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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How to Clean Up Content ROT

By Diane Austin

The new year is a great time to clean up your department web pages and declutter your File Manager. By keeping only the things you really need, you can simplify and streamline the job of web maintenance.

Start by getting rid of ROT – Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial content. Here’s a brief guide to help you identify and eliminate ROT in your web pages.

Redundant Content

Content is redundant when multiple pages communicate the same thing. The great thing about the web is that you don’t need to duplicate content that is available somewhere else. Instead, you can just link to it. Redundant content confuses web visitors and creates unnecessary clutter.

Outdated Content

This is simple – if you are using future tense language to talk about something that’s already happened, then you have outdated content.

Here are some other types of outdated content:

  • You have faculty/staff bios for people who no longer work in your department
  • You move your office, but don’t update your room number on the web
  • Your web content talks about your “new offices,” but you moved 3 years ago

Make sure images and documents are up to date, as well as other information on your site. You can read how to handle updates to images and PDFs in our file naming blog post.

Instead of creating new replacement pages with updated content, try updating your existing pages with the latest information instead. Otherwise, the old page may still show up in search results and your visitors will get confused. If you can’t update it, just get rid of it.

If you have information about an annual event and you don’t want to recreate the page every year, just unlink it and keep the page. You could add a note saying that the page will be updated for next year’s event as information becomes available. This will help avoid confusion if someone finds the page through search.

Trivial Content

Trivial content is probably the hardest to identify. Generally it is any content that is insignificant to your visitors or unrelated to your website’s purpose. It may help to rate this on a scale of 1-5, with "5" being vitally important and "1" being completely irrelevant. Anything with a 1-2 should be cut, a 5 should stay, and 3-4's may require further thought. Some information may be nice to have, but not essential. Does that make it trivial? Remember to keep your audience in mind when evaluating for trivial content. Tailor your content to their needs and trim away anything that doesn’t help them accomplish what you want them to do.

Start your ROT cleanup!

ROT can be found in two places – your department PIDs and in File Manager. To get rid of it, you first must identify it.

GemGo through your Web Manager File Manager and make sure you are only storing files that you actually use. If you have old, outdated images and PDFs, delete them! Remember, if it’s in File Manager, it can be found through search.

The Web Content Team can help you get started by guiding you through a content audit, a review and evaluation of all your department web pages, including text, images, and links.

Like a jeweler cuts and polishes a rough stone to reveal a brilliant gem, you can trim away the ROT in your web content to reveal the useful information visitors are searching for.



SEO Specialist Diane Austin

Posted at 10:55 AM | Permalink

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Making Academic Pages Great for the Web

Did you know that your web content has the power to invite, inspire, and engage your page visitors? And yet content can also exclude, bore, or frustrate them. That’s because (even on the web) how we say something is just as important as what we say. And finding out how to say it specifically for your web audience can be a little tricky.

That’s why the Web Content Team, in conjunction with the Provost’s Office, will be working with all academic schools and departments on voice and tone updates starting in December.

We’ve been busily researching, testing, and formulating plans for improving our website’s effectiveness and success. With these upcoming improvements, your academic department will enjoy:

  • Consistent voice and tone
  • User-centered copy
  • Strategic keyword placement for better search results
  • Streamlined content

We’ll be gradually making our way through all academic content, keeping you informed as we go. We’ll let you know when we are ready to begin with your department. Then, you can expect the text on your pages to begin to reflect the voice and tone of the university.

Here’s what you can do in the meantime to be ready:

  1. Make sure all your web content is accurate and up to date
  2. Use spellcheck on your pages and fix all broken links
  3. Delete redundant or unneeded content, as well as unused files from your File Manager

We’ll be in touch,
—Web Content Team

Posted at 3:12 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Your Most Important Page

By Debra Torres

Is your home page number one?Is your home page number one?

You've just created a beautiful home page for your department's site, and you're feeling pretty confident about it. The page has targeted, web-friendly text that follows the Liberty University Voice and Tone Guidelines and even has a compelling call to action. You've done your job, and you know that as people land on your home page, they'll have everything they need.

After all, your home page matters most right?

Your real most important page

When I talk with people about the web, I like to ask them what page holds the most weight for their site. Most often, people say their home page. And there is some truth to that. After all, you do want your home page looking its best. It represents who you are to your users, so of course you want it to make a good first impression.

But there is something we’re forgetting.

If we can get in the head of one of our users for a minute, I think we’ll find that at the start of their search, they are not looking for our home page at all. But instead, they are searching for the page that answers their most immediate question. Remember, people searching the web want it to answer their questions, solve their problems, or heal their pain.

So if this is true, then your real most important page is whatever one your reader lands on.  

Academic program pages are top in higher-ed search

In the case of academic search, users want information about their specific field of interest. And this can mean a specific degree coupled with location. So when they type “business administration degree in New York City” in Google, are they landing on links to university home pages?

Nope. Here’s what they’ll see in organic search results: 

All of these top-ranking pages link to program or degree pages for their university.

So in the case of academic search, it makes sense that users are landing on degree pages. And, if these are bare-boned pages with no relatable text, guess what's communicated to your users?

In his SlideShare presentation, Get with the Program, Digital Strategist Doug Gapinski shares how and why we should provide better information on our degree pages.

It's important, says Gapinski, because "Program listings are the top priority for prospective students - according to them!" And since programs are our core product, Gapinski wants to know if we demonstrate the value of our product on these specific types of pages.

Gapinski's points can make serious impact on how academic departments can go about making things more effective for their target audience.

Make each one count

Whether your department is academic or not, all your pages matter. And since your home page probably already looks great, how about taking a closer look at some of your other pages. Do they have compelling text? Do they answer your user’s questions and tell them what to do next? Do they explain how your information can benefit them?

After all, each and every one is your most important page.

Posted at 9:52 AM | Permalink

Monday, August 10, 2015

Making the Web Accessible

By Diane Austin

Web accessibility refers to how easy it is for all people to use the web, regardless of cognitive or physical disabilities. In most cases, when we improve access for those with disabilities, we also improve the web for everyone else.

Provide text alternatives for images and videos

JAWS screen reader
Picture of a person using JAWS Screen Reader on a website. Image © 2010 Paul Downey.

Ask yourself if a blind person could understand what your web page is about. 

What if you have a video on the page, but your website visitor has a hearing impairment? She can see the video, but can’t hear what is being said. Will the video make sense?

In each case, your visitor will rely on text to understand your content. If you provide a transcript or closed captions for your video, a hearing-impaired visitor can still understand it.  

Visually impaired web users often use screen readers to navigate and understand websites. Screen readers rely on text and html markup to understand the web. Proper use of page titles, headings, and image alt text go a long way to making web sites accessible for all people.

“Screen-reader users scan with their ears”

Just like sighted users scan web pages to find what they are looking for, people who use screen readers skim the page to find what they are looking for. In other words, “Screen-reader users scan with their ears,” said Ginny Redish and Mary Frances Theofanos in their 2003 “Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers.”

Sample of header levels a screen reader would indicateExperienced users often set the screen reader to work at a faster than normal reading pace when scanning. Most screen readers allow the user to jump from heading to heading to get an idea of the main ideas or to hear a list of all the link text on the page. You can see why “click here” isn’t useful taken out of context. Even worse is a page with multiple links called, “click here.”

Learn more about web accessibility

We have put together a checklist of best practices for web accessibility as well as some handy browser tools for Chrome and Firefox to help you make your web pages more accessible. If you want to read more about web accessibility, check out WebAim.org or the Redish/Theofanos paper referenced above.

Diane Austin

Posted at 9:28 AM | Permalink

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Page Sign-Off UPDATE

Helping you keep your pages current

The publisher/page sign-off tool has been updated to make it more helpful to our Web Manager publishers, editors, and normal users. More specifically, the time frames for page sign off has been changed to more realistically match your own update schedule. So now, you will have a reminder to make those updates. 

See Tutorial for Sign-Off Feature for more information.

Here's what we updated:

The time frames available to set on each page are now as follows:

  • 1 month
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

This means that you can set each page to be reviewed in one of these time frames based on how often you typically have an update for that content. All pages should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure they are still useful and up to date.

Posted at 12:46 PM | Permalink

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