The 2019-2020 school year is essentially over. Now is a good time to review your school or department web site. Did it do everything you hoped it would? If not what could you do different to change that? Are you missing information that would be helpful for the public, for our parents, or even for our students? Do you have information that site visitors rarely or perhaps never visit? This could be a good time to look at your website with a critical eye as to what should or should not be on your site. For example, you might ask question like:
- Is all the content up-to-date or is some of the content from prior years? Remember that even if the data is still relevant, site visitors may consider documents that display a date from a prior year as possibly obsolete and skip over them.
- Are all the hyperlinks still valid? Pages on the Internet come and go all the time. A link to a site or even a page within a site can change at any time. Six months ago as we prepared to switch from Site Improve to Monsido, a scan of all our site pages revealed an astonishing number of broken links and images, over 8,000 in fact. Most of these broken links have been resolved by the district and some of the pro-active editors. However, there are still hundreds of broken links hidden in documents, PDFs. Any time a user encounters a broken link, it is worse than if there was no content there at all because now they know they are missing something, and that something could be important. The rule here is to use the Monsido reports to find and fix broken links. These reports come out weekly. Therefore, a broken link will not be out in the real world long if we all keep up with them. Later in this post, I will talk about the different types of broken links in greater detail.
- Are you creating multiple pages with the same content? I know some of you are. Why not create the content only once and then use hyperlinks on a page or even External Link pages to reference the original content rather than create a second or a third page with the same information. Having more than one page with the same content leads to update issues when you update one page and not the other. This leaves the site visitor to guess which page is correct. Typical examples of this are the ‘common’ documents that I have listed in this blog in prior posts. By referencing these common documents, you need not worry about updates from year to year much less any changes that may occur midyear. Another good example are the sites that include their own version (or a prior version) of the Equal Employment Opportunity Non-Discrimination Statement. First, the footer of every Internet and school page includes a link to the EEO statement. Second, legal maintains the wording of this statement so everyone is singing the same tune so to speak. Honestly, I’ve seen EEO statements on some sites that posted their own content that were obsolete and referenced staff who are no longer with the district.
- Can I just upload a Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document rather than recreate the text? I’ve noticed that some people still attempt to upload and attempt to link to Microsoft source documents such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and even their own HTML. None of these options should ever be used to supply or display content on your web site. The simple reason for not using Microsoft source documents is that not everyone may have a way to open these documents on their home computers or their mobile device. All Microsoft applications mentioned above have the ability to generate PDFs which can then be uploaded.
- (For schools) I use Facebook or Twitter so why do I need the calendar or Recent News portlets on my home page? If you do not use the school calendar for events and do not use the Recent News as defined by the Presence application, this information will not be carried over to the OCPS mobile app where parents can subscribe to the schools they are interested in.
Some other common issues with web pages are:
- Please check all of your content for spelling and grammar. Most editing tools have spell checking utilities built in. For grammar checks, I recommend the free version of Grammarly. Make sure you use the right work. For example, you don’t peek someone’s interest or peak their interest. You pique their interest.
- Do not use a separate page just to put a single hyperlink on it. It is better to use an External Link Page for that purpose rather than a separate content page.
- Do not publish pages that you are still working on until they are ready for the public to see. Keep those pages hidden by choosing the ‘Hide All Content’ for the page in the Page Status list. Only switch the page to Show mode when it is ready for the public to see.
- Do not leave a page published that says, ‘Content coming soon’. I have seen dozens of these pages during my reviews that have said coming soon since the page was created back in 2016 and early 2017. That is NOT coming soon. I have rehidden these or in a few cases, I’ve archived them. Leaving them for months and years tells your site visitors that the content is really not that important.
- Do not copy text from another text editor and paste it into a content portlet without first removing all of the formatting that the other text editor may bring with it. This is true not just of Microsoft Word, but any other text editor. The formatting used there may not be compatible with the Presence platform and it may not be coded in an accessible way. Only paste plain text into a content area and do all formatting within the Presence platform. If you do not, you will find that making corrections to the content later may be very difficult if not frustrating.
- Do not copy and paste images from anywhere else into a content portlet. This pastes binary code in the content area that makes it very hard to edit and read. Furthermore, images pasted this way may not allow you to add alt-text or define the image to automatically resize when displayed on different platforms (mobile devices or computer screens).
- Do not upload pages of content created on your local copy machines and sent to a PDF to be uploaded and then linked as content on your site. The content created as an image is not ADA accessible to those using screen readers.
- Do not screen capture images (or use images from someone else) with large amounts of text unless that text appears in the Alt-Text or separate text area on the page associated with the image.
Do not change the default color or action of hyperlinks. They are set by the district to be ADA compliant.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the types of broken hyperlinks you may have on a web page or even a PDF document.
- Links to Archived Pages: It is not possible to use the Presence platform to list where a page is referenced. Therefore, when you archive a page, you may notice in the next Monsido scan that your site has broken links to either pages you have archived or other pages on other sites that others may have archived. If you can determine that another page on the site may be the new home to the information you want to reference, you can simply change the link to that new page. However, if you cannot determine the ‘new’ home of the information, it is better to remove the link from your pages until you can locate the information’s new home.
- Links to Deleted Pages: This occurs primarily when the content is no longer valid, or in the case of an event, that the event has passed. In this case, the best action is to remove the link from your pages and adjust the content appropriately.
- Links that begin with the domain www2.ocps.net: Back during the transition from SharePoint to Presence, we had to publish the new content to a ‘different’ domain and created www2.ocps.net for that purpose. However, that domain no longer exists. If you encounter a link to a page that begins with www2.ocps.net, the easy and fast solution in almost all cases is to simply remove the ‘2’.
- Links that begin with the domain ocps<schoolname>.ss15.sharpschool.com: This broken link is similar to the previous one and is the result of the fact that all school sites actually begin on this domain while SchoolMessenger is building the site. However, once the site goes live, the domain is changed to <schoolname><type>.ocps.net (where <type> is typically ‘es’ for elementary, ‘ms’ for middle, ‘hs’ for high school, and ‘k8’ for K-8 schools. There are a few exceptions to this guideline that generally fall into the alternate/other school category.) To fix this error, simply replace the old domain to your final school domain. This will fix the link in most cases.
If someone sends you a link and you see a link that begins with: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com… Do not paste that link in your website content. This link will not work for people outside of OCPS (even though it may seem fine to you). The following image shows such a link that was embedded in a page
When you need to do is to copy the link (as shown by the highlight) and paste it in a new browser page while at work within the OCPS network. Then copy the URL which it resolves to and replace the link in the content area with that reference as shown in the image below.
(Yes, a lot of the extra formatting that really did little to nothing was removed in the second code snippet, but notice how much more readable that code is) Also, note that displaying the URL as the link text is generally not recommended. That is the information the browser needs, but is not as meaningful as the name of the site, document, etc. would be to the user.
- Links to pages from SharePoint. If the link refers to a page from the SharePoint Internet, you are just plain out of luck because those servers are gone. If the link refers to a page/site in the OCPS SharePoint Collaboration site area, you can still use the link, but only for Intranet pages. Never point an Internet or school site page to the OCPS SharePoint Collaboration area.
- Links to your local or network drive. (No one would do this right? Well, sorry, I have seen it.) You cannot never link to a document on your local hard drive or even a network drive for any Internet, Intranet, or school web site. Why? Several reasons starting with your local machine is not always on, the public does not have access to our network drives, and you could easily delete or move your local files at any time forgetting that you previously linked them to a web page.
Ok, in full disclosure, I have seen all of the above errors while fixing the majority of the broken links for the Internet and school pages. I also know from scanning the remaining broken link issues in the published PDFs that many of these types of broken links exist there as well.
Note: the District will not fix the broken links in your PDFs or any of your other PDF Accessibility issues. Several prior posts discussed how to test and correct issues with PDFs both before and after posting them to your site. The District could choose to remove PDFs that do not meet Accessibility guidelines in order to meet requirements of any future audit. So please use the Monsido reports to review and fix your PDFs for major issues.