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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Faculty Directories on University Website

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 No Comments

Website Optimization

After being online for two years, we had noticed the university website starting to take longer to load.  We have therefore started a project to identify any bottlenecks and start re-optimizing the site for speed. As we identify issues we are also making adjustments to our other sites to maximize our users’ experience.

We won’t claim to have done anything extraordinary.  There are hundreds of websites that detail the steps you need to take, many online services that will analyze your site and offer suggestions, and even Google Chrome has much of this built in.

A few things we noticed:

  • Server settings are easy to verify and reset if necessary.  Things like compression and enabling browser caching are straightforward.
  • Optimizing images sizes should be an easy thing, but was our biggest point of failure.  Over time and as responsibilities shifted, saving images for the web somehow got dropped from the workflow.  Coupling this with having to produce larger images to look good on high-resolution screens only made the problem worse.
  • Today’s use of CSS and Javascript frameworks leads to a lot of bloat.  Many classes and functions are included but never used.  Even concatenating into a single file and minimizing can be problematic when every page needs a different combination of scripts included in the package.

Our process isn’t complete, and we will probably never be able to make all of the “recommended” improvements, but we have seen a definite improvement.



Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 No Comments

Personal Directories on University Website

After several years and three turnovers in leadership, we have finally been able to make progress in removing personal directories from the university website.  Today we took the first step in this – adding a robots file that blocks these directories from search engines.  On November 1 we will be removing them altogether. My thanks to those of you who have worked with us in this process, particularly those who helped us find new hosting environments for faculty within your college.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 No Comments

Veteran Resources Hub

Today we launched a page that has been on our to-do list since publishing the university page over a year ago.  We now have a dedicated Veteran Resources page.

We have several offices across campus who serve our veterans.  The purpose of this page is to elevate all of these content areas so that there is a quick and easy place to find resources – all the way from the admissions process through post-college careers.

This page will have a link front-and center on the university website, hopefully enabling those who serve to immediately find where to go for what they need.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 No Comments

Gameday and Website Traffic

I think it is no secret that athletics drives eyeballs, and that includes to university websites.  Without getting into the merits, a look back over analytics for the past five years shows that all of our largest traffic spikes come on days of a big game.  This week was no exception.

Our site traffic on Saturday (the vast majority of which came during the game) was over twice the traffic we normally see for a daily high during the week.  Not so surprising perhaps, but we all know that page hits are vanity metrics – what else more interesting can we see?

Looking at the most popular pages (other than the front page) we find a completely different set of pages being viewed.   Frequently Asked Questions and About Texas A&M each received twice the traffic of any other page.  After those two, At a Glance, Athletics, Traditions, Admissions, and History of the University round out the rest of the most popular pages.  Again, not terribly surprising.  The widespread television exposure probably meant that there were lots of people coming to find out more about us.  But it represents a definite change from a more normal day in the type of content being read.

The geographic location of visitors bears this out.  While Texas is normally by far the most common location, it barely beat out Tennessee.  While the southeast was solidly represented, other areas such as the west coast, midwest, and upper east coast were also well represented.

The one metric that really stands out is the device that visitors were using.  Only 20% of visits were from a desktop.  We normally see more like 65% coming from the desktop, so this represents a major shift. Perhaps they don’t want to leave the TV to go into the other room, so instead pull it up on their phone or tablet?

What can we take away from this?  One thing may be that events – whether football or something completely different – have dramatic effects on who comes to our sites and what they are looking for.  How many of us actually change our websites to cater to this different demand?  We go to great pains to optimize our sites and hit our normal target audience’s needs, but then never touch the content again.  If our goal is to present visitors with the information they want, perhaps we need to recognize this trend.  Almost 80% of our traffic was from new users.  How much more effectively could we have reached this new audience if we had optimized the content for them that day?

Thursday, October 13th, 2016 No Comments

New Aggie Traditions 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.


Thursday, April 28th, 2016 No Comments

Slight modification to WWW Template Files

As I mentioned yesterday, we are rolling out the first set of updates to the university site today that have been requested by offices across campus. One of these affects the page footer, specifically a couple of links in the Admissions section. While these changes have been live on the web pages, we just pushed it out to github yesterday.

This shouldn’t affect most of you, but if you have downloaded the template files from github you might want to either grab the updated version or make these changes in your own code.

Friday, September 11th, 2015 No Comments

WWW and Beyond

Thank you to everyone who has made comments about the new university web site over the last few weeks, whether that was a “great job” or a “can you include my link too?” or even “I liked the old version better, can you put it back?” We really do listen to suggestions, and continue to make adjustments based on this feedback.

Rather than immediately making each change based on individual requests we will, at least for for the next month or so, be rolling them into a series of scheduled releases. Anything that is actually broken or in need of immediate attention, of course, will be fixed right away, but the bulk of the updates will be scheduled on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until we get everything rolled out. The first of these is scheduled for tomorrow.

Now that we have a little breathing room and a little time since the site has gone live, we are starting to look at what’s next on our list. We have several other projects that we have been working on but have never had the opportunity to fully devote resources, so hopefully we will soon be able to announce several initiatives.

Thursday, September 10th, 2015 No Comments

At Long Last

Please forgive the amount of time it has been since our last post.  The last several weeks (months really) have been quite hectic.

After many delays and detours, I am happy to announce that we are ready to launch the new university website.  We will be doing a “soft launch” first, adding a link today from the current version of the site over to the new version.  This should give us a few last opportunities to collect feedback and make last-minute fixes (expect adjustments!)

Many of you have already been asking about getting templates and about branding direction.  These are all coming.  Because of the amount of CSS updates we have had to do I haven’t wanted to release the code only have it change shortly thereafter.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all of you who have worked with us, met and talked to us, and otherwise helped in providing feedback and direction.  This was truly a campus-wide effort, and your cooperation is a big part of the success that I hope we can all share.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015 2 Comments

Demo of Upcoming University Website

Most of you have heard by now that we are redesigning the university website, and some of you have even had a glimpse at it. On May 21 we will be doing an open presentation of the site for the uweb community. Come see the new elements, how it will work, and what it might mean for university branding online down the road.

For those of you unable to join in person, we will be broadcasting on TTVN Channel 6.

This will also be the first time we have hosted anything since moving into our new offices, so also feel free to come over just to see our new digs.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 No Comments