University of Minnesota
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Our Brand: How to Convey It
http://www.umn.edu/brand

Our Brand: How to Convey It.

December 2010 Archives

Want to include video in that email?

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You might want to think twice before doing that. While not yet updated to cover some of the newest clients, Campaign Monitor's The Current State of Video in Email article covers what works and what doesn't. While the conclusion that use of animated GIFs are the way to go if you absolutely must, which makes some of us shudder, it's clear that the tried and true method of linking to a video, or some Flash application, is the way to go.

Nifty directory now updated

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The updated directory listings in PDF format are now available! Besides viewing the online Twin Cities department listings, directory of services, and University organization easily accessible from the footer of every U of M web page or at http://www1.umn.edu/systemwide/directories/, you can now download printable versions.

The 2010-11 directory is divided into three separate files:

Introduction (PDF)
Directory of services, phone information & instructions, University organization, University Senate members, calendar, campus maps, building abbreviations.

Twin Cities Department Listings (PDF)

Coordinate Campus Listings (PDF)

College students on the web

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As I read Jakob Nielsen's latest post "College Students on the Web," the summary resonated with me:

"Students are multitaskers who move through websites rapidly, often missing the item they come to find. They're enraptured by social media but reserve it for private conversations and thus visit company sites from search engines."

Nielsen also noted, "Students usually kept many browser tabs open at the same time. When a site slowed them down, they'd usually switch to another tab and continue on another site. Even if they're just checking their Facebook page, such context switches removed users from the flow of using the first site. Thus, even in cases when they later returned, users had a harder time picking up where they had left off."

I couldn't help but chuckle at Nielsen's description because he accurately describes my behavior. At times, I have been known to have a dozen or more tabs open on my browser and not only have one browser window open but three or four. My attention jumps from site to site in a split second. So, while I am definitely NOT in the student age group he refers to (18-24) - I do like to think my online habits mean I am young at heart.

Read Nielsen's entire article at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/students.html.

Fun with Google

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Accidental SEO

The Our Brand site has been live just over a month now. Just for fun, we threw some search terms into Google to see what would happen. The results, of course, may be due to the fact that Google can tell that we're sitting here at the U making these searches, so we really need to try this at home or in Hawaii or something. And it's not like we found a whole slew of first page results, but there were two that made us smile.

A search for "960 grid" puts us at fourth on the results page. For all of you non-webbies reading this, the 960 grid system is what we use to build our web templates. They were designed based on the 960.gs site's templates.

Here's the biggie. A search for "social networking requirements and guidelines" produces the first three results in Google with a link to see more. Holy cow!

So how did we accidentally acheive this SEO? Well, it was accidental, so we don't really know. And Google doesn't advertise how they choose to serve up search results, so we still really don't know. At least not for sure.

I suspect a combination of factors. We're using unique page titles on every page of the site. Each page also has a unique page description and uses keywords in the meta tags. We designed the site structure to be search-engine friendly. As you navigate deep into the site, notice the URL. The names of each page are semantic and use dashes rather than underscores - another thing that Google prefers.

You can find some of this information, and more, on Google's Creating Google-friendly sites.

Video storytelling: an update from our webinar

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Thanks to everyone for joining me on Tuesday for our webinar on Video Storytelling. I really enjoyed hearing from you about using video on your websites and found your questions to be insightful. The questions you asked touched on many of the issues that video professionals around the world are tackling: mobile device compatibility, choosing hosting and how do we use this effectively?

You can view and listen to the whole presentation here: https://umconnect.umn.edu/p29665602/

Now, let me take a moment to answer the questions I didn't have time to address.

Q. Is there training available for Final Cut Pro?

University Technology Training offers one introductory class to video production called, "Media production and publishing." You can read more about it here: http://uttc.umn.edu/training/courses/description/?designator=ML101
I have not taken this course, however, I have heard from others that this is an introductory course and doesn't go in depth on any particular software.

To be honest, I wouldn't advise trying to learn Final Cut Pro first if you are an absolute beginner. Most people that use FCP have taken several years of undergraduate coursework to learn how the software works. To put it in perspective, the user manual for Final Cut Pro is actually 6 books long! If you want to learn the basics of Final Cut, start with Final Cut Express. Apple's website offers some basic tutorials on how to use the software that will help you get started: http://www.apple.com/finalcutexpress/tutorials/
I like to think of Final Cut Express as the training wheels for Final Cut Pro - and we all know what happens if you try to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels!

If you want more training on Final Cut Pro, consider looking into taking a class from the Art Department, such as ART 1601, which is considered an introductory course.

Q. How do you decide between MediaMill and YouTube?

Every video I produce is stored in MediaMill and YouTube. Why? MediaMill is great for sharing content between my colleagues and provides us with a searchable archive of all of our content. It is also integrated with our content management system and provides the feed to our website. We also put the videos in YouTube because it then becomes part of the University's channel (www.youtube.com/umn) which is fed to YouTube EDU. (www.youtube.com/edu)

I like to think of MediaMill as our primary hosting service and YouTube as one of our "outlets," which also includes iTunesU and Facebook.

Q. Have you done any research on whether your users want video vs. text and photos?

I know I discussed this a little bit during our webinar, but I wanted to touch on this again. One of the ways in which I can determine the "value" of video as a part of how we present information on the web is by looking at the ratio of "click-throughs to plays." For example, last week we had the story about the custom shoe designer on the home page and the story received 2,197 click-throughs between Tuesday and Sunday. The video logged 1,148 plays in that time. That means that 52% of the people that wanted to learn more ALSO spent 3 minutes with our content. While it is difficult to pin down an industry standard, in the time I've been logging this information it seems that anything above 30% is generally a sign of successful content integration.

As I mentioned during the webinar, every user is going to consume information differently. It's our job to try and provide them with the best content possible and be discerning about when to use video. Using video just because the media is fun and new isn't good enough. We need to be strategic about WHY we are choosing the medium.

Good luck on all your video projects and I'd love to see any final products as they become available!