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TAMU Webmaster's Blog


Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

EDUCAUSE 2017 Presentation

November 13th, 2017 by Erick Beck

During one of our conversations with Modo Labs – our mobile app vendor – they mentioned that the analytics for our push notifications stood out “A LOT” from their other clients, and suggested that we turn this into a case study.  After we talked further about our emergency communications process they invited us to co-present at the EDUCAUSE conference in October.

The presentation turned into a great opportunity for us to collaborate and support one another.  Eric Kim, co-founder and VP for Design, started off with a discussion of where the industry is and the growing trend of push notifications being the communication of choice.  That transitioned into my description of how we used push notifications as part of our emergency communication during Hurricane Harvey.

I have posted the presentation slides on Slideshare for anyone who would like to look further.

Monday, November 13th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

Faculty Directories on University Website

November 10th, 2017 by Erick Beck

After over ten years of trying to make this happen, we have finally migrated all of the faculty directories off of the university website.  One of the first projects that we tackled on coming to Marketing & Communications was to clean up the content that was being hosted on the university server, and this was the (almost) final step.

These directories had been a security, accessibility, and SEO liability, so we are all happy to have this finally accomplished.

Friday, November 10th, 2017 www.tamu.edu No Comments

Google Post

November 6th, 2017 by Joe Prather

Posting on Google is a new way to share relevant, fresh content with the people who are searching for you. Use images and add links to drive traffic to specific content.

  • Announce new promotions or daily specials.
  • Promote visibility of new and upcoming events.
  • Highlight some of your newest products or best-sellers.
  • Take reservations, attract signups for a newsletter, or sell a product directly.

When you create your Post, you’ll have several options, and you can use any or all of them to complete your post. You can add an image, a title, and up to 300 words of text describing the post. You can also add a call-to-action button from a range of different options, including “learn more,” “reserve,” “buy,” “sign up,” or “get offer.”.

If you would like a consultation please email webmaster@tamu.edu

Monday, November 6th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

Data Driven Decisions Made Real

October 20th, 2017 by Erick Beck

Last month GoWeb sponsored a presentation on campus for Intermediate to Advanced Analytics.  The director of the university’s visitor center (which is part of our division) was interested in learning more about how to look at and analyze the site’s traffic, so attended the session.  After getting back to the office the next day she came back even more interested in being able to do a deep dive into the site.  What we found demonstrates exactly why analytics are so important, and why making decisions based on the numbers is crucial.

At the presentation we talked about the importance of establishing a goal and setting up conversions within Google Analytics (GA.)  This was relatively straightforward for the visitor center – their primary goal is to have someone register for a campus visit.  So we set that up as a conversion and looked at the traffic funnel that drove people to that registration.

Coincidentally we had just redesigned the entire Visitors section of the university website a few weeks before.  It had been carefully done, the content rewritten, design thought out, and vetted by everyone up to the vice president level.

The numbers were shocking.  Registrations to individual visits were down by 35%, and registrations to group visits were down by almost 80%.  The date of the change was obvious by looking at the sessions per day graph.  Also coincidentally, our vice president had recently discussed the idea of assigning a monetary value to a campus visitor, which makes the change in site traffic hit home even more.

In retrospect, the causes for this decline were obvious.  Rather than the new design making it easier for the user to accomplish their goal, it actually created several new barriers that did not exist before.  It was a great example of including what the project sponsor wanted it to include, without taking into account what the end user wants to experience.

After talking about these issues we quickly pulled in the visitor center team, web team, and design team to discuss a solution. As a quick fix, the call to action buttons were places more prominently on the page. A followup project will bring the design and development team back together to create a more streamlined solution.

 

Friday, October 20th, 2017 Analytics No Comments

Updated Departmental Site

October 17th, 2017 by Erick Beck

Marcomm has been so busy for the past couple of years working on external projects.  This has caused support for our own websites to badly deteriorate.  We have taken the first step in turning that around.  We have removed the previous version of the Division of Marketing & Communications website and stood up a Phase 1 replacement.

Screenshot of Marketing and Communications home page

The content is pretty bare at the moment.  The objective of Phase 1 was to remove the old, bad content and at least replace it with a stub that contains only the essentials.  We will be beginning Phase 2 shortly to flesh it out into a fully developed site filled with useful content.

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 Future Projects, Ongoing Projects No Comments

Google Analytics Documentation Available

October 4th, 2017 by Erick Beck

We tried to use last week’s GoWeb presentation on web analytics as a way of re-energizing our campus-wide discussion on analytics.  As part of that, the GoWeb analytics special interest group (SIG) has updated our documentation site.

These pages will explain what Google Analytics is all about, what we are trying to accomplish with the campus-wide effort, and give instructions on how to set up and manage your own analytics. Whole books have been written on this topic, so we are obviously presenting an overview, but we hope that this will be a good start for those of you on campus who want to become more active in your own analytics use.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 Analytics No Comments

Upgrade to CentOS 7

September 26th, 2017 by Charlie Harris

In my post about Ansible at the beginning of the year, I mentioned that we made the decision to migrate all of our virtual servers to CentOS 7 from SuSe Enterprise. The process is coming along steadily and we now have all of our HTML production and test servers, as well as our application test server, moved over to CentOS 7.3.

Other than a few differences, the change has been very smooth and easy. The major issues have not been related to changing distros, but some of the packages. The move from Apache 2.2 to 2.4 was probably the biggest just due to the syntax changes. Most of those are fairly minor though just to get the sites up and running again under the new version.

The main reason for the move was that we wanted to align ourselves more with what TAMUIT was moving toward. They have been migrating a lot of things over to CentOS as well, and we decided that now was a good time. A lesser reason was that when it comes to help, especially online, there is just so much more out there for Redhat/Fedora/CentOS than SuSe.  Most of the time this wasn’t a real issue, but every once in a while we ran into things that where much harder to troubleshoot in SuSe than if we had been using a Redhat or Ubuntu based distribution.

I will miss zypper though. I still think that overall it is a much better package manager than most any other one I’ve used. Yum is not bad now that I’m getting more used to it, but zypper just had so much built into it that makes things just a little easier to do and find.

Overall we are happy with the change and look forward to continuing with CentOS for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 Systems No Comments

Move In Day

September 22nd, 2017 by Joe Prather

We are excited to have Res Life Move-In Day on the app again. It was even better than last year with more hits. Using CampusBird to display parking locations, drop-off zones, and dorms. Giving users useful tips and hints on the landing page.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 Mobile App, Uncategorized No Comments

Howdy Week Success

September 13th, 2017 by Joe Prather

Howdy Week on Texas A&M mobile app was the biggest success yet based on traffic, it received 198,104 views in one week.

This was the first year Howdy Week was inside the TAMU App agenda module. We look forward to next year being a bigger success.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 Mobile App No Comments

Using GTM to block test and dev sites

August 28th, 2017 by Erick Beck

I would guess that few of us remove our Google Analytics or Tag Manager calls from our site code when it is on a test or development server.  Depending on your setup, this could mean that hits to these environments increment (and distort) the analytics for your production sites.  A simple use of a blocking exception can prevent this.

This process is even simpler than previous examples since we don’t have to use a GA variable at all. Here, we just set up a blocking trigger that fires when the page hostname contains “test” or “dev” or whatever string you use to differentiate your test environment from production.   Then add this trigger as an exception on your site’s tag and none of your test/development sites will add to your analytics count.

Monday, August 28th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

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