University of Minnesota
University Relations
Our Brand: How to Convey It
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Our Brand: How to Convey It.

June 2009 Archives

Inline style converters

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I just ran across two inline style converters in a Smashing Mag article.

  • Inline styler
  • Emogrifier

These are great tools; Inline styler is especially nice for allowing you to feed it a URL rather than copying and pasting CSS styles and HTML code into separate boxes. The reporting on compatibility issues is also helpful.

If you aren't familiar with the joys of HTML and CSS for mass e-mail, external stylesheets and styles in the head section are just plain troublesome in e-mail clients, since they're often ignored. Inline styles are the ticket. Other than pseudo-classes (e.g., a:hover) everything should be inline and inheritance should be leveraged.

Interactive maps heading to usability lab

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Technical work has begun for the interactive campus maps project and a prototype should be ready for usability testing July 7-8. A cross-section of users have been invited to participate in navigating their way through several case scenarios. Even though exhaustive research, planning, and preparation has taken place, it seems that there's always a few golden nuggets to be gleaned through usability.

If all goes well with usability, the final version should be available, but not necessarily linked to, by Aug. 14., and expected to be in full-blown production by early fall.

The interactive campus maps project is a collaboration between University Relations, University Services, and Parking and Transportation. In addition, the interactive campus maps project lays the foundation for Project Footprint. Project Footprint is a mapping initiative to visually depict how the University impacts local, state, and global economies.

~Jennie

Forrester Research: E-mail here to stay

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I recently received this excerpt from Forrester Research:

Email adoption and use by consumers and businesses alike remain strong, with 153 million online adults regularly using email by 2014. Social inbox users will total 47 million in 2014, but will ultimately level off based on the blurring lines of the "traditional" versus the "social" inbox. Marketing messages to the primary inbox will swell to an average of more than 9,000 annually in 2014, with retention email making up the largest permission-based share. Email marketing spend will balloon to $2 billion in 2014 with retention email, services, and ad-sponsored acquisition newsletters all representing bright spots. Innovative marketers will rapidly adopt relevancy-empowering tactics to cut through the clutter and avoid wasting $144 million dollars in 2014 on email marketing that never reaches the intended subscriber inbox because of erroneous blocking.

Who can argue with data points like that? There's no doubt that strategic use of mass e-mail can be critical to increasing the visibility for any college/unit/department.

You can learn more about how the University of Minnesota uses its mass e-mail system as well as best practices by attending the monthly Mass E-mail User Group meeting.

This month's meeting is:
Friday, June 19
2 - 3:30 p.m.
Morrill Hall - Room 238A

The meeting is casual and whether you are super-familiar with e-mail marketing, online strategies, and technical tools -- OR -- you are new to the whole shebang -- please come join us. There will be ice cream treats :-)

~Jennie

Suggested reading: going electronic

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A recent article from Karine Joly in University Business Magazine, "2010: Print to Web Odyssey?" has been making the rounds in Marketing Communications. If you haven't heard of the push for transitioning to electronic communications, it's only a matter of time until you do. Printing costs may represent a significant portion of your unit's budget, and these are recurring costs. The long term savings incurred by moving from print to electronic can be significant and, in the current times, cost savings are more important than ever.

A careful analysis should be performed before moving any item to electronic, or electronic-only. Will you still be able to reach your audience? Is it what your audience wants? Will you actually see a cost savings?

We won't belabor these points here. Instead, take a look at the article.

June Mass E-mail User Group meeting

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The next Mass E-mail User Group (MEUG) meeting is this Friday (June 19) from 2-3:30 p.m. in Morrill Hall room 238A. This month the topics are use of forms in mass e-mail and customizing and personalizing the subscribe and unsubscribe processes.

Basic forms can be embedded in mass e-mail but, should they be? And, if so, how should they be used? Whether you've used forms in your e-mail before or if it's a new concept for you, we'll look at best practices and implementation.

The second part of the meeting look at customizing the subscribe and unsubscribe processes in Lyris, plus related best practices. If you've heard the words "double opt-in" before, or wonder how you can fix up the bland messages your new and soon-to-be former subscribers get by default, this topic is for you. The list hello message provide you with an opportunity to introduce new subscribers to your list and other resources you have available, while the goodbye message gives you an opportunity to reengage departing subscribers on their way out.

The meetings are always relaxed and there's no need to RSVP if you're attending in person. If you're a remote user interested in conferencing in (audio via conference call and slides via UMConnect), send an e-mail to ecomm@umn.edu by the end of the day Wednesday, June 17, so we can provide you with all the connection info.

Tabbed search status

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Since we've been asked about the status of the tabbed search results implementation, here's an update.

At this point, we have the basic code designed, but not implemented, and some mockups that need touching up. The code will be strictly PHP4, for better alignment with central, shared hosting solutions, such as OIA's shared hosting and Internet Services' web hotel. The code breaks down into several parts and is based heavily on Cornell's search results scripts (which don't seem to be available on the web anymore).

Rendering. The rendering layer renders the tabs and content items with the tabs. A standard format for output is provided but, additional code can be added by units to render differently, e.g., if the results for one tab come from a database with additional fields that would be useful to display in the results. The results will rendered in semantic HTML and progressive enhancement used to pretty up their display (jQuery).

Pagination. We are still looking at the best way to paginate results within tabs. While an AJAX solution is possible, this wouldn't degrade well and we do need to account for users with JavaScript disabled, so we're looking at options with progressive enhancement in mind.

Results. The search functionality populates results objects, which are standardized for key fields but may include other fields. Title, description and URL will be key.

Search. While we're focusing on the Google Search Appliance as the primary search engine, our intent is to allow easy integration of additional search engines and databases. Search executes the search but, result sets may come from a different data source, and code needs to be written to query those data sources. A standard set of code for use against the U's Google Search Appliance (GSA) will be included and can be configured to obtain results from other sources, contingent on those sources taking input parameters in a manner similar to the GSA, and providing output that is substantially similar (if not identical) to that provided by the GSA.

See the new sites

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University units are busy updating their Web sites, blogs, and HTML e-mail to incorporate the new Web templates and e-mail graphics. A handful of examples showing some creative and engaging uses of the templates can be found on the Who's Using the Web, Blog, and E-mail Templates? page.

University Relations has met with a number of units regarding their redesigns, so we expect to see more links added to the list soon. If you have a Web site, blog, or HTML e-mail that you'd like to add, please let us know!