What’s a CMS and Why Does it Matter?

module

Even though you may not have any interest in building your own website, understanding what content management systems (CMS) do should still be at the top of your “What I Need to Know” list.

Why?

Because your website should not be static.

Content will be added. Content will be changed. Content will be removed. There are also security and plug-in updates, as well as other technical maintenance that will have to be performed from time to time. Your CMS will influence how quickly and how easily those tasks happen.

If you do a quick internet search you’ll discover there are literally HUNDREDS of CMS platforms out there. There are also lots of knowledgeable people out there – THANK YOU THANK YOU – willing to share their technical expertise so you don’t have to research them all. More than one article I found placed WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal at the top of their recommended list.

Nitish Tiwari, a software developer, tech author, and contributor to opensource.com compared all three CMS platforms in his article, 3 open source content management systems compared. His comparisons were based on installation time and complexity, plugin and theme availability, ease of use, and customization and upgrades.

Overall, in terms of technical simplicity, WordPress has a clear edge over Joomla and Drupal. Installation is quick and easy, the number of themes and plugins is considerably higher, the interface is simple and uses language that is easy to understand, and when it’s time to update WordPress alerts and provides an “update now” button so it’s click and done! Tiwari did note that Joomla and Drupal allow you to manage a site to a greater extent because they provide lots of settings and controls to work with.

If I were recommending a CMS to a small business with limited technical skills and a need to get up and running quickly, I would have to say WordPress is the way to go. For someone who’s curious and looking to have a little fun combined with some learning along the way…Joomla sounds really interesting.

For a really nice visual comparing WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, be sure to check out The 2017 Beasts of CMS infographic below from makeawebsitehub.com.

 

Advertisements

Email Tools & Tips

module

Email InboxEmail has become a fact of life for most of us.  We keep in touch with friends, family, classmates, instructors, and business associates using email.  The great benefit of email is it’s quick, it’s easy and it provides you with a record of your correspondence.  However, as this week’s module taught us, email does have its drawbacks.

One drawback – the messy Inbox.  You might be like me and tend to save everything, “just in case”.  The problem with that is you end up with so much email you have trouble finding what you do need when you do need it.  Applying filters is a fairly simple way to tame that Inbox clutter and bring some organization to your email world.

I decided to try and tame my Inbox after reading the Gizmodo article, 7 Gmail Filters to Make Email Less of a Chore.  I’m currently working with USA’s Publications department on updating a brochure so I decided to create a filter that would make it easier to find my correspondence with them.  I clicked the box next to the email containing my latest proof then clicked the “Filter messages like these” option found under the “More” button. In the next box I chose “create filter with this search” and from the filter options, I chose to apply a PUBLICATIONS label to the email, to never send it to Spam, and to make it important.  Since I had several more conversation like the email I selected, I also clicked the box to apply the same filter to matching conversations. BOOM!  Every piece of correspondence I’d collected was labeled!  I was able to move every project that had been completed into a file.  Better yet, the next email I received regarding this project was already labeled PUBLICATIONS!

Another MAJOR drawback of email is it can easily be misunderstood.  As the video, Why Email Starts Fights! points out, two key pieces of information critical to good communication are missing from email – the tone of voice and visual cues like body language.  The video suggests that email should be limited to facts and data in order to avoid creating an “attidude”. I suppose that’s fine if you’re only using email for business and other types of impersonal exchanges.  But how many of us only use email for those types of exchanges?  I’d venture to say hardly any of us.  This is where good manners, good editing, and good old common sense come into play.

The words you choose can help you set the tone of your email.  Paying attention to the same rules of etiquette you’d use if you were talking to someone in person should be applied to your email.  And proofreading before hitting send can help you avoid sending the wrong message.

For example, let’s say I wanted to send an email to my CA 260 professor and let her know that I would be leaving class early.  Which do you think would leave a better impression?

HEY! I GOTTA LEVE EARLY MONDAY.

OR

Dear Dr. Sheffield,

I wanted to let you know in advance that I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 4:45 and will need to leave class early on Monday.  

Thank you for your understanding.  I hope this will not cause a problem.

Warmest Regards,

Deborah Fetherland – CA 260

Same message, but one is clearly more appropriate than the other.

Which leads me to what might be considered the most important rule of all…

Email is a TOOL.  In order to use it effectively – don’t be one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations With the Cats – Part II

personal

Grumpy chiChi: Seriously?

Me: What?

Chi: I mean whatever happened to ladies first?

Me:  What? What are you talking about?

Chi: I got pre-empted by Hamsters on meth and other psychopathic creatures.

Me: Are you talking about last week’s blog post?

Chi: You think knife-wielding Lemurs are scary?  Ask that leaf what I did to it using just my claws.

Me:  OMG! You ARE talking about that.

Chi: You better hope I don’t show up wearing new shoes…just sayin’.

Accessible Web Design

module

Lock and Key resizeOne of the first things I learned working for a promotional products supplier was the importance of font style, font size, contrast, and image quality. We dealt mainly in pens, keychains, and other small giveaway items with small imprint areas so careful consideration had to be given to those elements when designing the message.

 

  • A non-serif font like Arial is much more legible than a serif font like Times New Roman in a small imprint area because serif fonts have thick/thin lines and tend to break and fill-in when reduced in size.
  • You need to focus on the essentials of your message since anything less than a 9 point font is difficult to read.
  • When choosing your item color, you have to consider your print color because low contrast red on navy won’t stand out, but high contrast white on navy truly “POPS”.
  • Crisp, clean images are a must, especially when working in small spaces.

When I started working with a website I assumed that if I stuck to those same basics, then combined them with color psychology and good writing and marketing skills, that’s all I’d need to come up with a web design that works.  After all, the key to good website design is aesthetics supporting content, right?

Wrong.

Turns out I also have to consider accessibility.

Outside of image load times and making sure that words and images are legible, accessibility isn’t something I’ve even thought about in terms of web design.  It’s not because I’m a jerk or I’m inconsiderate.  I think, like most of us, unless it’s brought to my attention, or it’s an issue for myself or someone I know, I assume others operate the same as I do.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website’s Accessibility page along with their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) site not only explains what accessibility means and why it’s important to incorporate accessibility into your web design, the sites also provide guidelines and resources to help you understand the issue and aid in implementation of your own accessibility initiatives.  While some work will require long-range planning and technical expertise, some changes I can readily incorporate even with my limited experience and skills.

Some easily incorporated changes are detailed in the “Tips to make your website accessible” video and include:

  • Incorporating alternative text in your html to describe images.
  • Making sure your html code includes heading and link information.
  • Arranging navigation tabs in an orderly fashion.
  • Using video that has been captioned.
  • Turning off autoplay for videos or audio.
  • Using the appropriate language for your audience.

Even something as simple as making sure links are bold and underlined rather than just a different color can help people with vision impairments like color blindness use your website more effectively.

By taking these extra steps, I not only increase my chances that people will find my website, I increase the chances that they will actually use my website.  In addition, there is an intangible benefit that can come into play. By simply making accessibility a priority, my website – and in turn me, my business, or my organization – may be looked upon more favorably.

Sebastien Millon

personal

I had to find an image to include in our CA 260 HTML exercise yesterday.  I thought about it and searched Google Images for Sebastien Millon.

I was rewarded with a multitude of colorful comics featuring an assortment of adorable characters including:

Fuzzy Ducks
trustnoone12x18etsy_860

Mystical Unicorns
apocalypseunicorn2 copy_860

Precious Bunnies
newshoes9x12 copy_860

Baby Bears
bearjob copy_860

Lovable Lemurs
materialize copy_860

and

Hamsters…hystorical ones
methhamsters9x12etsy_860

All I can say is…Mr. Millon, you speak to me.
existing9x12etsy_860

For more fun, check out StripTease’s Tease of the Month interview with Sebastien.

Making a Homepage Work

module

This week we’ve learned the basics of putting together a good working homepage.  We’ve also learned something else that isn’t always taken into consideration.  We’ve learned that a homepage isn’t necessarily the first page a visitor is going to see when they visit a site.

The importance of multiple landing pages is discussed in the article Organizing Website Content. This is a basic SEO marketing lesson. You want to create as much exposure for your website as you can so you can bring in traffic. And you do that most effectively by using both broad and specific keywords to capture as many different kinds of searches as possible.

So why are broad and specific keywords important and what do they have to do with website organization? Part of the answer, as the article points out, lays in understanding your target audience. What are they looking for? What do you have to offer them?

Someone who knows where they want to go on vacation, where they want to eat, or what kind of mattress they want to purchase will use specific keywords – “book a flight to Rarotonga”, “today’s Mellow Mushroom specials”, or “buy a Sleep Number mattress”. They’re looking for something specific and they should land on a page that is relevant to that search. If they don’t, they’ll most likely click the back button and be gone for good.

With that in mind, good navigation always takes into account that a website visitor can land on any page and a well-designed website makes it easy for any visitor to quickly click to the homepage from any other page within the site if they want to learn more about what is offered.

On the other hand, someone exploring vacation options, planning a night out, or looking for a new mattress may be brought to your website by using a broad keyword search – “best beaches”, “restaurants near me”, or “best mattress brands”. They’re researching for something down the road and landing on a homepage is perfectly fine for that casual browser.

No matter how you get a visitor to a homepage, once they’re there, you want to engage them and encourage them to explore everything the website offers. The How to Design a Killer Home Page video suggests that the first step to engagement is making sure you have a website that works for the visitor.

Among the suggestions I thought most clearly describe what a working homepage does:

1. It defines your role by telling the visitor what you can do for them.
2. It functions as a table of contents by summarizing and organizing the content then linking the visitor to that content in a way that makes sense and is easy to use.

In my mind, doing those two things lays the groundwork for everything else.  Once you have those basics in place, then you can focus on the look and feel. After all, it doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles there are, or how many pretty images you add…

If your website doesn’t work for your visitor it isn’t going to work for you.

Here’s my first draft of a homepage – the color scheme is just for visual purposes and will not actually be used on the site. As I get a better grip on my content, I can hopefully incorporate the advice that was shared to create a website that functions well and helps others.

Caregiver 411 Homepage Mock Up

Tech Support

personal

Hello, tech support?

Hi.  I’m calling about the cable install kit I received.

500px-cat5-plain-dot-svg

I don’t think you all sent me the right cabling.

How do I know?

Well, the diagram you sent has a detailed diagram of a CAT5 cable and I’m pretty sure that’s not what I got.

Well, no.

No, I’m not a professional installer, but I do know the CAT in the box looks nothing like the CAT in the diagram.

How so?

Well for one…the CAT you all sent me has whiskers and a tail.

Cat 5 or Cat 6 Cable