Improving Website Performance: A Site Manager’s Guide to Minimizing Downtime

Higher education institutions often have large, complex websites that cater to many audiences who depend on their successful performance: Faculty, students, prospective students, parents and the higher education community at large.

The importance of your institution’s website cannot be understated. The web is now mission-critical, meaning that if your web presence fails, your business operations suffer as well. For this reason, any downtime is an unwelcome hassle for anyone charged with managing the website.

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Mega Menus

Navigation has always been a design problem for large websites. Mega drop-down menus are a growing trend in web design that structures navigation choices through layout, typography, and sometimes icons.

 

Mega menus can greatly improve navigation and usability on sites that involve a lot of pages or products. With mega drop-down menus, a visitor can see all their choices at once. For bigger sites with many features, regular drop-down menus typically hide a lot of your site’s content. You can scroll, but this becomes confusing and hides a number of choices at any given point in the navigation process. Mega menus show everything at a glance and through grouping, allows your visitors to visualize the relationships among items on your site. CSS-only dynamic drop-downs are possible, but they don’t offer mouse over/out latency or work in every browser.

 

While mega menus can make it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for deep within a site, a vast number of links can also overwhelm some visitors. Mega menus can help streamline the navigation process by allowing you to group menu items. Chunk options into related sets using concise, yet descriptive labels for each group. Try not to offer huge groups of options that require a lot of time to scan. At the same time, don’t make the groups so small that the menu has an overabundance of groups that your users have to spend time understanding.

 

Just because you can put everything in a mega menu doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The standard usability guideline to “keep it simple” also applies to mega menus. Avoid GUI widgets and other interface elements that involve a lot of interaction. Mega drop-downs are temporary – They appear on hover or click so shouldn’t replace dialog boxes, which should be used for more complex interactions. Even though mega menus have the room to support many options, it’s best to try not to overload your users.

 

From a design standpoint, mega menus can look great and allow you to further express your brand’s personality and creativity. These drop-down menus are a design canvas! They eliminate unnecessary scrolling and offer additional elements such as typography, icons and tooltips to help guide users to the content they came for.

 

Mega menus are common on e-commerce sites because they typically include many categories of products. They’re also useful on other large websites where fewer clicks should be necessary to get to a specific page. Mega menus allow visitors to reach the content they’re looking for no matter where they are on your site.

 

Your site may benefit from a mega menu if:
  • You manage a large number of products (eCommerce sites like REI)
  • You publish and manage a lot of content (content aggregators and news sites like Reuters)
  • You have complex service offerings requiring a lot of supporting content (large association sites, higher education sites like Cornell, government sites like The White House)
  • Your site is information-oriented, diverse, and you offer a lot of long-form web copy

 

You probably don’t need a mega menu if:
  • Your site is small without too much content (small businesses, restaurants)
  • You have fewer pages and focused content
  • Your site is dedicated to a singular function, such as a tool or online calculator

 

Be warned: The increased ability to navigate a site will come at a tradeoff on the SEO front. Too many navigation links in a mega menu may dilute your site’s overall page rank. Google assigns a PageRank score based on the number and quality of links pointing to a webpage. A site’s internal link structure transfers PageRank throughout the site. When you distribute a site’s PageRank in a “broad” way, you dilute the page’s ability to rank competitively in the SERPs. Sites with weaker trust and authority metrics will suffer more than established sites with strong authority and trust metrics. Shoot for 100 links or less, but keep in mind that there are occasions where the SEO hit will be worth it.

 

Navigation has a huge impact on your website’s usability and appearance, so make sure you have the right menu for your site’s content, layout and visitors. This article features several free and premium WordPress plugin options that can help you create a responsive menu, or make your existing navigation compatible with mobile devices.

 

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Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Oh My!

So you’ve decided to create a new website. First of all, congratulations! A web design or redesign project can be a big undertaking and we want to help simplify this process for you by getting one big decision out of the way.

You have a few options when it comes to deciding on a content management system. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the three most popular CMS choices online and are all open-source and free to download and use. How will you ever decide? We’ve made it easy for you by comparing these three CMS providers in terms of features, flexibility, capability, and ease-of-use. Below, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each solution:

 

WordPress

Over 68 million websites use WordPress, making it the world’s favorite blogging software. WordPress powers sites like the New York Times, CNN,Forbes and Reuters.

  • Pros
    • User-friendly
    • Can accommodate multiple authors
    • SEO-capable
    • Expansive plugin library
    • Easy to customize
    • Flexible
  • Cons
    • Security – WordPress is often the target of hackers. You will have to install third-party plugins to boost your site’s security.
    • Limited in terms of design options: Even though WordPress is customizable, WordPress sites often look like WordPress sites.
    • Incompatible with older plugins
    • Limited CMS capabilities: You may find that WordPress is incapable of handling a very large volume of content. WordPress is often called a ‘mini CMS.’
  • Recommended use
    • WordPress is perfect for those who manage simple, good-looking sites or blogs with or without multiple authors

 

Joomla

With 50 million downloads to date, Joomla powers sites like cloud.com and linux.com

  • Pros
    • User-friendly
    • Smooth and easy to install
    • Expansive extension library: Joomla extensions are divided into five different categories – components, plugins, templates, modules and languages
    • Content management capable: Joomla is far more capable at managing a large volume of articles than WordPress
    • Robust developer community
  • Cons
    • Brittle codebase makes it difficult to extend or customize your site
    • The learning curve isn’t as steep as with Drupal, but the installation and management process can be intimidating
    • Lacks SEO capability
    • Limited access control (ACL) support
    • Limited to a single level of sections and categories
  • Recommended use
    • Joomla is a great option for consumers and small to mid-tier e-commerce brands. If you want something more powerful for enterprise use, consider Drupal.

 

Drupal

Drupal was created by Dries Buytaert and first released in 2001. This CMS option powers over 763 thousand feature and data-intensive sites like whitehouse.org and data.gov.uk.

  • Pros
    • Extremely Powerful & Flexible: Drupal can do almost anything. It’s easily extendable and there are modules available to customize your site
    • Thousands of modules
    • Offers unlimited article nesting using taxonomy, or by using the Category module
    • Fast: Caching improves the speed and performance of your site
    • Developer-friendly
    • Robust developer community – over 30,000 participants
    • Supports Multi-sites
    • Strong version control and ACL capabilities
    • Stable and scalable: Drupal is enterprise-ready and can be easily scaled to support even the world’s busiest websites
    • SEO-capable
  • Cons
    • Steep learning curve: Drupal requires the most amount of technical skills, so you either have to be dedicated enough to learn, or have a strong team of drupal developers and consultants who can help you with your site. The DrupalAnswers team understands these challenges and can help you get started and be your partner throughout the Drupal journey.
  • Recommended use
    • Drupal is the ideal CMS option for complex and professional sites or any large project where stability, scalability and power are of the upmost importance. If your project requires customization, or finely grained access control – Drupal is what you are looking for.

 

WordPress, Joomla and Drupal vary in terms of features and capabilities. We hope this information helps you to choose the CMS that best fits your requirements! We invite you to contact us with your website or CMS needs and any further questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you!

What CMS does your site use?

Version 4.0 of WordPress, named “Benny” is available

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Version 4.0 of WordPress, named “Benny” in honor of jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, is released today. This release brings a smoother writing and management experience we think we all will enjoy.  This release enhances content editors experience on using WordPress as publishing platform. Key features of this release are:

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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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Curtains Raise on Wharton Studio Museum Website

Wharton Studio WebsiteCongratulations to the Wharton Studio Museum on the launch of their beautiful new website! Visit http://www.whartonstudiomuseum.org/ to have a look at all the exciting new features, including a Facebook feed, integrated donation engine, and events and news feeds. We love the crisp, clean design and bold colors that make navigating around the site so easy and fun. There’s a wealth of fascinating historical information, too. For example, how about that time in 1915 when dozens of skunks were rented from a skunk farm and brought onto a set…! More about that in just a bit…

We’re especially excited about how well our WordPlus CMS works for this project. WSM needed a site that was dynamic and flexible to accommodate expansion as the museum grows. They also needed to make it easy for supporters to donate online and see upcoming events — all on a limited budget. These goals were met and exceeded by Sanmita’s innovative WordPlus application.

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