From our presentation at the Drupal Bootcamp earlier this week, here are ten tips for better web content. Follow these and your page will automatically be ahead of most of the others out there.
- Use brief introductory copy on every major page: three lines max, aimed at new users
- Avoid dense blocks of text
- Make page scan-able by using ordered and unordered lists
- Make page scannable by employing headings at least down to <h4>
- Write titles and headings so that a user could read them alone and have a strong understanding of the whole page
- Use bold/italics sparingly
- Never use all caps
- Never underline text for emphasis unless it’s an actual link
- Instead of “click here” make descriptive text into a link
- Follow AP Style
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
Samantha Toy @SamanthaToy
Yesenia Perez-Cruz @yeseniaa
Aaron Gustafson @AaronGustafson
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.”
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:
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:
She said something that really stuck with me… “Stay away from people that are fond of disliking things.” I like that.
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
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.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that we completed a re-branding effort with eleven of our twelve college websites around the same time that the new Beaver Athletics brand was launched. Like that effort, this project was a long time in the making. Three years, in our case.
The colleges that opted to work with us, beginning with Forestry, partnered to build custom templates and move their sites into Drupal (if they weren’t already). It was a long project that involved graphic design, development, content reorganization, video production, feature story creation, user testing and more. Central Web Services was a big part of the effort. In the middle, it felt like we weren’t ever going to get there. But with the launch of the University Honors College a few weeks ago, we’ve checked our final participating college off of the list.
Why it matters
Having our colleges in a similar template and technology has a host of benefits. The sites can talk to one another (and our home page and top-tier sites) on a technological level. Drupal features can be shared and integrated. The user experience is similar, and students, faculty and the public can navigate each site in similar ways, speeding up their visit as they don’t need to learn a new navigation system or structure on each site. The consistent branding and identity usage reaffirms their connection to each other and to the main campus. Advertising and marketing centrally and at each individual college will lift all ships with the tide. Each college now as more opportunities to collaborate with other colleges: the architecture being the same means they can share staff, stories, RSS feeds and more.
Even though these eleven colleges are on a similar platform, there’s still work to do. We need to help make the sites responsive in order to prepare them for the coming mobile majority. We need to work with them to create more effective practices and content to help turn their sites into better communications tools. There are still loose ends to tie up and more to accomplish.
But we’ve reached a great milestone, and congrats to all of our college partners, our team members and the CWS folks for an incredible, long-term collaboration.
Web Comm team is thrilled to have Callie Zilk on board as our new writer/editor. We’re excited about her webby predilections and her journalism background. With a degree in journalism from Mizzou’s storied program, and stints at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Southern Poverty Law Center, she bring great experience to our group. She’s relocated to the Northwest to make sure our stories keep flowing and our prose passes AP muster. It’s a pleasure to welcome her to our team.
I went to the Oregon Zoo earlier this week. The hope is that we can work together and form a partnership around the beaver habitat. Maybe some day we will have livebeavercam.edu available for you to go to (official title still to be determined). Anyways it was also quite enjoyable on a personal level because this was my first trip to the zoo. The highlight, of course, were the beavers, but there were lots of other great animals and educational opportunities as well. I strongly urge you to visit if you have the opportunity.
Things Kegan learned at the zoo
- Melody, our marketing director, has a reoccurring nightmare about bears.
- The beavers are way bigger than expected. We are talking like 20-40 lbs.
- Inside the beaver den is a magical looking place, that is warm and cozy. I really wanted to crawl in there.
- Elephants have huge bladders and well, for lack of more eloquent speech, “drop a massive load when they urinate”.
- While we are on the subject, Polar bears urinate in the their own pool, which if I remember from growing up is a big no no.
- The baby elephant lilly is incredible cute and I could watch her run around for hours.
- Monkeys are arrogant and think they are better than me (constantly plotting their escape).
- Lions are definitely king of the jungle.
- Some bird (that I don’t recall the name of) acts as a scout for the mongoose while it hunts. While the mongoose scares up insects for the bird to eat. The perfect form of animal teamwork.
- The Oregon Zoo is awesome.
We’ve been having some fun with Benny lately, he’s shown up in some of our recent projects. He made his animated gif debut in a project for the Office of Admissions, appeared on a holiday card and recently came out the beaver den to wish everyone psychedelic Valentine’s day wishes.
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.
Here are three things you can learn today.
The Grande Super burrito at La Rockita (downtown Corvallis) is too big. I know wouldn’t typically ever think of saying that phrase, but the thing is just way to big. It broke open and spilled every where. Quite tasty, but a big disaster. Sorry I don’t have any pictures to back this up (was a hot mess). You are going to have to take my word for it.
The Cannon 5D Mark (mark I) is almost eight years old. It is easily the most seldom used camera in our office. Since it has no video functionality it is typically left in the drawer, as we don’t do very much still photography. However, we have been doing a ton of time lapses lately and the fact that it is a full frame camera (not cropped sensor like most of our other DSLR’s) means you can do some really brilliant time lapses. There are tons of options out there as far as cameras, but if you are an in-house production unit and are looking to ramp up your time lapse capability getting your hands on an original 5D would be well worth the investment. You can pick up a refurbished one between $500-$800. Like I said, it doesn’t shoot video, but can really bang out some stunning time lapse scenes.
The University Marketing Department at OSU (in our division) has recently put up new banners around downtown Corvallis. They depict all the many things that make up Beaver Nation. I think they turned out great. On the way to the aforementioned burrito lunch (still too big) we snagged a picture outside the lovely Benton County Courthouse.