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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters


Presenting the TAMU Campus Calendar

For those of you not on the TAMU Procomm mailing list, I will be giving a presentation next week on the campus calendar. It will be decidedly non-technical in nature, but will give a basic overview of what we’re doing and why. Michael and I will be available for any questions or help that you might have, or just come and let us put a face to a name.

Wed, June 8
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Rudder 707

*RSVP for this free event either on Facebook or email*

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Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 Calendar No Comments

Conference Presentation

We’re back from HighEdWeb and life is slowly getting back to normal.  We had a great trip, and the reception to our presentation was beyond our expectations.   For those who haven’t been to the conference site to get the slides, I’m making them available for view here.  Be sure to look at the Notes section as well, as those contain many of our talking points to accompany the slides.

For those who don’t want to go through the whole thing I’ll recap some of the primary points here:

  • Mobile devices are the future, you must start developing for them now or be left behind.
  • Which is better mobile app or mobile web?  – There is not right answer, they are different technologies with different purposes.  Focus instead on the content and experience that you want to deliver to your user, and then choose the platform that best delivers that experience.
  • The biggest advantage to apps is it’s ability to access hardware features (GPS, camera, etc.) and this will be where the app shines in the future.
  • The biggest advantage of mobile web is that is is HTML that you already have the skillset to create, and because it is online Google will be a powerful friend in getting your content out to the world.
  • The speed at which smart phones have been adopted has changed the landscape.  Apps are no longer the “sexy,” “cool,” “must have” thing that they were a year ago.  CSS and Javascript allow mobile websites to fill that role now, allowing apps to evolve into higher-end elements. Embrace this change, don’t spend time and money building an app that can be done faster and easier with a website.
  • That being said, people like being able to just “hit a button” and pull up the information in an app without having to type in a URL into a browser.
  • The evolution of app and website brings us back to the concept that “content is king.”  Every time we get a new technology we go through a cycle of forgetting this, only to have it  re-assert itself once the platform us uniformly adopted.
  • Think of air travel or cruises a generation ago – they were top of the line travel that everyone dressed up for. Now they are considered run of the mill and we wear t-shirts and flip flops.  Similarly, back in the 1990s everyone wanted a personal website to post pictures of their cat – today we get our cats Facebook accounts and post hundreds of pictures.  In another few years nobody will care about mobile web vs. mobile app, they will just want their content. We need so start preparing  for that mindset now.
  • Design for all mobile devices, not just high-end smartphones.  Graceful degradation/progressive enhancement will allow you to target the upper end phones with nice displays while still allowing the content to be ready by everyone.
  • Several years ago we complained about “best viewed in IE” on websites – we can’t now turn around and produce sites “best viewed in webkit.”
  • When you design a mobile site, present it in a standard navigational layout rather than building something of your own.  Lists and iPhone-style icons are the accepted norms, don’t make your users think by giving them something new.
  • Mobile sites will get a lot of hits from desktop users because they are lean and easy to navigate.  Embrace these users and don’t redirect them away from the content.
  • “The user IS mobile, not just HOLDING one.”  – Make this the foundation of your mobile strategy.  You are not just designing for a device that has different capabilities. The mobile user has different needs and expectations from a desktop user, give them the content they need.
  • “Making a mobile website is not the same as making your website mobile.”  You should give your traditional website mobile-friendly styles, but that isn’t enough.  You really need a separate website that caters to the mobile users’ needs.
  • Think outside the box in content to add.  As well as things like bus routes and dining menus, we found the About Us a popular destination one day when our football team was on national television.  Users didn’t even get up to go to the other room and look us up, they did it from their phones while still watching the game.
  • Look for partners across campus – when Transportation Services added our URL to their bus signs traffic to the site doubled overnight.
  • Mobile devices are changing so rapidly that the standard 2-year cycle we use on our desktop sites is simply too long. We must be constantly looking at how to evolve our mobile sites.

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Friday, October 15th, 2010 design, Mobile Web 2 Comments

Cincinnati Bound

John and I are heading to Cincinnati tomorrow for HighEdWeb conference, along with several others from around campus.  We will be giving a presentation on mobile website development, so let me thank those of you who have joined us in our mobile effort, your part is much appreciated. When we get back I’ll post our presentation and notes of interest from the other topics we pick up while there.

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Friday, October 8th, 2010 Miscellaneous, Mobile Web No Comments

Presentation – Mobile Development

Yesterday I participated in a presentation on Mobile Web Development for the university ProComm group.  Thank you to them for the opportunity and for you for listening. I hope it will encourage both use and development in the campus web presence.

For those of you interested, I have put my presentation slides online.

A few questions that were raised that weren’t covered in the presentation:

Will you sniff and redirect mobile traffic to the mobile site?
Emphatically, no.  I think this is a bad idea.  Modern phones are capable of rendering the full site pretty well. I do not condone hijacking a user’s connection and telling them what they want to see.  As we covered in the presentation, the mobile site and a full site have different content and are for different audiences.  If somebody wants to get information from the full site we should let them.  That being said, the new redesign of will make a link to the mobile site very clear so that if somebody does visit the full site they can quickly and easily see that we have a mobile site and go there if they so choose.

Have you incorporated HTML 5 into the mobile site?
We have not. The current site was actually designed for backward compatibility even with older WAP phones.  I also doubt that we will include it in the next generation of the site.  I do recognize that it can do some great things and that it will make for a revolution in web design, but currently it is not a complete specification and has not been finalized by the W3C.  We might nibble around the edges of some of the core elements that likely won’t change, but I’m not ready yet to fully take the plunge and convert all the way.

Do you have plans to put Code Maroon or other emergency information on the site?
Yes, we do anticipate adding this information on the front page.  This will include other non-emergency but still need-to-know information such as snow day closures and such.

What kind of marketing have you done to increase awareness?
I will add a bit to what Diane said when this question was addressed to her.  As well as the cards that she showed you, we are also working with our site partners to help get the word out.  This makes sense because they are the owners of the content that we all want advertised.  So Transportation Services, for example, has started running advertisements for on their marquis screens.  Dining services is also joining in and will be printing the URL on table tents, menus, and in the eating establishments.  This type of advertising is more effective than anything we can do on our own.  We saw traffic to the site double, for example, the day after the bus marquis started running.

If I forgot one of the questions please forgive me and send me a reminder note.  The door is always open for new questions as well so send anything you want to know and we’ll be happy to answer.

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Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 Mobile Web, Multimedia No Comments