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The WMS at McGill now has the exciting capability of publishing articles, and so future efforts to publicize WMS-related work will reside there in the future.

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How to crop images with a consistent ratio

ratio images

Since the release of the new Call to action, List and Statement templates, we’ve been encouraging site managers to begin cropping web images using a consistent ratio. The benefits are threefold:

  1. Your images will line-up nicely when displayed horizontally
  2. Image alignment will remain consistent whether you choose to display your templates at full-width, half-width or third-width
  3. You’ll be able to re-position templates without having to worry about image alignment

So, how do you crop images using a consistent ratio?

Image editing tools

NOTE: With the exception of Snagit, McGill neither endorses or supports the tools listed below. All tools are listed as examples only.

To start, you’ll need an image editing application that will allow you to crop images to specific dimensions. Here are some options to consider:

  • Croppola – A free and easy to use online cropping tool
  • Snagit – Screen capture software available through McGill’s campus software program
  • Gimp – A free and open source image editing application
  • Adobe Photoshop – A feature-rich image editing program, available for a monthly subscription fee
  • Get Ratio – An online tool that calculates image dimensions (width and/or height) based on ratio

Croppola screenshot

Steps to crop an image

Of the tools listed above, Croppola is probably the most straight-forward to use. Here are steps you can follow to crop a  photo using the current version of Croppola:

  1. Go to Croppola
  2. Upload your image by browsing your computer files, or drag and drop the image
  3. Under ‘Crop’ > ‘Scale to’ enter your preferred image width into the first field but leave the second field empty, e.g. 1400 x ____ pixels (we’ll discuss this further  under ‘Image width’ below)
  4. Under ‘Aspect ratio’ on the right, choose your preferred ratio (we suggest using 16:9 or 4:3)
  5. Drag the crop lines that appear on the image as required (crop your image to best suit what you are trying to communicate)
  6. Click the ‘Download this crop’ button

And that’s it! Kind of…

Image dimensions and file size

Another practice we’re promoting is to crop all your images using a consistent image width. Most WMS features will scale images to fit the application, so it isn’t necessary to crop images to the various dimensions at which they will be displayed.

Cropping all images for the largest possible width (e.g. the full-width of the web page) will allow you to easily adjust the size and position of your templates as you experiment with different layout options.  We also suggest adding a little extra width to your image, to account for upcoming expansions to the page width as well as the possibility your image might be viewed on a large display screen.

As a general rule, you should upload the largest image (width and height), at the highest quality (dots per inch/dpi) possible, that doesn’t exceed a file size of 1MB. For the time being, we recommend choosing a width of 1400px or greater.

How to crop an image using other image editors

Not a fan of Croppola? Here are other online tutorials that explain how to crop images using other image editing tools:

Do you have any tips or tricks or favourite tools that you use when cropping images for your WMS sites? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Related Beta Blog articles:

WMS presentation: No website left behind

Title slide: No website left behind

We were very pleased at the terrific turnout at our recent WMS Presentation at McGill’s Communications Huddle! Communications officers from across McGill learnt about recent updates in the WMS. Attendees also picked up tips on how to use WMS tools and features to improve their faculty and department communications efforts.

Below is a list of resources related to the presentation titled, ‘No website left behind’.

Download a copy of the presentation slides.

IT Knowledge Base and Beta Blog articles:

Featured WMS sites:

Webforms and Security: Three things worth repeating

"Security" by Henri Berguis

“Security” by Henri Berguis

Webforms are among the most powerful tools in the WMS, but with great power comes great responsibility.

Here are 3 things to bear in mind when using a webform on your site.

1. It’s never too late to authenticate.

Wherever possible require users to sign in – this is your first and best defence against spam.

This can be done by unchecking “anonymous user” from the Submission Access settings and selecting only the role(s) that should be allowed to submit the form.

2. It’s worth your while to use Private Files.

If you are using a File component to enable your users to send files, set the Upload destination to “Private files.”

This ensures that files reside in a secure, private directory on your site that can only be accessed by people with the correct permissions.

3. No sign in? Don’t let spam in.

If your form needs to be available without a sign in (e.g., to users from outside the McGill community), make sure to avoid certain components to ensure that your site and users are protected:

  • File Upload fields which can be used to upload malicious files to the site
  • Text Area fields which can be used to disseminate spam content
  • Email Address fields which can also be exploited for spam

You should also avoid sending submission confirmation emails that contain sensitive or personal information such as McGill IDs and other personal information. You can always glean this information from the Submissions tab.

These three things to remember when you are working with webforms should go a long way towards ensuring that your WMS site remains secure and your visitors protected from spam or other malicious content.

For more information, see KB Article #2711: Create Forms in the Web Management System

 

Call ‘em better columns

New updates will soon be rolled out in the WMS to improve column template formatting. The updates will affect all column templates – Two column layout, Three column layout, Four column layout and Five column layout – and will help address a few layout bugs that occur on some WMS sites.

A run-down of the improvements

  •  Currently, column templates do not take up the full width of the container (area of the page layout) in which they are placed . For example, a Two column layout template takes up 96% of the container. This leaves a narrow space on the side that sometimes causes issues with text wrapping and element alignment. After the update, column templates will take up 100% of the container.
  • Margin padding in the last column of each template will be removed. This will make it possible for an image placed in the last column to be aligned flush with the right edge of the column.

Don’t mix and match and templates

Column templates are designed to work as complete sets. For example, The Two column layout is comprised of 2 “two column” elements and the Five column layout is comprised of five “five column” elements. Taking a mix-and-match approach to putting these elements together is not recommended – for example, you shouldn’t put one “five column” element beside one “two column” element followed by another “five column” element.

*Important note: If your site mixes columns in this manner, these layouts may break when the updates are implemented.

While mixing column formats isn’t commonly employed on WMS sites, a few sites may be affected. Site managers are encouraged to check column formatting on their sites as soon as possible to ensure all columns have been implemented as complete sets.

Example of incorrect usage (layouts may break)

Incorrect usage example

 

Example of correct usage

Correct usage

For more information on proper formatting of column templates read our article in the IT Knowledge Base, Two, Three, Four and Five column layouts in the WMS.

Creative Commons image resources

512px-CC-logo
When searching for royalty-free images for your website, a good place to start is to look for images with a Creative Commons license.

Types of Creative Commons licenses

There are a number of different types of Creative Commons licenses. The type of license assigned to an image identifies how that image can be used — e.g. can the image be used commercially? can it be edited?

It’s best to check the type of Creative Commons license carefully to be sure you’ll be able to meet the requirements outlined by the image’s creator. The least restrictive license is a CC0 license. Images with a CC0 license are in the public domain and are freely available for use without restrictions.

Where to find creative commons images

Here are a few of our favourite sites for searching for Creative Commons images:

Many Creative Commons image resources contain McGill-themed images that you can view by searching “McGill”. Other terms we often search include, “Montreal” and “students”.  Here’s a good example of the latter from Unsplash, which happens to be of McGill:

mwxh320tzca-stephen-di-donato

Other options for sourcing royalty-free images for WMS sites

  • McGill Newsroom, Request a photo
  • If you have a photography budget, you might also consider hiring a freelance photographer to take custom images for your site.

Do you have a favourite site for searching Creative Commons images? Share your recommendations in the comments below!

Articles are now beta than evah

The new Article content type is in production and is now available exclusively for Beta Testers to use.

Articles can be used to quickly create attractive, well-focused content like news stories, magazine-style articles or blog-like entries that do not necessarily need to be placed in the menu system.

Unlike Basic Pages, Articles do not have revisions but can still be placed in either Draft or Needs Review state before being Published.

screenshot_article

Other interesting features include:

  • a Featured Image which can appear across the page
  • a Dek or quick summary which appears beneath the title
  • an Original Author field which allows the source to be credited
  • the first letter of the first paragraph appearing as a Dropped Cap
  • Tags which allow Articles to be categorized using taxonomy

To create an article, simply go to Add Content > Article on your Admin menu (/node/add/article)


Articles Block

An Articles block is also available in case you need to provide a blog roll type display to site visitors.

Up to five articles can be displayed in teaser format, which includes:

  • a Title as link text
  • a Short excerpt (the first paragraph or 195 characters, or whichever is shorter)
  • a Read more link

screenshot_articles-block

By default, the Article block will not be visible to visitors unless it has been placed in a region and/or page(s).

  • Go to Structure > Blocks (/admin/structure/block) 
  • Under the Disabled section, you should find a block called Articles
  • Change the Region or click configure to place the block in specific pages
  • Save the block(s)

Learn more:

A New Year’s resolution you can stick to? Site content auditing!

Ready or not, it’s a new year and that means new resolutions to get fit, get organized, and get healthy! That goes for websites too. Making sure that your website’s content is robust and in good shape will drive the right kind of traffic to your site. What better way to start the year fresh than by cleaning out old cruft and giving your website a tune-up. A content audit will do just that. It’s an achievable goal that every Site Manager should put on their list of resolutions.

What is a content audit?

So an “audit” may not exactly be everybody’s definition of fun — but neither are those last few minutes on the treadmill. In the simplest terms, auditing your website means carefully reviewing all the content on your site. You’ll be looking at things such as errors, outdated information, keywords, and other stuff, depending on how comprehensive you want your audit to be. Your audit will give you a picture of what works well, what doesn’t, and what you should change.

Why do a content audit?

As with any exercise, you do it because there are benefits. Once you start making gains, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start auditing sooner!

But seriously, content is at the core of your site. Content is almost everything that visitors see and the reason for coming to your site, so it’s important that you do an audit to ensure that you have a strong foundation.

Boost your search rankings and traffic

Make sure that the people you want to reach are making their way to your website. To do this, your site needs to contain high quality content. This means that the content is consistently relevant, up-to-date, informative, accurate, and interesting. Search engine spiders love high quality sites and will gobble them up — like the desserts you’ve sadly sworn off.

Improve the quality of your content

An audit will allow you to identify areas of weakness on your site. These are pages with outdated information, repetition, duplication, broken links, typos, grammar mistakes, poorly written content, ineffective keywords, or pages that are just plain useless. By identifying the problematic pages, you can then decide whether to fix them, keep them as is, merge them, or get rid of them. Doing this brings more value to your site for the people you’re aiming your content at. It can also make your content more “evergreen” and long-lasting. In other words, content that continues to stay as relevant as the day it was published will continue to drive traffic to your site.

Gain an overall understanding of your site

In the course of your audit, the connections between your content will become clearer. Removing unnecessary content and finding holes that need to be filled will streamline your site and make it leaner and more focused. All the improvements that you make will make it easier for your target audience to find the information that they came for.

Make better strategic decisions for your site

With a better understanding of your site, you’ll be able to make better informed decisions about your site structure, the organization of keywords, and the creation and maintenance of sustainable content.

When should you do a content audit?

The beginning or the end of the year is suggested as a good time to embark on an audit just because symbolically, it’s a time for renewal — but the best time is the one that works for you. Knowing when your peak periods occur during the year, make an effort to put aside time for content auditing within the pockets of “downtime.” Like any exercise regimen, you should be auditing your site’s content regularly. But let’s get real. Sometimes, you’re going to slack off and that’s OK. Auditing should be considered a work in progress and an ongoing task. As long as you keep at it over time, your site should get into better shape. Try to schedule one to two hours at regular intervals to work on auditing.  That’s easier than resolving to exercise every single day!

Who should do a content audit?

If you’re able to navigate your site as a Site Manager, you already have enough technical skills to carry out a content audit. And since misery loves company (just kidding!), you can make auditing a group exercise with the participation of other Site Managers, Site Editors, and individuals who are subject matter experts with in-depth knowledge about the content.

Where should you start a content audit?

Baby steps! Site managers are busy people so a good place to start your audit is on your most visited pages. This will allow you to identify the changes that you need to make ASAP. To determine which pages these are, use Google Analytics. To get a Google Analytics report for your site, contact the friendly folks at Web Communications and they’ll hook you up. Based on the metrics, you can prioritize which pages to tackle first. Look at which pages are most highly ranked and also those that aren’t but should be. What are the problem areas on these pages that need to be addressed? Start with these and then keep expanding your reach. Even if you only address the top 10 most popular pages on your site, you should see an improvement to your search rankings and traffic.

How do you do a content audit?

Meet your friend the spreadsheet.

A basic spreadsheet is all you really need to systematically enter details and keep track of what’s been done. You can keep adding to the spreadsheet as you audit more and more of your site. If it’s a group effort, collaborate with your colleagues by saving the file to a cloud drive so that everyone can contribute to it.

Use column headings for the type of information that you’ll be reviewing as part of your audit. There are no set rules for what you need to capture. It depends on how comprehensive you want your audit to be and whether the information is likely to be useful or not.

The following columns are most commonly used:

Date Audited

Keep a history of when each page was audited. When you revisit the spreadsheet in future, you’ll know which pages are due for another audit and which you can skip — yay!

URL

Keep a record of which pages you have audited. Prioritize these based on your analytics metrics. You can also use My Workbench or the information from the Dashboard to identify which content types and pages you want to audit.

Review the URL itself. It should be descriptive text that gives site visitors a good idea of what to expect on the page. If it’s a bunch of nonsense or node numbers, consider changing it to a custom alias; this is easy to do in the WMS thanks to the built-in auto-redirects whenever you make a change to a URL on your site.

Page Title

A rule of thumb is that an effective page title should accurately describe what the page is about in less than 65 characters. It should also be unique on the site and include some keywords.

Menu Title

If the menu title is different from the page title — likely much shorter — it too, should briefly reflect what the page is about, including a keyword if appropriate.

Content

Time to get down and dirty!

Read through the page carefully. Is it interesting? Are the facts correct? Is it providing useful information? Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes? Is the text well-written? Is it relevant? Record these notes in your spreadsheet including any changes that are needed!

Keywords

List any keywords being used on the page. Targeted keywords should occur naturally within the text. Aim for a good balance — not too many, not too few. Do any keywords need to be added or removed?  Check that they’re spelled correctly. Are they also included as tags on the page? Remember that you can easily manage taxonomy in the WMS.

Alt Tags

Review each image on the page. Are all images properly tagged with a descriptive alt tag? This is really important for visitors who use screen readers and will give you brownie points with search engines — even if your new diet doesn’t include brownies.

Headings

Review H2 headings especially since they’re the main subheadings that visitors will see on the page. Check if the heading is appropriate for the section of content that it describes. Does it contain any keywords? Would it be relevant as a snippet if it were a search result?

Links

Each page should contain at least two or three internal links. These can be anchor links to specific sections within the same page or links to other pages on the site. Avoid links that point to shallow pages that don’t contain much in-depth information such as the Contact, Home, or About pages. Aim for links that point to deeper, content-heavy, information-rich pages on the site. This gives visitors and search engines a farther reach into your site. Use the Link Checker in the WMS to identify broken links!

Last Update

Now we’re talking!

Your goal is to make sure that your content stays current and relevant. Each page on your site should be reviewed or updated every two years at the very least. The Moderate tab on most pages in the WMS will indicate when it was last updated. If the content has grown stale, it should be revised. Meanwhile, obsolete pages that don’t provide any useful content anymore or that don’t get any visitors should be eliminated. That’s right, toss those cookies out!

Files

Check the attached files on each page. Are they still valid? Should they be removed or updated?

Owner

Who are the de facto owners or subject matter experts (SMEs) with the most knowledge about the information on the page? Contact them to review and update the content.

Content Type

There are multiple types of content in the WMS so you may want to structure your audit by focusing on a certain content type at a time, e.g., basic pages, profiles, webforms, etc. Filter by content type on My Workbench to locate the pages you want to include in your audit.

Comments

Include a column for any miscellaneous notes that you want to record during the audit. For instance, you might want to leave a note about fixing a specific item on the page. If you’re not sure whether you should include certain elements in your audit, record the details here for a few pages until you get an idea of whether or not it would be worthwhile to introduce a new column to the spreadsheet. Or just use the comments column to leave positive affirmations to yourself. You can do it!

Ready, set, go!

Hopefully, you now have an idea of what a site content audit entails. Remember, every marathon begins with the first step. Pledge to keep up with auditing your content on a regular basis and you’ll be rewarded with pay-offs in the form of happy site visitors and higher search rankings. This is a New Year’s resolution worth keeping!

References*:

*These links include valuable tips, but we present them, and the tools they reference, without any particular endorsement.

 

 

 

Top 10 WMS updates released in 2016

2016 was a big year for WMS improvements! By the close of the year, WMS sites sported a notably different look and feel. Additionally, new tools such as McGill Profiles, and the new template blocks introduced enhanced functionality improving McGill’s web experience for both visitors, and web managers and editors alike.

Check out our picks for the top 10 WMS updates released in 2016 and weigh in on your favourite updates in the comments below.

  1. New site header, December 2016

    The revamped WMS header, released at the tail end of  2016, will pave the way for some exciting new template enhancements, including wider web pages.Header example

  2. Revised vertical menu, August 2016

    The vertical menus refresh features a cleaner, lighter and easier-to-navigate design.New vertical menu

  3. McGill Profiles, July 2016

    Launched in early spring 2016, McGill Profiles makes it easy for site managers to present attractively formatted, easy-to-navigate biographical information to site  visitors.McGill Profiles

  4. Technical milestones, 2016

    Throughout the year, a number of behind-the-scenes upgrades resulted in improved performance in the WMS. Though you probably didn’t hear a lot about these updates you’ve likely benefited from the results, which include reduced issues during times of heavy traffic, and a smoother more seamless browser experience for site visitors. Notable milestones (provided by our development team) include:

    1. Getting cron to run across all sites in under 15 minutes
    2. Automating configuration management with Ansible
    3. Defining and starting to implement the new server infrastructure
    4. Improved channels distributing — scheduled publishing is triggered to happen more often
  5. Call-to-action block, September 2016

    Call-to-action blocks automatically format content in an attractive, consistent  manner that makes it easy for your site visitors to identify how to take the next step.

    Call to action block examples

  6. Twitter block, September 2016
  7. List block, September 2016
  8. Sticky at the top of lists, April 2016
  9. Sortable tables, March 2016
  10. Auto-redirects, August 2016

Honourable mentions

2017 promises to be an equally momentous year for the WMS. A number of new enhancements are already in development, including a calendar/events search tool, a relevant content block and an all-new site dashboard. Stay tuned for updates.

Watch now! WMS Powertools presentation video

We had a great turnout at the Web Service Group’s December 2016 special presentation where we showcased some of the powerful tools in the Web Management System — tools that allow you to create dynamic websites easily and effectively.

Thanks to all the site managers and editors who came and learned how to harness the power of the WMS — the power to work smarter, not harder!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season! See you in the new year!

WMS Powertools presentation on YouTube

 

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Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.