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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Modo Labs Features Us in Blog Post

October 4th, 2016 by Erick Beck

Modo Labs, the vendor for our university mobile app, has created a new blog series talking about how their client schools are using the product.  Texas A&M was selected to be the first university profile in this series.  They interviewed our local Marcomm team and asked about how we are using the app, what the most popular links are, how we partner with campus, and much more.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 Mobile Web No Comments

Google Maps – Categories

September 26th, 2016 by Erick Beck

I have been learning more and more about how the map entries work as I get deeper into this project.  One thing that winds up being much more important than I had first thought was the Primary Category.

When you edit an event you are given the choice of a Primary Category and as many additional categories as you wish.  Whatever you add to the Primary Category will be shown on the public location entry.  I had always thought this was largely cosmetic – I had never clicked on that link myself any time I had looked up a location.  But, if you do click the link that will act as a filter and the search column will show you all of the other nearby entries with that categorization.

This, then, makes choice of category important.  We do want it to be relevant to what our location is, but at the same time we want some consistency that will allow our locations to be cross listed in this sort of search.  So the College of Medicine, for example, might be better served by using “College” as its primary category and “Medical School” as a secondary category rather than the other way around.

Categories are not completely open ended – Google has a select list of allowed categories (which unfortunately are not – to my knowledge anyway – published anywhere.)  This means that we will have to create our own consistency with a common set us category entries.

Monday, September 26th, 2016 Campus Maps No Comments

Google Maps – Photos

September 22nd, 2016 by Erick Beck

One of the most important parts of optimizing your Google Place entry is adding and curating photos.  The selection of good photos makes for better engagement with people searching for and viewing your entry, and Google seems to like and favor those entries that include photos.

There are two types of photo entry that you will need to manage – those which you add yourself and those which have been submitted by the public.

Adding your own photos is relatively simple – just navigate into your location’s dashboard page and click the “photos” link.  From there add your profile and logo image at the top, and then as many other photos as you wish.  The page breaks them down into interior, exterior, team, services, and additional photos.  One positive thing that I have noticed already is that when you add photos to one location they can automatically be pulled in and displayed on related locations as well.

Equally important is curating the images that are submitted from the public or pulled in through Google’s web crawls.  I have found that many problems with photos on the university entry – from poor quality, to advertising from nearby businesses, to images of a completely different location.  There is no magic bullet to update these.  I have simply had to get into the location entry and (repeatedly!) use the Report a Problem link to recommend that the photo be removed.  This generally takes several attempts, but the system does eventually respond and remove the photos.


Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 Campus Maps No Comments

Google Maps – Ready to Go

September 20th, 2016 by Erick Beck

Good news on the Google Maps front.  Yesterday afternoon our central account was finally accepted as “verified for bulk uploads.”  This status means that we can claim ownership of the many location entries that have been created across campus and bypass the normal process of postcards and phone calls.  This allows us to get on with the project in earnest.

While this allows us to more easily move forward, we do want to do so deliberately and with a plan.   This project is not something that Marcomm can do on our own.  I expect that this will be an enormously collaborative project where we work with members of your teams to identify and update content, fix inaccuracies, and promote the locations.

While we are still in the planning phases, one thing that I encourage you do do is create a list of the locations which you know are associated with your college, department, or division.  Start looking at information that needs to be updated.  As we meet with each of you I can add members from your team as co-owners or content managers so that you can make these updates.

I will hopefully be in touch soon.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 Campus Maps No Comments

New Project – Google Maps on Campus

September 12th, 2016 by Erick Beck

We have just started a new project that likely will be keeping us busy for the next two years – organizing, correcting, and promoting campus locations on Google Maps.  Those of you who have tried to look up various buildings or offices will understand why this is needed and why it will turn into such an enormous job.

We have over one thousand physical locations on campus, many of which have one or more organizational entities housed within them.  While not every one of these has – or should have – their own Google Places entry, the number which do is pretty staggering.

We are therefore starting small.  We have engaged Up&Up as a vendor to help us get started on a few iconic campus locations and to provide some training for best practices and for tackling some of the unique challenges our campus offers.  Once we get past those locations we will likely form some sort of cross-campus team, either like what we did on the LiveWhale calendar or a special interest group through GoWeb,

I have already started reaching out ad hoc to a few of you to help round up locations and get validations. Many thanks for the cooperation that you all have extended.  I think that does great credit to the trust and spirit of camaraderie we have developed in the campus web community over the past several years. I recognize we won’t e able to make this project a success without that kind of continued collaboration. And if I haven’t called you yet, be sure that sometime in the next several months I probably will…

Monday, September 12th, 2016 Campus Maps 1 Comment

GoWeb Presentation – Maintaining Your Google Maps Locations

September 8th, 2016 by Erick Beck

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

Brand Guide Update

August 26th, 2016 by Erick Beck

In preparation for the Brand Council meeting next week, the Marcomm brand team has created revised brand guide site in hopes that you and your teams will have time to explore it and begin asking questions. We’re calling this release a “brand aid” as the site is not a complete redesign, but more of a reskin.  A more complete redesign will be created in the future, but we know that there are immediate questions that need to be answered.

The primary changes you’ll find are in the color palette, design elements, and fonts.  As promised, the Aggie Fonts package is available to campus staff at no cost to you.  Also, take note of the “Download the Style Guide” button on the first page to get the August 2016 version of the Style Guide.

Be aware that the focus of this brand guide release is for print, but there are elements appropriate for the web.  Again the color palette, use of imagery, and approved fonts are areas to pay particular attention to.

Friday, August 26th, 2016 Branding No Comments

Calendar Features – RSVP Lists

August 17th, 2016 by Erick Beck

One feature that is entirely new to the LiveWhale calendar system that we have never had before was the ability to create RSVP lists directly within a calendar event.  While we have never had the need for such an event within Marketing and Communications, other colleges were quite interested in the feature when we were evaluating calenadaring products.

The RSVP list is quite easy to set up.  When you create an event, one of the options on the web page will be to add an RSVP form to the event.  If you do select that option, it will then let you choose how many people to allow on the list, give you the option of having a waiting list once that fills up, allowing you to add information for a custom message to registrants, and many other options.  You can also choose to get an email notification whenever someone registers.

To view and manage your list of responses is just a matter of going to the “Event RSVPs” within your dashboard.  This page will give you the full breakdown of responses as well as an option of adding your own notes to any of them.  When you are ready for the event, there are built in options to email all registrants, print the list, or export it to CSV (which would normally be put into Excel.)

I have already had questions about whether this is compatible with other campus systems.  As of right now there is no interactivity, but this is something that we can explore as a second phase addition.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

Calendar Features – Images and Maps

August 15th, 2016 by Erick Beck

The first time I had seen the LiveWhale calendar system that powers our new university calendar was last October at the HighEdWeb conference.  In particular, Jason Pontius gave a presentation which really resonated with me.  He advocated for a calendar system being more than just someplace to post times and dates.  Instead it should be something that we use to tell about all of the wonderful things that happen on our campuses.  To market our events, and thereby market our university.  The calendar system that they built did that better than any of the ones we evaluated.

One of the things you will notice on the new calendar is that there is an increased use of imagery.  This is true on both the calendar view itself as well on on the specific event information pages.  As we visited with the people across campus who would be entering events, increasing their use of visuals was always the first thing we stressed.  The images pull in a visitor’s eyes, making them more interested in digging deeper and reading about the event.  Photos can also give a much deeper concept of what the event is about than any text description or contact information will ever do.

Keeping on the theme of visuals, another great addition is the use of Google maps to show locations.  Given the size of our campus, having these maps embedded on each event page can be vital to showing people exactly where the event is being held.  Almost all of the official locations on campus have been pre-loaded into the system for event planners to select from.  Because the system is based on Google Maps, off-campus events can easily be added to the map by simply pasting in the address and letting Google create a new pin.

We have already started receiving feedback on the new calendar, and both the public and the local event managers have recognized the focus that it puts on making the experience more useful and enjoyable for the user.

Monday, August 15th, 2016 Calendar No Comments

University Calendar Presentation

August 12th, 2016 by Erick Beck

I have posted the slide deck for those of you who missed Friday’s presentation on the campus calendar. This presentation covered the process by which we chose LiveWhale as our campus calendar, how we expect the system will be used, and an overview of some of its features.

Friday, August 12th, 2016 Calendar No Comments