Tag Archives: websites

Writing for the Web

14108561722_2a5c4984da_zWhat websites do you like reading? What ones do you glance at once and never come back to? Have you ever thought that your favorite websites might be just that because of the way the content is presented?

One of the biggest challenges for academic and educational websites is to inform, but not bog down, the website visitor. People are used to being able to quickly digest little snippets of information when they’re looking at a screen, rather than reading long paragraphs of prose.

Good content developed for your website also increases the accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) of your website by tailoring the words to be concise and descriptive. Continue reading

Posted in Communications, Social Media | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tips on making a noticeable — and usable — website

Congratulations! You have a website to promote your business, school, event, or other organization or activity. But what should you put on it? How should you organize it so that people can find what they need to find easily?

One of the most important things you need to know about visitors to your website is that they stay for only 10 to 20 seconds, unless given a reason to stay longer. This means that you need to put your important information up front and be as concise as possible.

Make sure to put the purpose of your site is noticeable at the top of the page – perhaps by making it bold, larger text, near or on top of a high-quality image, or in another eye-catching fashion. If people can’t tell why your webpage is useful in about 10 seconds, they’re likely going to leave.

If your website has multiple pages on it (and if you have a lot of information on it, it should!), make sure that you add navigation going either horizontally across the top of the page or vertically down the left side of the page. Also, make navigation labels as clear and concise as possible. Users should have a good idea of what they are clicking on.

Make pages as self-contained as possible. If you’re running an event, have a page for registration information, including how to register, how much it costs to register, when the registration deadline is, etc. If you have a schedule, make that its own page.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but generally if a user can look at a page and think, “Okay, I want the schedule, and this is the page with the schedule on it,” instead of, “Where is the schedule information on this long page with a lot of information?” They’re  more likely to find what they need and to not leave your page in frustration.

Finally, let’s talk about images. Images are good – if they are high quality and are of actual people. Users are likely to pay less attention to images that clearly have a model or are stock photos. Larger and better quality photos are better than smaller and/or low quality photos. Just make sure that if you add photos to your website, they don’t push the information people are actually looking for too far down the page.

And one final note on images: Never put text as part of an image. If you want to put text over an image, style your website so that text is placed on top of an already existing image. It both looks better and is more accessible to visitors with sight disabilities.

Hopefully by following these simple steps, you can get yourself off to a good start by creating a website that will both attract visitor’s attention and give them the information they are looking for quickly and easily.

For additional resources on this topic, you can check out the following websites:

Posted in Design | Tagged | 1 Comment

What’s up in the VT, CALS, and VCE web world?

With the start of a new semester, I wanted to welcome those who are new to the CALS and VCE family and to give some web-related updates. I’ve gotten lots of questions in the past few months regarding a variety of things, so see the sections below for information on the CMS migration, new web templates, and restructured teams. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions!

Content Management System migration

The Virginia Tech web team is hard at work testing the new content management system (CMS) and making sure the migration will go smoothly. An exact date for the switch over has not been announced, but it should be in the next few weeks.

Please note that the VCE Unit Office websites will not be migrated at the same time as the rest of the CMS. It was originally built with special content types that require a separate process. While the rest of the websites are moved into the new system, the Offices sites will remain in the old system. This is a very good thing because it means that we won’t need to potentially troubleshoot the CALS, main VCE, and Publications websites at the same time as the 107 unit office websites! See the next section below for information regarding the Unit Office redesign project.

While the switch over is happening, we are anticipating a blackout period where CMS users will not be able to access the system and make updates. If you anticipate needing to update your website around the start of the semester, do this now! Don’t wait! Otherwise, it may be awhile before your content and/or documents can be updated. Continue reading

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The Magical Number Seven

If you want your audiences to remember what you have to say, there are techniques that can be used to help people retain your message. Grouping information into bite-sized chunks can help readers recall important content you want them to remember. This is called chunking.

In the mid-50s, cognitive psychologist George A. Miller, wrote about the concept of chunking in a paper titled “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” Long story short, human memory can store up to seven bits (chunks) of information in short-term memory, plus or minus two. In other words, some people can store nine chunks of information, others five, thus the “plus or minus” part of the equation. This is why phone numbers are seven digits (or they used to be!).

These chunks of information can be stored in short-term memory for about 30 seconds before it is forgotten. If you look at billboards, notice that the ones you can remember as you drive past. At 70 mph the industry average time for reading a billboard is six seconds. So, around six words is all you get for your message. Continue reading

Posted in Communications | Tagged , | 1 Comment

How to make your webpage stand out

You have a website. You have content on this website — perhaps information about an academic program, or an event, or your latest research — and you want it to pop out on your page over all the other content that might be stuffed there. What are some good ways to go about doing so?

There are good ways and bad ways to get your content noticed, and there are ways of getting your content noticed which may not necessarily help in getting people to take the action you desire. What follows are a few tips that will hopefully allow you to present your content in a way that is useful to your audience and help you to achieve your goals.

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Website Best Practices: With great power comes great responsbility

In the spring 2015 semester, the websites hosted at Virginia Tech will be moved from the old content management system (CMS) into a new one. With this change, there will be a greater opportunity for you to manage your own webpages and content because the new CMS will be much more user-friendly!

Once you’ve learned the new CMS, it may be tempting to try all the cool stuff one can do with websites. Some people have been able to figure out how to apply different styles to text on a page, but when they do, it breaks the cohesive look and feel that a template offers.

So how do you know if you’re creating a good looking page without going off on a design tangent? By following Web best practices! Continue reading

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