skip to main content

TAMU Webmaster's Blog


Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Miscellaneous

New Look on an Old Site

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so to help promote understanding of the topic we have overhauled the StepInStandUp website.  This announcement is less about the website, though, as it is mentioning this as our first project working with Barkley REI, one of our master contract web vendors.

We have historically done most of our projects in-house, but this project marks a turning point.  When working on projects that are brought to us from other parts of the university we will be engaging with our list of vendors to help get things done.  In this case, Barkley REI did a great job on an incredibly tight schedule.

 

Monday, April 24th, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

Talking to Vendors is a Good Thing

Just like at any conference, last week’s Tech Summit had its vendor room.  Many of the people that I talked to didn’t engage with the vendors, though.  There were a couple of common themes for this – they thought the vendors were just there to sell you something, or that the vendors’ products were nothing that you are interested in, or that there was no value in talking to vendors because they are not in a decision making role in their department.

These are all common responses, and I have thought them myself at various points of my career.   Having matured a bit, though, I can say that there definitely is value in talking to vendors, and that these reasons are not as valid as we think.

Yes, these people are there to show off their products.  After several years there have been very few that have pushed the hard sell.  They know that we aren’t the ones who will be writing the check.  They love to interact, though.  While most companies do send sales teams, they also send engineers to explain the product.  These are IT folks too, and love to geek out the same sorts of things we do.  You can learn lots of tidbits just through this type of interaction that you would never pick up from a white paper.

Also remember that “corporate sponsor” means that they are helping to support the conference.  If you enjoy the conference drop by and give them at least a “thank you.”  This is often a good icebreaker to extend the conversation into other areas. A lot of times you find out things about the company that you didn’t know, or find out that some of their business is in areas that you didn’t know about but are interested in.

Probably most important, don’t think that you don’t affect decisions just because you aren’t in a managerial role.  If you specialize in something, your bosses will likely come to you for input on topics relating to that area.  If you have talked to vendors and have a sense of options they can offer your advice will be more trusted (and they will be more likely to come to your for advice.)  It also pays dividends into the future.  As you progress in your careers this kind of background knowledge becomes more and more assumed.

Interaction doesn’t have to be brilliant conversation.  Half of the booths that I visited started something like  “I’m in web development, what do you do that might be related?” Once the ice is broken, questions and discussion becomes pretty straightforward.  So next time you attend a conference, approach the vendor room with a new sense of purpose.

 

Friday, March 3rd, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

Tech Summit Review

Charlie mentioned last week that we had a great time at the Tech Summit.  I agree wholeheartedly.  This was my third time to attend, and was by far the best.  The Tech Summit is different from any other conference you might attend.  The attraction is that it offers all of the normal track sessions, but you are attending with people that you know and work with from throughout the system.

This, to me, is the most important part of Tech Summit. It is easy enough for us to set up an appointment if we want to talk to one another here on campus, or there are social opportunities like the GoWeb presentations and meetings.  None of those approach the conversations that happened last week, though.  The casual atmosphere and diversity of attendance created a bonding opportunity that I have not experienced here in town.

I know budgets are tight, but I encourage you to consider this as your destination location next year, and to start showing your decision makers how useful and even important it can be.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

CMS Use on Campus

I posted this on the GoWeb site a few weeks ago, but since people have continued to ask about it I am repeating the information here.


Several years ago we did a survey of what content management systems were in use across campus.  After several years of change in this space we thought it would be good to see what those numbers look like now.

A trend of consolidation stands out.  Through self selection, the majority of us are naturally aligning around Cascade and WordPress.  Most of those who have not made that migration are considering it.  The exception is Provost IT, which is firmly tied to Kentico.

Cascade

  • Bush School – moving into Cascade
  • College of Architecture
  • College of Engineering – moving from Umbraco to Cascade
  • College of Geosciences
  • Health Science Center
  • Libraries
  • Division of Marketing & Communications
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Galveston
  • Tarleton State University – for the entire university

WordPress

  • AgriLife
    • Extension programs
    • Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
    • Department of Entomology
  • College of Dentistry – for news site
  • College of Education – moving from Drupal to WordPress
  • College of Engineering – for some smaller sites
  • College of Science
    • Department of Statistics
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – moving from Umbraco to WordPress
  • Health Science Center
  • Mays Business School
  • Division of Marketing & Communications – for news site
  • Public Policy Research Institute
  • Student Affairs
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Qatar
  • TEEX – will soon begin using for microsites

Drupal

  • Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Umbraco

  • College of Engineering – but actively moving to Cascade
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – but actively moving to WordPress
  • Finance & Administration – but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Kentico

  • Provost IT

Drupal

  • College of Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Sharepoint

  • TEEX

No CMS

  • Transportation Services -but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Custom

  • College of Science – but likely to change
Friday, February 10th, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

GoWeb Presentation – Maintaining Your Google Maps Locations

For those of you who may not be on the GoWeb email list, we are having a presentation tomorrow (Friday, September 8) by Up&Up, one of our master contract vendors.  They will be discussing why and how to update your department’s information in Google Maps to get better results in searches. Learn best practices for improving your listing and hear what Up&Up will be doing with Marketing & Communications.

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 Miscellaneous No Comments

How Did We Do That? Google Forms

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.

Screenshot of Staff Apprciation Week RSVP Form Using Google Forms

 

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.

 

 

Monday, March 7th, 2016 Miscellaneous No Comments

Introducing GoWeb: A Texas A&M Community for Web Developers, Designers and Communicators

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?

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.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 Miscellaneous No Comments

Yes, Audience Does Matter

We are told in the mythical Introduction to Web Development 101 that the first thing we should do when building a new website is to establish who the audience is, and then build the site with them in mind. In practice this very often doesn’t happen. Even when we pay lip service to being audience-centric and go through the motions of identifying an audience, we very often then go forth and build the site just like any other.

Just how important this can be struck me earlier this week when one of my colleagues sent out an email saying “Sexiest website i’ve seen in a while” with a link to the Apple Macbook. My first reaction was “these animations are annoying.” Then as I continued to look it turned into frustration over how difficult it was to find actual information about the product, which in turn led to “why don’t they do this like Dell where all of the product information is in one easy to read chart”? On the face of it, both companies sell computers so it might seem logical that their websites wouldn’t be terribly different, right?

Upon further reflection, the answer is clear. Dell and Apple users are quite different. What appeals to one doesn’t resonate with the other. Both companies understand what their customers are looking for and have built their websites very differently, but with their respective audiences in mind.

We in higher ed can learn from this example. Instead of getting into the routine of doing every site in an institutional template — or the opposite, making every site with a splashy graphical experience — we should target the site design to the audience we are trying to reach. For some, a dazzling experience would be the preferred approach. A perfect example would be the Reveille site that we just launched. On the other hand, a site built for a targeted set of academics might need to tone down the design and focus on quick and efficient delivery of content. We can do both. In fact, we should do both. This type of flexibility might take some of us out of our comfort zone, but if we take our cue from two industry leaders that is exactly how we will most effectively share our content.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 Miscellaneous No Comments

New Site – The 12th Man

Practically all Aggies know the story of E. King Gill and the 12th Man. Not all Aggies, and certainly not most people across the country, know that this is actually a registered trademark that belongs to the university. To help spread this message, as well as show the long history of the 12th Man at Texas A&M, the Division of Marketing & Communications has launched a new site which outlines the history of the 12th Man from the time of E. King Gill through the modern era.

Monday, February 9th, 2015 Miscellaneous No Comments

Presentation Slides

Thank you to those who attended yesterday’s presentation, whether in person on over TTVN. We apologize for the technical difficulties in getting the slides to show properly. Ellen has sent me the presentation, and I have uploaded it to Slideshare.

Tags:

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 Miscellaneous No Comments

Categories

Archives