Website Redesign Check-in

It’s been a while since our last redesign post, but don’t think we haven’t made some progress. We’ve been averaging about one video call per week, and are getting closer and closer to development work.  Some of the things we’ve done:

Developed Batch 1 Designs

Our first batch of pages included the homepage, a career community page, and a program page. Our assumption is that these are some of the first pages most prospective students are going to look for, so we wanted to dive right into them. Our homepage is definitely going to shift direction, and be focused very narrowly on prospective student.

User Tested Batch 1

To be certain that we were on track with design and the information architecture, we did some intensive testing with some real prospective students. Users were asked to perform specific tasks, with people watching exactly what they did and seeing where they struggled.

Finalized Batch 1 Designs

We made some changes to the designs to address issues uncovered in user testing. Some were easy to address, but one has been a particular thorn.

Lane has a lot of different offerings, and people are confused by them. We have degrees, 2 year certificates, 1 year certificates, less than 1 year certificates, career pathways certificates, and non-credit credentials. There’s even more variety within the certificates. Some are financial aid eligible, some are not. Some are stackable with a degree, some are independent. Some are stackable, but you choose between multiple options. Some are technically stackable, but are marketed to a different market segment than the degree. We’ve gone several rounds with trying to balance standardization of design (to reduce confusion) with the flexibility to accommodate all our programs (to stay accurate). We’ve landed on a layout we think will work, and we hope to test it again, but it’ll be difficult to know if it’s worked for all programs until well after launch.

Reviewed Batch 2 Mockups

Our batch 2 pages included some Registration and Tuition related pages. While we’re pretty happy with the design of these pages, they’ve helped highlight a problem for us: our internal organization doesn’t always match how people think about us. For example, consider how students pay for college. We have a lot of departments that deal with money: a Financial Aid office, a scholarship and student employment office, a veterans benefits office, a bursar, and several people that work with sponsored accounts. There’s probably more. There’s really good reason for splitting them apart, and each requires a ton of very specific expertise. But if I have a question, and I’m not sure which of those areas can answer my question, who do I call?

Started Batch 3

Our Batch 3 designs relate to the application sorter and steps to enroll pages. We’ve done quite a few versions of these since our last redesign in 2013. For instance, our sorter page swapped from being person type oriented to goal oriented. Yet, despite all those changes, our sorter continues to be one of the least liked pages on the site. Our new design is going to try to leverage some of that experience, and include information that can help you navigate either way, while simultaneously emphasizing the most commonly used enrollment pathways.

Content planner

Our greatest amount of work has been the content planner. This maps content on our current website to the new website, and identifies where the gaps are. We’ve got a bunch of folders and empty documents set up in google docs right now where we’ve been starting to develop new content and rewrite some old content. There were more than a hundred pages which we need to keep, but which don’t have an obvious home in the new website, and I’ve been slowly making my way through. Some of the rewritten content will be launched before we launch, while most of the new stuff won’t be launched until the whole site is ready.

Meanwhile, as we continue our review of every page on the website, Lori’s been aggressively working on some of the recommended page merging and deletion. Thank you to the dozens of you that have helped us delete old pages!

What’s next?

After we finalize batch 3 this week, we’re hoping to do another round of prospective student testing. Very soon development will start, and while the site is being built, we’ll continue our work on content.

One of our big challenges will be photography. Normally for a website redesign you’d schedule a couple of professional photo sessions on campus, but due to COVID-19, that’s tricky. Before launch, it’s unlikely campus will look quite as busy as it would normally, we won’t see groups of people together, and the people we do see may be wearing masks. I’ve been trying to make it out to campus once in a while to get some photos, but there’s only so many empty shots of campus we can use. If you have any amazing photos – ideally where everyone in the picture has signed a photo release – and you’d be willing to let us use them, send them our way!

One of the campus turkeys in front of the center building
One of the photos from my weekend adventures shooting photos on campus

More accessible phone numbers

In the last post, I learned that not only does phone number format matter from an SEO perspective, but phone numbers can be really annoying to the blind. Depending on the screen reader, a phone number like 541-463-3000 could be read as “five hundred forty-one dash four hundred sixty-three dash three thousand”. That seems terribly annoying.

I started out trying to implement the solution at the end of this blog post, but then my curiosity got the best of me, and I got digging deep into CSS speech modules. It looks like support is limited even though they’re so cool! But the limited support means I’m going to stay away.

Instead, we’re back to the regular expressions replacements, using the Drupal custom filter module. Currently, we look for

/\((\d{3})\) (\d{3}-\d{4})/

And then replace it with

 <a class="telephone_link" href="tel:+1-${1}-${2}">${0}</a>

Over the last few days, we’ve changed that to grab each number individually:

/\(((\d)(\d)(\d))\) ((\d)(\d)(\d)-(\d)(\d)(\d)(\d))/

and replace it with something much, much longer:

<a class="telephone_link" href="tel:+1-${1}-${5}" aria-label="${2} ${3} ${4}. ${6} ${7} ${8}. ${9} ${10} ${11} ${12}">${1}-${5}</a>

It’s a bit of an ugly regular expression, but not only will this hopefully make a better experience for screen reader users, it’ll also introduce a new phone number format as currently recommended by the AP: 541-463-3000.

Progress on the Website Redesign

We’ve been working on the website redesign for a while, but I’m afraid that I’ve totally dropped the ball at posting updates to this blog. Things have been much busier than anticipated. Though I’m sure I’m missing some parts, here’s a quick overview of what’s happened so far.

Completed a brand and identity inventory

In order to help iFactory get to know Lane as a college, we answered a multi-page inventory covering basic items like what our roles are, questions on our market, our programs offerings, and even our guided pathways efforts.

Hosted an on-site visit by the iFactory team

Three iFactory employees came to campus to get to know us even better, eat some delicious Eugene food, and conduct focus groups with students and employees to learn more about what the campus thinks is important in the website. Afterward, they surveyed more than one hundred current students for their thoughts about our website.

Developed four personas to make sure our web content meets everyone’s needs

Well, at least as many needs as we can. Think of personas as pretend people which you can use to evaluate the site. For instance, we have Colleen, a traditional high school student interested in taking some classes at Lane to save money before transferring to a 4-year college. The other three are even more complicated, with tricky backstories. While we’ll never capture every unique situation at Lane, our personas are different enough to make sure we look at every piece of this redesign from at least four very different perspectives.

Evaluated six different mood boards to see which images and designs most feel like Lane

Having collected a lot of information about the college, we were presented with six different mood boards. You can think of these like Pinterest boards for the college, with different collections of pictures and screenshots of other college websites. We provided feedback on each one, and explained why they did or didn’t feel like Lane.

Evaluated three different mockups of potential homepage elements, to get a feel for the design language which will eventually build our site

From the mood boards, some simulated pieces of a  new site were created for us to critique. We provided feedback again on which directions we wanted to pursue.

Provided feedback on two rounds of information architecture for the new site.

While working on some of the design tasks, we were presented with two iterations of an information architecture (IA). The IA is how the site is going to be structured, and starts to provide some structure to the navigation on our site. While we’re pretty confident the IA we’re going to use is roughly correct, it’s still being polished.

Completed a content inventory

We were provided with a spreadsheet of more than ten thousand different URLs that are a part of the Lane domain. While they weren’t all part of the Lane website, they were each linked somehow from the Lane website and a part of our domain. Our job was to determine what to do with each page. Was the content correct? Could it be merged elsewhere? Should it be archived? This task took several weeks of near full time work, and resulted in our cleaning a lot of content. Due to the sheer number of pages to look at, we weren’t able to consult with everyone on each page, but I did talk to dozens of people about their content throughout December and January.

Provided feedback on several rounds of wireframes of possible college pages

One common step in website development is to draw a rough layout of content, without putting any color or pictures in it. The goal is to get you to stop thinking about the appearance of the content and instead think about the layout and the flow of the text. Some wireframing software will even make the lines look like they were drawn with a crayon or thick marker, just so that you know immediately that we’re just roughing in content elements.

Evaluated two different homepage mockups (with help from 44 of you!) to see what direction we want to go with the college homepage.

This is when things got really exciting. Finally, in the last month, we’re starting to see some fairly polished concepts of what the new homepage might look like. We’re still finalizing some of the language, so they’re not quite ready to share, but we’re getting close.

What’s next?

We’re currently working through wireframes and mockups for several other types of pages, and have started preliminary conversations with their developer. Soon, we’re going get an outside perspective on the actual content of our website, and see where we have some gaps. Quite a bit of time this spring is likely to be occupied with content development, since we know we have some content gaps.

I’d also like to share the first change that we’re confident that is going to impact our web editors. On the current site, almost all of your content is in one field called “Body”. This is great, in that it’s very customizable, and terrible, in that it’s very customizable, leading to broken, inconsistent pages. Best practices developed a few years after our previous launch suggest  providing reusable components that you can plug into any part of your site: a slideshow here, a callout quote there, some text over there. They also suggest making them remixable, so you can lay out your page however you’d like, using a common language of elements, letting your page be instantly familiar to everyone as a Lane page, but also customized to your content.

We’re going to be adopting that approach as a part of this website launch, which I hope will help meet some of the website customization needs I haven’t been able to meet over the last few years!

More details soon, honest!

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 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 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.

Using all Capital Letters

An instructor asked me the other day, “How does a screen reader read text in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS?”

I didn’t know, and through it was a great question, and had to figure it out. Let’s start with some sample text:

It’s VERY important you remember these:

  • USPS
  • NASA
  • DVD

There’s four words in all caps there. Let’s look at each one, from the bottom to the top:

DVD is an initialism, meaning you read each letter in it, like CPU or FBI. NASA is an acronym, meaning you read it as a word, even though each letter stands for a word. USPS is another initialism. But VERY is just a word, with all capital letters being used for emphasis.

Of course, it’s wrong to use capital letters in this way – you should instead be using an em or strong tag (though which one is complex, and I didn’t find the examples in the specification very helpful). But the instructor’s question wasn’t about what should happen, it was about what does happen. How can a screen reader know which of those words it should treat as words or acronyms (which are like words, in terms of pronunciation), and which it should treat as initialism (and read letters instead of the word)?

I ran each of the examples through the say program on my Mac, and here’s what I got (sentence case was pronounced like lowercase):

Word Uppercase Lowercase
Very word word
USPS letters word
NASA word word
DVD letters letters

There’s some interesting logic there. I think this table shows my Mac will always read dictionary words as words (like “very”). And I think it shows that my Mac also has a list of known acronyms and initialisms, so it knows how to read those. For words that aren’t in either list, but also aren’t in the dictionary (like USPS), it reads all capital letters as initialisms, but lowercase as a word (a reasonable assumption, since most of the time it encounters words that aren’t in the dictionary, it’s probably due to the lang attribute not being set correctly.

Of course, this is just say on my Mac, which isn’t even a screen reader. WebAIM has some general rules for how screen readers read things, but it isn’t really predictable how a screen reader is going to pronounce words in all capitals. Pronouncing typographic symbols is hit or miss as well — some, like @ and % are read correctly. But most others (like the parenthesis, or the mdash in the previous sentence) aren’t read universally. Rare punctuation, like the interrobang (‽) may not be read at all.

I was hoping that abbr would influence how screen readers pronounce words, but that doesn’t appear to be the case (and, if you’ve been around HTML for a while, remember you’re not supposed to use acronym at all — though it probably wouldn’t do anything here anyway).

What does this mean for you at Lane?

Use the abbr tag to specify acronyms and initialisms if possible. Even though screen readers won’t necessarily change how they handle pronunciation, abbr with a title attribute makes it easier for anyone to understand meaning. Try hovering over this: NASA.

If you want to use capital letters for emphasis: don’t. Instead, use either an em or a strong tag, depending on if you’re trying to emphasize something or make it note that it’s more important than surrounding text. And, of course, never use strong in place of a header.

If you want to use capital letter for aesthetic reasons, then you should use a bit of CSS to make it happen:

.all-caps {
  text-transform: uppercase;

Screen readers ignore CSS, so this use is entirely for presentation. Just make sure you don’t confuse presentation with meaning.

I ran a quick search on our website for pages that have a lot of capital letters all in a row:

SELECT entity_id
FROM   field_data_body
WHERE  body_value REGEXP BINARY '[A-Z ]{10}';

There were 748 results. Editing 748 pages obviously won’t happen overnight, and on each one we’ll need to determine if we should instead be using a header, a strong, an em, or just normal text. For now, I’ve queued a task for us to tackle in the future, but if you’re editing your page and notice some misuse of capital letters, we’d be forever appreciative if you’d fix it.

Closing out the year for the Web Team

If you’ll recall from our original goals post, or the update that followed, we had a few goals on the web team the last two months of the year:

  1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5768 to 5475).
  2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 20,000 characters by 20% (from 193 to 155)
  3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10.5%, from 4803 to 4300.
  4. improve the average age of our pages by 6 months, from roughly 24 months old to 18 months old.

I’m very sorry to report that while we made a lot of progress, we were unable to meet any of our four goals. Here’s the graphs:

Node Count Graph, showing progress from 5768 to 5557We were able to make some progress eliminating nodes even in December, but things slowed down. Part of that is because with so many people on vacation around the holidays, it’s difficult to get permission to delete a page. We’d been shooting for a 5% reduction, but we were only able to get 3.5%.

Graph of nodes wiht more than 20k characters, showing progress from193 to 172As mentioned in the previous goals post, it turns out that many of these really long nodes are pages that are really hard to reduce, like board meeting minutes or transcripts of in-service addresses. I reviewed almost every page and removed a lot of really bad markup: things that we should have removed when initially porting pages to Drupal, boldfaced text that should have been headers, HR tags used improperly, and so very, very many &nbsp; characters. We’ll tackle some of those in a future post.

We’d been looking to make a 20% improvement, but we only managed 10.8%.

Graph of average length of our pages, showing no progress in the last month.Average length was really depressing for me, especially as I’d update statistics after working on these goals for a few hours. I might spend two hours meticulously working my way through the list of really long nodes, since they’d help us meet this goal the most. And I might see a visible improvement on the body length graph. But then I’d work on eliminating some nodes, and inevitably those nodes would be really short, meaning our average body length would go right back up.

Still, we made some gains early on, and the site as a whole is improved. We’d been shooting for a 10.5% reduction, but we only made a depressing 2% improvement – about 100 characters.

Average Age, showing steady progress along our trend lineWe probably made the most progress on this goal, but our failure to make progress early in November really hurt us. Over the two months we tried to meet our goals, pages got about four months newer.

We tried to meet this goal primarily by updating our oldest pages.

Count of pages at least four years old, showing progress from 732 to 513We substantially reduced our really old pages. And while it’s great we made that progress, since we hate ROT, it just wasn’t enough for us to meet our goal.

We still have lots of tasks queued up in Basecamp for us to do related to content, that we just didn’t have time to get to as part of this challenge including reworking some tables that are used improperly, removing even more HR’s, fixing some pages that are using redundant text blocks, eliminating duplicated pages, adding headers, removing improper use of the • character (people use it for bullets, but they should be using the bullet tool), and figuring out what to do with pages where people wrote “check back for content soon” several years ago. So we expect to make more progress in the coming months.

A special things to everyone who helped out with our goals. Here are the ten champions of the last two months, who made the most edits on the site, helping us toward our goals:

Name Number of Revisions
Lori Brenden 545
Kyle Schmidt 179
Amy G 132
Emily M 91
Tammy S 58
Elizabeth P 41
Melanie B 39
Joan A 31
Wendy S 30
Penny M 27

Happy New Year everyone!

Web Goals check-in

As promised in our initial goals post, a month as passed and now it’s time to check-in and see where we are on meeting our goals. As a review, those goals were:

  1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5768 to 5475).
  2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 20,000 characters by 20% (from 193 to 155)
  3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10.5%, from 4803 to 4300.
  4. improve the average age of our pages by 6 months, from roughly 24 months old to 18 months old.

Let’s take a look in order, along with some graphs. On each of these graphs, the straight line is the trend line – in order to keep on track for our goal, we need that line to be below the trend line.

Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5768 to 5475)

Clearly, we’re running behind – the count as of today is 5737, about 110 more than we’d hope to have. It turns out that removing pages is really hard. While we’ve removed some things to our archive, we’re fighting an uphill battle as things like news releases and meeting minutes get added.

Reduce the number of pages with more than 20,000 characters by 20% (from 193 to 155)

We’re making progress on this one, but again, it turns out to be really hard. We have 185 nodes with more than 20,000 characters, but we were looking to only have 174 this week. Many of the pages that are really long are actually Board Minutes, which we don’t delete and can’t shorten. Right now we’re optimistic we’ll still find enough pages to fix, but this will be hard.

Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10.5%, from 4803 to 4300.

Although we’ve managed to improve from 4803 characters to 4706, we’re still 150 characters over where we wanted to be. Again, it turns out the board minutes are in large part to blame. But we’re still optimistic.

Improve the average age of our pages by 6 months, from roughly 24 months old to 18 months old.

We came closest on this one. At the start of last month, our average page had last been edited on 11/12/14. Now, that date is 2/3/15 – almost three months newer. That’s a lot of page edits. But we’re still two weeks behind our goal for today, which was 2/21/15.

When tackling this goal, we had a separate subgoal to reduce the number of pages we have that have gone more than four years without an edit. Lori’s done a lot of work on this list, reducing the number of pages on it from 732 to 612, which makes a pretty impressive graph:

Surprisingly, despite all that effort on our very oldest nodes, it wasn’t enough. But we have a month to go, so there’s still some time. We’ll check in again on January 1st!


Goals for 2017 on the web

There’s two months left in 2016, and the web team wanted to set a couple goals for the Lane website before we close out the year. An important part of our mission is to keep our pages as readable and relevant to our visitors as possible. One way to do that is to prevent and remove ROT – redundant, outdated, or trivial content on the web.

Redundant Content

Redundant content is dangerous content. If the same content appears in multiple places online, it’s only a matter of time until only one place is updated and the content is out of sync. Then we’re providing conflicting messages. Beyond that, redundant content makes it confusing for search engines to know which pages to serve. Pages are scored by search engines primarily by the number of other pages that link to them.

Here’s a (super simplified) scenario. Say we have two different places that describe our refund policies, and both of those pages link to the same page of meeting notes about changing those policies. Sites, both internal (on the site) and external (including sites run by other organizations, but also places like moodle), link to a page on refund policy. But some link to the first place, and others link to the second page. When you search for refund policies, what do you get in your results?

We can’t be sure – and you might even get the PDF, because it’s getting some page rank from each of the two other pages. But if we had that content on just one page, everyone would link to it correctly, letting search engines value it correctly and making search better for everyone.

Outdated Content

That outdated content is an issue should be obvious, but even content that’s just several years old and no longer relevant can be an issue. We have 732 pages that haven’t been updated in over 4 years. Some of that content has certainly changed since then, and is now incorrect. It’s going to be a tremendous effort for us to go through and figure out which of those pages need updating, and which can just be removed.

Trivial Content

Trivial content is a difficult one. It might be content that you find really important – say, a photo album of an event a few years ago. But if that content isn’t helping the mission of your site and of the website as a whole and isn’t required to be there by law or by grant conditions, ultimately it’s trivial and should probably be removed..

Trivial content doesn’t need to be an entire page. Sometimes it’s just a line, like “Welcome to the Underwater Basketweaving Department!” that purports to make the department look friendly but falls flat. This excess content confuses search, and makes it dififcult for people to find what they need, ultimately leading people to feel like website is cluttered and difficult to navigate.

Long Content

We also have a problem with content length on our site. Sometimes pages are necessarily long, like COPPS policies (though there’s certainly some of those that could use help!). But often pages are so long they make it difficult to find what you need. Due to the way we store our pages, I don’t have an easy way to count words on pages, but I can count letters. These aren’t perfect counts, because they include some of the HTML that helps to style the page, but they’re a great estimate. I did a count of our pages last night and found some crazy pages: 50,000 characters. 80,000 characters. 90,000 characters. If we use an average of 6 letters per word, that’s as much as 15,000 words on a page! Positively insane. How can students find what they need?

Our Goals

As editors on the website, we’re enlisting you for help! Here’s the goals we’d love you to help us meet this year:

  1. Reduce the total number of pages on the Lane website by 5% (from 5768 to 5475).
  2. Reduce the number of pages with more than 20,000 characters by 20% (from 193 to 155)
  3. Reduce the average character count of our pages by 10.5%, from 4803 to 4300.
  4. improve the average age of our pages by 6 months, from roughly 24 months old to 18 months old.

Except for the total page count, these goals and statistics are actually calculated against what we call a “basic page”. So these don’t include news releases, COPPS pages, or the landing pages.

On December 1st, we’ll post an update with how we’re doing on each of the goals, then check in again on January 1st to see if we met them.

And of course, if you need any help getting back into editing your pages, let us know! Just contact Lori, Jim, or me and we’ll be happy to help.


Twitter Cards and Open Graph

Across the Internet, Social Media now drives almost a third of all visits to pages. At Lane, that number is substantially lower: on our main website, it’s just 1%. One way to increase the number of people who click our links in social media (our click-through rate) is to improve our link copy and picture to make our posts more readily grab people’s attention.

This blog post is going to demonstrate two ways to do that. Though we’re going to be discussing ways to customize how your link is shared, we’ve set up defaults to improve how all pages look when shared, without you having to do anything at all. But a couple minutes of work will go a long way to making your shared link stand out.

Open Graph

The behemoth of social media is, of course, Facebook, so we’ll start there. Facebook developed a standard called Open Graph, which is a way to add hidden tags that tell Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and others how to share your page. Let’s take a look at what it looks like when we share a link on Facebook:

Facebook share window.

A similar preview box will show up when you share a link on LinkedIn or Google+.

If you’re a social media user*, you’ll now have an extra horizontal tab down at the bottom of your edit page, called “Megatags”. If you click on that, you’ll see two blue links: Open Graph and Twitter Cards. Let’s click on Open Graph and take a look.

Drupal Metatags tab. Relevant fields are further explained in the following text

Content Title

The first field in there, Content Title, is the only one that’s absolutely mandatory. Since it’s mandatory, by default we tell it to use the page’s title (that’s what [node:title] means).

A small digression: titles within Open Graph aren’t quite the same as titles on the Lane website. On the Lane website, we automatically add the department name and college name to the end of the title. So a page that says it’s title is “Contact” would actually have a title like “Contact | Science Division | Lane Community College”. That works no the web, where you want to show hierarchy. But in social media, that’s a title everyone is going to skip right over.

Open Graph titles are probably better thought of as headlines. Think back to that first picture we had – the title in that picture was “About”. That might be a good website title, but “About” is a terrible headline. We want something that’s going to catch people’s attention, and give them a reason to read a little bit further down. So let’s change it. We’ll instead use “Ready to learn more about Lane?”


The next field, image, is probably your best opportunity to get attention. Facebook will always pick an image on the page, but sometimes you can do better. If you’d like to tell a social network what image to use, add it in here. If you’re not sure how to find the full url for an image, get in touch with us by emailing

We’re going to leave the image in our example alone, since Facebook chose a pretty good image for us.


Open Graph has one more important field, the description. But rather than ask you to type in a description all over again, we’re going to make use of a field that you may not have known you’ve had access to all along. If you’ve ever looked at the optional fields tab, you may have seen something like this:

Our optionl files tab, which included a field named 'search engine summary'

The search engine summary field provides a meta description tag, which Google and other search engines use as a snippet in search results. We use the same tag for Open Graph. If you’ve left it empty (like we have in our example) Google, Facebook, and others will create a description for you. Here’s what Google creates:

text is cut off, but reads: Lane offers many different educational opportunities–we truly have something for everyone! students by clock tower at main campus bus station As the third

The text in black is Google’s preview for the page. But it doesn’t make any sense –  “students by the clock tower” comes out of nowhere. That’s because Google is using the alt text from a photograph as part of the description. Let’s put in a new description so Google doesn’t do that. As a rule of thumb, you want a couple of keywords that people might be searching for, and you want to keep under 160 characters. We’ll use “Explore transfer and career & technical opportunities at Lane Community College in Eugene, Florence, Cottage Grove, and online”.

With those fields updated, here’s what the page will now look like when it’s shared:

Updated facebook post, featuring the text we'd talked about earlier

Better, right? Two caches. First, you’ll notice only part of the description showed up. That makes writing descriptions tricky. Facebook shows fewer characters than Google does. So if you can, keep the important parts of your description in the beginning. Second, after you make these changes, it takes Facebook as much as a day to recognize the updates. But you can force it, if you’d like. Enter the URL you’re going to share on Facebook on their debugger. Facebook will tell you when the last time was it took a snapshot of the page. If that snap shot is from before you made your changes, you can ask Facebook to crawl it again.

Twitter Cards

Twitter doesn’t use the same Open Graph standard that most other social networks use. Instead, it uses something called Twitter Cards. There’s two primary types of cards we’re interested in: the summary card and the summary card with large image. The only real difference between the two is the size of the image.

With the summary card, your image should be square, and a minimum of 120x120px. With the summary card with large image, your image should be rectangular, and at least 280x150px. It’s important you use as appealing of an image as possible, as it’s what’s going to make your post stand out best. By default, Twitter will use the Lane logo, but their guidelines state they don’t want the same image to be used repeatedly.

Setting up your Twitter card is much like setting up Open Graph. Click the Twitter card link, set the title and image, and make sure you’ve already set the SEO summary under the Optional Fields tab. Then, when shared on social media, you’ll see a card, like this:

Sample Twitter card, containing the text from earlier, in an attractive presentation on Twitter.

If you’d like a preview, you can use the card validator on the Twitter site.

One Caveat

For good reason, we don’t allow you to set these fields on pages you don’t control. So the editor of the science page can’t set the description of the math page. So if you’re going to be sharing a link for a page and you notice a problem with one of these fields, or you think the page could really use a better picture, email us at and let us know. We’ll take care of setting the meta tags to make sure everyone has a great shared link experience.

* Not sure if you’re a social media user? If you see an error message when you click on this link and log in, you’re not. But if you see a list of the sites you manage, you’re a social media user! If you’d like to become a social media user, check the Drupal dashboard for a list of upcoming training opportunities.


Click to Expand

A few days ago, an astute employee over in Enrollment Services pointed out that our steps to enroll pages weren’t completely accessible to the blind. This is an important problem, and a surprisingly tricky one.

The current legal requirements for web accessibility (including §1194.22, which we’re most interested in) are referred to as Section 508. These standards provide some useful guidance on how to help folks with an impairment of some kind. For instance, they describe how images should have an alt text field, except for when that image doesn’t support understanding of the content (e.g. a background or filler image).

On the other hand, these standards are now old enough to vote, meaning they’re older than Facebook, Twitter, selfie sticks, Google Chrome, iPhones, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Windows XP. Needless to say, they’re showing their age.

There’s no way to make click to expand text accessible under current 508 guidelines. Our best option would be to duplicate the page and provide a text only version. Unfortunately, that could lead to a screenreader having to read a lot of unnecessary text.

The solution relies in the proposed new standards. These are still in progress, but the web community is confident they’re going to heavily include something called WAI-ARIA. WAI-ARIA provides a way to mark up your pages with extra attributes that screen readers know how to recognize, so the blind can better use interactive pages.

Returning to our original problem, starting this evening we’re now using the hide-show accessible plugin on those pages. This plugin lets you write some fairly simple markup in your page which will then get converted to a click to expand box like on the steps to enroll.

To use, you’ll first want to click the blue link below the edit box in Drupal that says “disable rich text”. Then, if you want a simple button with some text below it, you’ll want to paste this in:

 <p class="js-expandmore">Click on me</p>
 <div class="js-to_expand">
     here is the hidden content!

Then replace “Click on me” and “to show me!” with whatever works for your page. You’ll get something like this:

plus sign with some latin text that'd normally be clickable

And when you click to expand, you’ll see this:

minus sign, with the same text as before, but now with more text shown below it

If you’d like a little bit of color, you can also use an h3 element, which would place that text in an orange box:

    <h2 class="js-expandmore">Lorem dolor si amet</h2>
    <div class="js-to_expand">
       here is the hidden content

Exactly the same as before, but now it’ll look like this:

same plus with text, but now with an orange background

This is actually the more correct use – you nearly always want to use an h element of some kind when it describes the text after it.

For really advanced use, you can also add a full class to make the button full width. Or you can add the blue class to make the orange background blue instead. Or both!

    <h3 class="js-expandmore blue full">Lorem dolor si amet</h2>
    <div class="js-to_expand">
       here is the hidden content

would look like this:

blue background, full width, with same plus and text

This is definitely getting into advanced content editing in Drupal, so if you’re stuck don’t hesitate to contact us at

Remember, we should always try to use the right tool. For instance, these kinds of show and hide buttons might seem like they’d be perfect for an FAQ. But we already have a different setup for FAQ questions, that takes care of alphabetizing and tracking changes to each question. And remember that many of the visitors to your page won’t bother clicking the button at all. Always spend time simplifying your content to make sure the important message is apparent even without clicking to show your other text.