Adding Subpages in Conductor

Listen with webreader

I just updated the Conductor User Guide to include instructions on adding subpages using the options that Conductor now offers.

When in the pages view, 

Adding Subpages

  1. Adding Subpages menuFind the page under which you want to add subpage your redirect page and hover over it until Add Subpages appears to the right of the name.
  2. Click on the down arrow until a window appears with your choices.
  3. Select Add Redirect from the menu as shown above.
  4. Name your redirect page.
  5. Insert the URL or slug for the page to which the visitor is to be redirected.
  6. Choose one of the numbered options.
    — 301 is a permanent redirect (recommended for SEO).
    — 302 is for a temporary redirect and, in most cases, should not be used.
    —307 is for a successor to the 302 redirect (better to use 301).
    —Rewrite means the server still reads the original URL .
  7. Publish.
  8. Keep or remove from the navigation.
  9. Create Redirect page.

Create Events Calendar Page

  1. Add Event CalendarIf the new page is to contain a calendar category that hasn’t been defined yet,
    1. Select Events in the left navigation of the Conductor admin screen.
    2. Select Calendar and add new calendar.
  2. In the Pages listing, find the page under which you want to add your calendar subpage and hover over it until Add Subpages appears to the right of the name.
  3. Click on the down arrow until a window appears with your choices.
  4. Select Add Event Calendar.
  5. Name the page.
  6. Select the calendar category you want to appear on the page.
  7. Publish.
  8. Keep or remove from the navigation.
  9. Create Events calendar page.

Create News Category Page

  1. Add news categoryIf the new page is to contain a news category that hasn’t been defined yet,
    1. Select News in the left navigation of the Conductor admin screen.
    2. Select category and add new news category.
  2. In the Pages listing, find the page under which you want to add your news subpage and hover over it until Add Subpages appears to the right of the name.
  3. Click on the down arrow until a window appears with your choices.
  4. Select Add News Category.
  5. Name the page.
  6. Select the news category you want to appear on the page.
  7. Publish.
  8. Keep or remove from the navigation.
  9. Create News category page.

Now add your news and events, making sure you indicate the correct calendar or news category, and they will automatically populate these new pages!

 

3 Things Good Websites Require from Their Owners

Listen with webreader

Lessons from Pavlov’s Pet Treats

I bake and sell dog treats. I’ve been doing it since last spring and even have my own website. While I’m not getting rich at it, I’ve learned a lot about selling dog  treats during that time. And I’ve learned a lot about selling the University at the same time.

Pavlov's Pet Treats homepage

You see, I have a crummy little website at pavlovspettreats.com (any free advice would be appreciated). And I can look at my site and see how it pales in comparison to others and especially to those built by the Web Group at Notre Dame.

I know my site stinks; I just need three things to make it right so that it will actually sell treats: time, money, and an outsider’s view.

Requirement No. 1. Time

Between working at the University all week and baking nearly every night, I’ve not been able to find the time to think out a logical plan for my website. But I’m not alone in that.

Image of hourglass showing time running outToo often our clients come to us when they need a website “by the first of the semester” or “ASAP” or “right now, ’cause we’re sending out brochures and need to provide a website for people to go to.” Thus, they have not given themselves (or us) the time to think out what the website can truly do for them. It takes time and effort to determine

  • The goals of the site
  • The audience(s) of the site
  • How the audience wants to interact with the site
  • How the site’s success will be measured
  • How the site will be maintained

And speaking of maintenance of the site, too often clients leave that to an overworked, disinterested, under-trained employee to “stick this photo on the site” and don’t have a plan for regularly scheduled maintenance. (My dad would be so proud of me for using that term, which he insisted was the only responsible way to keep a car, a house, a furnace, or anything of value.)

Requirement No. 2. Money

My personal financial situation at the moment is not one to envy. My husband retired in spring; we lost a bundle on a business venture we closed; and Pavlov’s Pet Treats is eating away at any spare cash. I simply have no money for marketing and website design and building.Man viewing large bill

Again, I’m not alone. Although the University of Notre Dame is not as hard-hit as most higher ed institutions, we have a fiscally conservative administration (for which we still-employed staff are grateful). Thus, we have tight budgets. Our clients are often trying to squeeze the last penny out of their budgets, and they come to us with very little in the way of funds to pay for work.

Our Web Group has to bill for everything we do. Even though the money is “funny money” that goes from one pocket into another, if it’s not there, it’s simply not there.

So clients ask for the impossible. How much website can I get for $X?

In our case, we have DIY sites for a few hundred dollars. With the purchase of one of these, our clients can set up a site with varying degrees of functionality, often solving their problem quite reasonably. The Web Group has designed templates based on University brand standards (recently adopted), and these sites work quite well. With a little bit of training, clients can be off and running in no time. Is it the same as a custom design? No. Not by a long shot. But a DIY site can take care of a great number of needs our clients have.

Likewise, a template such as my current Shopify site could probably take care of Pavlov’s business—if I had the other two components.

Requirement No. 3. Outsider’s View

I am no designer. I am also not a developer. I am, however, in the field of information architecture and usability. But can I put together a site (even a templated one) that works as well as it should? Not without outside eyes.

You see, just as an author should never edit her own work, rarely can a site owner depend solely on his own opinion, review, and expertise to make a site as good as it should be. In most cases, the site owner is so closely entwined with the subject matter that he can’t see his site as a user would.

That’s where it helps to have outside eyes and expert review of such things as

  • Organization
  • How the Site is Organized—Is your site organized along the lines of your org chart for your department or program? If so, that probably makes no sense whatsoever to your audience. Consider, for instance, Notre Dame’s organization. Would you look under Food Services or Admissions for ID cards?  (Faculty and staff get theirs through Human Resources; students get theirs from Food Services.)
  • Amount of Information—Is it best to include several pages worth of information on one page? Or should it be divided into several?
  • Redundancy—Are there redundant pages? Should there be?
  • Design
    • Colors—Are the colors Web-safe? Can those with color blindness properly read all aspects of the site? Do the colors reflect the personality of the program or department? Are the colors consistent with a larger branding effort?
    • Backgrounds—Is the background consistent with the site’s personality? Does it interfere with the readability of the site?
    • Links, Images, and Videos—Are they appropriate in number, size, and location? Or is there a better way to place them so that they are found and more likely to be clicked on or read?
    • Functionality
      • Calls to Action—Are there too many on a page? Do the links all work? After a user clicks on action items, what happens next? Does it make sense?
      • Analytics—Can you track the analytics for your site? Will you be able to set up filters, goals, and other tracking to help you determine your site’s success/failure?
      • Accessibility—Does the site function well for those with disabilities?
  • Usability Testing
    • User Expectations—Do users read the terms the way you do? Do they use the site in the way  you intended? Or do they get lost because they don’t understand your terminology or come to the site expecting it to behave in a way you hadn’t planned?
    • Writing—Is your site too heavy on the long paragraphs and jargon? Do they lose interest because they can’t easily find something in which they’re interested and want to delve deeper?
    • Distractions—Are there too many calls to action, and do they confuse or distract your audience? Is the background too busy and does it pull attention away from the text or make the text hard to read? Does the page appear too cluttered? Is everything on each page really necessary? Or can some of it be removed or moved to other pages?
    • Navigation—Does the navigation make sense? Is it logical, or is it too complex? Does the navigation scent lead the audience down the right paths?
    • Design—Is the page attractive? Is it compelling? Or does it simply drive away your audience (or worse yet, bore them)? Is the design appropriate to the topic?
    • Images—Do the images help your audience? Or do they simply pull attention away from the text? On academic sites, it’s tempting to put the standard “students on the grass” image up, but will that really help move the audience to take the intended action? Or will they see the image as yet another students on the grass, just like every other college has. (One has to wonder if students ever study anywhere else!)

Now What? 

Okay, so I know I need those three things in order to fix my site. And now you know some of the challenges our clients face in building or reworking their sites. Time to roll up the sleeves.

While we’re at it, what else would you include in the requirements for good website needs?

 

 

Yahoo and the Ultimate Sourcebook

Listen with webreader

Aha! Finally, the big guys agree with me. Yahoo! just published  The Yahoo! Style Guide, billed as the “ultimate sourcebook for writing, editing, and creating content.”

Cover, Yahoo! Style GuideA few posts back, I ranted about creating a style guide for your website to (among other things) help ensure consistency across the site. (See Website Style Guides.)

Even before writing this post, I purchased the Yahoo! Style Guide for my Kindle, knowing that it will make a great resource for explaining thorny issues to clients.

Just read the top-level items in the table of contents:

  • Write for an Online Audience
  • Speak to Your Entire Audience
  • Write UI (user-interface) Text, Email, and Mobile-Friendly Content
  • Manage the Mechanics
  • Clean Up Your Copy
  • Resources

As a former editor, I realize there’s no one right way to write content (punctuation, capitalization, etc.), but this guide provides lots of guidance and would be a great resource for someone wanting to have “one source” for content guidelines for their site. The writing is clear and simple; and there are exercises to help you learn how to use the knowledge you’ve gained from reading.

My favorite chapter of the Yahoo! Style Guide (so far) is “Chapter 19, Keep a Word List.” And yes, I admit it. It’s because I’m always preaching about keeping a written style guide that includes how you prefer to spell or capitalize certain words.

Style Guide Template

In fact, the authors have the same reasoning for their word list that I do for my “home-made” style guide (66 kb  pdf): It will “make your work easier, maintain editorial stands, and give your site a consistent voice.”

Who would have guessed a simple list or, plug, plug, a simple style guide (66 kb  pdf) would do so much for you?

Website Style Guides

Listen with webreader

We strongly recommend that you develop a written style guide for your website content for several reasons:

  • The act of creating a guide will mean that you will be making choices rather than “winging it” as your site grows
  • The guide will provide one source for answers to style questions and help to ensure consistency in style from one author to another
  • Consistency in style and voice will provide visitors to your site with a more intelligible, pleasant experience by making the text easier to read and reducing the variations that tend to distract readers

You can choose to follow the AgencyND Style Guide or create your own. If you create your own, a form similar to the one attached to this blog (Style Guide Template 66kb PDF ) can help you get started.

Here are some areas you will want to consider and decide upon before publishing your site:

  • Abbreviations and Acronyms — list abbreviations and acronyms along with when you will define these for your audience; CSC (Center for Social Concerns), C.S.C. (Congregation of Holy Cross)
  • Academic Degrees — B.S. vs. BS, MBA vs. M.B.A., Ph.D. vs. PhD, bachelor of arts vs. Bachelor of Arts
  • Active vs. passive voice – Avoid passive when possible
  • Addresses — P.O. Box vs. PO Box, USPS style (for mailing info), text style (Ind. vs. Indiana)
  • and, & — When will you use ampersands (if at all) (not in text unless part of official name)
  • Capitalization
  • Nouns — Science vs. science, Trustee vs. trustee, President vs. president (when referring to U.S. or Notre Dame president
  • Headings — Consistency in style (statement vs. title), & vs. and
  • Citations — style
  • Class — Class of ’10, Jim Smith ’10 (make sure to use the right single quotation mark)
  • Commas
    • Serial vs. not
    • Before Jr., Sr., III vs. not
  • Course names — in quotations or italicized?
  • Dates — 1/12/10 vs. January 12, 2010 vs. Jan. 12, 2010 vs. 12 Jan. 2010, etc.
  • Departments, Offices, Committees — full titles, shortened titles, capped or not
  • Dr. vs. Prof. — Will you refer to a faculty member with a Ph.D. as Dr. or Prof.?
  • Email vs. E-mail (lowercase unless first word in sentence)
  • He, she, they — nonsexist, but will “they” be used for singular?
  • Headings and subheadings — The page title is always H1. Will you follow with H2, H3, etc., in that order, for each page?
  • home page vs. homepage
  • Links — include url or “hide it,” including several in text or at bottom of page
  • Lists — numbered or unnumbered? (Typically, numbered are used to show chronological order) (Note: In Web writing, bulleted or numbered list items are typically not followed by periods; periods tend to slow down reading, and Web users are interested in quickly scanning pages.)
  • log in (verb) vs. login (noun)
  • Numbers — spelled out under 10 or 11?
  • online vs. on-line
  • Phone, Fax — 574.631.5000 vs. (574) 631-5000 vs. 631-5000 vs. 1-5000
  • Prof. vs. Professor
    • Capitalize names of endowed professorships. Note that the is to be used before the title.
    • the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology
    • Abbreviate Prof. when used as part of a name: Prof. John Jones or Prof. Jones.
    • On second reference, the last name may be used alone. Jones was the speaker.
  • Publications — italicize books; quotations around articles?
  • Spelling — always spell check! If referring to British sites, use British spelling?
  • Time — 8:00 a.m. vs. 8:00 am vs. 8:00AM vs. 8 a.m., etc.
  • Unnecessary words — omit them all!
  • Web site vs. website
  • Web vs. web

Other examples of Web style guides are available at

Whether you create your own style guide or use one provided by others, make sure that you follow it and let others who work on the site know that it exists. Visitors to your site will appreciate the professionalism, and you will be helping your site to do its work.

Style Guide Template 66kb PDF

Evernote as Interviewing Tool

Listen with webreader

I’m always in the market for free tools to help me in my work, and I’ve fallen in love with Evernote (software for taking notes) for several reasons:

  • I can take notes in a meeting and actually read most of them later on (I have horrible handwriting)
  • I can immediately sync my notes between my PC netbook, my office Mac, and my iPhone
  • I can send my notes to team members
  • I can print my notes

And now I have yet another reason to love Evernote:

Templates

You see, I’ve set up my notes in folders (clients, Web group meetings, 1:1 with boss, etc.), and now I’ve started a new one just for templates. I’m one of those people who loves to have an idea of what I’m going to be asking during client intake meetings, but I hate hauling around papers that look like scripts. Now, I have my handy-dandy little form right in Evernote.

When it comes time to meet with the client, I follow these simple steps to have a form for taking notes:*

  1. Open Evernote
  2. Open the Template folder and note (Kickoff Meeting Questions, in this case)
  3. Highlight the text in the note and copy
  4. Open a New Note
  5. Paste the text into the new note

Voila! I now have a screen with blanks for all the questions I want to ask and get answered and no one’s the wiser for it!

Kickoff Meeting Template

Kickoff Meeting Questions Template
Kickoff Meeting Template for Questions and Site Plan

The template I’ve attached is basically a set of tables; one for the intake questions, and one for the draft of a site plan. If I think of other questions to ask or want more lines in the table for the site plan, then I simply add more rows to the tables just as you would in Word or Excel. And, of course, I can simply type below or above any of the text already on the screen, so there’s no limitation such as having a printed paper.

New and Improved!

With much gratitude to Evernote, I am entering a new phase of efficiency in interviewing.

Not to sound like an Evernote salesman (I have no connection with the software maker other than using their free version, so this is honest praise), but I also find it useful to take notes on conference calls for my online class or in other general meetings, make lists of things I just “gotta” do, and generally keep track of things I used to jot on paper and then lose or misfile.

Now to just figure out what else I can use it for . . .

*Note: If anyone knows of a template function, let me know! In the meantime, this works really well.