The Secrets of Organizing Your Higher Ed Site, Part 1 of 5: Inventory

In the modern information age, we’re all experiencing information, or cognitive overload. The sheer volume of information we’re exposed to and the frequency with which it arises can be an issue, but researchers tend to agree that it’s not the volume of information; it’s how it’s organized that’s the problem.

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What You Need to Know About Information Architecture

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make when it comes to their websites is not prioritizing information architecture. While the design aspects of a website are fun, glamorous, and ultimately vital to the success of your site, it’s important that you don’t jump straight to the design and forgo the important process of building a solid information architecture and understanding the purpose behind your site and its content.

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5 Tips for Collecting Feedback on your New Website or Feature

DO Start early

Ideally, feedback should be part of your production plan from the very beginning when you’re looking to release a new website or feature. It’s not only a useful marketing activity to manage your online reputation, but it also may help you find the areas of your business that need improvement. The earlier you ask for feedback, the easier it will be to correct any problems that exist. You can monitor activities manually, or use an all-in-one monitoring service such as Sysomos or Brandwatch.

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Inspiring Students to Achieve Education Beyond High School

As education becomes more of a necessity for the future workforce, educators and parents are constantly looking for new ways to encourage and motivate students to achieve more academically. However, they often overlook the primary ways to get students to be motivated and inspired to achieve higher education. Often the solution is to set academic standards higher for students but what might actually help students is to communicate with them on platforms that they are already using and encourage them to pursue careers in creating digital content. According to the latest earning and unemployment data, those who earn higher education still on average earn more than those with just a high school diploma and unemployment rates reduce the higher the degree. Here are four simple ways to incorporate the web and social media into your institution to help motivate and inspire students to achieve higher academically:

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Free Resource: Content Audit Template

The goal of a content audit is to understand the current state of your website content, i.e. what content is relevant, what can be merged with other content and what can be safely removed. You can then analyze the information and organize the content based upon  your users feedback, industry trends and site analytics. Theoretically, it seems a very simple process, but in practice, conducting a site audit can be a messy exercise if you don’t have a plan in place. Some reasons to conduct content audits include:

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How To Avoid “Satisficing” Online Forms

Lazy-Cat-1280x1024Have you ever tried to catch up with the news, only to scan headlines rather than reading through articles? Did you ever Google something, and not bother looking past the first page of search results? Have you ever gone online to price a product, and only checked two or three sites rather than the top ten listed?

Then you have been guilty of satisficing!

Don’t worry, though — it’s a totally normal human thing to do. And although it’s a rather obscure term, if you manage website content, you should know what satisficing means.

According to Wikipedia, satisficing is a combination of the words “satisfy” and “sufficing,” and is defined as a decision-making strategy that entails meeting a minimum level of acceptability, as opposed to seeking the best alternative available. In other words, it’s the human tendency to expend the lowest amount of energy to complete a task.

Basically, satisficing is a fancy way of explaining why people tend to be lazy!

Of course, we may prefer to think of satisficing as being expedient or time-efficient… The fact is, life in the digital age tends to be pretty frenzied for most people, and taking the time to thoroughly examine and consider each and every detail simply isn’t feasible — so we get by with “satisficing.”

But when it comes to getting data from your website users through an online form, the tendency to satisfice is more than an oversight: it can result in data errors! So it’s important to know how to create forms that help to circumvent the satisficing habit.

Remember: people overwhelmingly dislike to fill out lengthy forms! Here are a few important ways to satisfice-proof your online forms:

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3 Free Image Tools Every Content Manager Can Use!

If you’re in charge of a blog, newsletter, social media or other content management, you know there are times when you need a little more than a nice stock photo to make the best impression. What about when you want to show off your new website’s awesome responsive design? Or need a custom graphic for your Facebook banner? Here are three totally cool — and FREE! — image tools that will help put the polish on your content!

PlaceIt

sanmita phone

Image with Sanmita website created with PlaceIt

This is a very cool tool — I can already think of dozens of ways to use it! PlaceIt creates product mockups and videos showing your images on device screens in beautiful, crisp stock photographs, which you can then download for use in your blog, newsletter, social media, etc. You can upload a product shot, or it will take a screenshot of your website. If your website is responsive, it will present the appropriate image on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone; and you can even choose a multi-image shot to demonstrate your site’s responsiveness. Super easy to use, with fabulous looking results.

Canva

CANVA

Blog Graphic created using Canva

Simple and fun to use, fresh designs, and the basics are cost-free! Choose from a whole range of templates which include handy items such as Facebook Cover, Twitter Post, Blog Graphic, and many more. Or use your own custom dimensions. It’s easy to play with their pre-formatted layouts, or get creative with tons of trendy backgrounds and text treatments. You can upload your own images, or select from their huge library of stock images for only a dollar. In just minutes you can have great looking, professional quality graphics to perk up your content.

Social Image Resizer Tool

SanmitaBlog-FB

Facebook Profile image created from Sanmita Blog using Social Image Resizing Tool

If you’re posting to different social media feeds, you know how frustrating it can be to ensure that your images are viewed correctly. Twitter uses a 2:1 ratio; Facebook likes images more square; Pinterest and Google+ are set up for vertical images. The Social Image Resizer Tool can save you a nice chunk of time: just upload your image, and select from the drop-down list of options and places you want to post the image; then move and scale to optimize your image for all the most popular networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. You can also use your own custom dimensions as well.

Do you have a favorite tool or tip that you use for your website content or promotion? Let us know!

5 Easy Email Newsletter Tips

Surprised woman reading newspaperEmail newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your customers and supporters. But getting them out on a regular basis, full of irresistible articles that engage your audience — well, that’s often quite another story!

Actually, email newsletters don’t have to be a burden. Here are five easy tips that can help you fill your newsletter with great content and keep your audience looking for more:

1.  KEEP IT SHORT!

Think about the newsletters you receive — how many long articles do you ever read? Most likely, you skim through looking for something interesting, and if there’s an item you want to know more about, you can follow a link for more information. Remember that your audience has very little time to read, and may be reading your newsletter on a smartphone or tablet while waiting in line or riding the bus. That’s good news for you — you don’t have to write a term paper for each article! A brief paragraph is typically fine, with a link to a blog post or other article for more details if necessary.

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5 Awesome Free Image Resources

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image courtesy gratisography.com

If you’re in charge of managing content for a website, social media, or newsletter, you know how important quality images are to getting the attention of your readers. And you also know how difficult it can be to find quality images on a tight budget!

When it comes to image resources, “too much is never enough!” So here are a few links to sites that offer free images for use under public domain or Creative Commons licenses (click on the link for details about what CC is all about).

Unsplash

Beautiful high-resolution scenics and landscapes; ten photos uploaded every ten days.

PicDrome

Public domain photography, including textures and abstracts

 Gratisography

Clever high-resolution photographs by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design (make sure to view his site in “Adorable Mode!”)

Minicons

A couple hundred nifty icons to spice up ho-hum layouts

Lost & Taken

A nice collection of textures you can use to layer for dramatic effects

 

Thank you to all the creatives who have generously shared their work!

 

A Little Something To Think About: Microsites

One of the great things about the open-source CMS solutions we work with here at Sanmita is that they’re so easy to use. With a minimal amount of training, anyone accustomed to using a computer for word processing or email can be shown how to update content on their website. And keeping content fresh and up to date is crucial for your users and SEO!

Leaving content management all in the hands of one person is fine for a smaller organization, but when you start talking about a complex site such as for a university, the sheer amount of continual updates to personnel, publications, events, etc. can become cumbersome, if not impossible, for one person to deal with.

little thingsOne way to make it easier to keep a complex website up to date is to create microsites — smaller, multi-page sites with their own dedicated navigation within the larger website.

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