HighEdWeb Michigan – Wayne State University – April 20-21, 2015

register-nowRegistration 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

Keynote: Carl EricksonCarl 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.

Questions? Contact the HighEdWeb Michigan committee at hewebmi@gmail.com. Follow @hewebMI on Twitter for updates and information about the event, and join the conversation with the #hewebMI hashtag.

See you in Detroit this April!

Refresh Road Trip: Keep The Mobile Web Quick & Better Design with Reusable HTML & CSS – July 25, 2013

RSVPWhen: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Where: The Qube 635 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI

Cost: Free

Speed by Design – Keep The Mobile Web Quick

As attention spans are heading towards zero and more and more of the population is constantly on-the-go, optimizing your mobile websites to load quickly and efficiently can make an enormous difference in visitor engagement, and most importantly, your bottom-line. Designing for performance should be a top-priority in keeping your visitors happy and allowing them do what they need to do quickly.

You’ll learn a few techniques on how to keep your mobile websites lean and loading quickly, how page speed is actually a component of good UX, how to test and benchmark under various network conditions, and how slow loading times can turn away visitors and potential paying customers.

About Jon Buda

Jon Buda is web developer who loves to design, or a designer who loves to code – depending on the day. He enjoys solving problems holistically, thinking about back-end, front-end, and design all as equally important parts in crafting great experiences. He helps to organize Refresh Chicago and is currently working with Table XI.

Front End Legos – Better Design with Reusable HTML & CSS

There are a million ways to write HTML and CSS, and everyone has their own, but is there a right way? Our code needs to be well structured, written in an organized manner, and performance driven. Sharing code with others should be a joyful experience, not absolute terror.

In this session, Shay will cover some best practices and performance tips for writing the highest quality HTML and CSS possible, and how it benefits your design. Writing code is the easy part, finding a modular practice and structure that works well across the board is the hard part. Shay will outline HTML and CSS conventions that can be applied to your everyday practice today.

About Shay Howe

As a designer and front end developer, Shay Howe has a passion for solving problems while building creative and intuitive applications. Shay specializes in product design and interface development, specialties in which he regularly writes and speaks about. Additionally, Shay helps co-organize Chicago Camps, Refresh Chicago, and UX Happy Hour. You can catch up with him on Twitter as @shayhowe or on his website at http://shayhowe.com/.


Designing for next steps – A forward moving Web experience – #heweb12

This week I was in Milwaukee, Wis. with 700 other higher education Web professionals for the HighEdWeb 2012 national conference. The conference is known for gathering higher education Web leaders and the presentations are second to none and this year was no exception. I’ll post a full wrap-up in the next few days.

Designing for next steps – A forward moving Web experience

I was lucky enough to be invited back to speak about Web user experience. Through my experience hosting EDU Checkup, where I review higher education websites from the perspective of a first time visitor and my work here at Wayne State, the topic is near and dear to my heart.

The official description (below), pretty much sums up the talk but the slides only go so far. The discussion was centered around both the macro and micro experience that any website visitor has.

Getting a visitor to your website is only half the battle: how do you keep them? A lot of attention is put on the “action” items on a homepage but it’s more likely a visitor is landing on an interior page from a Web search or link. Every visual element, content or cue makes an impression with your visitor and influences what next step they take. The last thing you want to do is leave your visitor at a dead end or continuously force them to use the “back” button. With each page having a defined “next step” it gives your visitor a forward moving Web experience. The idea is more than just bigger and brighter action buttons. Your goal is to design an experience that make your visitors care. This session will walk through real life examples to identify common pitfalls and successful approaches, provide techniques to objectively look at your communications from your audience’s point of view and highlight tools to measure and track the success of your communications.

Video of the talk

Next steps from this presentation

  • Take a step back and start discovering your users’ journey. Use a tool like Woopra or Clicktale to experience where and how your users are actually using your website.
  • Use those journeys to travel through your website as your user, experience the site through their eyes.
  • Use a “human proxy” to get insights about feelings as the visitor is moving through the page.
  • Make changes to help the user discover a next step on each page of their journey. Make sure you can track these in your analytics package so you know you’re actually helping your users.
  • Introduce little big details that make the user experience memberable.

Help bring a two-day responsive Web design workshop to Detroit!

Build Responsively

Responsive Web Design

“Responsive design” is a subset of a larger concept which is called “Adaptive design”. When talking about responsive we refer to the layout only (Ethan Marcotte, fluid grids, flexible images & media queries). (source)

What is @brworkshop?

Build responsively is a moving workshop that focuses on Responsive Web Design. The talks start with the basics and go on to the advanced. A wrap up of the Cincinnati is online with the presenter slides if you’re interested.

This is a great opportunity to show the impact of the Web community in Detroit. Our city is going up against Pittsburgh, Chicago, Nashville, and others. Take just one minute to show your love and support for Detroit and RWD.

All it takes is a click and a tweet.

A look back: 2011 conferences

Last year I was fortunate enough to attend two conferences. The first, Internet User Experience (IUE), was in October on the campus of Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich. The other, Usability Week through Nielsen Norman group (NN/g), was in December in Las Vegas. Both conferences had caliber in the information presented.

Internet User Experience (IUE)

At IUE, I was introduced to the Agile work environment. This environment was based on an Agile Software Development methodology where projects are broken into smaller and shorter deliverable phases with the initial product meeting the core needs of the client. I attended sessions such as Connecting with Customers: User Generated Content, Mosh Pit Memoirs: Lessons and Insights on Creative Collaboration, The Top 10 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, and Better User Requirements Through Story Mapping. My ultimate favorite session, though, was Hold the Sprinkles! Cupcake, Layers and Agile UX Design.

This session summarized the Agile method but applied it to design. The presentation was creative and very thought-out as Carissa Demetris created the parallelism in the process of designing to making a cupcake. Every project has base requirements just like a cupcake has cake as its base. The next layer in a project use enhancements like a cupcake uses frosting,  followed by embellishments which would be the sprinkles. How does this approach apply in real projects? An example would be designing a basic login page – our cupcake. The frosting/enhancement for this project would be adding a radio button to remember the user or having a “Forgot password” link. The sprinkles/embellishment would be adding a Facebook login area. Carissa mentioned that most of the time, the need for “sprinkles” comes from the business owners, marketing dept. or someone other than the user. For the most part, these are wish-list items of the higher-ups who project their perception of what their users need. These embellishments don’t add to user experience or the goal, however.

In an Agile environment, the first iteration would be developing the login. If the budget and time hasn’t run out, there’s an opportunity to add the enhancement feature to either remember the user or have a “Forgot password” link. We now have our first iteration that meets our client’s core needs/goals while staying on budget and time. From experience, some of the projects I work on where “sprinkles” are elevated much higher than what they should be, cause delay, add more work and return little value. Carissa concluded with the mantra, “Embrace the cake, frost with care (to add the user experience), and hold the sprinkles.”

Nielson Norman group (NN/g) Usability Week

The NN/g in Vegas was a bit different from a handful of mini-sessions throughout the day like at most conferences. There, one session went for the entire day. The topics covered by the NN/g’s Usability Week ranged from writing for the Web, application design, Web usability guidelines, information architecture principles, mobile Web, and understanding how the human mind works when using the Web. I was blessed enough to have attended two days out of the seven. My goals coming into the conference were to understand our campus community’s thought processes and behavior and to know what tools to use to harvest data to build better websites. Based on that, the sessions I attended were “Web Design Lessons from Social Psychology” presented by John Boyd and “Research Beyond User Testing” presented by Christian Rohrer. I fully enjoyed both sessions but learning to understand behaviors and finding out how they can be manipulated made the Social Psychology session a personal favorite.

Dr. Boyd’s session was almost like a Social Psychology 101 course that talked about research and lab findings. I was amazed at how these findings are relevant on the Web today. Some really cool research was about learning, decision making and personal expectations.

Lets take “Learned Helplessness” which is when a person  feels powerless due to constant failure and  withdraws effort. When applied to websites, users start believing the effort they put in is useless, especially when trying to navigate a busy site or one that is too difficult to navigate through. The user’s multiple failed attempt to figure out the site will transmit as feelings of powerlessness and they eventually stop trying. This is when we see visitors leave a Web page and possibly never come back. However, if the user does figure out a way to navigate through a busy and difficult site in an unconventional way, the user has or will develop a “superstitious” behavior. This is when the user thinks if she clicks here, then there, then it will eventually work. As Web designers, we don’t want users to develop superstition or the feeling of helplessness. Knowing that these kinds of behaviors are real, website designs should have appropriate signals, architecture and organization in place per site.

Another cool study was on choice. The truth is, there is such a thing as too many choices. Users do not like being in a situation where there’s multiple options and vary minutely or are difficult to distinguish. Most users tend to walk away while some sophisticated choosers are willing to take the time to think about the choices. How does this apply on the Web? Perhaps on a shopping website featuring a slew of products under multiple categories right on the homepage. The sophisticated chooser will more likely check out the multiple categories while most people will leave the site. This behavior is best illustrated in the Jam Test done by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper (see video below).

With so much information, I’m itching to put all of this knowledge to work! I can’t say enough how eternally grateful I am for the opportunities I have to grow professionally.

Some future conferences I have my eye on are:

A little extra:

Here’s a video from HFI that mentions Sheena I & Lepper’s Jam Study.

CASE V 2011 – Conference wrap-up

A week ago I attended the CASE District V conference in Chicago. I was invited to speak about Iterative Website Redesign; a wrap up of my presentation was posted a few days ago. I wanted to take some time to highlight a few of my favorite talks from the rest of the conference.

Small shops doing big things online

The speaker, Cassie Dull is from an independent school, Park Tudor. She is a one person social media department for a school of about 1000. She oversees the website, social media, video, everything.

When you break down all the fluff, there are two ways to promote and market your business: dumber, slower and expensive – or smarter, faster, and cheaper.
– David Siteman Garland, Host of the Rise to the Top

  • High School seniors making their college decision
    • 93% of HS seniors use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube a couple times per week or more
      58% of students view Facebook at least several times a day
      22% said a university’s social media presence made them more interested in applying
      57% watched YouTube video created by school
      51% read student blog on school website
      53% read posts about school on social media
  • More institutions have a centralized office for social media
  • No 1. barrier to success: Lack of staffing and resources
  • Plan to expand social media but no plan to hire staff
  • Want more resources but don’t want to give up control
  • Don’t waste your time
    • 90-9-1 rule
    • 90% lurkers
    • 9% intermitent contributors
    • 1% heavy users
    • 90% of your communitcaion should be geared toward engaging that 10% of your audience who contributes
    • Use students in your social media efforts
    • Example: Parents reporting sport scores on Twitter
  • Don’t waste your money
    • Their Web redesign started with an english teacher
    • Redesigned without a budget
    • Typical redesign starts at 50k, they did it for 11k
    • Didn’t spend money on things they didn’t need.
    • Doing things yourself will save you money
    • English class ended up being a focus group for the project
  • Prioritize what’s important
    • Priorities have to match institution’s goals
  • Work smarter with tools

Social Media and the P word. (policy)

Presented by Brent Passmore and Carrie Phillips, calling themselves We Are Team BC. Their presentation resources are available online.

  • Not about how to craft a policy
  • Risks and benefits of being in social media
  • Giving away control
  • Host about those negative issues
  • Guidelines allow
  • It can take up to a year to make a change to a policy
    • Explain what social media is
    • Why it is important to the institution
    • Why it is important to the employee/administration
    • Explain what the institution’s official social media presence
    • What is the university’s stance on negative comments
  • Policytool.net
  • If you don’t take the lead in creating a social media policy, someone else will. (We have already started here at Wayne State)
  • Require Signatures
  • Having administrative rights to social media accounts is a must
  • A complete policy should tell you how to communicate
  • Southwest social media policy is their favorite

You’re Probably Spamming & Don’t Even Know It


Presented by Tim Hammer from Bethel University. He published the resources from his talk on the Bethel Web Services website.

Can/spam act basics:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the message as an advertisement
  • Tell recipients where you are located
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of future emails
  • Honor opt out requests promptly (10 days)

$16,000 per recipient fine

Spam is a way of thinking – 37 signals

Why do people click the spam button?

  • 41% said the email was not of interest of them
  • 25 % received took much from this sender
  • 20% received too much email all senders

It is important how your email is received, not that they physically opened in

Getting blacklisted – your emails will not be able to send emails

1 What you say

  • Would you read this email if it was sent to you?
  • Would this message be worth saying in a print piece? (if you had to pay for it)
  • Am I saying something that is worth saying?


  • From address
    • Who is this email coming from?
    • Does the recipient know this person?
    • Is a generaic or personal email address best?
  • The Subject
    • Don’t see what’s inside – tell what’s inside
    • Subject lines are not advertisements
    • Avoid the words “help” and “reminder”
    • Even good subject lines go bad
    • If going to a broad audience, include “Bethel” in the subject
    • 50 chars or less
    • Don’t use the important status
  • The body copy
    • Speak like a human
      • If you want to be formal send a letter
    • Humor and sarcasm don’t translate well
    • Use short paragraphs, bullets and numbers
    • Link actionable words
    • Only underline URL’s
    • Limited your send to 2 unique URLs
    • Keep the font simple
    • Don’t use “dear”, CAPS, more than one exclamation point, Bold
  • Call to action
    • Clear and singular
    • Facilitate a quick response
  • Signature
    • Who to contact with questions
    • Can be an office or individual
    • No images, disclaimers, slogans, etc,
    • Should include
      • Sender’s name
      • Title/Office
      • Phone number
      • Email address
  • Footer
    • “You’re receiving this email because you’re a Bethel [role]”…

2. Preferences

    • Remind them how they are connected to you

3. How often you say it

  • Every time you send a message you are telling your users how much you value them, because you’ve asked them to put the time and energy ion what you have to say” Karlyn doteduguru.com

Making the Most of the Mobile Revolution

  • Mobile visit increase to admissions.illinois.edu
    • 2011 = 5.5%
  • Optimized for mobile allows you to change the priority of content instead of making the user choose
  • Mini websites aren’t cute
  • Mobile version of illinois.edu admissions is a single column
  • On child pages make sure you have a larger line height
  • The “Menu” button up top can either expand or jump down the page to the menu at the bottom
  • Same code
    • Different styles
    • HTML
    • Device detection
    • Chooses a style sheet
  • Native Apps & Alumni
    • Alumni need their own app
    • Think about getting to things very quickly instead of comprehensively
    • Crib Sheet – App for Alumni
      • Takes all the news around campus and places it in one app
      • They can pick and choose what they care about
    • Michigan State
    • Scott Westerman
  • Love to see the MSUAA using the net promoter score for alumni
  • Being the connection to your students

Wrap up

Overall the conference was great. The Web and Communications track continued to grow and all the talks I attended were jam packed with great information and presented by very knowledgeable speakers. I continue to find the CASE conference a great resource for alumni, advancement and Web communications professionals. I recommend if you have never been to your district’s or regional conference, you attend or get involved in any way you can.

Iterative Web Redesign – CASE V Presentation

This last week I was invited to speak at the CASE V conference about Iterative Website Redesign. I was honored to give insights in to our Web process.

What is iterative Web redesign?


Taking small deliberate steps to reach a larger goal
(which may be not 100% apparent at the time).

How does this apply to Wayne State? 

Over the past 6 years we have been working on making the entire Web experience better. The way we do that isn’t by putting a lot of resources in to a new design every two years then sit and wait, but instead iterate what we have over time.

The motivation behind iterative design is to focus on craftsmanship. By focusing on just one section of a page we can let our designers design, writers write and developers program. Typically they would have to juggle multiple competing aspects of a page at one time. This bigger picture is great but it thins out the amount of time they have to focus on making each area as optimized as possible.

Your website doesn’t suck

We hear a lot of people around campus coming to us looking for a redesign because “their website sucks”. There are some instances when a full redesign is necessary, but more often their website doesn’t suck, a few areas just need improvement.

The talk focuses on “micro ideas”, these are the existing goals for each area of your site. Every site already has them, why not take advantage and improve their performance. I give a few examples from other institutions and even outside higher education that show this strive for constant improvement while keeping existing goals. One of my favorite is the 37 signals homepage evolution video.

Feedback loops

This process is never ending, websites are not “projects”, projects have end dates. Creating an effective feedback loop is important to making the right changes. Making sure the feedback is from actual users, that feedback can be subjective and the solution you come up with might not work for everyone, the goal is to focus on the majority.

Lastly, everything needs to be documented, not only so history doesn’t repeat itself but more importantly to show insights behind decisions and build credibility. The improvements you make to your site aren’t going to make you famous, they won’t result in a nationwide press release, but often are more important to the success of your website than any redesign would be.

Iterative Website Redesign: Micro Goals in Action

Dream big, think small.

Do you employ iterative redesign techniques? If so, I would love to hear about them.

Future of Web Design – Responsive Web Design

I just recently went to Future of Web Design (FOWD)  in New York City for an amazing web conference. Besides the amazing speakers, friendly atmosphere and cool city life, the conference had a reoccurring theme: Responsive Web Design.

Now “Responsive Web Design” is by no means a new concept, but it has speedily becoming a web design standard.

Here are the basic premises behind the idea to achieve Responsive Web Design:

  • Design must be flexible to the users behavior and environment
  • Use flexible grids and layouts
  • Use flexible images that will adjust to each view
  • Use smart CSS media queries to adjust to the users resolution size
  • Just one URL, no more, m.mobilesite.com

Food Sense Example

Responsive Web Design - Foodsense

This is a great example of Responsive Web Design – http://foodsense.is/.
To see this in action open the link on a desktop browser and slowly drag the browser window size smaller. You will see the layout elements adjust on the page to the new width.

Other great of examples of Responsive Web Design:

As web design and development evolves into the future, with multiple devices such as smaller laptops, tablets and smartphones, Responsive Web Design seems to be the best solution for the moment.  We can no longer just design for a couple of devices, we must accept that the amount of devices and resolutions are going up dramatically. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the conference:

“If its not responsive design, its not web design” – Andy Clarke

Good Resources on this topic:


Workshop: Iterative Website Redesign – Micro Goals in Action

In addition to presenting about Giving Your Content Legs at the Penn State Web Conference, I also gave a two hour workshop about Iterative Website Redesign.

All too often I see higher ed institutions treat the Web as a print document, set it and forget it for two year then pump a ton of money into “publishing” a new site. My (our) approach is different, we are making design, copy and code changes every month based on how our visitors are using the site. This workshop was intended to introduce iterative redesign, the methods behind it and how to actually get started today.


Complete website redesigns are a thing of the past, it’s time to think beyond the launch it and leave it mentality. Learn how to discover the pain points of your website and successfully correct them. This interactive workshop will walk you through your site as an end user. Learn about A/B and multivariate testing mechanisms, how to create effective tests, and how to publish results to build credibility and authority. This workshop will be hands on with the ability to take away a process to build upon.

Take aways:

Any website you manage shouldn’t be thought of as a “project”, website’s don’t have end dates. You have to think of your website as a business, treating every visitor as if they physically came into your shop. The experience they have is the layout and content of your site, why not optimize it for their needs.

Most higher education websites are not completely broken and it doesn’t make sense to scrap a site every two years. Take all the knowledge you can from your existing site and make incremental changes to optimize every section of your site. Using free tools you have the ability to pay attention to your visitors in their natural environments.

Presentation: Give Your Content Legs and Run With It

Last week I co-presented with Mallory Wood at the Penn State Web Conference. It was the first year they brought in outside attendees and it was a great experience. It rivals some of the larger higher ed Web conferences out there and I was glad to be a part of it.

The slides from the talk have been posted for a while but I wanted to give them an official home that allowed for comments and future followup. Below I outline the talk description and the intended take aways. Unfortunately the talks were not recorded so this is the closest you can get to the real thing. Enjoy.


Congratulations, you have a website and it is full of content. But… what are you (the human!) doing on the back-end to make sure that visitors are finding the info they came for? Happy Visitors = Happy You. Reacting to your visitors needs, or even better, being proactive will go a long way in enhancing a visitor’s experience with your website. This session will teach you to do just that, helping you think beyond “write it and leave it” by showing you how to transform what’s generally static into long lasting social and interactive content. Let’s redefine what it means to publish content, rethink where it gets published, and rework existing content to meet your visitor’s needs.

Take Aways:

See the content on your website in new ways. By thinking reactively and proactively about content that is already being created, you will learn how to transform content and harness it for multiple channels. Think beyond write it and leave it content, take your content and make it work for your users.

Redefine what it means to “publish content for your institution”. Learn how to react to your visitors needs, how to be proactive to assist your visitors. Make your content interactive, create content from social interactions. Create social content from static content/content your visitors need. Multi channel approach to publishing content, bring ‘hard to discover’ content to your visitors. Learn how to track interactions beyond your website. And how to setup a schedule for routine interactions.