Drupal for Higher Ed: Reflections from the Fall 2016 Intern Team

For the past four months we’ve been working at Sanmita as marketing interns. In the second half of our internship, we focused exclusively on building Sanmita’s sister brand, DrupalAnswers. Over the course of our internship we have gained experience in market research, higher education website audits, video marketing, the creation of social media and blog posts, and content curation.

We also learned how to create an integrated content strategy across different platforms. Throughout the entire experience, we worked as a team to complete tasks and brainstorm strategy, which we believe led us to produce even greater results than we would have alone.

When we started this internship we had basic understanding of what exactly web development involves. We understood there were multiple facets to the development process but our grasp of the topic was limited to design and the aesthetic aspect of a site. Throughout our internship, we gained a fuller understanding of what truly encompasses web development.

We now know the importance of the discovery process and why research is a vital part of a website’s strategy and creation. For instance, conducting proper research influences the development of information architecture, which plays a major role in determining the success and organization of a site. As we completed audits of college websites, we also learned several other aspects that contribute to a site’s success, including accessibility, page speed, mobile-friendliness, and how easy it is to navigate through the website’s content. One of our favorite quotes found during our research sums up what we learned perfectly:

“Pretty things can be useless, and ugly things can be useful. Beauty and quality are not always related.” ― Abby Covert, How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

Essentially, good design rests upon a solid foundation.

Since our company focuses on higher education institutions, we spent a lot of time researching best practices for mission critical sites. Without a doubt, we agree that Drupal is the best CMS for higher education. Drupal is powerful, flexible, and is built to handle the complexity of a higher education site– even the White House chooses Drupal as their go-to CMS. As we’ve learned, Drupal is the best option when stability and scalability are vital to the project, or if it requires close attention to detail and unique customization. An added benefit of Drupal is that most of their extensions and ways to customize the site are free of charge – perfect for higher ed institutions that might be working on a tight budget.

Now with just a week left in our internship, we feel that we have gained experiences that we can apply in the future. One of our favorite parts of the internship was having the opportunity to work on the company’s integrated online marketing strategy. We strategized and executed ways to drive traffic to the website and blog posts through social media, demonstrating the importance of consistent messaging across all platforms. Another aspect of this internship that we were thankful for was being able to see the full lifecycle of the projects we worked on. We were involved in each step of the way, from start to finish. This was a unique experience that we have not received elsewhere. Overall, the skills and experiences we have had working at Sanmita are invaluable to us and will affect the way we will grow as marketers.

 

 

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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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

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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

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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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Engage With Your Web Visitors By Providing Interactive Web Elements

I recently attended a seminar with a variety of different presenters and topics. I was really excited about all the different workshops I’d chosen to attend, but at the end of the day, one really stood out from the rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in a good way!

All the workshops followed a somewhat similar formula: there was a presentation, followed by an activity, ending with sharing among the participants. All the workshops except for one, that is. In that workshop, the presenter simply gave a lecture without any interactivity or sharing. And despite dealing with a fascinating topic, the consensus was that particular workshop stood out as weak and boring in comparison to the others. Attendants felt that interactivity and sharing within their groups, on any level, made the workshops much more rewarding.

The appeal of interactivity is especially strong in the web world. Think about it: even little things like mouseover effects or drop-down menus somehow make your visit to a site just a bit more personalized and interesting, don’t they? And consider having the opportunity to express your opinion — whether in the real world or in the social media world, being able to express yourself makes a visit more meaningful, compared to just watching or listening, right?

So when one of our clients asked the other day if there were ways they could incorporate more interactive elements on their website, we were happy to help!

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Every Project Has A Story To Tell

Sanmita PortfolioWhen you’ve developed as many websites as we have, you can’t help but marvel at how each individual project presents a unique set of challenges, circumstances and achievements. Each one really does have its own story — and people love to hear stories!

An online portfolio is an excellent way to showcase achievements and build credibility with your users. Individual stories can take the abstraction out of your content and make it more relevant to your audience. And don’t forget SEO — external links always help to improve your rankings!

Take a little stroll through the portfolio section of our website, and click on an image to read the case history. Each is a little story about the particular issue or issues we had to address, and what we did to find a solution.

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Sanmita Launches Newly Remodeled Website

Have you ever watched one of those home remodeling shows? Where an interior designer comes into an ordinary house and during the course of a week, transforms it into a fresh, gorgeous showcase that hardly resembles what it was before? Although the basic structure remains the same, everything is more efficient, better organized and much more inviting for guests. And they do it on a limited budget!

Now think about your website. It’s basically the online home for your organization. Has it become stale? Cluttered? Out of fashion? Do visitors find your site interesting and appealing, and are they able to easily find what they’re looking for? If you think your site is starting to look a little dowdy, it’s time for a website remodel!

 

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What You Need To Know About Landing Pages

Agway-Landing-FinalYou’ve probably heard the term thrown around here and there, but if you’re not a web wizard yourself, just exactly what is a landing page, anyway?

In a nutshell, a landing page is any page on your website where visitors can arrive, or land. More specifically, in marketing terms, a landing page is a web page created for a specific purpose, which isn’t integrated into the rest of your website. It’s not accessed via your website’s navigation — a visitor arrives via special invitation, such as a link in an email or social media post.

Landing pages are used to encourage visitors to take a specific action, rather than learn all about your organization or business. They’re often used to promote a sale, get visitors to sign up for something, attend an event, or donate money, for example.

Now, considering all the time that most enterprises put into developing a site, why would you want to go to the trouble of designing something different? Read more

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