Archive for October, 2008

Help a User Out – Underline Links

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I was reading a great post over at Usability Post about the top usability mistakes of websites. I got thinking about higher education websites and if we’re guilty of breaking any of the top 7 rules. Of course no website is perfect and probably *every* higher ed website breaks at least one of the rules.

To tell you the truth, this is really a rant about why we should still be underlining all content links. If links *can’t* be underlined for some weird reason, the contrast should be *dramatic* between the color of the link and the color the non-linked text. Dramatic. I’m not sure why content links *couldn’t* be underlined, but I’m sure there is an exception out there (maybe your Web Style Guide says don’t underline? Even then, I think I’d defy the style guide).

Advanced Segmentation for Free

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Last week Google Analytics released some fantastic new features. You can read all about them on Occam’s Razor. There is one specific feature that I think will (or should) have a huge impact on higher education websites.

What new feature am I talking about? Advanced Segmentation! As website owners should know, segmentation of your website statistics is key. Now Google Analytics will allow you to do some advanced segmentation out of the box.

Do We Encourage Feedback?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

For about a year now, we’ve been talking about feedback mechanisms on our website. We finally decided on something quite simple and will be implementing it, hopefully, by the end of next month.

There are so many options out there that it’s hard know what’s best for your website. Something is better than nothing, though.

For the users, the easiest way to give feedback would arguably be a simple feedback link of some sort on every page. If they have an issue, no matter where they are, they can give you that feedback. But, before we dive in, let’s quickly run through the main types of feedback mechanisms.

The two major types of feedback mechanisms are passive and active. The difference is how people interact with it.

“Must Read” Posts – Week of 10/17/08

Friday, October 17th, 2008

There were a lot of interesting posts out there this week. My picks:

  • Choosing the right classification words – Giraffe Forum – This is a great post dealing with the way users search on keyword phrases, even when the phrase isn’t technically correct. For instance, the official term on government websites is climate change. According to Google, a monthly search average for climate change is 300,000 while the monthly search average for global warming is 2.2 million. It gets even more interesting when “low fare” is compared to “cheap flights” search volume. Worth the read.
  • We Don’t Need More Social Networks. We Need More Purposed Social Networks. – Social Media Explorer – I couldn’t agree more with this post. We need more focused and specific social networks. Although this post isn’t specific to higher education, it’s true within higher education. It gives a great example of a social network specifically for middle-aged affluent women.
  • The Ultimate Google Analytics Plugins, Hacks, & Tricks Collection – GrokDotCom – I only use Google Analytics for my blog, but I know that the majority of higher education websites (no, I don’t know that for sure, I’m making an assumption here) do use Google Analytics. Quite a comprehensive list.

Do you have any favorites from the week?

What’s wrong with bounce rate?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

I was re-reading a section of Web Analytics an Hour a Day this past weekend. I was reading over the standard reports section – the part about bounce rate.

It brings up a great point that I think should be re-visited … or visited, I guess.

In most all web analytics packages, by default, a visitor *bounces* when the visitor enters a website and leaves from the page they entered, without ever going further within the website. Technically bounce rate is defined as single page views divided by entry pages.

Is this the best way to measure bounce rate, though?

Where’s the Love?

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Last week there was a post at College Web Guy about being *bored* with analytics. The gist of the post was that while analytics is important, it should always come second to great content, design, and so on. I do understand that the post was written in jest, but it bring up great points that are worth discussing.

Why do the web heroes in higher education hate web analytics? Ok, that’s a little harsh. I don’t think they *hate* web analytics, there is just a lot of other *stuff* that has to get done. More often than not, the content creator, designer, and developer (the web heroes) are all the same person. That means that the web analytics guy/girl is probably that person as well … and there are only 8 hours in a work day.

Why the CNN tracking bar is stupid

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Did you watch the second presidential debate tonight and happen to watch it on CNN? You may have noticed the bar at the bottom of the screen. They did the same thing in the previous two debates (presidential and vice presidential).

If you missed it, CNN put 25 people (1/3 registered republican, 1/3 registered democrat, 1/3 registered independent) in a room and gave them the ability to rate, in real-time, how the speaker is making them feel at that specific moment.

Writing for Usability

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Higher education websites have a tendency to be … shall we say … wordy. We forget that web users scan and don’t read. Yes, this includes *our* web pages! Gasp! Not *our* web pages! Surely users read *our* web pages word-for-word, don’t they?

No. Don’t fool yourself.

A recent Jakob Neilsen alertbox article states users typically only read about 20% of the words on the page. Again, *force* yourself to repeat after me. Users are not reading my web pages.

So, how can we best get users attention when we know they’re only reading 20% of our content?