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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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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Not Found? 404 Error Pages

What is a 404 (Not Found) Error page?

A 404 Error Page is essentially a non-existent page that returns a status code of 404. The 404 error is generated whenever a server can’t find the specified page.

 

How do 404 errors occur?

A 404 page can happen for a number of reasons. These reasons fall into two buckets: user errors or website glitches. Either way, an informative 404 page is the most effective solution.

A web server will typically generate a 404 Not Found web page when a user misspells a URL or attempts to follow a broken or dead link. 404 errors also occur when pages have been moved or deleted, the page has expired, or the page was blocked.

To find broken links on your site, check out Google Webmaster Tools (Crawl and Fetch). Here, you can find tools that can scan your entire website for 404 Error pages.

 

Why are 404 Error pages important?

One of the biggest mistakes you could make when you launch a new website is ignoring all of the links, pages, and content from your old website. If Google has Site Links indexed and listed for a website and the navigation menu changes, Google considers these to be broken links. Google will then remove the links and lower the overall ranking of your website in its Search Engine. Any links to your site from other blogs or directories will also break, and you can expect your site to take the hit.

To avoid the headache, make sure to use error pages! Adding 301 Redirects and 404 Error pages can ensure that you don’t lose business because of an upgrade to your site. A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link ranking value to the new page. This is the perhaps the best way to retain online marketing efforts from old websites. If you have redesigned, added or removed content from your site, a custom 404 Error page is essential to direct site visitors to content on your new site when they’re looking for content from your old site.

A customized 404 Error page is an advantage for your site. It can help visitors find the information they were looking for and provides them with a much better overall user experience.

 

What should I include on my 404 Error page?

When a user lands on an error page that doesn’t contain any helpful content, it’s very likely they’ll navigate away from your site. To avoid frustrating site users and losing out on potential business, we recommend developing a custom 404 page.

The typical content a user sees when they reach a 404 Error page is a “page not found” message. This doesn’t provide users when any helpful information or instructions as to where to go from that point. To minimize visitor loss, a good 404 Error page provides a clear, helpful message that informs the user that the page they’re looking for can’t be found and points them in the right direction. You may want to ask the user to re-check the URL they’ve entered.

It’s also recommended that you use an error page that has been designed to look like the rest of your website. Maintain the main navigation menu, logo, fonts and colors. If the 404 page looks drastically different from the rest of your site, the user may become confused and abandon the site all together.

To prevent a visitor from leaving your site, include links or other elements that requires the user to take action. Include a link to your home page in addition to your main navigation menu.  You can also provide a few key links to your most popular categories or pages  on the site. If you have one, feature a link to your site map or search function. This will help the visitor find exactly what they were looking for. Here’s a good example of a 404 Error page with a search function from MailChimp.

To avoid having your 404 Error page appear in Google search results, make sure your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.

It’s also a good practice to ask site users to report a broken link on the 404 Error page so consider including a link to your contact page or email address.

 

Build a better website and stop turning visitors away with your 404 Error pages. To learn more, contact Sanmita today!

 

Let us know what you think of this blog post in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!

4 Ways To Improve Your College Website Right Away

We’re into the dog days of summer, but it’s not too late to make some easy upgrades to your website before students arrive in the fall!  Here are some ideas for easy fixes you can do right away.

1. Take A Look At Other Websites

Have you looked at other college’s websites recently? It’s important to keep up with the competition! Things to look for include ease of navigation, forms, scheduling, user interface and graphic appeal. What things do other sites do better? Identifying areas that could use improvement is a good place to start.

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What Would Venus de Milo Say? The Importance of Mobile Design for Non-Profits

pickford quoteWe’ve been working with Wharton Studio Museum, a cinematic non-profit here in Ithaca, and came across an amusing post on their Facebook page that got us thinking. It was a meme that featured a quote attributed to Mary Pickford: “Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.”

Today of course, we laugh at such a short-sighted statement. But it’s also interesting to consider how reluctantly new technologies can come to be embraced.

Take for example, responsive mobile technology for websites. This is what allows a website to optimize it’s appearance and functionality in response to whatever device is being used for viewing, such as a laptop, tablet, or phone. Responsive design is all the buzz in the world of commercial web development, but it’s lagging in the non-profit world. As of 2014, 84% of non-profit donation landing pages are still not optimized for mobile use (according to Online Fundraising Scorecard).

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Wharton Studio Museum Nears Launch

Wharton Studio MuseumSanmita is pleased to announce that the Wharton Studio Museum website is close to launching!

The goal of the Ithaca Motion Picture Project has been to transform a forgotten silent movie studio into a museum to preserve and celebrate Ithaca’s movie history. Wharton Studio Museum will feature exhibits and programs on the art, science, and history of motion pictures, and will be a vibrant cultural and educational destination in NY State. It’s an exciting project that will serve the community, students, and visitors to this area for many years to come.

A new website is a vital part of establishing the new museum’s identity as this dream is being made a reality. As with most small non profits, WSM needs to squeeze the most out of a small budget. Our AcademicsWeb CMS was an excellent fit for their needs, as it’s scalable structure gives them the flexibility to grow as time goes by, and customizable features ensure they get exactly what they need.

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Have You Tried Our Free Responsive Site Tester?

Do you know how your website looks and performs on different mobile devices?

Sanmita offers a totally free, easy to use online app to test how your website appears across devices. But first, let’s talk about why you need to use it!

According to Microsoft, one half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. And that trend is only increasing with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. What does that mean for your website?

If your website isn’t functioning properly on mobile devices, you will lose customers and supporters. Checking mobile functionality has become a vital part of basic website maintenance!

Here’s what you should check your site for:

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Look for Improved Sanmita Website Design Soon!

Be on the watch for Sanmita’s fresh new look in the near future! Our web geniuses are hard at work polishing an array of improvements that will make visits to our site even more engaging and easier to navigate.

What sort of features will you see? According to Sanmita President, Sanjeev Shukla, the new website will focus on three key features:

  • Better Information Architecture – Improved organization of content to more efficiently find what you’re seeking
  • Easy To Use – A bolder, cleaner look that is more user-friendly
  • Improved Focus – Better targeted on what clients want to know about our products, services and projects.

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