Web Communication Project
In light of the Strategic Plan and Student Success the web plays a pivotal role in communication. There are some key websites that must be effective to meet our goals. This process is ongoing and we will help any department through the process when they are ready.
Plan of Action:
- Define the list of mission critical sites - Academic sites, and student resources like admissions, etc.
- Determine who or assign a departmental person who will be responsible for each critical site.
- Write a statement for each critical site's mission and goal specific to that site.
- Create a methodology for assessing sites for content and communication effectiveness.
- Have each critical site sign up for a week of the year that is best for them to have a site review.
- Create user testing groups.
- Sites will also receive a 'technical' review from John French or Dave Klein to 'clean up' code, remove orphaned files, and make sure the CMS tools are meeting the needs.
Prepare for a Review
- What is the purpose of the site? - a short mission statement.
- How important is this site to student success?
- Who is the audience of the site? - age, demographic, reading level, needs.
- What is out of date on the site? - pages content, personnel, events, notices, course or program listings.
- What does the department get phone calls about that should be more obvious on the website.
- Are the FAQ pages meeting the needs?
- Who will maintain this content on a regular basis?
- What tasks should a site tester try to accomplish?
- What questions shoud be asked of a tester after the test?
- Remove old dated files - especially pdfs which are out of date. Images are optional.
- Remove or hide any pages that are "under construction" there is no need to have a page before you have content to put in it.
- Make sure pages have proper file names.
Procedures to Start
- Determine if any files are uploaded outside the CMS
- If FTP access to files try to specify a folder (named ‘ftp’ ?) for all uploads
- Make a note of who is uploading and to where
- Back up site to hard drive
- Delete all files on live server (except non- CMS FTP files)
- Republish fresh from CMS
- Check publish report
- Fix broken links and other problems
- check for bad names and old files with dated names
- Check navigation structure adjust if needed
- Folders with only one page?
- 'under construction' pages or folders
- site map
- index page in each navigable folder
- Check content for bad code or weird display
- Verify all CMS users
- Evaluate users activity– discuss
- Retrain CMS users if necessary
- Who is in charge of the site - create a manager if possible
- Establish what is expected of the manager and the users
Expectations for CMS Manager
Someone should be looking at the site weekly (monthly at least)
Regular content updates to:
- Personnel listings
- FAQ updates
- general content
- academic requirements
- Address listing and hours
- metadata tags
- dead pages or folders with only one page
Determine if the appropriate features are available to users
- dept page
- Form for forms
Other site features
- Social Media LInks
- Landing pages with "Add to" links
- Keyword optimization – need keyword phrases (see content analysis) – links to landing pages
- Purpose of site - what do they want the user to do, accomplish, find, when they visit the site?
- Does the content of the site serve that purpose?
- Who is the target audience?
- Is the writing accessible to the target audience?
- Does all the content serve the stated purpose?
- What is missing?
- What is extraneous?
Resources quoted below:
User Testing Techniques -
A Reader-Friendliness Checklist
Periodic user testing is an important element in developing and maintaining a reader-friendly Website.
One of the most effective forms of inspection-based user testing involves the use of a "usability checklist." Checklist-based user testing is extremely inexpensive to implement, and requires a surprisingly small number of testers to be effective. It's also easy to schedule; it can be used at virtually any time throughout the development cycle, from the earliest prototype screens to a full-blown Website.
Setting the Stage
Here's the basic method for employing a checklist-based user test.
Step 1. Preliminary Self-Appraisal
No author can view his or her own work with dispassion. Still, there are certain things that inevitably make for an unfriendly Web page. (See Ten Things to Avoid and Ten More Things to Avoid for examples.) You can save considerable time, both for yourself and for your evaluators, if you start with a basic sweep of your site for known usability problems. View this self-appraisal as a preliminary step, however, and not as a substitute for user testing methods.
Step 2: Provide checklists to your testers
The more independent and autonomous your testers are, the more valuable the feedback they can provide. A topical site will probably want to enlist the aid of volunteer testers with some interest in the subject of the site. Corporate sites should strongly consider using agency-based temporary employees for user testing.
One important consideration is: how many testers are enough? There's no hard-and-fast rule, but inspection-based testing methods provide a surprisingly quick payback, even with a small number of evaluators. Even a single tester can probably uncover the most common usability problems on your site. And a handful (4 or 5) is more than adequate to ensure a generally reader-friendly Website.
It's also crucial to include 'Net novices in your test group. After all, many of your site's readers will be new to the Internet and to the Web.
Step 3: Provide some brief instructions
Understand that your evaluators will naturally assume that the problems they encounter in using your site are the result of some fault on their part, rather than a flaw in the design of the site itself. It is therefore vitally important for you to explain to your testers that you need them to make note of any problems they encounter, regardless of what they believe the underlying cause to be.
Step 4: Leave
In formal usability experiments, the experimenter typically remains in the room to observe and record testers' behavior. But unless you're a trained usability professional, your presence will likely as not serve to inhibit your evaluators, and thus compromise their ability to test your site. Unless you're planning on providing a personally-supervised guided tour of your site to all your readers, leave your tester to the business of testing your site. Allow your tester sufficient time to test your site. (What's "sufficient" will obviously vary, depending on the content and nature of the site. Allow at least 2-3 minutes per page, but let your evaluator decide when the test is finished.)
A Skeletal Checklist
Obviously, there is no "one-size-fits-all" reader-friendliness checklist that's universally applicable to all the Websites in the world. Still, you will get the best results from user testing if you ask your testers to focus on a limited number (6-10 is probably ideal) of fairly specific questions and criteria. (Readers interested in learning more about basic guidelines for creating friendly Web pages may want to check out another article in this series, What Is "Reader-Friendly"?)
Some suggested starting points for a reader-friendliness checklist include:
Clarity of Communication
- Does the site convey a clear sense of its intended audience?
- Does it use language in a way that is familiar to and comfortable for its readers?
- Is it conversational in its tone?
- Is load time appropriate to content, even on a slow dial-in connection?
- Is it accessible to readers with physical impairments?
- Is there an easily discoverable means of communicating with the author or administrator?
- Does the site have a consistent, clearly recognizable "look-&-feel"?
- Does it make effective use of repeating visual themes to unify the site?
- Is it visually consistent even without graphics?
- Does the site use (approximately) standard link colors?
- Are the links obvious in their intent and destination?
- Is there a convenient, obvious way to maneuver among related pages, and between different sections?
Design & maintenance
- Does the site make effective use of hyperlinks to tie related items together?
- Are there dead links? Broken CGI scripts? Functionless forms?
- Is page length appropriate to site content?
- Is the site moderate in its use of color?
- Does it avoid juxtaposing text and animations?
- Does it provide feedback whenever possible?
A basic truism of usability testing is that there is basically no such thing as a "user error." For every problem your testers identify, make sure you ask enough clarifying questions to allow you to understand the nature of the difficulties they encountered. At all costs, however, avoid the temptation to argue with your tester, or to "explain away" the problems identified during testing. If an evaluator found something confusing, then it's a safe bet that some percentage of your overall readership finds it equally unclear.
The Ultimate User Test
If you're ever lucky enough to have have the chance, simply watch someone navigate your site. Don't prompt them, coach them, or correct them. Merely observe. Even for seasoned systems and usability professionals, it's a profoundly humbling experience.
As you can see the CMS pages are looking different. THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS!
We are testing a new responsive design template. It will react to any size device and adjust the content accordingly. This will allow us to use one web page for all desktop and mobile devices.
Be advised that it has been only optimized for modern web standards compliant browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and IE 9 or greater. So if you try to view it in old Internet Explorer Browsers it will not look as good.
Not all of the top navigation links work yet.
We are looking for thoughtful feedback about the design and layout, the left navigation, the header list of links, and the layout of the content columns.