Website Accessibility: What You Should Know

The average adult spends nearly 20 hours per week on the Internet

The accessible web means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web. This encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities. But web accessibility also benefits others, not just those with disabilities, including people with “temporary” disabilities such as a broken arm, older people with changing abilities due to aging.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990. Its effects are visible in nearly every public space in the form of disabled parking, ramps as alternatives to stairs, Braille signage, and more. Although the need to provide disabled people with reasonable accommodations has been a civil rights issue for decades, one important public space – the Internet – has been largely overlooked up until now.

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Is Drupal Secure?

It’s essential that you have security at the forefront of your website projects to keep your data and visitors safe.

ARE YOU AT RISK?

Most websites only need to worry about automated security attacks. These kind of attacks have a very low success rate, but they still happen. High risk websites have to worry about someone trying to actively hack their site. Usually this happens because of a few reasons:
  • Your website has information worth stealing (ex. ecommerce site with membership records)
  • Your website has a lot of visitors
  • Someone wants to shut your website down

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Growing Sanmita’s Services

At Sanmita, we are always reinventing and exploring new ways to assist our higher ed clients. With our deep experience with web solutions, we help our clients maximize their web, mobile and digital products. Now, we want to grow these relationships even deeper. So we’re in the early stages of planning exciting new products and services.

One promising new project is a collaboration with our partners at Cornell’s Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. We already have a strong relationship with BTI, having worked on the BTI website and advising on digital communications. Now, Sanmita is stepping into a new role as advisor on BTI’s annual report. The BTI team wants to rebrand its annual report that goes out to donors and supporter. The goal is to make the report more engaging, with a fresh layout and new messaging.

To assist BTI, we’re drawing on our experience creating many types of reports. We’ll also work with our new design partners at IE Design + Communications. Together, we plan to build a catalog of this type of work, and present a fresh product for BTI. In the future, we could offer this service to other higher education institutions.

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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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Is Your Company Up To Speed With Mobile Apps?

sanmita blog handsEarlier this year, HuffPost Business published a compelling blog article entitled, “Mobile Apps Will Transform All Business Processes — Is Your Company Ready?” In it, the author, Daniel Burrus writes about a survey he conducted of over 700 companies, asking whether they’d developed any mobile apps to help them with such things as supply chain management, logistics, purchasing, maintenance, service or sales support. Although there was unanimous agreement that at least half the businesses in their industries would have their own mobile apps within the next two years, he was surprised that only 4% answered that they had actually developed any such apps, considering how widespread smartphones and tablets are used by businesses today. Mr. Burrus concluded that in order to gain a competitive edge, businesses will need to develop their own mobile apps rather than relying on generic, off-the-shelf products.

“The rise of mobile apps for all business functions is a hard trend you can’t ignore.” — Daniel Burrus

So, what is your business or organization doing to get up to speed with mobile apps?

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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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Automatically Better! A Look At Automating Website Functions

SHORPY_8b29345a.previewYour website should be making tasks easier and more efficient — not slowing you down!

Yet this was exactly the problem facing our friends at the Cornell Alumni-Student Mentoring Program (CASMP).

The CASMP program fosters personal and professional relationships between enrolled students and alumni at Cornell University, with over 900 alumni and 2,000 students matched so far. Making an appropriate match requires not only collecting detailed information from applicants, but compliance with security protocols required by the university’s Risk Management Office. The cumbersome process involved an online registration form, answered with a personal reply and waiver form sent via postal mail. Signed waivers had to be returned to CASMP by mail, which were then scanned by an admin and delivered to the Risk Management Office. Missing signatures or errors on the forms, which were not uncommon, required a further round of personal follow-ups for corrections, again via mail. Variance in mail delivery and follow-through from applicants meant that the process typically took a couple weeks at best to complete, and in one case, almost two years! As a result of all the tedium and repetition involved in the application process, registration rates for the program were staying lower than expected.

Sanmita was asked to find ways to streamline the process and make it more efficient. Our expert team was able to quickly assess the site’s functionality and implement automated processes, resulting in dramatic improvements — here’s how we did it:

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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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