Author: Sharyn Grove

Mark Your Calendar for These Fall Events

Fall is in the air! For the Division of Innovation and Applied Research, that means gearing up for a busy line-up of events. Providing a platform for critical discussions and dialogues for the TU community and the professional community is an important initiative for both the Division and Towson University. Here are a few upcoming events that may be of interest to you. BTU Community Conversation Tuesday, September 13, 2016 | 4:30–6:30 PM| Minnegan Room at Unitas Stadium | Register Learn more about BTU and how TU is building partnerships that work. This networking event will feature facilitated conversations...

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Division Offices Relocate to 7400 York Road Building

What a great week! The Division of Innovation and Applied Research offices located at the Terracedale Building (7801 York Road) moved to 7400 York Road. While we are all sad to leave the comforts of Terracedale, the team is bursting with excitement about the new space. At 7400 York Road, all of our groups will be together including RESI, CGIS, the Business Analysis and Management Team, the IT Team, Center for Professional Studies, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, TU Incubator, and our Administration and Finance team. Some of the biggest highlights on the new space include: Collaborative space for all of our teams to work together on joint projects. The Center for Professional Studies training center will allow students to take in-person certification courses in the areas of Business/Management, Information Technology, and Heath/Medical training. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has access to meeting rooms that can better accommodate students for their academic program. The TU Incubator companies will benefit from expanded meeting space throughout the building. Walking through the space this morning I had the opportunity to check out how everyone was settling into their new spaces. Aaron Guy said that he wished “the boxes would unpack themselves.” Christina Bell Nemphos tackled getting her computer set-up. Laura McCoy is all settled and even thought to hang light filtering curtains. Lisa Walker works through what seems like an endless amount of blue bins. Jackie...

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What are the most important considerations when designing a website?

It’s a huge undertaking to develop a website. And, it’s not something you should venture into lightly. Before you get started and throughout the development stages, it’s important to consider these things… Set Goals Do you want to gain more visitors, create more interaction with your visitors, have higher search engine ranking, utilize a blog, integrate more videos and images? Whatever your goals may be, document them in writing before you get started and reflect back to them throughout the development. Prioritize Usability No one will visit or stay on your website if it does not work. It’s important to think through your website’s navigation in advance. You can come up with a solid plan around your navigation by considering your audience, developing personas, performing a card sort, and defining the information architecture. Also, consider the integration of a search tool to benefit your users. Have you ever considered how visually impaired website users will encounter your website? This is a good time to reflect on ways you can provide a positive experience with your website. Lastly, be sure that all images and links are working and that page load time is quick. Consistent Design It can’t be stressed enough… use a consistent design throughout your website. Visitors should feel like they are having the same experience from page to page. To aid in this, re-use elements from page...

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What Is Card Sorting?

A card sorting exercise is the one of the simplest approaches to creating your website’s navigation or information architecture – especially if there is a participant pool at your fingertips. Card sorting is a method to consider if there are a large number of topic areas, if the information is very specific to a user group, or if there are special needs of the user group. Card Sorting Exercises Follow Three Basic Steps The participant is provided website topic areas are written on index cards. The participant determines the major categories for the website. The participant categorizes secondary information...

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Web Design for the Visually Impaired

The World Health Organization reports that more than 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Clearly, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website is accessible for the visually impaired. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides many recommendations about making websites accessible for people with visually disabilities as well as other disabilities and it’s a good idea to become familiar with their recommendations if you have a part in developing websites. At a high level, the W3C follows four main principles related to accessibility that state: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users...

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Helping a Municipality Better Connect to Its Citizens

Recently, the Division of Innovation and Applied research completed a website development project for the Town of Kensington located in Montgomery County, Maryland. When the Town of Kensington approached us about a website redesign, we spent time discussing their challenges and in the end provided a comprehensive solution that met the town’s needs, particularly in the areas of easier content management, use of dynamic content, and improved user experience. Content Management The Town of Kensington’s main issue was that they could not easily update their website content. Due to this, communication between the citizens and the Town was sometimes challenging and cumbersome. After a demonstration of the easy to use WordPress interface, they were excited about the possibilities. They could clearly see how the use of dynamic content would ease communication because of the administrative interface they’d have access to through WordPress. Dynamic Content Because the Town of Kensington could not easily update content on their site, the content was rather stagnant. The first thing we suggested was the implementation of a blogging tool. The Town uses this as a way to share announcements. The announcements populate various sections of the site using the “Display Posts Shortcode” plug-in which allows for categories to display in desired locations. As you can imagine with most towns, a calendar feature provides all the insight a citizen may need about social and town-oriented...

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My New Favorite WordPress Plug-Ins

Recently, I discovered 3 WordPress plug-ins that were useful and actually easy to implement in a couple of sites I have been developing. WP Photo Albums Plus I love this plug-in because it allows you to manage and display photos easily through album slideshows. You can create multiple albums, effortlessly add multiple photos, and add captions. The album is simple to embed with WordPress short code and the inclusion of the album’s ID number. All-in-One Event Calendar by Timely When a client explained to me the functionality he was looking for in a calendar to include in his website, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find something that was sophisticated and simple for them to use regularly. I was so happy when I activated the All-in-One Event Calendar and could not believe how easy it was to use. With this plug-in, the developer can choose various views, include all the event details you could imagine (even recurrence), and color-code categories. Dynamic Widgets To create more sophisticated page templates in WordPress, a knowledgeable programmer who knows PHP is helpful to call on. But, if you don’t have a resource on hand or have time to develop multiple templates, I’d recommend trying out the Dynamic Widgets plug-in. This plug-in allows you to control what widgets appear on the pages of your WordPress site. When I discovered this plug-in I...

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How to Utilize Website Personas to Increase Usability

In a previous post I spoke about defining your audience when designing for print collateral or websites. Expanding on the topic of defining audience for websites, I’m going to explain why and how you can create personas to assist website development. I know what you’re thinking… when are we going to actually design the website? Slow down, these are important planning steps in the process of developing a website. If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you possibly create a successful website? The extra step, of developing personas, will surely enhance your groundwork during the planning phase. While it’s not mandatory, it can be a helpful addition to the planning phase. Think of personas as characters you imagine surfing your pages. They are representations or profiles of your primary and secondary audience groups. Developing personas makes you step back and think about Johnny or Suzie’s needs for the purpose of their visit to your website. I know you may not want to admit it, but it’s very easy to only think about what you may want to experience on the website, but let’s be honest, you’re a little too close to it, right? If you can direct the needs and behaviors back to Johnny and Suzie, you will have greater success. First start by determining which audience category of website visitor the character or persona represents....

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WordPress: More Than Just A Useful Blogging Tool

So in case you didn’t get the memo, DECO is now in the Integrated Marketing game. Small businesses and government entities can work with us build their brand through web site development, print marketing, and social media. As the Integrated Marketing Team (Bobbie Laur, Nicole Schiraldi and I) started to think through these services, our main goals were: to provide competitive pricing for services and to provide management tools for the customer’s websites and social media strategies to provide clients with confidence when the project is complete. We knew a content management system (CMS) was a must for web site maintenance, and we have grown to love using to power our blog. Naturally, it made sense to provide the same advice and direction to our clients who didn’t want the hassle of dealing with uploading files, but also wanted a simple to use CMS that allows for easy editing access to the pages of their web site. Here are the top five reasons I’d recommend a client use as their web site’s platform: Hosting is free! That’s right, I said FREE! Easy to use CMS. Really, if you can use MS Word, you can use this. Analytics galore! Imagine being able to see your site traffic on a given day, most popular pages, and keywords that bring web searchers to your site. Their analytics can do all...

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VIDEO: Meet Our Team – Michael Bentivegna

Michael Bentivegna is a busy guy. As the Associate Director of IT Services for the Center for GIS he focuses his time on management, business development, and technology research. It boils down to him being our go to idea guy! Michael is a fun person to talk to and he always has a story to share about something from his life experiences. This interview will provide you with more insight into what makes him tick and what trends are on the upswing in GIS....

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