Author Archives: Belinda Perkinson

About Belinda Perkinson

Belinda works with the ITCS Training and Communications team at East Carolina University. She trains new CommonSpot users, maintains the ITCS website and creates both online and print IT materials for faculty, staff and students.

Redirects: A Graceful Way to Retire Pages

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Last week, the update project took me into the main website folder where I scrutinized about 100 pages. Here’s what I found:

  1. Most pages were fine and needed no updates
  2. Some were test pages or experiments
  3. Some sported outdated content
  4. A few repeated information maintained in other sections of ITCS
  5. Four or five needed to be moved to other subsites with like content
  6. And—I hate to admit this—one page had a duplicate twin in another subsite. Exact information, two different names. Hum.

So once I had an idea of the content and navigation for the web folder, I came up with a refresh plan:

  1. Contact the owners of any experiment/test pages for permission to delete
  2. Charge student workers, Becky and Liz, with updating obsolete content
  3. Move content or entire pages to the appropriate web folder and create a REDIRECT (more on that in a bit)
  4. A REDIRECT was definitely in order for the “twins” (No. 6 above).

If you have a bit of clean up in your own website, here’s what you need to know about URL redirects.

URL (page) to URL (page)

This is appropriate if you need to delete a single page but don’t want users to get the dreaded 404 page. To do this, choose a different page as the target and then submit an IT service request that says:  “Please redirect URL http://www.ecu.edu/cs-xxxx/xxxx/xxx.cfm [page to be deleted] to URL http://www.ecu.edu/cs-xxxx/xxxx/xxx.cfm” [different page].  Therefore, when someone navigates to the old URL, their browser automatically travels to the new page.

After the redirect is completed, the original page may be deleted.

URL (Folder) to URL (Folder)

This situation is not a page-to-page redirect but rather an entire web folder-to-web folder switch. For example, you may have decided to create a “development subsite” to contain all your new 960-wide pages.

First, send an IT Help Desk request to create the new subsite folder. Once you’ve recreated all you pages within the new subsite, send a second IT service request to have the new subsite replace the old subsite. Keep in mind that this may be a good time to retire old pages by simply taking them out of the new navigation scheme.

For a video tutorial on copying and pasting elements between pages, see the Tutorials page.

Long URL to Short URL

Some circumstances require that a subsite URL be shortened to make it easier for users to remember it. For example, The Help Desk website URL is really http://www.ecu.edu/cs-itcs/ithelpdesk/. But the URL has been shortened (and redirected) to http://help.ecu.edu.

Conclusion

When deciding if you need a redirect, remember that judicious use of the three options is a must—too many redirects are just as bad as the 404 page!

And while we’d all like for our sites to be finished once they’re created, the truth is they require frequent updating. A redirect is just one of the ways we keep our content refreshed and users happy.

An Organized Start is a Great Start

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Soon after the new templates and themes became available in January, I started mulling over the best plan for organizing the transition of ITCS pages to the new wider design. While on the one hand, the job seemed pretty overwhelming; at the same time it seemed an opportunity to go through outdated topics and do some website “housework.”

Now, this project isn’t something I have to do alone. I have two hard-working students and fifteen or so co-workers who author many of the ITCS subsites. But as the “coordinator” of the group, I felt there were a few preliminary steps we might take before embarking on the project.

Here’s what is working so far:

1. Think through the site’s content.

This includes not only the number of pages, documents and subsites in the CommonSpot site folder, but those documents or scripts in the site’s Tools folder as well. It’s just good to know the extent of information and how it is presented.

2. Understand the navigation of the site.

The easiest process is to keep the navigation the same, but we’ll also discuss in a future post how to gracefully retire pages without breaking the navigation. Remember that users may have a page bookmarked or other sites may link to a page in the site.

3. Meet with the other contributors to the site (if any) to brainstorm ideas.

During the ITCS contributor meeting, we looked at the new base template and themes and discussed ideas for a new ITCS template. Ideas on what to include (or not to include) were tossed around, some tossed out and others tossed onto a list.  This conversation helped the group focus and agree on the next steps of the process.

4. Agree on the project’s tentative steps.

In the end, the group agreed on the following:

  • We will keep the current navigation scheme. Users navigate the ITCS website by group (Faculty, Staff, Student) or by service (the Service Catalog).
  • The next step is to create an ITCS base template to include the current navigation scheme (by user group and service), the name of the department and other conventions that should appear on every page.
  • The new base template will be flexible enough so contributors can individualize it for their particular subsite.

In the end, the outcome of this meeting turned out to be two-fold:  it gave our working group an opportunity to collaborate on ideas (some really good ones, by the way) and also to determine the next phase of this project. It turned out to be a very good beginning.

So while there will be many steps along the way—management approvals, drafts, updates to drafts, final approvals and so on, we’re all comfortable that this project is on its way to well-organized and well-managed.

Turn Off Security Dialog Box in IE

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Most of the time I author pages in Firefox, but lately Internet Explorer (v8) has been my CommonSpot browser of choice. Unfortunately, when authoring in IE, the security dialog box frequently pops up—you know the one—that requires you to confirm that you wish to see secure and non-secure content on the page. Very frustrating.

This morning I was copied on an email between Matthew Ballengee (Multimedia & Technology Services, Health Sciences campus) and another client where Matt outlined the instructions for turning off that pesky dialog box.

So, in case  you don’t know…

  • Go to Tools -> Internet Options -> Security.
  • Click the appropriate zone (Local intranet worked for me).
  • Click the “Custom Level” button.

  • In the “Miscellaneous” section change “Display mixed content” to Enable.

That’s it. Hopefully, this tip will make authoring a more pleasant experience. Thanks, Matt–

Not Yet Ready to Transition Your Pages to the New Template? Then Try This…

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Well, there’s good news—the Web team has created a way to expand your 770-pixel pages to 960 pixels wide.

From “Author” mode, choose Properties & Actions >> Custom Metadata.  From the Advanced Options tab, check the box, Set page width to 960 pixels.

Custom Metadata - Advanced Options

Once you press Finish, the page will expand and look something like this:

From 770 to 960

Depending upon layout and elements, some pages will expand better than others.  If this doesn’t work for your page, just uncheck the box, and the page will shrink back to 770 pixels.

Keep in mind a couple of other notes as well:

  • Images will NOT expand (see the example above) and will have to be redone.  Remember to manipulate images using the original to avoid a pixelated, stretched or fuzzy image.
  • The “Gold gradient” Title Color will not work when the page is widened.  Change to any of the solid-color backgrounds that stretch to the new width.
  • Checking the Set page width to 960 pixels box on your department’s current template will make NEW pages created from the template 960 pixels wide.  Existing pages will have to be expanded manually by checking the box from each page’s Custom Metadata.

Copy and Paste CommonSpot Elements

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It’s super easy to copy and paste CommonSpot elements from one page to another within your website. This trick is especially useful now that we’re gearing up to update our websites. So follow these steps or take a look at the demo video attached here.

  1. Open both pages (or create a new page and open the old page) on two different tabs in your browser (the video shows how this works).
  2. From the original page, click the “gear” icon of the element to be copied.
  3. Choose “more.”
  4. Click “copy.” It is the second option from the top.
  5. A dialog box will confirm that the element has been copied.
  6. Click the tab of the new page where the element is to be placed.
  7. From “author” mode, click the appropriate “click to insert new element” link.
  8. The element gallery opens.
  9. Choose the top-most item, “Paste element.”

And that’s it. You should see a copy just like the original with live links, text and images. With a time-saver like this, your website will be sporting the new look in no time.

Updates and Upgrades for 2012

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Happy New Year, CommonSpot contributors! We’ve had our holiday fun, and now it’s time to turn attention to 2012 projects. CommonSpot has several updates going on this year—new site design, new themes and a new version upgrade—

New Site Design Launch. On January 23, the header and footer of every ECU CommonSpot page will update to the new design. The page in between the header and footer—the sections we contributors maintain—will remain the same until updated by individual department contributors. There’s no set deadline for departments to convert their pages. However, once users see the new themes, they’ll probably start planning the project! Other goodies in store for website contributors are a wider page, from 770 pixels wide to 960 pixels wide, a darker paragraph font and restyled headings. Templates, pages and menus are still authored the same, but now there’s a new look with flexible styling.

New Themes Launch. These industry-standard, accessible, user-friendly themes are based on divs rather than tables. A “div” is just webspeak for “content container,” and brings our pages up to current standards. Both the wide template and themes will be available to contributors by January 23.

But enough of the background explanation—the REAL advantages to using the new themes include:

  1. Easy to use.  Some versions only require your content while other “bare bones” versions allow Web designers to tinker.
  2. Wider format.  New pages are 960 pixels wide so there’s more content near the top of the page. Users can scan your information faster with less vertical scrolling.
  3. Flexible Changes. Once old pages are transitioned to the new format, change the look of a page at any time by choosing a different theme. No cut and paste, just pick a new theme from the drop-down list to update a page’s style. “Preview” allows a peek before making the look permanent. You can even use a different theme for pages based on the same template.

So, where do you start? Don’t worry, we’ve got several resources in store for users. First, register for one of the hands-on demos in Austin 309 (training.ecu.edu). We’ll also be posting to the CommonSpot Users Yammer group (yammer.ecu.edu)—feel free to post your own experiences and questions as well. Instructions will be posted in the CommonSpot blog (blog.ecu.edu/sites/commonspot) along with blow-by-blow posts describing my experiences updating the ITCS website. A “playground” is also being created where users log in from home or office to create demo pages using the new templates and themes (a separate post will introduce this site in the coming days).

CommonSpot Upgrade. During the summer of 2012, we’ll turn our attention to the CommonSpot version upgrade.  The latest version boasts a brand new interface and updated administrative tools for contributors.

So, even though there are some big changes coming our way, they’re so cool and easy to do that this may be one of the most painless projects you’ve ever undertaken.

Yammer Group for Users Now LIVE!

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Okay, CommonSpot Contributors…you asked for it, and here we go!  The CommonSpot Yammer Group is now up and running.

This forum is a place where you, the users, can post ideas, tips, discuss questions and collaborate on all issues CommonSpot, plus find the latest news and announcements about upgrades, training and the ECU website.

To join, navigate to http://yammer.ecu.edu, click the login button and sign in.  From the “Groups” category on the left, click the CommonSpot Users Group link.  The group interface will open with a button to join.  Click the “Join” button.

Once approved, you can post comments, ask questions or reply to a colleague’s post.

Just remember, problems with your site or access should continue to be reported through the IT Help Desk 252.328.9866/1.800.340.7081.