Registration is now open for the 2015 HighEdWeb Regional Conference in Michigan to be held at Wayne State University April 20-21! This is the regional, personal development opportunity you’ve been waiting for.
The cost to attend HighEdWeb Michigan is only $85, which grants you access to:
- A full day and a half of dynamic presentations by higher ed web professionals, many of whom come from your peer institutions
- One much-anticipated Keynote presentation
- Two breakfast networking opportunities
- An evening exploring downtown Detroit with heavy appetizers and networking
- Conference swag
- Swagger (the satisfaction of knowing you’re on the cutting edge)
Space is limited, we have sold out quickly each year.
Register today! HighEdWeb regional conferences are a great venue for attendees to join and benefit from great conversations that help them when they get back to the office. We anticipate a full house this year, and would like you to be a part of this incredible event.
The Michigan Regional Conference of the Higher Education Web Professionals Association is delighted to introduce our keynote speaker, Carl Erickson.
Keynote: Carl Erickson
Carl Erickson is the president and co-founder of Atomic Object, a 50-person software product development consultancy with offices in Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. Atomic Object builds web, mobile, desktop, and device software products for clients ranging from startups to the Fortune 500.
Before founding Atomic in 2001, Carl was a VP of Engineering at a failed dot-com startup (briefly), and a university professor (not so briefly).
Carl also shares his experience on his blog Great Not Big – Experiments in Running a Small, Innovative Company.
Travel & Lodging
Lodging available from $169/night high atop Detroit on the riverfront. Limited HighEdWeb room rates expire on March 26th. It doesn’t cost up front to reserve your room, ensure you have a place to stay today.
See you in Detroit this April!
Come share your successes, failures, questions and lessons learned with other Web workers from around campus.
This meeting’s agenda includes:
- Matt Ouellett from the Office of Teaching and Learning will be facilitating a group discussion to create a Web accessibility working document
- Round table
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their experiences.
March 20 at 10:30 a.m. in the Simon’s Room, 144 Purdy Library
RSVP is not required but suggested.
Come share your successes, failures, questions, and lessons learned with other Web workers from around campus.
This meeting’s agenda includes:
- Elliot Polak talking about the recently redesigned Library System website and how their team has worked to improve the site since the initial redesign in August.
- Nick DeNardis talking about front-end workflow and speed optimizations.
- Round table
Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their experiences.
Feb. 6 at 10:30 a.m. in the Simon’s Room, 144 Purdy Library
RSVP is not required but suggested.
In previous years we had three full stack developers who were responsible for the entire programming of a site from the database data binding to the performance and accessibility of the user experience. It became pretty clear last year that doing everything was spreading them thin and we weren’t able to accomplish the fine grain optimization we were used to. So we decided to split the developers into front-end and full stack roles. The full stack developers still had knowledge of the front-end but their primary focus was university tools and optimizing the data in and out of our API. The front-end roles can spend their time optimizing every pixel that the end user interacts with.
Welcome Jenny Ingles
It has taken me a few months to make this announcement on our blog and in the meantime you have probably been browsing her work and not even realizing it. Recently she worked on the front-end of the following projects:
For her first project, a website that was already architected and designed, she was thrown in with a pretty PSD and told to make it work. Not only did she break it down technically but also worked very closely with the client at every step to educate on expectations, opportunities that the Web as a medium brings, and responsive implications. What came out of all that was an implementation that was not only within budget but also looks and performs beautifully. Browse around the Pivotal Moments website and see for yourself.
College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts
Jenny got her feet wet with our workflow, process, and structure using our Yeoman Foundation 5 site generator (not public yet). With this she was able to add some new features to the site. The homepage of the College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts features some uniquely positioned areas with semantic HTML, parallax scrolling and CSS 3.
In the same line with the CFPCA website, Jenny built upon her knowledge to not only include parallax scrolling but also responsive background video. Although the background video didn’t make it into the first launch of the website, we hope to find a video in the future that meets everyone’s needs.
Student Service Center wait times
In addition to full scale website builds, Jenny also has been working on the little big details that make the user experience a little more enjoyable. For the Student Service Center she added visual elements to highlight the important information at a glance. In addition, the tabbed view for hours brings the relevant information into initial view and secondary information a click away without scrolling or a refresh. Below that, the frequently asked questions are now within an accordion so they are easy to scan and quick to jump between. An improvement that didn’t revolutionize the page, but made a useful page more of a joy to use.
Art & Art History (upcoming)
Although it isn’t live yet (hopefully soon and I will update this post when it does launch): the Art & Art History department website. Another soup to nuts website that Jenny was involved with that really shows off the attention to detail. This site was build on our Yeoman site generator (which means it is a standard starting point for all future sites) and lazy loads hidden images/content, changes design naturally at different breakpoints, and utilizes icon fonts as much as possible. It also features something I have yet to talk about, progressive enhanced page loading with YouTube’s SPF JS. This is something we have been playing around with for a bit and this site shows off how we have nicely adapted it to our Web experience. We can’t wait to show you the final website, which should be available shortly at http://art.wayne.edu/.
Just a few short weeks
This is just a snapshot of what we’ve done in the last few weeks. We don’t believe we’d be where we’re at without Jenny. Let’s give her a warm welcome! We can’t wait to see what she’s able to accomplish in the next few months.
A lot has happened over the last 10 years that I’ve been in the Web Communications department, but looking back it made me realize how much has changed just in the last year.
I thought I would break down some of the basics to put it in perspective:
|Relied on multiple methods of contact: Basecamp, email, and a shared inbox.||Now using a true ticket system, TargetProcess. All support and project related activity is in one place.|
|Used Campfire for group chat which was limited to just our department.||Now we use Slack which allows anyone around campus to join so more people can be on the same page throughout the day.|
|Almost everyone was working at a desktop computer.||Now most work is done on laptops, in shared spaces, and as much as possible, with the client.|
|Coffee was the drink of choice for the office.||Now it seems most people have converted to tea.|
|Down a few staff members for various reasons and thus not able to take on the amount of work we were used to.||Now fully staffed and back up to speed with all projects. Almost each positon has a ‘pair‘.|
|Our development stack used to be all over the place with MAMP, Ruby and Gem requirements unique to each machine.||Now everyone is running the same Vagrant image which can be replicated in just a few steps. Bringing up a new computer now takes minutes instead of hours.|
|We used to host all our code in SVN which is great for a single project, but multiply that by 600 and it becomes a pain to manage.||Now every project has its own GIT repository, branches and pull requests. We use git-flow to standardize code contributions.|
|Deploying code changes to the server were done by hand and in some instances involved voodoo.||Now all code is deployed by script and in a standard way to ensure accuracy, repeatability, and enabled the ability to roll back if anything goes wrong.|
|We used to wear multiple hats, switching projects and contexts all day long as support requests and quick turn-around items came in.||Now we have two teams, the project team works on scheduled client work and the support team handles hundreds of support-related tasks per week. The teams switch up every month and everyone starts each day knowing what to expect and what they are going to work on.|
|Our office space hasn’t changed, we are still in an open ‘pit’ area but we used to have our large L-type desks configured to take advantage of space optimization.||Now we have removed all L’s and have placed the desks in paired rows to allow for people optimization. This allows a pair from each discipline to work closely together all day. We also have one dedicated standing desk that anyone can use.|
|Everyone used to have a phone and their own phone number.||Now we have a one single phone number for the entire department. We still remain without a single printer, and rely on shared resources as much as possible.|
But some things never change.
We hire great people and work on great projects for awesome clients around campus. We continue to challenge ourselves to be the best at our craft, contribute to open source and the higher ed community, and raise the stature of the university.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
Building a single website is tough in itself but building and maintaining hundreds of sites results in exponential maintenance. Luckily there are frontend tools to help. You’re probably already familiar with a few of them and may use them on a handful of projects. We’ll explore how to use frontend tools to make life easier regardless if you’re working on a single or hundreds of sites.
Nick DeNardis is Director of Digital Communications at Wayne State University, where he leads the strategy, execution, and implementation of most all public facing digital communications for the university. His team is responsible for websites, social media, and digital signage around campus. They also are responsible for creation and maintenance of several university-wide tools including a content management system, events calendar, RSVP system, HTML email creator, form creator, and short URL system. Nick has 10 years of experience optimizing university websites for a forward moving user experience. He is a nationally recognized speaker, blogger and scientist in discovering and analyzing Web behavior.
Venue and Parking
Once inside, go to the end of the hall, and take the elevator to the fourth floor.
Parking is available at the Detroit Opera House parking garage, located on Broadway. Parking is $10 (unless there’s a special event). There’s also limited street parking on Woodward.
The Detroit Opera House parking garage is a short walk up Broadway and around the corner from the Grand Circus space. Here’s parking information from the Broderick Tower website (PDF).
Last week I presented a workshop on Google Analytics. Since many schools/colleges/departments use the tool to track Web visitors, I thought it would be a good opportunity to get them in a room to explain the features/power of the system.
The workshop covered the following topics:
- Setting it up on a site/multiple sites
- Account/Property/View management
- Intelligence Events
- Real time
- Audience overview/behavior
- Behavior/visitor flow/site speed
Since a handful of people could not make the workshop, I recorded it. The audio is not ideal, but it will do.
The August workshop will be on social media content strategy. The date/time is still being determined, but it will be posted here when it is confirmed.
The best tool a team can have is the ability to analyze and adapt. The last few weeks I have been talking a lot about
Agile agile practices. I intentionally use the lowercase “A” because I am not advocating for any specific methodology but instead to use the Agile Manifesto at its core and use team “agility” to find the best practices for your team.
This process starts with the ‘retrospective‘, which is adopted from the ‘Scrum‘ methodology but is used to look back at a period of time, usually one or two weeks, and introduce a feedback loop for the team to discuss and improve. This is the foundation to critically analyze processes and goals.
This is the basis for a talk I have adapted twice, with more iterations coming in the next few months. Retrospectives are just one topic in the talk but it’s the foundation for the rest. The higher education specific version is below.
Highedweb Michigan presentation
When a team has an existing process, it can be uncomfortable for some people to change, especially if something isn’t going ‘horribly wrong’ and thus is less apparent. But we all have room for improvement as long as we are willing to try.
All team buy-in
Everyone must be willing to try ideas for some time before dismissing them. If the entire team isn’t on board, the reflection and process planning won’t result in the best possible solution. The team shouldn’t dismiss even the most out of the box ideas unless they try them for some time, one or more weeks. If the change totally fails, no one likes it or it doesn’t produce the desired results, that will come out in the next retrospective and everyone will agree to go back or adapt what was tried.
Start with your current process
Don’t change a thing in the beginning, just talk. You may find that a two,three hour
argument discussion may take place the first few retro’s. This is good, it may not feel like it’s producing anything productive, but these feelings, ideas and issues need a vehicle to get addressed and out of the way before real improvement can happen. You’ll find that other members of the team may be very passionate about the same things you are, but you may never have noticed. Over time the retrospectives will become shorter and more productive. Hang in there.
Running a retrospective
First rule: No technology during the retrospective, everyone take out their phone and place it in the middle of the table. This may get people squirming at first but giving all team members the equal respect of your attention makes a world of difference.
Next, there needs to be a facilitator, this can be someone on the team or someone external. Their role is to keep everyone on track and to record the discussion points.
Then, go around the room and have each person answer the following questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What have I learned?
- What still puzzles me?
Our team also adds the question, “How stressed were you on a scale of 1-10?” We make it a point to focus the changes for the next iteration on reducing the number for the most stressed person.
After everyone goes around and the team has heard how the last week or two went, only then can an effective discussion happen about what should stay the same and can be improved. As a group, although it shouldn’t be limited to an unanimous vote, everyone should agree (or be willing to try) what to change over the next week or two (depending on how often retrospectives are done).
The facilitator has the job of moving the discussion along and ensuring comments are moving in a productive direction. Discussions that get out of hand for a few minutes are fine, but make sure it doesn’t diverge into complaining about a person or process that the team doesn’t have the ability to improve.
Change just one thing
Like any iterative process, it is important to change just one thing at a time, or at least one thing per area. Depending on the size of the team and who/what they interact with, more than one change can happen, just make sure it isn’t too much to keep track of. But document the changes and determine when it should be revisited.
Iterate, rinse, and repeat
At the end of the day being happy working on meaningful work that makes an impact is the ultimate goal. If you’re not moving in the direction, bring it up in your next retrospective.
We are hiring! The Web Communications office is looking for an in house Web Developer. It’s not often we put a call out for new staff but we are filling a much needed void in our team. Our department started eleven years ago with little staff and resources, we have since grown to a staff of eleven and take on new responsibilities every day. Almost everyone in the department started as a student and worked their way up (myself included). It’s not often we get the opportunity to hire from the outside, we’re looking for a talented individual to help level up the Web.
With three developers the projects are distributed evenly so everyone has the opportunity to work on something new. We are a collaborative environment and this position has the opportunity to affect the direction of all future Web projects. If you have read our blog in the past you will know we push out a lot of sites, about one per week. All sites are created from the ground up, completely by hand, and completely responsively. The Web is a craft and we make sure we build all the tools needed to do it as streamlined as possible. This position has the opportunity to build and maintain these tools that impact the entire institution, not to mention work with an amazing team.
Primary Web property responsibilities
- Wayne.edu and 500+ institutional websites
- WordPress Blog Network
- Events Calendar RSVP’s and Payments
- Homegrown Content Management System
- Mobile website
- Zurb Foundation
- Experience collaborating throughout the entire project cycle, from research, strategy, information architecture, visual design, front-end development and maintenance.
- A solid grasp of back-end Web development environments, including HTTP, Web servers, load balancers, the interpretation layer, databases and associated Web frameworks.
- Considerable skill in writing web applications that retrieve and update information in relational Web centric databases.
- The ability to clearly communicate to project stakeholders and process feedback internally and externally.
- The ability to troubleshoot website layout and Web application performance issues and resolve issues independently or direct issues to the responsible party.
- Provide direct supervision to internal Web site interns and guidance to unit Web site content authors.
- Ability to work with accuracy and attention to detail to meet deadlines.
- Ability to understand and execute oral and written instructions, policies, and procedures.
- Considerable project management skills, including ability to provide time estimates and prepare accurate records and reports.
- Proficiency in the use of Web applications programming languages, tools, and/or methodologies for developing integrated Web applications typically acquired through formal education or equivalent experience in Web application development.
- Demonstrated ability in analyzing customer requirements and developing basic information systems solutions typically acquired through one to two years of directly related experience in Web application development and support.
- The ability to translate functional requirements into cross-browser Web applications.
- Strong understanding of Web technologies and related user device capabilities required to access the Web.
- Strong understanding of test driven development.
- Have worked with creating templates for a content management system.
- Have experience with device and browser testing.
- Working knowledge in Photoshop.
- Enable and execute A/B tests to measure different design approaches.
- Can code HTML Email templates with understanding of limitations, and standard practices.
- An eye for detail and great communication skills, for example, multi-tasking in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Effectively communicate with Project Managers, Designs, Clients and other Developers.
- Have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and professional growth.
- Create tools and resources to communicate with our rapidly expanding developer community.
- Stay current with trends and best practices.