Formy – Customize submission listing columns

We rolled out an update to Formy, the university’s form creator, that allows form owners to customize the submission listing columns.

Customizing the columns on the submissions list

Set the desired field order in the “Export” area:

export-options

Now “Submissions” will reflect the first three fields specified in the export:

submissions-new

Why this is important

Previously, the first three fields in the form will display on the submission listing page. Which resulted in “First name”, “Last name” and “Email” columns on the “Submissions” listing.

submissions-original

There are occasions that fields further down the form are more important at a glance when reviewing or labeling. This functionality allows the form owner to have more control over their form and submissions for each unique circumstance.

The innovator’s dilemma – Isolating the wayne.edu Web team

innovators-dilemma

For the last year or so I have been talking about our “restructure of wayne.edu” homepage and website. We have made some progress but we are not nearly where we should be. This isn’t because we don’t think the project is important, but instead have assured our clients’ (university departments/schools/colleges) deadlines are being met instead. This week that all changed. We isolated four staff members and dedicated them to the restructure and re-imagination of wayne.edu and the top 1,000 pages to support enrollment and retention.

The Innovators Dilemma

One of my favorite books is The Innovator’s Dilemma. If you haven’t read it I suggest you pick it up, it’s a short read and totally applicable to any industry. It outlines the process of company growth and why innovation slows as firms get larger. There are various reasons for this but the largest is that it is easier to up-sell existing customers instead of going after new untested markets with new products. Because these untested new products or markets don’t show value they often do not get the attention of resources they deserve until it is too late.

“What this suggests is that the management best practices are only situationally appropriate. There are times when it is right not to listen to customers, invest in lower performing products that promise lower margins, and pursue small rather than larger markets.”

This is the exact situation we find ourselves in. Because we’re focusing all our time on ensuring we have “internal client” work we haven’t had the time to focus on our true customers, prospective students.

Dedicated resources

The book goes on to explain how companies have been able to overcome this dilemma and innovate around or with disruptive technologies (even if they cannibalize parts of their existing company). One of these successful methods is to create an isolated team in both a workload and also a physical environment without any constraints of normal business practices. This allows a team to innovate in ways that are simply not possible in the day-to-day of company operations.

Starting this week we have done just that. Four staff members, Rolaine Dang, Tom Krupka, Rob Vrabel and Alex Bienkowski have been isolated and given an ambitious project. Take a step back and look at the macro view across all of the enrollment sites that now work well individually and stich them together to work well as a single user experience.

waynedotedu-webteam

All of their current projects/tasks have been re-assigned to other staff members and they have physically been moved to a single office (above) where they are isolated from the normal client work we do here in Web Communications.

Re-imagining wayne.edu

I won’t go too much into the project scope at this point other than the large and long term goals. The team is charged with launching a “re-imaged” wayne.edu by the end of 2013. This will include restructuring those top 1,000 pages that are focused on enrollment and retention.

At the moment the websites within wayne.edu work really well individually, they  have their own navigation, information and design. This works well for visitors that know exactly what they need and what department “owns” that information. But this does not work for those prospective students or on-boarding students who were recently accepted and now need to orient themselves with the university. Browsing through theses websites is not only confusing as they bounce from department to department but it also gives the impression that the university is disjointed. The first goal is to fix this by taking all the departments in these 1,000 pages and bring them all under a single look, functionality and domain. This will result in a single user experience, voice and impression of the institution.

The second charge is to create a revolutionary Web experience for our visitors. To use as much data to tailor the experience for an individual visitor and bring the power of the Web to that experience. This charge is still vague because we won’t know exactly how this will impact visitors until the discovery phase is complete. In the end, though, the final product will not be a set of static pages, but instead an experience that will resonate with the visitor. We’ll just have to wait and see how it shakes out.

Follow the progress

The wayne.edu Web team will be blogging about their status each week on the wayne.edu blog. Over the next few months they will be keeping track of scope, options, decisions and progress in both public and private posts. After the relaunch of wayne.edu we plan to make all the private posts public and allow everyone to see all the work/decisions that went into building what we hope is the most successful website for the university.

Follow the blog: http://blogs.wayne.edu/waynedotedu/

Changes coming to the 2013 Web maintenance agreements

Along the lines of my last post, we are going to be making a few changes to the Web maintenance agreements that many units around campus have with the Web department. These agreements create the best of both worlds for the unit and the Web department. They allow a unit to send us a number of updates per month via email, phone, fax (yes, we still get some) and we handle the work. The cost we incur by hiring the content staff is spread out across the campus units which makes it cheap for everyone. The units don’t need to train or have a “Web expert” on hand; for a small fee the units can call on us for expert advice when they need it.

Insights

Over the past year we took a deep look at how units were using their maintenance and discovered a few things:

  1. Some units were not using it at all for content, but requesting slight visual or programming changes
  2. Some units only updated at specific times of the year, and typically went over their limit in those months
  3. Some units used their updates regularly throughout the year

More flexibility

This got us thinking, so we are making the following changes starting in January 2013:

  • Instead of 5, 10, or 15 updates per month we are moving to a bucket of hours for the entire year. This will allow units to use the time when they need it without fear of going over in a given month or leaving updates unused.
  • The hours allotted will no longer be limited to just content updates. Time can be used for training, small template programming changes, formy assistance, and digital signage assistance if the unit has signage.
  • Because the new agreements span beyond content the cost will be going up slightly, but not by much. Agreements will be $50 more than the 2012 prices.

The new agreement structure

  • 36 hours of service for $500/year
  • 48 hours of service for $750/year
  • 60 hours of service for $900/year

By spreading the agreements out across all units we are able to keep the cost very low. We believe this new structure will allow the units to be flexible and get the best Web services available to them.

If your unit doesn’t already have a maintenance agreement and you would like to get one set up, simply email web@wayne.edu.

Dining menu now available everywhere

Besides studying, a favorite activity of college students is eating and our students are no exception. The Housing department approached us a few months ago because they were opening a new dining facility on campus and wanted to promote it.

Gold ‘n’ Greens

The new facility, which was scheduled to open on the first day of Fall semester 2012, had a menu that catered to vegetarian, vegan, kosher and gluten-free diets. The only problem was it didn’t have a name yet. So, as we often do, we looked to our students. We put a poll on Facebook with a few suggestions but left it open for write-in entries. By far, “Gold ‘n’ Greens was the clear winner.

Now that it had a name we had to get the word out about the new facility. After some informal interviews with students it became clear that there was a misconception about campus dining.

  • Perception was that campus dining facilities were only open to students in the resident halls.
  • Didn’t know it was a flat fee all-you-can-eat.
  • Didn’t know there were different breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.
  • Didn’t know non-residents could purchase a meal plan
  • Didn’t know what was on the menu, so they opted for more familiar eateries.

Didn’t know what was on the menu

The last misconception was by far the most noted, students said they would rather go to McDonald’s, where they knew what there were going to be able to eat than to take a chance on a dining facility. We dug deeper into this and found it was true, the dining facility menus were only listed in two spots. On a static digital sign inside one of the resident halls and as a PDF on the food vendor’s website.

We set out to change this and give this crucial information to anyone who wanted it. We started with creating a database of food items, dates and specials. We worked with Housing and our food vendor to populate the database with as much information as possible: attributes about each dish, nutritional info, food restrictions and a photo if available.

Because we wanted this information as open as possible we exposed it via our API. Now anyone who wants access to the information can integrate it into their site/app/email/etc. Since we are a huge fan of  eating our own dog food, we use that same API to populate student areas around campus.

On the Housing website

Of course we had to get the information out of PDF format and allow students to see the menu from day-to-day, and not just a “schedule” of what is available. The above screenshot is from the Housing & Residential Life website. It allows a student to pick their facility and see the entire menu for the day.

On campus digital signage

Students may not be at a desk, but instead walking through campus between classes or sitting in a study area. We utilized the digital signage around campus to promote the facilities and their menus. The screenshot above gives a clear overview of what is available at one of the dining facilities right now.

On our mobile website/app

Lastly, students who may not be near a sign or computer can now log on to m.wayne.edu or our mobile app and get a concise list of the dining facilities and their menus. This option at the moment is the least fancy but gets right to the point and displays the menu items to the student as quickly as possible. It will also be the first to be expanded with supplemental information in the near future.

Open data

Because we are committed to making any information available that could potentially help students and the university as a whole, our data is your data. If you’re interested in getting API access, currently available by request only, to use this information on your website/app, just let us know.

Welcome Daniel Greco, Web Communications’ new graphic designer

The last few months we have been looking for a Web graphic designer to fill the spot that our previous graphic designer left. We believe we have found someone who will not only fill the position but bring a unique eye to our future designs.

Welcome Daniel Greco!

Daniel Greco comes to us from Michigan State University and The Awesome Mitten. His background is in graphic design and photography. Daniel’s work at MSU has positioned him to understand how to juggle many audiences within a single identity manual. His work outside the university setting has allowed him to excel at focusing on solving interesting problems through design. He has also been involved with creating mobile experiences that interact with current and prospective higher education students.

We think Daniel is going to make a great addition to the Web Communications department and the university as a whole.

Advancing the Web

Daniel will be working with Rolaine and the other graphic designers in Marketing to continue to evolve the university identity and bring it to life on the Web. Over the next few weeks you will start to see more of his work and more than likely work with him in person. He also will be focusing on bringing our mobile experience in to its second revision with a focus on student recruitment.

Let’s give Daniel a Wayne State welcome!

Today@Wayne Chrome app available

We’re always on the hunt to find ways to connect more people to the great things happening on Wayne State’s campus. If you have been following this blog you know these initiatives are often thought of and executed completely by us.

Chrome app

Not everyone has, or wants to have, the Today@Wayne website set as their homepage, and that is completely understandable. But we wanted to make sure it is as easy as possible for people to get to it. What better way than to have a Chrome app that is displayed every time the user opens a new tab or window? This way they can visit the daily newsletter at their leisure without having it load automatically every single time.

If you are a Google Chrome user you know the power of the extensions and apps. Both are lightweight and don’t slow down the browser like Firefox.

Google Chrome has gotten a little bit of flack because a vast majority of their “apps” are simply redirects to websites. In our case we’re currently doing just that. This approach isn’t our long term goal but it will get us started.

Looking forward

Chrome has an amazing ability to render HTML5 and take advantage of every bit of the users processing power. You can see that clearly with the popular Angry Birds app. Over the next few weeks and months we will be expanding the functionality of our app to take advantage of the user’s environment. Extending the website to use local storage and media queries to take full advantage of the users screen size and offline processing.

Download the Chrome app at: http://go.wayne.edu/today-chrome

Having a little fun with server maintenance

This weekend the Computing & Information Technology (C&IT) department upgraded the power in the data center. An explanation of the reason for the upgrade can be found at the ProfTech blog. In addition, C&IT has an announcement of what services were effected on their website.

How this effected the Wayne State Web

In short, this meant every website hosted in the main Web server environment would be down. Basically shutting our visitors out for 10 hours. This included the homepage, admissions website, application, events calendar, api, and content management system, just to name a few.

The down time user experience

It’s never a good experience when you click on a dead link. C&IT brought us in the loop early and we tried to come up with a plan to keep the servers online during the maintenance period. Unfortunately the entire datastore would be down, and moving a read only version to our off campus would take longer than the maintenance period itself. We decided a single maintenance page made the most sense for the time of day and number of visitors that it would affect.

We designed the page based on the promotional images we used around campus to warn students/staff about the maintenance. We kept it simple and gave the user some calls to action directing them to additional information. Below is a screenshot of the page.

The maintenance screen

Scheduled Maintenance Screenshot

“Have a little fun”

If you notice on the page there is a second link to “have a little fun“. We wanted to give anyone who was unfortunate enough to land on the dead end page something to do to pass the time and show a little personality.

One of our former developers, Nick West, was playing around with javascript and gaming a while back and came up with this exploding W page. We passed it around internally for a while but never had a chance to use it publicly. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity. With his permission, we added it to our maintenance page to see how many people found it.

Scheduled Maintenance Have Fun Screenshot

During the maintenance period only ~9% of visitors clicked through to the “have a little fun” and spent an average of two minutes on the page. We expected about this percentage and amount of time on the page, but I explain why the actual quantity of visitors was quite a bit lower than we expected below.

Lessons learned

The goal was to have this maintenance page come up when any page was accessed with a “503” (the server is temporarily unavailable) response and a “retry-after” so Google and other search engines didn’t index the temporary page. Coincidentally an article was posted on SEOMoz just days before our downtime which outlines the best practices for handling maintenance situations.

Everything seemed to be planned well for the maintenance but we encountered two issues which prevented us from analyzing the downtime completely.

  1. The .htaccess file didn’t get included in the files that were sent to C&IT. (completely my fault for not checking)
  2. The Google Analytics account did not have the “full domain” filter enabled. (again, an oversight on my part)

Because of these two issues the maintenance screen was only displayed on the homepage of each domain, not on every single file accessed. That cuts out a major chunk (like 95%) of the traffic to our server and potentially hurt some page ranks. Lastly, the oversight of the “full domain” filter in the Google Analytics prevented us from seeing exactly where the traffic was from. Seeing just “/” and “/w/” give us absolutely no insight.

Test, test, then retest

In the end we were glad to have at least some explanation of the down time up, but because of these two issues I don’t have much insight to share here. I am taking this situation as another opportunity for the importance of testing and retesting. Having a dry run of any IT or Web related activity may take a little extra time but in the end will produce the best results.

View the maintenance page: http://wayne.edu/maintenance/

Have a little fun: http://wayne.edu/maintenance/w/

Introducing Today@Wayne – What’s happening at Wayne State

We are pleased to announce something we have been working on for quite a long time, code named “The Hub”. It is actually the first step in a long journey to increase the amount of internal communication across the university and reduce the amount of campus wide emails. Today@Wayne launches today with a website that is a daily snapshot of everything going on around campus, in real time.

A snapshot of campus on one page

We know the amount of content being produced on campus every day is tremendous. (Trust us, we subscribe to and read it all). We have heard over and over again how hard it is to find out what is happening on campus. So we set out to solve that issue, Today@Wayne takes in (almost) all the existing sources of information around campus and combines it into one website.

The homepage is separating into a featured story, news, blogs, videos, images, events, research and highlighted items from the digital signs around campus. The format of the homepage was based on a lot of employee feedback. We asked what people would be interesting to see if there was a daily email that came in to their inbox every morning and was the first thing they read before starting their day. The structure of the content is still open to changes. We are getting feedback on a daily basis and their will be tweaks over the next few weeks.

One feature story per day

Every workday, Monday through Friday we will be featuring a new story on the homepage. This story is going to be based on an exiting story of a student, faculty, or alumni. The stories are going to be a little more flexible than the ones on wayne.edu. Since the audience for Today@Wayne is internal and already has an interest in the university, the stories don’t have to have as much impact. Most of the stories do have the same impact but with the difference in audience.

Blogs and social awareness

The top right corner of the page is filled with the most recent blog entries from http://blogs.wayne.edu/. This site has been a little bit of a secret till now, we will post a longer explanation in the next few days. But in short we are opening up blogging to anyone with an AccessID, feel free to try it out, we would love to read what you have to say.

In addition the videos are pulling directly from YouTube. The photos are pulling right from Flickr. And the Twitter section is pulling from our “Official” twitter list. It’s not just us contributing to this content, all official accounts on campus pull in to this area.

A daily email coming

Down the road we will be sending a daily email with the Today@Wayne contents. We wanted to make sure we get the information right first and get appropriate feedback before undertaking two enormous tasks without a groundswell of support. The email will initially be a digest of the things happening in the past and future 24 hours on campus. A second step to that email will be to include audience specific information. This will reduce the reliance on the LISTSERV and the massive amounts of emails we each get every week.

What is happening to Life@Wayne?

Life@Wayne will be retired in the next few weeks and replaced with Today@Wayne. The process of re-writing stories was not sustainable and frankly un-necessary. The content authorities around campus are doing a great job producing content in a more timely mannor. We are sad to see it go but it is for the best.

How to contribute

We are always looking for contributions and are willing to take any suggestions. The first step is to get your story online, the second is to alert us about it. Just send us an email at web@wayne.edu and we will check it out. Sending the email is just the first step, we will have further questions and we are always looking for photos or video associated with the story. All stories are subject to approval so there is no guarantee your story will make it but there is a good chance it will.

View Today@Wayne and let us know what you think.

Upcoming Webinar: The .eduGuru Summit

Higher Ed Marketing & Web Development

September 22 & 23, 2011
9am – 4pm CT | Online!

Join some of the Web’s foremost experts in Higher Education Internet Marketing & Web Development for an all-new live, two-day online conference, The .eduGuru Summit! Sharpen your online strategies in Tuesday’s Marketing Track, tackle technical challenges in Wednesday’s Technical Track, or become a true guru by attending both days.

You get all the great knowledge and insight of some of the brightest minds working in Higher Ed today without all the hassle and expense of travel. See you there!

Conference Schedule

Web Governance in Higher Education
by Mark Greenfield, influential member of the higher education web community

Social Media for Yield, Retention & Graduation
by Jessica Krywosa, director of web communication at Suffolk University

Boosting Customer Service with Social Media
by Mike Petroff, web manager for enrollment at Emerson College

The Integrated Student Ambassador Program
by Mallory Wood, assistant director of marketing at Saint Michael’s College

Colleges Learning from the Insane Clown Posse
by Karlyn Morissette, higher education marketing consultant

The Prized Bargain Bin MoMA
by Georgy Cohen, manager of web content & strategy at Tufts University

SEO Tools for a College Web Rockstar
by Kyle James, product manager for blogging and SEO tools at HubSpot

Head First Video Strategy
by Michael Fienen, director of web marketing at Pittsburg State University

Golden Rule of the Web
by Nick DeNardis, associate director of web communications at Wayne State University

Semantics on the Web & You: Why?
by Jason Woodward, soon-to-be-entrepreneur information integrator in Ithaca, NY

Next Level Live Streaming
by Seth Odell, media marketing specialist in Los Angeles

10 Years in The Hole
by Dylan Wilbanks, former web developer at University of Washington

Register Now

Refresh Detroit: Demo Night: March 24th, 2011

Do you have a new website, application, design, or cool tool to share with others? Join Refresh Detroit at Quicken Loans in the Compuware building in Downtown Detroit at 6:30pm for our first demo night of 2011, where you can show off your latest creation, or share with others a great application that makes your work easier.

Demo night is a great opportunity to:

  • share your work
  • find out what others have been working on
  • hear how something was built
  • find out why it was built
  • learn about new tools that can improve your work

Each person has five to ten minutes to demo and answer questions. Demo nights are a great way to get to know other Refresh Detroit members. If you’re planning on presenting send us a message to let us know or better yet just post it in the comments section.

Don’t want to demo this time. No problem. Please still come.

Continue reading “Refresh Detroit: Demo Night: March 24th, 2011”