We have been playing a bit with the streetview phone app for creating our own photospheres. The cool thing about these is that we can add them directly into Google Map entries. Check out this view, for example, of the Architecture Quad behind our building. Definitely not ready for prime time yet, but it is a start. We are also seeing a demand, with several hundred views over the weekend without much advertisement.
Our long term goal will be to use these test photos to build up our expertise so that we can tackle a new version of the campus virtual tour site. Combining these panoramas with the Campus Bird campus map framework we intend to give the tours a much needed facelift.
Ask a random student on campus where they are from and it has always seemed like the majority will say they are from Houston. Coming from the Dallas area myself, and knowing how many of my own high school classmates came to A&M, that has always seemed surprising to me.
Looking through our analytics, though, the numbers support that anecdotal conclusion. One of the pieces of information that you can get from analytics is the geographic location of the user – from the country level all the way down to the city. While there is some margin of error when you look at the by-city numbers, they are accurate enough to make some comparisons.
Unsurprisingly, College Station is at the top of the list, with just over one-third of traffic coming from here. That makes sense given the amount of student, faculty, and staff traffic that we get. What did surprise me, though, was how much more more traffic we get Houston than anywhere else in the state. Just over 15% of traffic comes from Houston – more than Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio combined.
These numbers are fairly consistent across all of our sites. I have started watching the combined view of all university sites that have joined in on our campus-wide tracking code and there isn’t any change after adding several colleges, departments, and offices.
Whether it is proximity, the number of old-Ags living in Houston, or some other factor, the percentage is significant enough that it should be taken into account if we ever do location-based advertisement or programs.
Recently, we completed our move to WPengine to host all of our WordPress sites, including this blog. It involved some untangling of multi-site installs, as well as the normal bumps that come with moving to a new way of doing things, but overall the process was fairly smooth. We feel like this move will help us in the future, not only with keeping everything updated and current, but also speeding up our process of getting out new sites as the need arises.
I love running my own machines, but in this instance it just made too much sense for us to move to a hosting service. WPengine was very helpful on the few occasions when we needed it and were very knowledgeable. There are also a number of features that will be very useful in the future that were not easily done on our end. In all, we have been happy with the results so far and are looking forward to being a little more flexible and agile in the future.
There have been a number of groups around campus that have moved to WPengine. If you are considering a move to a hosted service, or have other questions, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to discuss it with you.
Note: This is opinion, of course, but what’s your opinion? What would you add or subtract? What web design trends do you think have passed their “sell-by” date?
* infinite scroll
* hamburger menus on desktop
* autoplaying videos
* dropdown menus
* disabling zoom
* gray text in white
* articles split across multiple pages
* full-width hero images
* icon fonts
* tables for layout
* browser sniffing
* device detection
And another perspective:
Earlier I mentioned that we had updated the university’s mobile app. Part of that same project was to bring our mobile website into line with the app’s content. In the past the two had been separate, and in some cases competing, platforms. Now they include the same content, presenting a consistent user experience for mobile browsing on our campus.
This was accomplished through the framework that powers the mobile app. In many ways it should be thought of as a content management platform rather than an app publishing platform. It allows us to create the content in the back-end application and then publishes both to a native app and to a mobile website.
Another project that we just pushed out this week is a new Aggie Traditions site. We began this site almost two years ago, but it kept getting put off for other projects. Unsurprisingly, then, I am overjoyed that it is finally live.
This began as a pet project. I had noticed that there were several websites about traditions across campus. The Traditions Council had one, the MSC had one, Athletics had one, and even HR did. There was a lack of consistency of quality and even of content across these sites. I therefore reached out to the other site owners and we got together to plan a single site that could elevate our traditions and which we could all support.
Getting it finished took some maneuvering – tying it to the mobile app which did have a set-in-stone due date – but we are all happy with the results.
The biggest project we have been working on for the last year is not even a website, it is a complete overhaul of our university mobile app. We began this process over a year ago, and it finally went live on Monday.
It is available on the app stores now, either as an update to the previous app or a new download if you do not already have it installed. If you don’t, I highly encourage you to go and give it a look.
The new app, based on the Kurogo platform, will be a significant improvement over the previous version. Our guiding principle in the project has been to identify content that will be useful for our campus users and get it within the app. The Kurogo platform helps us in this by providing the concept of personas – instead of trying to cram all of the content onto a single dashboard the users can select their audience type and see a screen with content relevant to them.
We do not see this as a one-and-done project. While Phase I consisted largely of replicating the content from the previous version of the app into the new platform, the entire project will be a multi-phase process where we continually bring in more content, more services, and more audiences.
Our hope is that this can become an important content platform that is embraced and wholeheartedly used by our campus community.
We have had several questions about how we created the RSVP forms used for the various Staff Appreciation Week events last week…as well as quite a few requests for copies of the files. I agree that these were cool, but they were nothing special that we did ourselves. We simply leveraged Google Forms to create easy to make RSVP submissions.
We had actually begun using Google Forms a few months ago. We were getting more and more one-off requests for submission forms for different projects, and I wanted to move away from the tedious process of creating and then securing custom-built forms. Google Forms was the obvious answer. They are free to use, simple to put together and incorporate into your site, and make data collection easy because they simply submit to a Google Sheet. We are in the process of replacing many of our legacy website page forms with updated Google Forms. I highly encourage that anyone who needs to collect quick information also take advantage of this resource.
GoWeb is excited to announce our first campus WebTalk on search engine optimization!
In today’s world, over half of a website’s traffic originates from search. As a web developer, we must optimize our pages for search in order to stand out and be found. Attend this presentation and learn what you can do to ensure your sites don’t go unlisted and unused, while avoiding the snake oil treatments that are associated with this topic.
The WebTalk will be held at 10:30 a.m. on March 11, in General Services Complex room 2605, inside suite 2601.
Please join us for the presentation and conversation around this important topic.
The Texas A&M Mobile Strategy Team is excited to announce the launch of a new campus community, GoWeb – goweb.tamu.edu.
We have seen widespread campus adoption of responsive web design. Currently the majority of college and division websites are mobile friendly – gomobile.tamu.edu/texas-am-mobile-strategy.
While there is still work to be accomplished, we believe our next step should be to expand our scope beyond focusing solely on mobile and move toward providing resources on all web communications. This includes usability, accessibility, best practices for development, as well as branding and message consistency.
How can you get involved in the GoWeb Community?
- Join the GoWeb Google group and Slack channel to stay up-to-date on events and important information – goweb.tamu.edu/get-involved/
- Check out our calendar of educational and social events – goweb.tamu.edu/events/
- Visit our resource center for more information and links to important web resources – goweb.tamu.edu/resource-center/
In order to better build our community and increase collaboration, we will be folding the Go Mobile and UWeb listserv into our new GoWeb google group over the next few months. Please take steps now and join our Google Group at goweb.tamu.edu/get-involved/google-group/.
In the weeks ahead we’ll highlight additional resources, events and collaboration opportunities. We hope you are as excited as we are about this new community and the potential to come together to implement the business goals of the university, adopt standards of best practice, and share resources, knowledge and expertise across the campus.