Category: higher ed

#heweb13 poster: Deciphering Facebook Insights

This year for the HighEdWeb conference I presented a poster, Deciphering Facebook Insights. I received lots of great questions from the attendees and have lots of ideas coming back to W&M both from the poster session, and the conference as a whole. This event is always a great time, with lots of amazing knowledge and educational experiences being shared and it’s also a great opportunity to catch up, in person, with all the folks that I typically only get to interact with via email or Twitter. Definitely looking forward to seeing everyone again in Portland next year (or maybe sooner?).

Recommended Facebook Insights Resources
New Insights
EdgeRank and News Feed
Tips on utilizing the “full” Post and Page Insights data exports

Hey good lookin’…introducing W&M’s new responsive design

Cross-posted from the W&M Creative Services Blog

Back in April we mentioned that we were working on a new responsive design for the main W&M website (, and after a few browser fights (thanks Internet Explorer), a dozen test devices and many hours coding and tweaking, we launched our new design on July 23, 2013. (Grad school sites will follow suit in the coming months.) Now every office, every academic department and every other page on the W&M site adjusts its layout to best accommodate how you are viewing the site, regardless of what device you’re using (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile).

The announcement

To announce the launch our office made a little stop-motion video (our first!) starring the computers, phones and tablets of various Creative Services staff members:

The motivation

Desktop/laptop view of the W&M website. The green bar on the left is the page navigation, center light tan area is the main content, and the darker tan boxes down the right side are the supplementary content.

The idea behind this change was spurred in large part by the fact that our mobile and tablet visits have gone from less than 2% of our site traffic in 2009 to over 17% of our traffic this summer. With so many mobile and tablet visitors (and more sure to come) we wanted to ensure everyone could easily navigate and view all of the content on our website, not just our homepage (which we made responsive last year).


So what was involved in this redesign? Up first was evaluating which parts of any given page are the most important, and it is, unsurprisingly, the main content. That main content is why you search Google, click a link in a social media post, or work your way through navigation menus. This needs to be front and center (and top) regardless of how you are looking at the website. So, after our global site navigation and header, the most prominent thing you will see is always the main content. We then ordered the rest of the content: page navigation, supplementary content, etc.

The major changes

Tablet view. Here the right column has been moved below the main content area and the top “global” site navigation has been adjusted from one row to three.

As you begin decreasing the width of your browser window we adjust the global navigation to become three columns rather than one row (since the single row will no longer fit).

We then move the right column, which contains “widgets” with photos, Twitter feeds, related links and other supplementary content, down below the main content area.

So, with this first batch of changes nothing is removed, only rearranged to best showcase the content (this is a key feature of responsive design). Once the page width is even narrower, the menu on the left side of the page drops down below the main content as well (keeping its familiar green background for continuity). However, keeping in mind that page navigation is a useful and important part of the page, we provide a “Site Menu” link so you can quickly get to that area when you need to. In between all of these steps the content is stretched to fit the width of the page, and photos and tables are resized to be as visible as possible.

Those with a careful eye may also notice a few style tweaks, all made to enhance the user experience. We removed busy lines from the menus, adjusted the color and size of the content headings, and increased the font size and line height of the content. All of these updates were made to give the site a bit more space to “breathe” and to make things easier to read. We also ensured that our treatment of text links is consistent throughout the site, helping with the overall usability of the site—if a word is bright green (underlined or not) it is always a link.

Cheap as free “mobile version” for all, no app needed

Mobile view. A link to the site menu replaces the menu itself and the main content comes up front and center, with supplementary content following.

One of the best parts about a responsive design is that it is a seamless improvement for the folks creating the web content. Nothing changed in Cascade (our web content management system) from the web editor’s perspective. They still enter their page title, content, photos, links and so forth, just as they always have, except now the content they entered is mobile (and tablet and desktop) “friendly.”

What’s next

Currently our team is focusing on updating our four graduate school sites with their own responsive designs. Along the way we’ll also be making a variety of supporting sites responsive (those W&M sites not hosted in Cascade, like the directoryW&M Experts and W&M Events).

What do you think of our new design?


More than just a social media directory

In my previous post I talked about W&M’s Social Stream(a combination of the latest posts from the College’s official social media channels and a social media directory for all College-related organizations) and how it has evolved since it’s creation two years ago. While writing the code for this, (and truly satisfying my organizing obsession by going through our student club directory and A-Z office listings to ensure that our directory had all of the accounts listed that we could possibly know about) I began thinking “what is the

Photo by quinn.anya

purpose of having this directory?” Yes, like a phone book you can use it to look up a particular organization’s social media channel, but that usually means you already know it exists (either the organization or the channel). But what about if you’re a newly admitted student? Or a newly hired employee? Without even really looking at the particulars of the list it’s easy for them to see W&M is (as so many colleges are nowadays) very present on social media. By seeing this, they can look through the lists and find organizations that they want to connect with, or are interested in joining, in a more personal and interactive way than just visiting their website.

A social media directory isn’t just useful for new folks or for looking up a random account. If you’re in charge of social media for an academic department, you can go through and see what your fellow departments are doing, get ideas, share posts or tweets, perhaps even strike up a conversation with the person behind the page. For Creative Services, I know these lists are invaluable for keeping tabs on the happenings of campus and what our community is currently focused on. By following all of the student organizations on campus you get to hear about the little concert that is happening in the student run coffee house, or about the award a volunteer organization was given for their service, that you may otherwise not hear about. You can then share those stories on your “official” channels, helping your followers and fans feel more connected to campus.

Twitter lists are maintained on the main @williamandmary account for all of the Official-ish and Unofficial accounts and make sure that the main accounts follow every account on the list in an effort to show support for those accounts and what they’re doing.

Every three months Creative Services does an audit of all of the accounts, checking to see whether they have posted anything in the last few months. If a “slogger” (aka, slacking blogger) is encountered, an inquiry email is sent to the manager of the account, asking if it is still active or whether another page has replaced the one on file. It may feel a bit “big brother-ish” but often this helps the manager to realize that the page or account has been a bit neglected, and either they request help with ideas for things to post (this is where they are referred to the W&M social media resource pages and SMUG group), or the email simply spurs them to post just a bit more if it went off their radar over the past semester.

What other uses do you see for a social media directory?


EDUniverse…go explore!

I wanted to spread the word about a new site that launched on Friday called EDUniverse. It’s a great centralized place to keep up to speed on blog posts and presentations from higher education folks all over the web. The site is a great resource for finding new, relevant and interesting higher ed related content, discovering higher ed folks on Twitter, and just keeping up with what’s going on in the industry. I was asked by mStoner to be an early contributor to the site and am so excited to see it live (and had a great time at the launch event in Boston this weekend, so great to meet and chat with so many amazing higher ed folks in person). I’d encourage you to sign up for an account and start exploring.


#heweb11 #tnt8 and #austintx

Yes that’s a lot of Twitter hashtags but that’s what’s been filling up the past few days for me. I, along with four other folks from W&M Creative Services, travelled to Austin earlier this week to attend HighEdWeb 2011 in Austin, Texas. Tina Coleman and Andrew Bauserman presented on our new events system at W&M, and Joel Pattison and Justin Schoonmaker offered a Photoshop workshop. Our former director Susan Evans (now at mStoner) also presented on creating a Creative Services team.

I presented alongside Doug Gapinski from mStoner about mobile strategy for higher education. The talk was well received on Twitter (tracked via hashtags for each session, ours was #tnt8) and I’m excited that folks were so interested in our topic. HighEdWeb’s magazine Link summarized our talk summarized our talk twice (!) if you’re curious about what we discussed.

I attended a lot of great talks and have some great ideas to bring back to campus. Here are their Twitter hashtag commentary (with a quick-and-dirty archive courtesy of Twitter RSS) and summaries courtesy of Link:

As always this is a great conference with great speakers and networking opportunities, looking forward to HighEdWeb 2012 in Milwaukee!


Eight Foursquare resources for colleges and universities

Selected bits of this post are also cross-posted on the W&M Creative Services Blog

FoursquareWhile working with William & Mary’s Foursquare presence and from my personal use of Foursquare over the past year or so, I’ve collected a few links I’ve found particularly useful, ranging from explaining what Foursquare is to those unfamiliar with the site, to resources for folks in higher ed in particular:

  1. Foursquare 101 offers an excellent introduction of what Foursquare is and how it works courtesy of the About Foursquare blog (this blog also offers a lot of great info and tips, as well as the latest Foursquare news)
  2. The Foursquare Support site is a good starting point for more specific questions, from how to use Foursquare to etiquette to software issues, all this is info straight from the source.
  3. Official Foursquare for Universities page is the place to start to see how other schools are using Foursquare, benefits to using Foursquare on your campus, and to apply to have your school get a branded page.
  4. Getting started with Foursquare for colleges and universities is a great overview from About Foursquare for what to do to start up your campus’ Foursquare presence.
  5. Here’s why Dave Olsen from WVU thinks Foursquare can help your school
  6. Badges are quite popular on Foursquare and they’ve made a set just for colleges and universities (just make sure that the primary category for each venue is “College/University – <type of venue>,” otherwise checkins at these venues won’t go towards unlocking the college-themed badges).
  7. If you’re looking to flesh out some of your school’s venues with some photos (and you don’t want them to be ones just from your mobile phone), About Foursquare describes a nice way to upload photos from your desktop (a little programming knowledge is required).
  8. Working with all of William & Mary‘s venues I’ve spent a lot of time using a site called tidysquare. It will display, on a map, all the Foursquare venues for a given location, show you possible duplicates, as well as find venues with incomplete information. It’s a great place to start if you’re working to clean up your campus’ venues or just looking for a way to gauge how much of a Foursquare presence has been established in your area.
Super what?

So one of the things I think is really cool (and smart) about Foursquare is that they crowdsource the maintenance of their venues. Folks known as “superusers” are given permission to update and add information to the various venues in an effort to keep the data as accurate as possible. There are three levels of superusers, ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 3 (the highest), and Foursquare just opened things up yesterday so that anyone can apply to become a superuser (as long as you promise to use your powers for good). I had been a “Level 1 Superuser” courtesy of all the work I’ve done with William & Mary’s Foursquare presence but, being the geek I am, I applied to be upgraded yesterday to a Level 2 Superuser. The whole thing really appeals to my super-organized side so I’m excited to appease that and help out the larger Foursquare community at the same time :)

So after all that I encourage you to create a Foursquare profile for your school or organization if you don’t have one already, claim venues around your campus, add new venues, offer tips to share some insider knowledge about your area, and find out all the new places this location-based stuff can take you.