Redesigning a university convocation website

I finally redesigned the uOttawa convocation website. After three years of migrating other sites, I finally got to slay the FAQ sections, eliminate redundancies and iron out user journeys. After a content audit, I made the content modular to enable batch updates between operations cycles. Our team knew it was time to have a fresh start for the website.

Screenshot of our the convocation home page.

Just to show you how a convocation sites can get real fugly real quick, you typically only need one click past the shiny landing pages to enter the labyrinth of user frustration:

  • http://convocation.uwo.ca
  • http://graduation.ubc.ca
  • http://www.mcgill.ca/students/graduation/convocation
  • http://uqo.ca/collation

Sure the information is there, but you will notice that each user journey’s information is slew all across the pages. I’ve been there first hand. What will happen is a friction-full registration process and then a relatively smooth event.

I can completely empathize with event managers when it comes to platforms. They are aware of logistics and the granular details that come along with the gigs. Unfortunately, this usually means that their focus is primarily on operations, which then creates a digital-second outcome.

Understand the business

In terms of lessons learned, to have a successful convocation website, you need to understand the operations and business. This involved a lot of questions and details that relate to content strategy, but also determining the importance of information. You can then determine which information targets which users.

Keeping it simple for users (can be quite complex)!

Content audit – Count the duplicates

In this redesign, we had diploma related information that was sometimes applicable to undergraduate, masters and doctorate students. In other instances, some information only applied to undergraduates, regardless of if they attended the event or not. We had guest ticket information in general information sections, profiles, events pages.

To remove the redundancies. I created a content audit with a new structure in mind that revolved around the business and core activities.

Having your nose in digital content daily can sometimes take your focus away from holistic user experience and focus too heavily on digital. I realized quickly that some information on the site often trivial to users or simply displayed to everyone when its target was a very specific audience.

Results

After presenting the pages mockups to the clients and stakeholder, we ended up with a site with the following elements. The dreaded catch-all FAQ was eradicated and its content disseminated as necessary.

Clear segmentation of audiences

This makes easy for students to self-identify according to their scenarios. Content is organized in a sequential order. Our team started the habit of adding image banners that represent the audience’s experience.

To acquire the images, we had to do a bit of file-hunting and photo-requests. Ask your clients to take events photos and do be specific about what you are looking for. Wide photos work best for websites/editing.

A screenshot of the Undergraduate student attending Convocation page

One convocation ceremonies page

This page is the one and only reference for the schedule of ceremonies. By centralizing all the dates and times in one location, it reduces update times (instead of updating multiple locations/content groups).

I also dissected what was originally a big table of events into Faculty specific drop-downs. This means that students/parents/guests can find the ceremony quickly without having to parse through the data. It also eases accessibility as you can skip straight to the Faculties instead of having to scan a complex table.

Logistics were placed underneath the ceremonies schedule. Anything to do with the day-of relevant to all audiences was centralized there.

  • www.uottawa.ca/obtain-your-degree/convocation-ceremonies
Screenshot of the Convocation ceremonies
page with a tab opened.  (Background is fixed on the site)

Over a decade of music production as a hobby

Music allows me to capture a frame, a piece of time. What in mind, where I was going and what I believed in. I don’t necessarily agree with my songs all the time, but I find them to be markers of myself in time. My repository of thousands of forgotten songs is a true source of nostalgia. Sometimes I’ll find one of my tracks giving me a wink to something so subtle that only I will notice… After all, I had made it.

I push myself to get away from my own favourites, these few gems I am really proud which mystify me. I don’t know how I pulled in so much focus or disassociation to get away from what I would try to conceive. Some songs sound like something I would never think of.

As much as I try to keep a clean virtual environment, my desktop continues to be completely filled with track versions, cut samples, scores that will never be seen again into the chaos and archives.

Is this my interface or yours? #TLDR

Interface ownership correctness – TLDR: Use “My” when you are the creator or someone is prompted for an action. Use “Your” when you do not own the content or receive instructions. Cloud networks and applications have changed the single-user single device (PC) experience and thus the vocabulary for identifying interface. #semantics

Read @jsaito‘s article at: www.medium.com/@jsaito/is-this-my-interface-or-yours-b09a7a795256

Linked-in – How to add bullets to your profile for a clean look

I just formatted/hard-coded bullet spaces in my linked-in profile. So clean!
To copy me, simply copy-paste the bullets up to the start of your text in your profile. Insert spaces (enter) before the next lines and copy-paste my spaces without bullets. I’d suggest having a second window opened in non-edit mode of your profile to see how it displays. The editing window seems to have a different padding than what is displayed on your live profile.
A screenshot of my Linked-in account with bullet lines
 
Disclaimer: I have no idea how this formatting would import your information in Linked-in’s instant job application app.

Almost 10 years of using Facebook. Cleaning up my posts made me realize…

It’s soon the year 2016 and coming close to my 10th year anniversary using Facebook. I decided it’s finally time to clean up my posts. I knew there was silly content posted for the last 9 years, and silly content I did find (and deleted).

It also hit me to what extent there are now functionalities that we now take for granted.

By deleting old posts, I now appreciate how much I’ve matured and evolved to better understanding the world. I also noticed how a lot of very dumb comments on my part are now readily accessible to a lot more people than I had anticipated when signing up with the service.

The past and the future are colliding. What was once considered to be a closed ecosystem (exclusive access to university freshmen) has become more accessible service. Our content was grand-fathered to a bigger pool of people that I met later in life. This creates a flux of content that was initially destined only for a group of similar demographic to the rest of the population. 

Embarrassing content is collectively embarrassing. Content is directed online and has a publisher and recipient. Both have to play the game for damage control of what is published since publication is controlled by two parties. The new generation of social media users understand this. With social media having ephemeral content like Snapchat, posts require little maintenance since automatically deleted posts leave “no paper trail”.

Compartmentalization of what is public is now taken for granted. The rise of group-chat functionalities within social media channels simply goes to show how users prefer to compartmentalize the stream of information and what is publicly accessible.

Public means different things depending on service. “Public” posts now have different meanings by service. WhatsApp and WeChat define public posts to be exposed only to your friends. In comparison with Facebook and Twitter, their definition of public means the rest of the internet.

The era of feelings and emoticons will continue to rise. You can customize your messages better than before with a vast array of specific emoticons, feelings, events, right away. I’m noticing that 10 years ago, you had to mainly type it yourself on your own with sometimes a limited amount of “feelings” on Myspace and Facebook.

Give it a go. Overall, I’d invite you to go have this introspective, perhaps daunting experience of going back and checking out your posts over many years. You’ll have a blast of nostalgia, perhaps a refreshing laugh and a chance to clean up some/many skeletons in your digital closet.

If this is somewhat interesting to you, take a couple of hours to zoom through posts and put some Netflix in the background. Just remember not to judge yourself or your peers too harshly for past actions.

How to job hunt in the digital age

Work in progress – This is an evolving document with elements of what I find to be the most useful ways to gain employment.

I’ve been helping people out to find career opportunities since 2010. Although a lot of places will address best-practices for application documents, I believe there is seldom information on how to integrate this to secure employment in the digital age.

I have extensive content management experience that allows me to tailor formatting for the process.

If you are applying for a technical position, please consult with technical specialists in different industries to have a pulse of how to format your documents.

 

Step 1- The setup

Get a cloud-based service

  • Google drive
  • Drop-box
  • iCloud
  • Private server
  • etc..

This allows you to edit (and send) your application wherever you are, and on the go. Alternatively, have a fresh-digital copy handy in your email inbox that you can forward off to impromptu prospective employers from your smart-devices.

Folder organization

Create a folder in your cloud drive. I’d recommend a vague-ish title like JSearch. This avoids embarrassment or uneasy situations if you leave your browser window opened. Ambiguous enough for others, but very relevant to you.

Create folders by year in your cloud. Let’s face it. Once you get a job, you will eventually be looking for another in the years to come. Might as well do a favour to your future self and keep things organized. You also have the advantage of versioning your documents. (More to come on this).

Create sub folders by job application.

Step 2 – Your arsenal

Best résumé templates

My favourite (generic) résumé is still one obtained from Queen’s University.

Avoid using text formatting for aesthetic looks. This might mess up your copy-paste or import resume on online job forms. Make sure to make a copy of this CV and erase all comments before sending. Otherwise if you forget to save as pdf, you might have some comments stuck in your form.

Use fonts that are default in Microsoft word and easy to read. My go to is Calibri because it is familiar for online view as well.

Everyone knows what an email and phone number looks like. Save space, don’t label them.

Don’t use parenthesis when the content is already separated. Save on space, save on clutter.

Make sure you remove template names in footers, headers.

Remove underlines from email addresses or hyperlinks. It looks cleaner. Keep the blue url colour to indicate it’s clickable.

Organizing your job search

Saving your job postings

Linked-in network outreach

Ready for the unexpected

  • 30 seconds elevator pitch
  • Business cards on you at all times. Wallet at worse.

 

If you find any value with this “how-to” or even secure employment with this tutorial, I would appreciate if you could send donations to a charity that helps recent immigrants find jobs in your country. I personally send donations to Ottawa World Skills.

My experience applying Inbox Zero for emails

Using Inbox Zero for work

A year and half ago I attended a Hub Ottawa master class with Pascal Vernier on how to improve my impact per hour. Most of the concepts presented I had already been aware of and applying in regards to project management. The optimization concept that stuck however was “Inbox Zero“: removing all clutter from your inbox until you have zero emails.

I started applying to work and it has since been amazing. It forced me to organize core activities by labels, in majority a breakdown of:

  • Content changes required
  • [Colleague] task dependent
  • Deadline required
  • Urgent – Action required (this one is in red)

Additional benefit from the rigorous methodology are seen when you have to act immediately on emails to sustain the habit. I’ve effectively unsubscribed from all annoying email sources, I archived all 13 000 past emails that have no action required* and reply in a timely manner.

Think about it. What if you could also stop receiving those annoying emails with content you don’t really care for? It feels pretty good.

Making the transition for personal email

It took me an entire year to realize that my personal emails still basked in cluttered organized chaos. It contrasted with my clean unobstructed, non-distracting email account from work.

Another factor that seemed to escape me was that with an ever more mobile friendly approach to technology, having less emails in your inbox means less real-estate wasted on your smaller screen. Regardless of the device you are using to read your emails, you should get in the habit of always cleaning your inbox right away.

I’ve been using the inbox zero trick on my personal accounts and my after-work hours productivity soared. Both my work and personal email still rely heavily on archived and indexed content, allowing me to search back in time by content filters. At the end of the day, the lesson is that if  certain concepts work pleasantly in your professional life, you should take the time to recognize and optimize your personal life as well if you work with separate tools and platforms.

Additional resources:

Gmail: *For gmail: select all your emails using a search-selection filter and then archive the messages.

Make Outlook 2007/2010/2013 search ALL folders instead of just the current folder (indexing): http://www.standss.com/blog/index.php/outlook-20072010-search-folders-current-folder/