When it’s time for a redesign

Earlier today a tweet popped up on my #highered feed with a document about the need to redesign an institution website (Warning it’s a PDF). It was created by a group called Plattform Higher Education, which is a company based on marketing and communication needs for higher ed institutions. I really suggest you reading it yourself. It’s only one page after all but here are the bullet points.

  1. You’re three or more clicks from the contact form
  2. Your website’s look and feel doesn’t fit with your institution’s identity.
  3. For content updates to the site, you have to rely on a website designer.
  4. Your website features outdated content and images.
  5. Web analytics reveal a high bounce rate.
  6. A designer hasn’t touched your site in more than three years.
  7. Your institution has a website but lacks a mobile-specific site.

These are all really good things to look into. But I would like to suggest an 8th bullet point that pointed to your site needing a redesign.

8. It looks like shit

I’m not trying to be mean or sound like an ass but as I continue my job hunt I regularly come across department webpages that face this exact issue. In truth many face issue eight because they have fallen into issue sixes clutches. That should not be an excuse though. Your webpage should be there for a simple task. To help your students. You can’t expect your website to be of much help if it looks bad. You wouldn’t use a flyer to attract students to your program that was drawn with crayons would you?

Poor design leads to lost information. I could put all the information a student would need on a website but if it’s poorly designed and “looks like shit,” the student may not be able to find what they need or they may just give up and leave the website and end up calling or coming into the office, thus taking up more of your limited time. You can’t just “throw something together” and expect it to work.

A blog post I found earlier today characterizing some of the biggest mistakes in web design was really glaring at how common some of these errors are in higher education websites. It’s really something that needs to be properly addressed. Whether it’s through an institution-wide template or something. Allowing departments to exist with bad websites only will reflect badly on the institution as a whole.

I don’t want the impression to be though that I think that department pages that differs from the main university page are worse. Far from it, in many cases the department page is better.  But largely I’ve found it to be more poorly put together.

So I suggest to all people in higher education, sit back and take a real look at your website. It may just be time that you need a redesign. And don’t think about the money first, as by improving your website you may be getting more students and thus making the money back.

Writing drives creativity

I finished my Nanowrimo novel on Saturday. I had meant to write this then but got distracted when I got home.

I honestly can’t believe I wrote a 50,000 word anything. I really didn’t think it was possible for me. Writing in truth is one of my weaker skills and I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have to be stationary to do it and can’t move around. But it did show me that I can write and while the many red lines underneath errors show it needs editing I think it is a sign that I can write.

What makes this so important is that I still need to finish papers for school but I felt like I was in a rut and couldn’t get out. I still have that fear in me but writing has helped that. There is still one more week of Nano and I’ll be going to two write-ins and since my word count is don’t I’ll be working on my thesis papers again. I have the motivation and drive now and I think I can put  together a better paper. I just have to not worry about the finished product or what my committee will say.

I just need to write.

I honestly think that everyone no matter profession, age, or skill should try out Nanowrimo and just test themselves. You never know what may have been hiding in your head.

Steam has been hacked

I found the forums down the other day when trying to find and answer I had with one of the games I have from Steam. I wasn’t sure what the whole deal was and thought they might be upgrading their system since software updates can sometimes require websites to be taken down. Today when checking up on the current situation I was greeted with a new message this one more than just “We are down” but that “our forum and subsequently possible database has  been hacked. Account info and Credit card info may have been exposed.”

Well shit. This is some bad news for a top PC game distribution platform.

Here’s their official statement from the current forum splash page:

Dear Steam Users and Steam Forum Users:

Our Steam forums were defaced on the evening of Sunday, November 6. We began investigating and found that the intrusion goes beyond the Steam forums.

We learned that intruders obtained access to a Steam database in addition to the forums. This database contained information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. We do not have evidence that encrypted credit card numbers or personally identifying information were taken by the intruders, or that the protection on credit card numbers or passwords was cracked. We are still investigating.

We don’t have evidence of credit card misuse at this time. Nonetheless you should watch your credit card activity and statements closely.

While we only know of a few forum accounts that have been compromised, all forum users will be required to change their passwords the next time they login. If you have used your Steam forum password on other accounts you should change those passwords as well.

We do not know of any compromised Steam accounts, so we are not planning to force a change of Steam account passwords (which are separate from forum passwords). However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to change that as well, especially if it is the same as your Steam forum account password.

We will reopen the forums as soon as we can.

I am truly sorry this happened, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

Gabe.

That is quite a lot of issues. I’m sure they’ll be sorted out but if you have  a steam  forum or steam account I highly suggest changing your passwords when you can. Note: I tried earlier today to do just that but is seems that steam isn’t able to do that right now. Will try later.

Writing and Hunting

I have really gotten into this Nanowrimo thing. Yesterday I wrote 5k and that put me at over 20,000 words today. I know I should be putting that much effort into my thesis work but it’s a different writing style. BUT! I have found that by actually taking the act of writing and staying with a set goal for daily writing it actually is helping me get into writing overall. I mean I wrote my papers conclusion yesterday. I just need to sit down and put the body together.

Honestly though, I really wish my job hunt comes to an end soon. I have been checking out webinars and podcasts, and reading many blogs to help improve my ability to sell myself as a professional. I have to say that HigherEdLive and Student Affairs Live are great and anyone interested in higher education should check them out. I think one of the hardest aspects of my search is that I’m limited by location. It’s hard to be told that I would get a job easily on the mainland when I’m committed to Hawaii. Hopefully something will work out. I had an interview but that didn’t pan out but it was interview experience and every little bit helps.

Nanowrimo

November is upon us, as a result it’s National Novel Writing Month again. I’ve decided to pick up the pen (metaphorically) and take part this year. I think I’ll only strive for a goal of 10k but we’ll see how far I can get.