This week I attended the edUi conference in Charlottesville, VA. The conference focuses on the universal methods and tools of user interface and interaction design as well as the unique challenges of producing websites and applications for large institutions. edUi is a perfect opportunity for web professionals at institutions of learning including: higher education, K-12 schools, libraries, museums, government, and local and regional businesses to develop skills and share ideas.
The speakers ranged from Paul Boag and David Berman as keynotes to Christopher Schmitt, Relly Annett-Baker and Stephanie Sullivan just to name a few. I presented on Web Metrics: An Overview and did a half day workshop on Better Design Through Analytics. The great thing about this conference was the workshops did not cost extra for the participants.
The attendees were a great mix of pure developers to web managers to web librarians. There was a unique mixture of ideas and energy from all attendees. I think because of the small size, about 200 attendees, the conference was a perfect fit for the venue and topics.
I took notes throughout the conference and have highlighted a few talks below.
Get Off My Site! Getting what you need and getting back to work
Communicating with anyone at any time is now the new norm
- Son has a phone and that he communicates with people around the world
Purpose of the web
- * Annoy, Confuse, Disgust, Dismay
- Selling the idea of the entirety of the institution on the homepage is almost impossible
“Delinkification” (Associate DirectorCarr)
- Unless it works.
- Link Rot.
- Design Beauty and Simplicity are the same.
- Site template are good, unless they aren’t
Respect my authority
- From the boss
- From you, the authority
- Embrace change
- Use your words. But just the ones you need. “Struggle for every word” - Reichenstein
- Users don’t read they scan and stop and or click on “trigger words” (Spool)
- Use them to manage “user tasks”
- Test to make sure it works
- If everything is a story we are never going to get to the point. Stick to one story.
If you don’t test on the site you have no idea if the site works
- The site creator automatically thinks it works
Homepages on subsites is a problem
- Marketing to yourself
- Why invest in a “Home” when you have a house of information?
Analytics in a vacuum is not going to tell the story
- You need actual users
- “The long history page is ok. This portion of the site will likely only be visited by our own faculty Feel free to add pictures”
Social Media Toolbox: Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Director of Web MarketingStoner & Susan T. Evans
- Whitepaper on Social Media released by mStoner https://db.tt/p0SvcsA
- A focused effort to achieve goals
- Everything is connected to everything else post https://bit.ly/9uemQS
- The social web is self correcting
Powered by Orange Campaign
- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
- Real World
- Personal Contact
Orange Spotlight Campaign
- Got hundreds of information about businesses actually powered by alumni
- Took off because the businesses are being highlighted
WM Mascot Search
- Encourage participation
- Engage Students
- Details and Educate stakeholders
- Establish Trust
- Used YouTube and FB as distractors when things got tough
80 year old went online and submitted an idea
- The elderly do use computers
- Communicating the ideas was the key to earn credibility
Content Curation Is My Superpower – what’s yours?
Newspapers have changed. They used to be used, then thrown out to be used for other things. ex. packing material.
- The focus was on the content
The next day the content is gone
- That doesn’t happen on the web
- You can’t just start throwing stones at people who don’t do good content if your content is not top notch
Web teams usually get shafted by controlling the crappy pages
- About, History, Contact, etc.
- Start with your microcopy, no one will ever notice.
- Test, test and test. A/B is the best way to defeat people with bad ideas
- Content ROT - Redundant, Outdated and Trivial
Anatomy of style (guide for internal communicators)
- Brand Values
- Tone of voice examples
- Gammer, punctuation
- Summary of help for writing
- Chicago style
- Good example
- Treat the web like a garden, after the season is over get rid of the dead flowers, don’t keep them around for next year.
- People click on things that make sense
- Test, Test, Test
- Good resource to see others A/B tests
How We Failed On Web Accessibility
MSU.edu Redesign happens
- Followed the recent trends in web design
Added a large centerpiece
- Make a wow
- Has content sliders
- Has hidden content
Example of sidewalk ending pads
- Alerts the blind and normal people of the end of the sidewalk
Accessibility is more than just blindness
- Color blindness, motor skills, cognitive
MSU rolled their own accessibility policy
- Does not have a state-level website requirement
- Applies to core academic and administrative content
- Ensure basic compliance
- Mixture of 508 and WCAG 1.0
On his soap box
- There is a tendency to do the bare minimum
- But, as institutions of inclusion
- Technical vs Functional Accessibility
- Accesibilty bleeds into usability
- Most accessibilty features
- Designing for the extreme still fits the needs of the mainstream
- Great funcional accessibility test site https://fae.cita.uiuc.edu/
Without the description of the videos there is no way to get to the videos
- An image with a play button on it doesn’t get read
- Remove the flash and turn it into just a static image
- For rotating content display it all and hide the next/prev buttons
Video embeds (YouTube)
- Add a link to the Word Doc, MP4, native formats are better
- Spend time thinking about people with disabilities and spend time with them is the only way to really understand your site
CSS3: moving forward while looking back
Denise R. Jacobs - View Full Presentation
- “There is no shame in going back to fetch what you have left behind, or to return and correct a mistake. Learning from the past allows you to plan well for the future and take better actions.”
- It’s not anything new
- Added value for browsers that support it
Not so good news
- It doesn’t validate
- Code Bloat
It doesn’t need to look the same in all browsers
- But we still need happy end users
Graceful degradation vs Progressive enhancement
- Doesn’t matter what you use as long as it works
Browser support charts are essential
- Best looking: https://findmebyip.com/litmus
Cross Browser Testers
- There are many out there
- Gives me the chills but needs to happen for now
CSS Reset can get you back to basics
- Eric Meyers is a complete reset
- Jason Cranford wrote a good reset article on rolling your own
CSS3 allows you to leverage Source Order
- Place browser specific properties ahead of standard properties
- Use conditional comments for IE’s
Or you can use filters
- They are starting to get more respect
- Not standard
- Don’t use them if you can avoid them
- Scripts that will make the older browsers act like newer browsers
- User defensive coding proactively
- Underwhelmed by the CSS3 support in IE9
Advocating for a error page for IE6
- Not all users that have IE6 are doing it by choice
- Don’t punish them
- Would rather strip down the CSS of the page to nothing in IE6
- Gowalla is a good example of a site that gives IE6 users the same site but it just isn’t flashy
Properties to pay attention to
- Tons of IE bugs
- multiple backgrounds
Paul Boag - View Full Presentation
- Keynote Presentation
I have placed both my presentations online. The slides don’t do the presentations justice because a lot are just single words. I am note sure if they are going to put the audio up but if they do I’ll update this post.
Web Metrics: An Overview
My approach to this presentation about analytics wasn’t to dive into the inner workings of Google Analytics. First I wanted to give everyone an understanding of why they were even looking at analytics in the first place. My expertise is redesign and realign, a lot of that process is analyzing what you currently have out there. Doing a content inventory, navigation inventory, reducing and reusing content as the first step to understanding the current state of your site. After you have an understanding of the visitor’s experience you then can look at the analytics behind those experiences.
Then going into Google Analytics, how to install it correctly and make sure you can record and read visitors effectively. Two discussions came out of the addition to record outgoing clicks and PDF downloads. It was a hot topic that some had never thought of before and is necessary to determine conversions since important items are often hosted externally. ex, online applications, giving forms and CRM forms. Lastly I talked about the importance of mixing and matching tools to get the entire picture of your users visits. Using CrazyEgg to track where users click is a great insight into items that wouldn’t show up anywhere in Google Analytics or other tracking packages. In the end it was a good introduction to the reason for tracking and a basic set of tools to start understanding how your visitors currently use your site.
Better Design Through Analytics
This was the first time I’ve run a workshop. I was a little intimidated to fill three hours but after the session started I realized I wish it was a full day workshop. I had far more content to talk about than time allowed. I started the workshop by asking everyone to introduce themselves and talk about what they expected to get out of the workshop. This took a lot more time than I thought but it was incredibly interesting to hear everyone’s story and their struggles. The trend of “I’ve been gathering analytics for three years and I have no idea what to do with it” came up many times so I focused a lot of the work on understanding how to setup Google Analytics to get the most out of reading usable stats.
We did have just about 30 minutes to talk about A/B testing, something I am really passionate about. I could tell everyone in the workshop would have sat there all day if they could. It was really interactive, I made everyone think about the top three tasks from their homepage. Determine the goal URL and setup a Goal in Google Analytics to start tracking it. I didn’t get to having them create an A/B test on their site because we ran out of time but the discussion about what makes good and bad tests got everyone thinking about what they will do when they get back to the office. A/B tests can not only help your end users but also defeat the opinion of the highest paid person in the room.
Overall the conference was a great mix of talent and people with great attitudes. This was only the second year and it went so smooth it felt like they have been doing it forever. I am looking forward to next year.