Social Media mashups / hubs – no value added

I must admit I had my team queued up to tackle this as a project. We had wireframes, etc. Then it hit me where is the value added?

I couldn’t answer my own question so we shelved the project. For those of you who don’t know what I mean here are a few examples of social media mashups

*NOTE* I am not hating on these teams or these outcomes, I was looking to do something very similar to these when I had it in our project queue. These are very well done.

My issue is that people want to interact with social media on their platforms, here are a few assumptions:

  • People go to or use a mobile app
  • People go to, use a desktop or mobile app

So where are we adding value by creating an immersive experience where people have to leave their preferred site?

In my mind this is a much more ideal approach Boston University Social Media Directory. People can get a listing of all the accounts and then interact on their terms.

Here is a post by Patrick Powers with his take on SM hubs.

What do you think?

Posted in Social Media | Comments Off on Social Media mashups / hubs – no value added

Starting a client project right

We have been honing our skills at taking on clients over the last year so I wanted to share a few documents that help us get off to the right foot.

As you noticed we have a number of documents. Our process is fairly fluid and we change based on the needs of the client.

NOTE These are just our pre-project documents that help us get off to a good start.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Posted in Governance, Strategy | Comments Off on Starting a client project right

Charging for web services in higher ed – rev gen

Lots of people ask what its like to run a pay to play or revenue generating shop. I tell them it is a double-edged sword.

We do charge here, we charge per project. We will work with pretty much anyone on campus assuming they have the budget. We have to charge because we have so much central funding to handle the core university needs. To meet the demand of other departments we have to hire additional staff or use contracted freelancers.

Regarding, our pricing we are far cheaper that at large firms yet we cover all our additional staffing needs. I would suggest you take a good look, I see it as a double-edged sword. Pro: we can hire more staff Con: You have to continue to make money to pay for said staff and may be neglecting core univ projects.

In my mind the best would be not to charge maybe get 1-2 additional staff members and then have either a committee or your VP prioritize which projects come first and meet the needs that way. Another option if you charge would be to pull in sub contracted freelancers to do the work for you when needed. Then you can grow or contract as needed.

Overall, it’s all a juggling act, we have been very successful in the way we are doing it just be sure you plan it out for the long term not short term.

Posted in Leadership | 1 Comment

On branding

I have worked with many groups recently that have problems comprehending what a brand is. Here is a simple attempt to help

As I tell others I don’t expect people to need to understand the ins and outs of branding. Same as I don’t expect someone to know how to make sausage. I just expect them to consume it.

A brand is how people perceive you. Similar to the idea of focusing on user experience is about the user. We need to focus on the user here the brand is not us pushing out our message but how our messages on aggregate are received.
Continue reading

Posted in Strategy | Comments Off on On branding

Dealing with social media trolls

Maybe it is because the holidays brings out the best in us all, but I have seen a lot of people talking about how do deal with negative people AKA trolls on social media.

I would suggest taking the approach that many universities have which is to make a social media response guide. The first one was developed by the Air Force academy but many others have followed suit. Here are a few good examples

But I think it is best to have a discussion in advance and come up with your own plan as to how to deal with trolls based on your campus culture. In the end you have to address each comment as a unique situation.

Posted in Social Media | Comments Off on Dealing with social media trolls

Mobile sites, apps and responsive – oh my

I have seen a lot of people struggling with mobile apps, sites and responsive recently. A lot of people get caught up on the shiny object of an app but in most cases an app is not the solution. My thoughts are app, if done at all should be done last for a few reasons cost, multiple platforms to support, etc.

Another thing that will probably come up sooner or later is responsive design, which in most cases is separate from a mobile framework site. I think responsive and mobile framework site are the two most important personally. There are some people that think only responsive but I think our mix has worked out well visit both (mobile site) and (responsive site) from a mobile phone, they are both mobile optimized but have very different yet in my mind very valid use cases. If only one I would say responsive. Thought I think there is room for both. You can visit and from a mobile phone, they are both mobile optimized but have very different. Yet in my mind both have very valid use cases.

Furthermore, on the topic of mobile app, many people that mention wanting an app see “prospective students” as the audience of this app. Just from a logic sense prospective students in my mind are not the right audience for an app. Apps are for current students, faculty and staff. People who are already fully engaged with your university and your content. A prospect is passive at best, I don’t think most prospective students are going to want to download an app when all they want is basic info.

To get a bit more on this I would recommend you look at the Noel Levitz mobile expectations report.

This site is another great resource

Posted in Mobile | 2 Comments

FIU Calendar now open sourced

Since I know people are always looking for calendars I thought I would mention that we just open sourced ours today

Here is a live example

Here is the github repo

We would love to be able to collaborate with other institutions to make this a stronger tool. For those of you here on campus feel free to contribute to the core of the project.


  • Multiple calendars
  • RSS/ iCAL / hcal / pdf
  • Multi tiered calendars
  • Embedding via RSS, play and play snippets
  • Memcached
  • Approval queue
  • Multiple users and user roles/ permissions
  • Featured events

Why did we not use UNL calendar:

Yes we did look at UNL cal and I think it is a great cal. I have recommended it quite a few times to others.

Some of the main reasons we choose to build our own

  • Framework we decided to go with CakePHP which was in our wheelhouse, UNL was built with PEAR
  • We wanted more controls for sovern multi tiered calendars IE There could be a dept which feeds to a college which feeds to main.
  • Internal per event moderation
  • Pull in external iCal events from other calendar systems

Otherwise, we have most all the same functionality of the UNL cal but these were the main things we see that are different.

Let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions.

Posted in Strategy | Comments Off on FIU Calendar now open sourced

Change agent manifesto: how to build web culture on campus

We have made great strides in the web community here on campus. I decided to write a proposal to speak at the HighEdWeb conference on the topic so I have been reflecting on how the community has grown and how we can continue to grow the FIU web community.


Here is the proposal I wrote and I now look at it as a manifesto of sorts of how to create a great web culture on campus:

Do you have lots of web people on your campus? Feel like there are no cohesive bonds? Even in our siloed higher ed culture, it just takes a small dedicated group to rally the troops.

We will explore how to build community on a campus through various different approaches including creating a university web group to provide leadership, idea exchange and learning opportunities for web professionals and others around campus. Work to create collaborative web policies that will enable people to do things following best practices. Create a culture of open data so people will embrace the use of central tools. Blog about the state of web on campus and keep an open and continued dialogue. Provide campus thought leadership and advise executives on major decisions. Create collaborative spaces where people from different teams can work to solve common problems on campus. Build campus wide tools that leverage and produce open source software and have open planning sessions with community members. Have coffee talks with community members to provide advice, be an advocate or simply lend a friendly ear. Do work pro-bono to help people with their goals that will also advance campus goals. Look outside of campus to leverage local tech and entrepreneurship. And last but not least look to the national communities UwebD, BlogHighEd, HigherEDLive, eduStyle etc. and our friendly peer institutions to provide solutions and best practices for campus.

We must recognize that no one person is able to accomplish a better web on campus or community, therefore we must be open to a plan that encourages networking, cooperative relationships with others outside the campus, and implementation of practices that may reach our goal of a simple “better web on campus.”


To add here is the mission statement I created in my first week here on campus when I was looking to start the University Web Group (Uweb)

University Web Group (Uweb) is an organization open to all web designers, developers, etc who use the web as part of their role with Florida International University. We encourage you to join regardless of your web knowledge or the amount of your job that is committed to working with the web.

Uweb seeks to create a collaborative web community for FIU, to exchange ideas, resources and best practices. We also seek to provide development in the form of online assistance and seminars.

Call to action

My call to action is two fold

  1. What would you add to this action list
  2. Who’s coming with me

I would love to hear the thoughts of people outside the FIU community as well.

Posted in Governance, Leadership | Comments Off on Change agent manifesto: how to build web culture on campus

Dont forget your website is still there – Post site launch checklist

Your site launch has come and past and our course you used our site launch checklist. But now you need to be sure to keep on top of your site so it doesn’t become dated and unfunctional. So that that ends we created a post site launch checklist. Our list includes but is not limited to:

  • View analytics report
  • Act on analytics reports, what did you learn to make your site better
  • Assign content responsibilities in your department, who need to update what and when
  • Get people to link to your site to increase search engine ranking (see: inbound links)
  • Remove your old site/ pages so it doesn’t show up in google
  • Fix broken links
  • See if website meets goals established before the project, if not make corrections
  • Train necessary people to use the CMS
  • Be sure site contact information works
  • Is there anything that should be removed or added to the site
  • Be sure you still pass HTML and accessibility checks
  • Are you search engine results relevant
  • Be sure to respond to and if needed fix feedback from the site
  • Consider doing usability testing / focus group with your sites users
  • Forms have been tested and are still processed correctly
  • Are your backups still set to run on site

We also provided a nice PDF post-launch-checklist in case you want to print it out and check them off on your own.

Please let us know if you have any questions about how to implement any of these steps. If we forgot anything that you have learned from your site launch let us know and we will be glad to add it.

*NOTE* This list maybe not include everything you need to check for your site launch. Be sure to think of additional items particular to your setup. We cannot be held responsible for any errors on omissions on this list. Please let us know if you have any questions about how to implement any of these steps.

Posted in Accessbility, Strategy, Usability | Comments Off on Dont forget your website is still there – Post site launch checklist

Inbound linking strategy to get to the top listing on google fast

Approximately 1 week ago we launched a site for our client the FIU President’s Council. This was a brand new site starting from scratch, not an existing site. We had great on-page SEO, meaning we have page titles, meta tags, headers etc. But for a site that is undiscovered or not yet relevant,  even the best on-page won’t do much to fix the problem. Google needs to find the site relevant to index it high, and at this point we didn’t have any inbound links. Google weighs a link as a vote of confidence – for that reason, no inbound link is a bad thing. From this perspective, the new President’s Council website was an orphan site.

So I developed a strategy. I would make inbound links to the FIU President’s Council site from places I can control.  A few of these places include FIU News, Alumni Association, FIU A to Z index, blogs that have comments open, etc.,  and on all those I make links using the words FIU President’s Council that link directly to the site’s homepage.

In approximately two to three days time, we landed the number 1 spot in Google, yet none of the sub-pages showed up very high in Google search results.

Then I suggested the client go through search results here . Most of these results are the sites of members who we can ask to link to the site from their sites or their profiles. This will drive up the relevance.

Another three days or so later I searched Google for “FIU President’s Council” and I found many of the other pages where much higher in the Google search results. They were also starting to show up number one in Yahoo and Bing because the SEO method holds true across all search engines.

Another nice result is that even if you search for just “FIU president” the FIU President’s Council site shows up as the number 2 result in Google, which I will chalk up to both the onsite and inbound good SEO practices. I was genuinely surprised at how fast this got results, so I suggest you experiment and see what kind of results you get. Take note, I would call these practices more of an art than a science.

If you want to track inbound links to your site, two easy free tools are Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.

NOTE: In case it was lost on you while reading this post, I applied the technique I was talking about throughout this post. I made links to FIU President’s Council using the exact words that I want it to show up in Google for. Be sure to click these links and help drive up my Google ranking.

Feel free to share any feedback or results you have gotten from your own experiments.

UPDATE: There was a follow up post since my making this live from Brian Kelly at UK Web Focus (a blog about higher ed web issues in the UK). The posts was titled  How Researchers Can Use Inbound Linking Strategies to Enhance Access to Their Papers – it shows some inbound linking results they have used to get more access to academic papers.

UPDATE 7/23/12:  KISSmetrics posted a great article today about “the basics of how website content is crawled and indexed, plus some great ways to get the Googlebot to your website or blog to index your content sooner rather than later.”

Posted in Strategy | Comments Off on Inbound linking strategy to get to the top listing on google fast