September 19, 2017

UMW Web Wins 7 Education Digital Marketing Awards

UMW’s new website received seven awards as part of the 2015 Digital Marketing Awards. Hosted by Higher Education Marketing Report, a leading publication for higher education marketing, the EDU Digital Marketing Awards recognize the best educational websites, digital content, electronic communications, mobile media and social media. A national panel of industry specialists reviews pieces from across the country; judging creativity, marketing execution, message impact, technology application and innovation content in 30 categories and 14 groups.

UMW was one of five Virginia colleges and universities recognized in the 2015 awards and was the only institution to receive more than one award. The awards are as follow:

  1. GOLD – Online Class Schedule – Majors, Minors, and Areas of Study
  2. GOLD – Student Portal – Life at UMW – Current Student Gateway
  3. SILVER – Online Publications – UMW Great Minds
  4. SILVER – Institutional Directory – University Directory
  5. BRONZE – Website – UMW.EDU
  6. Merit – Admissions Website – UMW Admissions
  7. Merit – Online Publications – UMW News & Media Relations

UMW launched its new site in August 2015, beginning a comprehensive overhaul of the website.

“We’ve done two years of data analysis, user testing, stakeholder interviews, and UMW-specific content strategy development – and then another year of development and content creation for these individual sub sites,” said Shelley Keith, director of digital communications. “This is another indicator that these efforts are paying off and we’re moving in the right direction.”

For more information about EDU Digital Marketing Awards, visit http://educationdigitalmarketingawards.com/.

First Phase of New Web Site Launches Friday

It’s here! Get ready! On Friday, when you log on to umw.edu, the content may seem pretty much the same at first glance. But dig deeper. The Digital Communications team, along with nearly all University Relations staff members, has been working diligently and tirelessly for months in preparation for this week’s launch of Phase 1 of YOUR new and improved UMW web site. We’ve focused on streamlining content and making it more integrated, easing navigation, ensuring the site is more accessible and user-friendly, and — most important — cleaning things up so that we present a more attractive and informative face to visitors.

This is just a start, but it’s a big one. You will find compelling and consistent descriptions of all academic programs, an innovative and engaging calendar, an integrative directory tied in to an Expert File page for faculty, an updated Admissions site, and much, much more.

Because of the volume of content being moved with this launch, you may find typos, misplaced and/or missing information, and redundancies. Let us know! We are all in this together, and it is a work in progress.

If your pages were not a part of this initial facelift, stick with us. We are making slow and steady progress.

The launch should not cause much, if any, website downtime and will not affect services such as email, MyUMW, Canvas, Banner, etc.

Meanwhile, University Relations will be celebrating this first round of improvements, and we will be sending off a 2015 UMW graduate, Katherine Stosch, who has been invaluable to development of this phase of the launch. Katherine will be starting a new job in Maryland doing exactly what she has been trained to do. Yay!

Join us in Eagle Village, Suite 300, Wednesday, Aug. 19, anytime from 9 to 11 a.m. We won’t have champagne, but we’ll offer Blackstone Coffee and other goodies. We’d love to meet you and hear from you.

*originally published August 12, 2015, with the incorrect time for the celebration on Wednesday, August 19. The correct time is 9-11 a.m.

Siteimprove Now Even Easier

We’ve implemented the CMS integration feature of Siteimprove, which means you now have one-click access to edit your pages. The “CMS” button now opens the exact edit admin screen for any reported page. Now you can see your spelling errors, broken links, accessibility issues, and content policy hits in one place, then click the CMS button and immediately fix all of them.

cmsintegrated

For more information about how to use Siteimprove, check out the Quality Assurance, Accessibility, SEO and Policy video tutorials at http://siteimprove.wistia.com/projects/vnfw3ledqz. You can also request one-on-one training by a Siteimprove representative.

Are you not setup as a UMW Siteimprove user? No problem! Request your account today.

New Search Bar and Faculty/Staff Site

A new upgraded search bar and restyled toolbar were launched site-wide on Thursday, March 26. The search bar placement mimics the search bar that previously existed across much, but not all, of the website. The most significant change to the site is the removal of the search box in the homepage template “header” space. The new bar is consistent across the entire website and also serves to house audience-based navigation. Here are some before and after illustrations:

Homepage before the search bar upgrade: 

The homepage template before the update.

The homepage after the search bar update. Notice the restyled online toolbar.

The homepage after the search bar update. Notice the restyled online toolbar.

The webmail page before the search bar update.

The webmail page before the search bar update.

The webmail page after the update.

The webmail page after the update.

Faculty & Staff Gateway Launched

The IT move toward the end-of-life shut down of EagleNet (date not yet determined) because of aging, unsustainable systems presents an opportunity to produce a useful, comprehensive faculty and staff website. The original source material, the content of EagleNet, was expanded on and enhanced by feedback from the Web Advisory Council and the President’s Technology Advisory Council. The resulting site can now be seen at http://www.umw.edu/in/. Users are asked to continue to provide feedback in an effort to improve the user experience.

Putting UMW On The Map: Goals, Results, and Challenges

It is no secret that UMW is growing. Each year, campus finds itself with exciting new buildings, innovative new programs, and in many cases, a combination of both. In order to keep up with the times, we must track these changes. There is no better platform in the current technological atmosphere than Google Maps; it is accessible, spatially accurate, and verified by active, current users on open-source software. With the integration of a Geographic Information System and the Google Map Editor Interface, UMW’s Office of Digital Communications, with the help of the Geography Department, has updated and restored UMW’s presence on Google Maps. This makes it easier and more accessible for students, parents, and faculty to get basic and necessary information about campus.

Goals & Results

We’ve all been there at one point or another—wandering blindly as we search for an elusive academic department, or trying to give mom and dad good walking directions from the Parking Deck to Seacobeck. This information hasn’t always been easy to find in the past, but times are changing. By more heavily integrating an updated Google Map database into UMW’s web system, problems like these will be more easily solved than ever before.

At the beginning of the 2015 spring semester, the Google map of UMW was missing several key features, from new buildings to footpaths to landmarks. It was devoid of detail and not easily navigable within campus due to lack of detail. Google’s Map Editor program allows missing features like these to be updated by drawing points, lines, or polygons with Google satellite imagery as a reference.

Since the start of the project, more than 100 edits have been made to the UMW Google Map. Staple landmarks such as The Amphitheater, Jefferson Square, the James Farmer memorial, Ball Circle and more have been added. In addition, new buildings like the Anderson Center and the ITCC have been drawn. With the aid of the Geography Department’s campus topology dataset, there is now an accurate network of walking paths that will allow users to actually plug in walking directions from, say, the Bell Tower to DuPont Hall, and get the fastest walking route through campus.

We intend to integrate this new map into the main UMW website. Its purpose is to replace the old interactive map and generate a useful set of sub-maps to help with anything from labeled parking lots to learning more about what’s inside Lee Hall. With these updates, users—from both a mobile and desktop setting—will find information about UMW infinitely more accessible.

Challenges

The project thus far has had its fair share of hurdles. As a student learning the interface for the first time, I will note two main challenges that I encountered and had to solve.

First, as with any new program, there is a learning curve to the Google Map Editor. That learning curve goes beyond simply how to draw the polygons—it includes issues of naming conventions and proper protocol in updating Google Maps. Google Maps is a sort of cartographic Wikipedia that anybody with a Google account can edit. Therefore, it has a strict set of rules that must be followed and are enforced by administrators. Many of these administrators will deny your edits, even if they are correct, because they don’t conform to Google guidelines. Learning the guidelines involves reading and posting questions in the Google Forum pages, and realistically, getting a few denials before you understand what it is you’re doing.

A second challenge was the imperfect satellite imagery. The satellite imagery is ca. 2013, which is a bit outdated and inaccurate considering UMW has embarked on various construction projects since then. It was also taken in the spring, which meant that foliage covers up buildings and paths in some parts of campus. Getting around these issues required some guesswork and the overlay of KML data from the Geography department’s topology of UMW.

These challenges were an easy fix. The next step is the fun part—personalizing the map and getting it ready for specialized uses.

“Report a Problem” – Web Errors Now Easier to Report

People often find things on the website that the person in charge of a given page has missed – outdated content, broken links, spelling and grammatical errors, etc. With nearly 25,000 pages on umw.edu, it’s hard for our site managers to keep up. Now, they have some help.

Introducing the Report a Problem web feature! Quietly released last fall, this small link on the bottom of each umw.edu page allows anyone on the site to report (anonymously or not) issues to the Digital Communications office.

Reporting link can be found throughout the site

Reporting link can be found throughout the site

Already, more than 80 reports have been submitted by faculty, staff, students, and outsiders. These efforts have resulted in dozens of corrections and the removal of large chunks of outdated and unmanaged web content.

Submit a report

Submit a report form takes almost no time to complete.

With a site this large, it certainly takes a village. All villagers now have a means of quickly and easily reporting problems anywhere on the site. We look forward to working together to continuously improve the public face of UMW.

From Web Services to Digital Communications – Year 1

In April of 2013, I first contemplated picking up my entire life and moving across the country for an opportunity to genuinely make a difference in the direction and outcomes of web strategies at a small, public, liberal arts school on the East Coast.  Now, a year after stepping into my office at UMW for the first time, I’m in a position to assess the past 12 months, during which I helped transition the UMW website from a service model to a strategic resource. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but here are some of my first-year observations:

We have resources

Incredibly engaged faculty & staff - It’s an absolute pleasure to work with site managers and content contributors who genuinely care about the success of not only their programs or departments, but also the institution as a whole. You guys want to do it better and smarter, and for that I’m truly thankful. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

Better data collection - UMW has consistently collected data on how users interact with the website, but now we’re collecting very specific, actionable data about exactly what they’re doing on various parts of the website. A very simple example of this is being able to tell which link on the homepage they clicked to visit a specific page. There are always at least 3 links to Admissions on the homepage. We’ve always been able to show how many users went to Admissions from the homepage. Now we can tell you which one of those links actually sends traffic to the Admissions site, and what percentage from each link continues into the Common App. It’s very helpful to us as we revisit our information architecture going forward.

WordPress - Since migration in 2011, the WordPress platform has continued to be a resounding success. There are now nearly 250 people managing some portion of the UMW website. I’m regularly told it’s “so much better” than our previous content management tool, Contribute.

Improved mobile interface - In April 2014 we launched a huge, but quiet, mobile initiative. The site used to default to an icon-based pseudo-app interface that most people spent energy trying to get out of. Now the entire site is available in a responsive format, which means it adapts to the device on which it is being viewed. The important part here is that it’s the whole website, not just some portion of the site we thought might be useful to people using mobile devices.

We have…opportunities

Accessibility – Accessibility is a big deal. A really big deal. It’s the law that our website can be accessed by disabled users. Compliance is a challenge that’s difficult to achieve given our distributed publishing model. We’ve purchased and implemented a software tool called Siteimprove to help identify and classify accessibility issues. Efforts are being made to simplify and streamline certain areas, and to produce training and offer support for creating accessible content.

Broken links & spelling errors - This is another area where Siteimprove is proving invaluable. It’s able to give us detailed reports and issue-tracking for broken links and spelling errors on over 13,000 pages throughout the umw.edu website. We’ve identified 72 site managers University-wide to receive reports customized to their portion of the website. As of this writing there are 1273 broken links and 971 misspellings, down from 2804 broken links and over 6,000 potential misspellings. We are moving the quality needle in the right direction by drawing on the talents and efforts of the entire University community.

Content - The good news is that we have 250 content managers. The bad news is that we have 250 different writing styles, tones of voice, levels of experience, and ways of organizing information. Establishing a level of consistency is crucial to transitioning the site into a truly successful strategic resource. We have engaged a consultant to help us kick off this process.

We have a plan!

The first year has been spent identifying the big picture issues and starting improvements with low-hanging fruit. We have been talking to stakeholders, implementing tools like Siteimprove, and undertaking a critical review of our processes and policies. We’ve made moves to improve the mobile experience, improve our data, and understand our opportunities. We’re working diligently to help content managers and stakeholders utilize the website and user data to the maximum benefit of their departments, programs, initiatives, and the University as a whole.

Our next year will be spent working and/or continuing to

  1. Build a strong Web Advisory Council to represent the University community in discussions relating to the website (implemented, in process)
  2. Establish quality baselines using Siteimprove (implemented, in process)
  3. Improve the mobile user experience (phase 1 implemented, monitoring user data)
  4. Provide guidelines and support to help content managers build positive, goal driven user experiences (consultant engaged, in process)
  5. Rebrand the website to match approved University styles (phase 1 discovery in process)
  6. Create an efficient and effective training process for WordPress, accessibility basics, and web content development best practices (phase 1 – Fall 2014)

It’s been an exciting and productive year. I’m looking forward to seeing what we accomplish together in 2014/2015.

Minor Style Change Launched on the Website

On Monday, July 21, the web team launched the first of many upcoming theme changes to the .edu site designed to better align the website with the approved visual branding for the University.

An updated set of color palettes was rolled out sitewide. For the most part, the different palettes just affect the flag widgets. Other changes include changing the background color of the whole site, changing the margins between many of the sidebar features, and the removal of backgrounds, watermarks, and rounded edges on widgets.

Following is a map of the color schemes available through our Genesis -> Theme Settings area, and how they map to the palettes in the style guide:

  • University – Undergraduate Admissions palette
  • Admissions BLS – Graduate Admissions palette
  • Admissions Grad – Graduate Admissions palette
  • Admissions Undergrad – Undergraduate Admissions palette
  • College of Arts & Sciences – Undergraduate Admissions palette
  • College of Business – Graduate Admissions palette
  • College of Education – Graduate Admissions palette
  • Regional Engagement – Alumni palette
  • Giving network (regardless of “Color Scheme” selection) – Donor palette
  • Magazine network (regardless of “Color Scheme” selection) – Alumni palette

If you have any questions about this, or any other web initiatives, please email webmaster@umw.edu.

Got Misspellings and Broken Links? Help is on the Way!

If you’ve seen me present to any of the faculty, staff, or administrative groups on campus you’ve probably seen the graphic below depicting broken links and spelling errors throughout the UMW website.

SiteImprove visualsThis image is from an August 2013 demo of a tool called SiteImprove.

I’m happy to announce that as of April 1, UMW has the full-fledged version of this amazing tool. As it does its job and finds website problems, we will send automated reports out to site managers campus wide. Some of you will start seeing these reports as early as May 1.

potential misspellings shown on a SiteImprove report

Potential misspellings are shown with a yellow highlight.

You will then have precise pinpointed information about problem areas of your website (see example). SiteImprove will highlight in bold visual detail any spelling errors that may exist. Yellow highlighting for potential misspellings, red highlights for confirmed misspellings.

What’s next?

The system has built a dictionary for UMW that allows us to indicate false-positives, such as acronyms, user names, and proper names. We are slowly working through upwards of 4,000 potentially misspelled words in the dictionary and will continue to hone those results.

confirmed misspelling shown on a SiteImprove report

Confirmed misspelling displayed with a flashing red highlight.

Feel free to email webmaster@umw.edu with any false positives you encounter so we can be sure to address them in a timely manner.

As users are added to the system and we start to see progress toward correcting these “low hanging fruit” issues, we will begin sending out other reports:

  • search engine optimization opportunities
  • accessibility compliance issues
  • deeper user behavior analysis
  • and more.

What does this mean to me?

SiteImprove report screen showing a broken link.

Broken links are easier to find and fix.

If you’re managing a website on umw.edu, it means you will start receiving automated reports with actionable improvements you can (and should) be making on your site. And you won’t have to go this alone! Starting in the fall, we will hold brown-bag lunches in order to provide group training and discussion sessions for site managers. But don’t wait till fall to start improving your site. Whenever you need assistance, drop us a line at webmaster@umw.edu.

How often will I get a report?

At first, once a month. If you prefer, we can increase frequency to weekly. Just email webmaster@umw.edu and we’ll make the change.

What if the report is going to the wrong person?

Just email us at webmaster@umw.edu. We’ll be happy to straighten things out.

I’m committed to making the UMW web site more viable and accessible. Remember that we’re here to provide support as you work to enhance your presence on the University’s largest public facing communications and recruiting resource.

Hackathon Supports Charity

Webmaster Curtiss Grymala and Director of Digital Communications Shelley Keith participated in an all-night “hackathon” for charity while at HighEdWeb 2013, Oct. 6 to 9, in Buffalo, N.Y. The event, in support of Ride for Roswell, had 75 participants at its peak. Information architects, content strategists, visual designers, programmers, theme developers, and WordPress experts gathered in a room from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. to donate approximately 400 labor hours in support of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute “Ride for Roswell” website redevelopment project. Grymala was selected to lead the development team, and Keith served as project management liaison between the teams and the client to identify priorities and clarify requirements. The event was featured on local television news and in blog posts and websites.

News coverage: