Small Things Matter

Feb 18 2014

“Our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms.”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this letter from from Flickr founder Steward Butterfield to the team at his new startup.

A good part of that is “just marketing,” but even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they start using it day in, day out.

Therefore, “understanding what people think they want and then translating the value of Slack into their terms” is something we all work on. It is the sum of the exercise of all our crafts. We do it with copy accompanying signup forms, with fast-loading pages, with good welcome emails, with comprehensive and accurate search, with purposeful loading screens, and with thoughtfully implemented and well-functioning features of all kinds.

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My Fav Tweets of 2013

Dec 20 2013

I never post here anymore. It’s sad and despicable. Twitter seems to suit my shortened attention span, and a good deal of my professional development as a university web guy seems to begin and end with great tweets and links from Higher Ed colleagues and web industry people.

Here are some of my fav tweets from 2013.

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Video: RedDot users, set free into WordPress

Aug 14 2013

Like prisoners emerging from a lifetime behind bars, a group of departmental website managers step blinking into the sunlight with what appears for all the world to be a wave and a smile.

And they have much to be joyful about. For this is the first time they have felt a real CMS under their feet and breathed fresh air for 6 years.

In Related News:

RedDot CMS Is A POS – Quite possibly the worst experience I’ve had in working with a content management system is with RedDot CMS.

Why Enterprise Software Sucks – The people who buy enterprise software aren’t the people who use enterprise software. The experience takes a back seat to the feature list, future promises, and buzz words.

RedDot CMS – Based on experience from both the customer side and the vendor side, you do not want to be the customer of a company that buys a software product then buries it.

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Great Things Worth Sharing

Jan 15 2013

It’s always stressful, starting a new job. So I’ve been doing more reading to help formulate some ideas, to get inspired.
Some of these things are worth sharing:

On Students and Social Media:

Teaching our students how to manage their digital identities cannot be something we assume we’re comprehensively addressing through a new major in social media that we establish in business and communication colleges. Digital identity development is bigger than that. It’s helping students know how to apply for jobs, form and positively participate in online communities and lead authentic lives that aren’t overwhelmingly and constantly dominated by social sharing and looking down at their iPhones. These are skills that can help students of any discipline do well not just during college, but long after they graduate. -2013: The Year of Digital Identity Development in Higher Education

On the Future of Interactive Design:

An exploration of the future of Interaction Design and User Experience from some of the industry’s thought leaders.

More tinkering with online education:

The state university’s deal with Udacity is the first time that professors at a university have collaborated with a provider of a MOOC—massively open online course—to create courses with students first watching videos on their own, with support from online mentors, and then coming to class to work on assignments with a professor. Eventually, such blended courses could be offered to hundreds of thousands of students in the state. – California to Give Web Courses a Big Trial

Why you need an “Online Editor”

It’s not that you shouldn’t have multiple content contributors or that a content management system is unnecessary. Its just that a site needs somebody who is ultimately responsible for the quality of content being produced. ..An online editor, who has real authority over the site, and whose job is dependant on its success, will transform your online presence. – You’re just one employee away from a successful site

Taking “responsive” design to the next level

“The basic elements of responsive design — fluid grids, flexible media and CSS media queries — are key to building successful websites that work across platforms and devices, but these three components are not the end of the responsive design story. In fact, as developer Brad Frost argues in the talk embedded above, there is, or should be, much more to it than that.”

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I’m Leaving. And we’re Hiring

Dec 13 2012

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it’s often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.”
— Washington Irving
Tales of a Traveler (1824)

Two weeks ago I accepted a new “web guy” position, at a different university. So I’ll be leaving the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and beginning a new job in January as “webmaster” for the Sam Walton College of Business.

 

I smile at the “webmaster” title, because it harkens to an earlier era. But in many ways it will be fitting to be acknowledged as working in all-things-web, instead of simply being called a “web designer” and assuming those responsibilities under the radar. I’ll welcome the title as a term of endearment. I’ll work to push their website from pretty good, to something spectacularly fantastic. Storytelling, copywriting, design and development, photography – the works.  I’ll swing for the fences.

The quote I used to begin this post referenced a change from “bad to worse” ..which couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I just loved the witty’ness of the quotation, and the reference to “bruising.”  

Let’s face it: Working with web in higher ed can be a bruising experience. Yet some of us love university life to the extent that we will stick around. And thrive, even if our abusive spouse smacks us around every once in awhile.

But “bad to worse?” No.  My current job is awesomely amazing.  Where I’m going, is no doubt the same.  But I felt like I was getting too comfortable.  Six years is a long time to work on a single web presence. And this job opportunity had every mark of a career advancement for me.  I needed to do something new.

And everything will be “new” in this change.  A new house, new schools and a new job for my wife and two children,  new opportunities to learn.  A new campus to explore. New people. New food. New parking nightmares. But most of all, new challenges.  I’m excited about the new’ness.  Can you tell?

Then there’s the part where I’m leaving. Leaving these people. Leaving this place.

The ironic part? “Web” interests are on the upswing at my current job. We are searching for a Director of Digital Strategy – a new position – essentially a czar of web. (Spread the word)

This person will run a new department – a real web shop with a mandate to support the web as a sustained operational asset. Designers, storytellers and developers, working under the same roof. Imagine that. It’s a big move for the university, and I won’t be here to see it happen. Which sucks.

And there are awesome people I’m leaving behind, which I won’t even begin to list. Talented, amazing people. Inspiring people. Friends.

In summary:

I’m leaving, and we’re hiring. It is a time of great personal and professional change.

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