Wednesday 27 January 2010

Heatmapping... i'm warming up to the idea (sorry, had to be done!)

So, I finally found the time to follow up on the notes I took from the Precedent seminar a couple of weeks back... it' been a busy few weeks! Anyway, one of the links was to a company that provides heatmapping, essentially a cheaper way of eye tracking where users linger on your site by tracking their mouse movement.

This is potentially going to throw up some interesting discussions with out IT department about how useful the information would be. Admittedly it does appear that most people simply click on the links on the page however, the idea is that people track the areas on the page they are reading with their mouse. So, if the content is good and they have read it they should have also had their mouse hovering over that area... i'm still undecided on how accurate that assumption is though.

It will certainly throw up some heated discussion about the usefulness of the data but then with the cheapest package costing $9 a month for 10,000 tracked visits it's probably worth a trial for a couple of months to check out the results!

Friday 22 January 2010

Google Alerts can find some interesting things!

I have a Google Alert set up to scan for anything that references 'University of Bedfordshire' and it can sometimes flag up some interesting things we wouldn't normally know about. A Google Alert will scan the web, news, blogs listed in the search results of Google for your pre-defined keywords an then email you the links to anything that matches. The one that dropped into my mailbox this morning included a link to a Flickr account with an aerial photograph of our Bedford campus.

It's a free service, you can schedule in how often you are emailed and it can act as an early warning on any negative news. This gives you the perfect opportunity to reply quickly and ensure situations don't get out of control. If you don't already have one set up head to the Google Alerts page for more information and remember that you can set up alerts on competitor keywords as well!

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Awards, awards, awards!

It's the time of year for the awards submissions to be written and submitted and I always forget how long it all takes! So far this month i've written six and it's not even the end of January yet! We have:
  • HEIST Awards 2010
  • Communicators in Business Awards 2010 (2 entries)
  • CIPR Excellence awards 2010 (2 entries)
  • Good Communication Awards 2010
So, is it really worth the effort?

Of course it is! Not only do they give you a much deserved nod from your peers but you also usually pick up a nice trophy to display in the office. Fingers crossed for UoB!

Friday 15 January 2010

The Democratic Web...

I was down in London yesterday with David Sparkes (our Webmaster) at a breakfast seminar run by Precedent, a company we have used previously for a review of our external website. The topic was 'The Democratic Web' and was based around the idea that as a company we longer own our brand or content. Now, this is not an idea we haven't heard before but it does raise some interesting questions! Essentially, we're all looking for the holy grail of mixing social media with our corporate offering and allowing our clients/customers/students the ability to contribute to our offerings. However, how do we approach this whilst keeping the core values of the business safe and is that actually possible?

We've been slowly moving our more visual content out of our CMS and into external hosting options, our videos come from YouTube, our images are being moved into Flickr and we're looking at the use of Twitter as an information tool and Facebook as a tool for prospective students to meet up prior to arriving. These all seem to be relatively successful and our content is being shared with sites other than ours, a good marketing tool! But, should we take it a step further and has anyone else started to do it?

Wikipedia could be viewed as the ultimate example of a democratic web, anyone can change anything they want at any time. But, has this ultimately lead to a more accurate source of information or has it simply watered down the legitimacy of the source?

Would wiki pages work on a University website and could allowing our current students edit content for us? Should we allow the population of Luton & Bedford to edit our town information? In theory the idea of opening it up is fantastic, but who will be brave enough to be the first to try it?!

Thursday 7 January 2010

Rolling out Google Apps...

As other Universities have done we have recently moved our student email system over to Google Mail. A fantastic product which takes the hosting strain away from the University and gives our students a mail interface they are used to and a huge amount of storage space so they need never archive again!

However, what hasn't been fully utilised yet are the additional features of Google Apps, specifically Google Docs. Like many businesses we are running Microsoft Office on our desktop PC's and are now in the process of upgrading to Office 2007. But, is this the way our students really want to work?

The advantages lie with the fact that the majority of our student PC's are shared machines, so it makes sense to have your documents stored online. This cuts down on the use of memory sticks and possible version issues, you can share the document with your peers for feedback and you can collaborate on issues without having to physically share a file.

The disadvantages though are when you start to look at the slightly more complex functionality. Formulas you might use in Excel are not going to be available in a Google Spreadsheet and there are no animations for Google Presentations at all!

But, are there enough disadvantages to stop students using the service? We'll have to wait and see what the take up is like but I don't think we'll be ditching our Office 2007 contract just yet.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Snow, snow everywhere...

Well, as we're snowed in at the moment I thought i'd post a quick message with an image of the view out of our office window... I thought we'd seen the last of this!