, it will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

 

Here is what I got out of this crazy week. People always say things like, “music was better in the 60’s”, “this restaurant used to be good, then it got popular”, “SXSW was better before the corporations arrived.” Yeah well thats great, personally I think it’s lazy. Here are some reasons to be cheerful about where we are, right now.

– crowd-funding, see this

– collaborative workspaces

– CEO’s admitting they are still learning, and that being okay

– definitely this

One thing though, sitting in a room with 3000 people all looking at their smartphones / tablets / laptops is scary. The bright glow and glazed eyes. Hug a tree once in a while.

 

– Oliver

So whenever I am in a meeting and we do the typical lets all introduce ourselves spiel. I inevitably get asked what I actually do or get the typical confused/intrigued facial expressions. I guess I should preface this by saying my official title is User Experience Specialist. Most of the time I give a fairly generic and rehearsed explanation, but I feel like the absolute best explanation can only be reached via YouTube. (I have been on a big Office Space kick these days)

This might seem silly, but it really is pretty accurate as I see it. My job is to balance the needs of our users (students, staff, faculty, alumni, etc..) and the needs of our leadership. We are in fact a marketing and communications division. We wouldn’t exist if there was no strategic mission our university was trying to accomplish. So I try to listen to our audiences, gather information, test, practice, etc.. Then combine that with the insight I have into higher education, our specific university and the strategic goals as handed down from our President, Provost and VP. So in essence I am the web middle man.

Kegan-

-Kegan

I was recently sent an interesting article. It was a study done by the Nielsen Norman Group on Teenagers and how they use the web. It contrasts this study with others done on different age groups. If you are interested in the subject I encourage you to read the full article. I will be honest it doesn’t paint teenagers in a positive light, but lets be honest they probably deserve it. I think the chart below pretty much sums up all of their general findings. Like any usability research we shouldn’t jump to conclusions (unless you have a jump to conclusions mat) and make drastic or sweeping changes to how we do things. However, having an ever increasing understanding of the audiences we try to serve will only make our work better.

-Kegan

-Kegan