Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Surprise!

So, today was one of those typical Thursday mornings where I head over to our conference room for our 8 a.m. student intern meeting....until I walked through the door and got surprised!

Our awesome team.

Our wonderful interns brought cake, kolaches, cinnamon rolls, fruit, coffee and juice to surprise the full-timers! And they gave us cards. :) So very sweet of them!

Morgan, Karole and I appreciate our interns just as much (or more) than they appreciate us. They do so much great work for us and the rest of Tarleton, and if we didn't have them around we would not be able to get much done!

We have two students that are graduating next week: Yaritza and Nicole. To say that we are all sad is an understatement - Yaritza and Nicole are coveted members of our team, and we are just not ready to see them go. However, I know they will do great out in the world and will continue to make us proud. :)

We will have an opening for a student intern position beginning this summer. If you are a student at Tarleton and are interested in what we do and need a job, just email me at


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Now hiring a Web Content Strategist!

Web Services is now looking to hire a Web Content Strategist!

The primary responsibility for the Web Content Strategist is to develop and implement content strategy for Tarleton websites, which includes information architecture, writing style, SEO, content reuse, web analytics research, user testing, UX, and metadata development.

This position must:
  • Train, inform, and engage web site constituents on content strategy and best practices.
  • Mentor and work closely with student employees, which includes assigning web updates and tasks, identifying student employee strengths to maximize productivity, monitoring task progress, and providing feedback on content strategy.
  • Ensure adherence of web content to style guides, branding guides, accessibility and copyright laws, TAMU System/THECB /State specifications.
  • Identify opportunities for writing/editing content for the web, optimize print copy for the web, provide web writing expertise to the university community.

The Web Services team is creative and highly collaborative. Full-time employees enjoy a private office, convertible stand/sit desk, many restaurants within short walking distance, wellness initiatives/benefits, and more.

Required qualifications include: Bachelor’s degree and 3 years of professional work experience writing for the Web and content strategy OR a Bachelor’s degree specifically in Marketing, Communications, Technical Writing, Digital Media, or Computer Information Systems and 2 years of professional work experience writing for the Web and content strategy; Demonstrated experience with web design/development and online interactive technologies including content management systems, web analytic software,CMS, web forms, Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Acrobat Professional, Dreamweaver); Skills required include: writing and digital content development; effective content layout for web pages; understanding of Web accessibility standards and requirements; use of HTML, CSS, Javascript plug-ins and other web technologies; basic graphic design; and communication, collaboration, and organizational skills.

Tarleton State University, a member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven educational experience marked by academic innovation and exemplary service, and dedicated to transforming students into tomorrow’s professional leaders. With campuses in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian and online, Tarleton engages with its communities to provide real-world learning experiences and to address societal needs while maintaining its core values of integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence and service.

Tarleton State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action/Veterans/Disability Employer. As a member of The Texas A&M System, Tarleton will provide equal opportunity for employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity and will strive to achieve full and equal employment opportunity through The Texas A&M System.

Apply online at


My Experience at the CMIS Women in IT Conference in College Station, TX

Danielle Dunigan My name is Danielle, and I have been a student intern in the Office of Web Services for over a year and a half. I recently attended the CMIS Women in IT Conference, which is hosted at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, with my colleagues Silvia and Daphne. I learned a lot of things at the conference, but the thing that really stuck out to me was the importance of networking. It’s good to have personal relationships with people from other companies. I found that it is really important to communicate with people from all over the globe because you can learn from them. I also learned a great deal from the speakers that came to talk to us. They pushed skills such as good work ethic and active listening. They also talked about their experience in the work force and how it affected them. Their stories were very inspiring. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of women that are into technology.

Web teams meeting up
Meeting up with Texas A&M web professionals was awesome! L to R: Danielle, Silvia, Donald, Daphne, Tim

Aside from the conference, we also got to have dinner with two Texas A&M employees that are web professionals. It was really interesting to hear about their experiences and how it is differs from working at Tarleton. For example, they have their own web team for each college whereas Tarleton has just one web team that covers all of the colleges and departments. Overall, I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience. I acquired some useful skills that will help me as a student and later in the workforce.


Friday, February 19, 2016

New Position Open in Web Services

We recently lost a member of our team - THANK YOU Ernie for leaving us to go to Amarillo! (I'm being sarcastic of course. We miss him a lot and wish him well!)

Ernie on his last day of work at Tarleton. :(
With Ernie vacating his position, we have a new position currently open on our team: Lead Web Applications Developer.

The successful candidate will plan and develop new and current web functionality and applications, as well as provide support and maintenance on the new and current applications. They will also gather and analyze requirements from university departments, faculty, and staff, ensure all web functions are accessibility compliant, incorporate responsive web design and technology into all site development, and manage web development using revision control software.

Our team is easy-going, creative, highly collaborative, and FUN. Full-time employees enjoy a private office, convertible stand/sit desk, many restaurants within short walking distance, wellness initiatives/benefits, and more. What more could you ask for in a job? :)

To view more details about the position and/or apply online, visit

If you have questions, feel free to email me.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Strangers with Candy: How To Determine Legitimate and Credible Websites

I tripped over a hilarious website during some research recently. The site changes something innocent and pure to something very shady. In fact, if you want to see, go to Okay - that web address looks pretty scary, but I can honestly say that it will go to something slightly less nefarious: Facebook's homepage. And I promise this goes to Tarleton's website:

Ordinarily, I wouldn't encourage you to click on anything you have any slight misgivings about. You should listen to your gut instincts when you see unusual links. That includes anything you receive in your email, particularly when it comes from a stranger "with a nice van offering you candy."

Stranger danger.

In Badgering Us for Badges (and Other Social Engineering Scams), I mentioned some tips on how to spot scams. But how can we tell if someone is truly legitimate? There really are legitimate sites out there, and real people - not robots - telling us exciting news about our university that we may want to mention with a back link to their website. What tell-tale signs are there that we can specifically look at? Is the website legitimate?

Legitimate Ranking Websites

I mentioned in the last article that strangers from college ranking websites may contact you claiming that you ranked # on such-and-such degree and that they offer "quid pro quo." You put their link on your page, but should you investigate them first? (Hint: Scam artists hope you won't investigate!)

Are they even Human?

Read their verbiage and take note of anything that doesn't sound human, looks misspelled or grammatically incorrect, or for that matter, truly relevant to your website. Typically, if you have earned recognition for ranking high on an international or national college ranking system, that should be termed as an award or recognition, not a "resource". If something sounds out of context, then stranger danger.

Good for Them, Bad for Us

Like I mentioned before, resource pages are havens for "mischievous strangers with candy" hoping you'll add their malicious links, so they can infect you (i.e., lower your website search rankings) or others (i.e., steal personal information or hack computers). Being a university, we have the legitimacy and credibility that these strangers need to get more people to list them, boosting their search rankings.

Legitimate and Credible Sources

Are the sources recognizable? Do other prestigious universities reference them? Have you heard of them before, and not just because they landed on the first page results of a Google search?

Actually, it is very easy to find a legitimate website and then find one that looks just slightly different and has less of the credible information you need in order to trust them. Look for the following on their website:

Who is running the show?

Check for an About page of some type that provides a human face or human references, preferably those that link to legitimate firms or major media outlets. If the only information they provide is that they collected data from public databases that hold information about our university, then anyone with a programming background (and a designer keeping up with design/layout trends) can slap a website together and call it legit.

Think about it: just because someone can post our Tarleton logo on their email doesn't make theirs legitimate - they need to come from our domain:

Will they sell information to third-party vendors?

Maybe. Maybe not. But you should be able to find something on any law abiding website that details how they use the information you or anyone else provides. Will illegitimate sites try to convince you they have such a page? Yes, they will! And it may not even say "Privacy Policy," but because they know your strong suit is in English, they'll hope you don't read past their synonym trickery.

For example, I've run across a website that replaced their Privacy Policy with a Disclosure Policy. Inside said policy, they included absolutely nothing about what they do with your information, but they most certainly went on and on about disclosing university information for a price (and a lovely position well above the supposedly credibly ranked universities).

What is their methodology? Do they provide true comparison shopping?

Sure, they provide a "methodology," and they list a bunch of schools out on a page, but do the results make any sense? Are schools treated fairly in the result listings?

Don't get fooled by a fancy outline of weighted measurements. Read them. For example, how do you determine "Strength of Faculty?" Do you collect crowd-sourced votes on "Rate My Professor?" Or average the number of degree types held by professors? How about taking the grades of the students in their courses? And if you went that direction, if students make high grades, does that mean the professor taught well or gave their students easy breaks and lots of ways to make up absences and failed exams? Make sure the criteria are defined in a way that makes reasonable sense, something that can be calculated across all universities the same way.

And if they do provide a reasonable methodology, can you easily compare the criteria each are judged on, so you can tell how University A ranked higher than University B?

Are they being misleading?

Just like with the privacy policy, do they make their website do something you didn't quite expect? One example I found took advantage of the fact that we don't pay just as much attention to details as we should. It had a very obvious Quick Search with degree search criteria on it which made me expect to find a list of universities ranked on that degree, however, it went instead to a sign up form.

Normally, when we see sign up forms we think about how the site is going to give us personalized information, like financial aid opportunities. This page had a generic description of the degree itself, along with a randomly generated university, but more importantly, it had a disturbing way of asking for my information to sign up.

Again, if I had not paid attention to this step-by-step process, I wouldn't realize that I was about to put my information in the hands of third-party vendors whom I was giving consent to remove liability for spamming me with texts, emails, phone calls, and junk mail. Yes, they claimed they only required demographic information about me while showing me that the personal information fields were optional, but as soon as I clicked on the Continue button, I realized the personal information fields had all magically become required, and I saw a statement similar to this:
Clicking the "Continue" button below constitutes your express written consent to be contacted by email, phone, text and prerecorded message by [randomly generated university that you didn’t intend to sign up with] at the number(s) you provided, regarding furthering your education. You understand and agree that these calls may be generated using an automated technology
If warning bells haven't rung in your head, you've never had multiple phone calls from recordings or tried to put yourself on the Do Not Call Registry after you were positive you already added yourself months ago.

Let Us Check Your Candy Before You Take a Bite

If you have any misgivings about a request to add a link to your website, don't click the links and don't add the content to your website. Remember: stranger danger. If you think it is legitimate or credible, let Web Services give it a check first. We know their patterns and habits, including the latest trends in social engineering, and we want the best, highest quality sites flowering us with praise. We love praise. And candy. Good, clean chocolate candy... Well, I do, anyway.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Improvements Coming to Tarleton's Homepage

The Web Services team will be implementing improvements and changes to Tarleton's homepage on the evening of August 18th, 2015. Changes you will notice include:

  • New degree search bar below the main slideshow
  • Consolidated "Locations" and "Spotlight/Highlight" sections on wide-screen sizes
  • Gutters, otherwise known as "white space" or "margins" have been made larger on the outside edges of page content for wide-screen sizes

Degree Search and Repository

The most exciting new feature to Tarleton's homepage is the degree search/degree repository. This section will allow prospective students to "shop" our degree program offerings straight from Tarleton's homepage. The visibility of Tarleton's degree programs has needed improvement for quite some time, especially considering that according to the 2014 Noel-Levitz E-Expectations Report, 97% of seniors said they found college websites to be reliable sources of information and over 45% of prospective students and parents listed academic program listings or details as one of their top three priorities when looking at a university's website. Each degree page in the repository lists information that is tailored to what prospective students look for when shopping degrees, including what is "different" about the degree compared to other institutions, what someone can do with the degree after graduation, what special facilities and features are available, and much more. Web Services staff and student interns worked with faculty members and other staff over the past year in order to collect the information for these new pages.

Locations and Spotlight/Highlight Section Changes

Web Services continually evaluates content to ensure that it is being provided in the most effective manner possible. One area of the homepage that has been reorganized includes the "Locations" and "Highlights" sections. On wider screen sizes, these two sections originally took up quite a bit of space, each taking up a full "row" of space across the screen. Moving the two sections to be side-by-side on desktop screen sizes is a more effective use of space. On cellphones and some tablets, these sections will continue to be vertically organized instead of side-by-side.

Larger gutters for wide-screen devices

Content, whether on the web or in print, can be difficult to read or follow if it spreads too wide across the medium on which it is situated. This is the reason why newspapers have stories organized into a "column" format. The same holds true on the web. We discovered that with the increasing widths of desktop computer screens that it would be important to implement "gutters" on our responsive webpages. You will notice on wide and ultra-wide screens that content is now consolidated to the center of the screen, with white-space on the sides. This should allow for better usability on those types of screens.

There are many other technical modifications we have worked on for this implementation, which we will go into with detail in the coming days. The entire Web Services team has put in countless hours for this project and I'm excited for these new features to be available for everyone.

If you have questions about any of the changes, just send me an email at