Web Team Goals 18-19

Welcome to the start of another school year! The web team has gone through a number of changes over the summer. First, we’re no longer a part of Information Technology, and are now a component of Marketing and Creative Services.

As part of that change, we’ve had a few personnel changes. First, we’re officially declaring Tom a member of the web team. Tom is a graphic design instructor, who we were fortunate enough to be able to snag as a half-time graphic design analyst. He, and the students he supervises in the Design and Media Center, have already made significant improvements to the look at feel of the website and our communications. David and Jim will be staying with Information Technology. While David will likely continue supporting our servers, Jim will be moving away from doing website content work and entirely into IT tasks. Thank you both for your time on the web team, and welcome Tom!

So what’s ahead?

The last few years, we’ve focused on some simple metrics to try and improve the Lane website. In 16-17 we worked primarily on reducing the size of the Lane website, going from 5768 pages to 5550. In 17-18, we expanded those goals again, but also added two traffic goals. We were successful in reducing the size of the website, dropping all the way to 4532 pages. But we missed our traffic goals, making only minor progress on the bounce rate and missing our session count goal entirely.

Over the last two years, we’ve definitely learned that we do what we measure, so it’s important that our metrics properly reflect our intentions. For instance, one of the ways we were trying to simplify the Lane website was by reducing the number of pages. But one of the ways we met that goal was by cleaning out old training pages. Those pages probably aren’t why the website feels cluttered, but deleting those dozen pages definitely helped our metrics.

Here are our goals for 2018-19:

  1. Launch at least ten new program pages
  2. Launch an easier way to view what programs Lane offers
  3. Increase the number of organic referrals to the website by 5%, from 1,358,302 to 1,426,217 (or more).
  4. Determine what the next iteration of Lane’s website is going to look like

Keep your eyes on the homepage – you’ll see a change as soon as we’re ready to launch the pages to accomplish goal number 2, hopefully in the next few weeks.

 

Evaluating Goal progress, 17-18

 

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

We exceeded this goal, reducing the total number of pages by 18.3%, rather than just 5%. But it turns out this was not a well written goal. Of the 1,018 of pages we eliminated, 558 of them were Lane in the News items, which aren’t really pages at all.

This goal had a problem with language versus measurement. Drupal stores content internally as “nodes”. This is fairly easy to count – select count(*) from node. But there’s a number of types of content on the website that aren’t really pages but are nodes. Lane in the News items are one type, but we also have slideshow slides, FAQ questions, and landing page announcements. So while those content types count for the purposes of our metric, they probably shouldn’t.

Fortunately, we still deleted 460 actual pages, so we handily met this goal. But if we set a goal like this again, we’ll probably exclude certain content types (not only the ones previously mentioned, but also news releases and board policies).

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

While we certainly met this goal, this count has increased yet again, from 144 pages last check-in to 145. These pages remain mostly meeting minutes and policy documents. If we do a goal like this again, we should probably limit what content types we look at.

It’d be really nice if there were an easy way to count words, rather than characters, but that ends up being a very difficult problem, especially when our content includes HTML mixed in.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

For reasons similar to goal #2, we should probably have limited what content types we looked at. We wound up at 4,194 characters, which is close to our goal. This is likely not a goal we’ll continue though, as longer form content isn’t necessarily a terrible idea.

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

We’ve stayed steady on this goal since last post, at 17 months old. This remains one of our most difficult tasks. Despite the web team making more than 3,000 page revisions in the last year, more than 20% of the pages on the website haven’t been edited in more than 3 years – and many of the revisions we made were just link changes or typos. We’re often not qualified to do content changes. Please give us a hand!

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Unfortunately, we met neither of these goals. We fell the furthest behind on pageviews, where we fell 14.24%. We did improve our bounce rate by 1.11%, but that’s a long way from our 5% goal. We did have a couple of wins, which seem to indicate a more engaged audience. Average session duration is longer, people are viewing more pages per session, more sessions are from new visitors, and organic search traffic is up.

In retrospect, while these were a good first attempt at goals, future goals should be more carefully targeted to what we’re trying to accomplish on the web at Lane. For instance, we could look at the percentages of traffic that come via organic search or referral, or we could look at tracking the percentage of people who request information about the college.

Goal Check-in #5

 

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

Regretfully, this number has slid up even further, from 5003 to 5107. Much of this has been due to news releases and in the news items (where we track mentions of Lane in news media). Next time we create goals, we’ll definitely be using a much more limited subset of page types. There’s still a bunch of open tasks to eliminate some pages, but progress is likely to be slow, as we’ve had to prioritize other work.

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

Somehow, this measure also increased slightly again, from 141 pages to 144 pages. These pages remain primarily internal pages.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

With an increase in the count of longer pages, we’ve also had an increase in average page length. As mentioned last goal, this goal is no longer really one of our goals, as we’re deliberately using some longer form content. But I still don’t like that we’ve slipped to 4,140 characters.

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

We’ve stayed steady on this goal since last post, staying at 17 months old. This remains one of our most difficult tasks, and we’d appreciate any help you can provide.

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Since these are annual goals, they’re a little harder to compare against. But we can compare similar time periods. For the first ten months, 6/14-4/14, comparing 2016/17 to 2017/18, our session counts have decreased by 13.67%, and our bounce rate has shrunk by 0.83%. This is a bit of an improvement on our bounce rate, but our session counts remain crushing. A glimmer of hope: new sessions are up 8.26%, and average session duration is up 9.98%.

Unfortunately, we’re no longer seeing the increase in traffic on the redeveloped traffic that we used to see, though we are at least seeing level traffic on program pages.

Last post in this series will be in June, when we’ll lay out some new goals for next year.

Goal Check-in #4

 

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

Regretfully, this number has slid up since last check-in, from 4948 to 5003. There’s a couple of things behind this: there’s been an unusually high number of news releases, we’ve added pages to support our new slideshows, and we just had a training. There’s still 18 open tasks on our tracker about eliminating pages, so there’s still hope we’ll improve further by our final check-in. But our primary lesson is that we need to improve how we count our public pages – training pages, which no one can see, aren’t really hurting anyone, and we should really stop tracking our progress on them.

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

Somehow, this measure also increased slightly, from 136 pages to 141 pages. Usually, these pages are minutes from meetings. Lesson learned: we need an intranet.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

Sadly, this measure has also increased a bit, from 3966 to 4058. As mentioned last goal, this goal is no longer really one of our goals, as we’re deliberately using some longer form content.

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

We’ve stayed steady on this goal since last post, staying at 17 months old. This is one of our most difficult tasks: please help us out! If you look at the listing of pages in your site from the right sidebar on the dashboard, under “Sites I’m responsible for”, you can sort that by updated date. Take a look at some of your older pages; you might be surprised by how out of date they can be.

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Since these are annual goals, they’re a little harder to compare against. But we can compare similar time periods. For the first eight months, 6/14-2/14, comparing 2016/17 to 2017/18, our session counts have decreased by 11.13%, and our bounce rate has shrunk by 0.01%. This is a bit of an improvement on our bounce rate, but our session counts remain crushing. A glimmer of hope: new sessions are up 7.76%, and average session duration is up 7.98%.

We’re still seeing positive returns from some of the pages we’ve redeveloped. If you work on the website of an academic program, and you’d like to dramatically update your pages, please send us an email. We’ll get in touch about how you can get in the queue for content rewrites. We’re hoping to launch our next redesigned program very soon.

Goal Check-in #3

 

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

We’ve improved even further since last check-in, when we were at 5072. We currently have 4948 pages, which is a record low for us. There’s another 22 pages we’re actively working on eliminating right now, so I’m hopeful we’ll get under 4900 before the end of the academic year. Don’t be surprised if we come calling to talk about some of your older pages soon!

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

We flew right past this goal, getting down to just 136 pages with more than 15,000 characters. Most of that was because we realized old Board minutes could be moved to one of our archive servers, allowing us to remove some of our longest and oldest pages. this way the Board minutes are still publicly accessible, but we don’t need to worry about constantly updating them.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

Eliminating the old Board minutes also helped us meet this goal. The average page on our site is now only 3966 characters long. I think we’ll want to stick right around that length – many of our newer pages will be deliberately long (see the new template content later in this post!)

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

This one’s the hardest for us, and we’ve actually slipped backwards. The average page is now 17 months old. While we’ll certainly keep working on updates, please help us out! If you look at the listing of pages in your site from the right sidebar on the dashboard, under “Sites I’m responsible for”, you can sort that by updated date. Take a look at some of your older pages; you might be surprised by how out of date they can be.

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Since these are annual goals, they’re a little harder to compare against. But we can compare similar time periods. For the first six months, 6/14-12/14, comparing 2016 to 2017, our session counts have decreased by 7.47%, and our bounce rate has increased by 1.28%. This is a bit of an improvement over last check-in on bounce rates, but a crushing disappointment on session counts.

We’re starting to deploy our revised program pages, starting with the Business Department. SEO is a marathon, and it’ll likely take months before the impact of our work is fully felt, we’re already starting to see some changes. Since November 21st, when we launched our first new program page, we’ve seen some big changes in our statistics, compared to the same period the previous year:

Program Landing Page Unique Page views Entrances Average Time on Page
Accounting 21% 187% 218%
Administrative Office Professional 13% 17% 249%
Business Assistant 7% -75% 24%

I can only guess about the decrease in entrances for Business Assistant, but it might be related to the quality of content on the other program pages. For example, check out what accounting looked like before the redesign. The improved content quality might be capturing people who were actually interested in a degree, and hadn’t realized from a Google search that Business Assistant is a certificate.

We’re not quite ready to release the new program page to the rest of the programs at the college, but we’re getting close. We’ve already started work on CIT, Culinary, and the Arts. As we iron out the last issues with the template (there’s still some pieces missing, even from the pages we’ve already launched!), we’ll be in touch with the other academic departments to start moving to the new program layout.

In the mean time, please help us out! Think about the keywords your page targets, and make sure your content contains those words. And whenever possible, please make sure your page includes some sort of target or goal you’re trying to get your visitors to do. If you’d like help researching keywords, or would like to learn how you rank on Google for various keywords, just ask! We’re happy to show you a couple of reports that we think could help you with your content a lot.

Goal Check-in #2

 

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

Still met, but up a little from last check-in. We’re now at 5072.

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

Unfortunately, this is unchanged, and we’re still at 232. This is a very hard goal to meet, as many of these pages are either preserved for archival purposes or simply contain a lot of content.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

We crept up a little bit, from 4412 to 4466.

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

Unfortunately, still no progress on this goal. The only plus side is that our pages haven’t gotten any older. Please help us out by editing your pages!

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Since these are annual goals, they’re a little harder to compare against. But we can compare similar time periods. For the first four months, 6/14-10/14, comparing 2016 to 2017, our session counts have decreased by 3.66%, and our bounce rate has increased by 3%. Last check-in I was optimistic, as our session counts had increased a little, but that appears to have been confined to summer.

Graph of session data for 2017, showing a peak in 2017 similar to 2016 traffic until 2017 gets worse this fallThat graph shows the story. Our numbers were pretty close until Fall, when our session traffic fell as students returned. Previously, we’ve observed that school year traffic changes closely follow enrollment trends, and this year was no exception.

We’ve taken a more proactive stance with these two goals, since they’re critical for the overall health of the college. We’ve been collaborating with the Business Department to work with Lunar Logic to improve our content and structure for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While we’re not seeing results yet, SEO is a marathon, and it’ll likely take months before the impact of our work is fully felt.

But we need your help with this goal as well! Think about the keywords your page targets, and make sure your content contains those words. And whenever possible, please make sure your page includes some sort of target or goal you’re trying to get your visitors to do. If you’d like help researching keywords, or would like to learn how you rank on Google for various keywords, just ask! We’re happy to show you a couple of reports that we think could help you with your content a lot.

Goal Check-in #1

This is our first of five check-ins on if we’re making progress on our web team goals.

1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)

Met! We’re down to 5006 pages, which is almost a 10% reduction. Much of this was because we eliminated third party scholarship listings, in favor of more comprehensive scholarship search websites (our listings were always out of date). We’re going to continue trying to cull content, but we’re going to focus most of our effort on some of the other goals.

2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)

We’re more than half way to this goal, with just 232 pages with more than 15,000 characters. Much of our progress here came from removing pages that related to our former president, and which are now on our archive site. Additional progress will be harder.

3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)

At an average length of 4412 characters, we’re about half way to our goal.

4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

Unfortunately, we’ve made no progress on this goal, with our average age unchanged. Please help us out by editing your pages!

Traffic Goals

We also had two traffic goals:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

Since these are annual goals, they’re a little harder to compare against. But we can compare similar time periods. For the first two months, 6/14-8/14, comparing 2016 to 2017, our session counts have increased by 2.64%, but our bounce rate has increased by 3%. We need your help with this goal as well! Think about the keywords that your page targets, and make sure your content contains those words. And whenever possible, please make sure your page includes some sort of target or goal you’re trying to get your visitors to do.

And, as always, please feel free to contact us on the web team if we can help in any way!

 

Accessibility Posters

Link

The UK Government Digital Service has published a great set of posters about designing for accessibility. They’re a great reminder that designing for accessibility isn’t just about screen reader, but about designing for a lot of different conditions that impact a lot of people. 

Click to view the posters

Web Team goals for 17-18

It’s the end of the academic year, which means it’s time to start thinking about goals for next year. Our first set of goals will be similar to our goals from last year:

  1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5550 to 5273)
  2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 15,000 characters by 10% (from 249 to 224)
  3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10% (from 4650 to 4185)
  4. Improve the average age of our pages (the average late updated date) by 4 months (from 16 months to 12 months)

We’re also going to add two goals relate to page use:

  1. Increase session counts for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 3,228,904 to 3,390,349
  2. Decrease the bounce rate for www.lanecc.edu during the period 6/14/17-6/14/18 compared to the previous year by 5%, from 37.05% to 35.19%

We’ve never had page use goals like that, so this will be interesting for us as we really dig into how to increase engagement and findability of our pages.

If you’d like to help us meet our goals, just edit your pages! We’ve made a lot of progress in making our pages more recent – many pages used to be over two years old! We’re happy to help. Just email Lori and she’ll get you pointed in the right direction.

Correctly Linking Images

We all know how to make an image accessible. And we all know how to make a link. But how do we make them play together? How do we do something like this:

Download the Graphic StandardsSince we’re good people, we add alt text describing the image, right? Maybe something like “Graphic Standards Cover”? That’d give us (overly simplified) HTML like this:

<a href="standards.pdf"><img src="cover.png" alt="Graphic Standards Cover"></a>

But that’s actually not so great for accessibility. A screen reader will read “Graphic Standards Cover”, which doesn’t make the action (downloading the standards) clear.

My first instinct was to add a title to the link. But the title is almost never read by a screen reader, and may even make things worse. The reader will read the alt text. To make it clear what the link does we need to change the alt text:

<a href="standards.pdf"><img src="cover.png" alt="Download the Lane Graphic Standards"></a>

Now we’ve solved the accessibility problem, but we may have created a user experience (UX) problem. Scroll up a second and look at that image again. Did you know that you should click that picture to download the PDF? Or did you think it was just a picture? We can’t even rely on people discovering the picture is linked by hovering over it with the mouse and the cursor changing: it isn’t possible to hover with your finger on a phone.

Sometimes it may be immediately clear that a picture is clickable from context. If it isn’t we may need to add some help:

<a href="standards.pdf"><img src="cover.png" alt="Download the Lane Graphic Standards">Download the Lane Graphic Standards</a>

Now we’ve solved our UX problem, but we’re back to an accessibility issue! A screen reader will read the alt text and the link text. It’ll be like the same sentence is printed twice. The solution to this is to have explicitly empty alt text:

<a href="standards.pdf"><img src="cover.png" alt="">Download the Lane Graphic Standards</a>

Explicitly empty alt text will be ignored by the screen reader entirely, while missing alt text can cause unpredictable or even negative behavior.

You could also go back to adding descriptive text as the alt text. In our example above, that isn’t appropriate, since the cover is really just decorative. But consider another example:

A cat chewing on a monitor. Link opens a larger image.That image is linked to the full size picture. Describing the contents of the picture is completely appropriate. But remember that most screen readers can pull links out of a page, and let someone navigate from link to link directly. For that reason, our alt text is “A cat chewing on a monitor. Link opens a larger image.” The alt text serves double duty.

This post does not, of course, mean it’s always appropriate to use an image. It’s important to avoid off-brand or inappropriate images. It’s important not to add so many linked pictures that your page hierarchy gets lost and navigation gets more difficult. And if something can be done in CSS, it probably should be. It wouldn’t hurt to use images as pictures as rarely as you can.

If you’re not sure what to do with links at Lane, get in touch! We’re always happy to help.