Website tip: Remove old email addresses

Bye-scls-emailIf your email address has changed recently... for example, if your @scls.lib.wi.us email has been retired (hint, hint), take some time today to make sure the old address is not present on your library's website.

Start with this checklist to confirm your old address is no longer in use:

  • Within the text on pages that are common on library websites*: About Us, Contact Us, Ask Us a Question, Staff
  • Linked or in text in the banner/sidebars/footer of all pages*
  • Receiving response emails from forms patrons may use for communicating with the library: Ask Us a Question, Reserve a Meeting Room, etc.
    • If you maintain web forms with your own FormAssembly account, Google Apps/Drive, or Drupal modules, check for email addresses on the form, thank-you/confirmation screen, or notification email recipient.
    • If SCLS maintains these web forms for you in FormAssembly, the recipient address of email notifications has already been updated; however, if your forms have a visible email address on the form, please notify us to update it.
  • Drupal users, please follow up with our checklist of extra Drupal-y places where an old email address may need to be updated.
  • Any web service you may use to send newsletters to patrons (BookLetters, Dear Reader, FeedBurner, MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.)

* Publishing/linking email addresses on your website will attract spam and is not recommended. Using web contact forms allows the public to contact you without publishing your email address in a way that spammers can easily find it.

What's this button called?

Want to know something kind of silly?* On a website or app, those three lines you click to open the main navigation or get more options has a name.

The Hamburger in Firefox

The technical jargon for that is "The Hamburger."

Hamburger

* That's not why you read TechBits? If you want a side of info to go with your hamburger, you might be interested in usability practices for when hamburgers are and aren't appropriate, or the backlash against hamburgers. For most websites, visible navigation links for the most important areas of the site are still recommended.

Homepage weigh-in

ScaleA homepage's weight is just a number measuring size at one moment in time. It's just one piece of the mosaic of a website's total health, happiness, and success... but it does come up from time to time when member libraries redesign their websites. "Is my homepage normal? How does it compare to other libraries' homepages?" 

To find out, I did a weigh-in with 55* SCLS member library website homepages on June 11-12, 2014. I used the YSlow and Firebug add-ons in Firefox to measure how many kilobytes it takes to display each homepage. In other words, I measured the total (uncached) file size of all the HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and images that make up each one. Here's the weight chart:

SCLS Member Library Homepages' Total Weight in KB
High (100th percentile) 8187.00
80th percentile 1246.48
Median 638.20
20th percentile 268.56
Low (0 percentile) 74.10

Some context: 1000KB = 1MB. The body-weight cliches continue to apply:

  • "Too big" or "too small" for one person may be "just right" for someone else.
  • Weight doesn't take into account the value/function of each component (like muscle, fat, and bones). Proportions matter.
  • I won't post individual weights online, but will share them with library staff who want to know.

A finding that interested me: the 17 weightiest pages are all CMS-generated. Different CMS's are represented throughout the weight levels (Drupal, WordPress, CivicPlus, GovOffice.com, etc.). My assessment:

  • CMS workflow efficiencies can make it easy to add weight to a page without much effort or intention.
  • Making wise choices about a site's infrastructure (themes/templates, modules/plugins, etc.) and content (especially images) equates roughly to the diet and exercise choices that help maintain a healthy body weight.

* All 53 SCLS members, plus two additional project sites managed by member libraries.

DDoS attack on Typepad affects some SCLS sites

Thumbs_down_smiley2Did you miss us? At various times since Thursday, April 17, Techbits and some SCLS blogs and member library websites hosted by Typepad were unavailable due to DDoS (or Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks on Typepad. As reported on TechCrunch,

Though Typepad has not yet publicly shared much information about its attackers, the typical scenario involves an attacker knocking the victim’s site offline using a flood of traffic, then refusing to stop the barrage until the victim company pays a small amount of “ransom.” ...

SAY Media [Typepad's parent company] has responded that they, too, received a “ransom” note which didn’t specify an amount. The company ignored the note and focused instead on mitigating the attack. They are also cooperating with the FBI on this investigation.

As of April 23, Typepad service and websites have been restored (hopefully for good, this time).

During the attacks, Typepad staff communicated with users on Twitter, posted updates on the Typepad Status website, and posted a Response to Typepad Downtime on their "Everything Typepad" blog. SCLS staff followed the news and posted information on the SCLS Status wiki.

Facebook tip: customize text for shared links

On Facebook you can click the title or description of a shared link to customize it

Thanks to Mary at ORE for helping me stumble on this tip!

TechBits commenters, take note: enable JavaScript

Next time you're posting a comment on TechBits*, you'll be required to have JavaScript enabled in your browser to post your comment. Our blog host, Typepad, sums up why they introduced this change:

"The vast majority of people will have [JavaScript] enabled by default and this should impact very few of your readers.  Non-JavaScript sources, on the other hand, are mostly spammers, so this change means that most of the comments you'll receive from here on in will be from actual humans."

TechBits gets its share of sordid, shady comment spam, so we appreciate any efforts to prevent it. On the other hand, we love to hear from you, so if this change affects your ability to comment, please enable JavaScript in your browser and let us know. (NoScript users may also have to allow scripts from typepad.com.)

* or any other SCLS blog.

Best practice: Be up-front about what type of document is linked

PdfIn almost any situation where you are making a link to a PDF that lives online, give your readers a little tip-off that the link leads to a PDF. Same goes for other non-webpage-type documents: put the file type in parentheses after the link, and note the file size if it is a large file. Like so:

But wait, you say! If people know in advance that they'll land on a PDF (or CSV, or PPT, etc.), they might not click that link. And you would be right; however, people who have to be fooled into clicking a document link probably still won't read the document, plus they will be annoyed (or confused) while waiting for it to load.

Being up-front about what you are linking to helps your readers make an informed decision to download the linked file or not. If they are interested enough, they will!

Fix broken links with Firefox LinkChecker add-on

Screen shot of right-click menuBroken links on a library's website are like weeds in a garden or broken windows in a home—they tell visitors, "No one takes care of this place. Fend for yourself!" But the Firefox LinkChecker add-on makes finding these broken links easy.

After installing LinkChecker, visit a web page that needs checking, right-click, and select Check Page Links (or go to Tools > Check Page Links). LinkChecker tests the links one by one and adds color highlighting to show you the state of each:

  • Valid (green)
  • Forwarded/forbidden (yellow—as in, LinkChecker couldn't do this one; you be the judge)
  • Broken (red)

What can't LinkChecker do? Find appropriate replacements for the broken links and actually fix the links. Or decide whether the linked resources are still useful and appropriate. That needs a librarian's touch!

Screen shot of color highlighting on links

Uh oh, looks like I've got some work to do on my Delicious links...

Visualizing a web site's HTML code

GogglesThis article is for all of the web site maintainers out there, as well as those just trying to learn something about HTML. Check out the tools and tutorials over at webmaker.org, especially my new favorite coding toy, the X-Ray Goggles.

Any time I come across a really nice web page design, or a page with a unique feature, I jump to the obvious question: How did they do that?. The webmaker goggles can make that question really easy to answer, and they in turn are really very easy to use.

Just follow the simple instructions they provide, and you'll have the ability to check out all kinds of data just by passing your mouse over the elements of what's on your screen. It's all color coded, and structured and clean.

Click on a highlighted element to open an editing screen where you can play around with the HTML and data. In the editor view you can mock up design and content changes to the page, or check out what your own data might look like if it were put into the same HTML and CSS context.

Note: the Preview function of the editor mock up doesn't always seem to work, especially for rather small elements, but if you Save what you've done you can see even your smallest changes in the context of the full page.

Google Analytics training opportunity

View-lessons-from-expertsGoogle Analytics is a tool for tracking website statistics, like how many people visit your website, which pages they access, which browser/device they use, and much more. To help you squeeze meaning out of all that data, Google is offering Digital Analytics Fundamentals, a free online course that begins October 8, 2013. During this 3-week course, you'll:

  • view lessons from experts at your own pace
  • test your knowledge
  • engage with experts and other participants to ask questions and enhance your learning

After completing the course you'll understand:

  • why analytics is important for growing your business (As a TechBits reader, think of this in terms of circulation, program attendance, or other library "business"... I realize you are not selling widgets!)
  • definitions of key concepts and terminology
  • how to plan ahead to capture the insights you need
  • how to navigate common Google Analytics reports
Interested in participating? Register now or see the course FAQs for more details.