Dec 2, 2013

Convincing your boss to go mobile: Sometimes the truth hurts

Designer Manager

The Go Mobile team’s recent focus group and survey revealed making departmental websites mobile friendly is not a high priority for management. A respondent said tools were needed to “help convince my leadership that this needs to be done now and not just soon.” Here are a few ways you might approach this problem.

“[Insert name of top competitor]’s website is already mobile friendly”
Look at peer institution websites ( to see how far along they are in going mobile. If your top competitors are already mobile friendly, your department is falling behind. If many aren’t mobile friendly, your department has an opportunity to become a leader in this area.

“Students hate our website”
Survey students within your majors about whether the current site adequately supports access from mobile devices. Take the opportunity to find out what content is the most important to students, which will be helpful when redesigning your site.

“The latest website redesign was in the last century”
A Chanel suit is timeless. A website design, not so much. In your survey, ask students about how they feel about the website’s design. Results may help your leadership understand an outmoded, poorly designed site speaks more powerfully in a negative way than they thought.

“Faculty hate our website, too”
This could pose some difficulties in obtaining information, so you may need to be a bit “sneakier.” For example, if your department is conducting a job search, ask the committee chair if the website shows the department in the best light. The current site may not be meeting faculty needs for reasons other than lack of mobile friendliness.

We know having a great website isn’t one of the metrics by which your department is assessed. However, it is a very important tool that helps departments achieve their goals.

Nov 21, 2013

Why mobile first?

Designer Developer

If you’re new to the concept of mobile first, its simply the practice of designing and developing websites starting with the mobile experience.

Hearing the term mobile-first a couple years ago, I thought how dumb, web surfing is best done on a huge monitor!  We should just give the one or two mobile users out there separate mobile sites.

Two years and several responsive sites later, I get it.

The growth of mobile has been discussed before, so lets cover other benefits.

Using a mobile first approach improves:

  • Mobile experience (duh) – mobile becomes first priority instead of an afterthought
  • Content – the small screen compels us to write concise content that is focused on user needs
  • Accessibility – screen readers and mobile browsers thrive on clean, semantic html
  • Usability – simplifying our interfaces and prioritizing content over navigation leads to sites that are easier to use
  • Speed – the constraints of mobile bring us to remove unnecessary cruft; reducing ornamentation, graphics and fancy javascript makes everything faster
  • Development time – starting small and adding features for larger screens results in leaner code

Where to go from here

We have a few points on how to think mobile first under the Go Mobile strategy page. Then definitely read Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski. Everything here is rehashing ideas from Luke’s book.

Nov 1, 2013

Tragedy of the Commons


A recent EDUCAUSE Center for Research and Analysis (ECAR) report cites a tragedy of the commons playing out in the ether of university wireless networks. It seems that the number of “Internet capable devices” is increasing at a steep rate among campus humanoids, most sharply among students. In fact, the prediction is that there will be four devices per student on Doctoral/Research campuses by 2014. At Texas A&M University, that translates into more than 200,000 devices, and that doesn’t even account for faculty, staff, administrators and visitors. What’s frightening is that the curve doesn’t appear to be slowing. While we have yet to see saturation of the campus network, the theory of the tragedy of the commons would posit that this condition will eventually lead to a depletion of the common resource (e.g., bandwidth, network nodes, addresses, etc.).

How will individual digital behavior and habits impact the collective commons of shared networking space? Will the current adequacy of the resource eventually move to scarcity, and how can we avoid it? Perhaps setting some bring-your-own-device (BYOD) guidelines are in order. The report goes on to talk about the federal government’s BYOD Toolkit with a set of pre-canned policies that could serve as a starting point for our own discussion. ECAR reports that 47% of institutions are developing comprehensive mobile device strategies and consider it a high or essential priority. The most common policies are acceptable use (89%), employee privacy (79%) and security requirements for data (75%). The least common policies are limitations of liability (32%), permitted/allowed apps (40%) and ownership of provisioned apps and services (43%).

Back to the BYOD proliferation issue. If the trend of (roughly) doubling devices every three years continues, we may not be able to keep up in the future. Now is the time to start a discussion on mobile proliferation.


Oct 15, 2013

Flexbox – True layout properties for CSS without a framework


We have tried everything to tame the elusive HTML layouts. We began with tables, then divs using CSS floats and even changing the display property but nothing was easy without a number of hacks and feats of magic.

Now entering, Flexbox! The flexbox module is a collection of wonderful new CSS properties that I’ve been excited about since I came across it on and even more so, when I attended a workshop at the WebVisionEvents conference in May. It is the true layout module in CSS without a framework.