Pictures worth a thousand words

Many authors rely on infographics when attempting to communicate complex information. Not only can this visual representation of data make large amounts of information easier to digest, but infographics can be easily shared across different social media platforms.

Though infographics can indeed be valuable, it’s important to remember that just like simpler images, infographics require an alternative method of access since those with disabilities can’t always process visual cues, such as color or proximity.

Generally, an infographic can be made accessible by two methods: using HTML/CSS (instead of an image file) and creating a text alternative. Even though a text alternative can seem straightforward enough, determining what items should be translated into text and grouping the text into logical parts still requires careful thought and consideration.

A popular resource on the topic of accessible infographics is WebAim’s, Web Accessibility for Designers. Here, the authors suggest that optimal accessibility should start as part of the visual design process. When highlighting principles of accessible design, they show why using good contrast, adequate font size, and identifiable links are so important.

In a day of shorter attention spans and information overload, the same people who are inclined to skip a long page of text are often willing to scan an infographic, especially if it is well-designed. This makes the infographic a powerful tool for communication. Just don’t let the power go to your head—remember to make it accessible!

For additional information on accessible infographics, see the following links:


New Division launches

We wanted to update everyone concerning the latest developments on the migration front.

We are excited to announce the launch of the College of Engineering and Computing website, with all its departments and several related institutes! They have worked hard to make it happen, and we are confident that their new site(s) will serve as a positive reflection on their division and go a long way to facilitate their marketing efforts.

You might have also noticed a new face for the College of Arts and Science division pages, as well as three of their departments (History, Political Science, and GRAMELAC) and the Interactive Language Resource Center. Another larger group of CAS departments is well on their way, and we anticipate that many new sites will be launching on a rolling basis during the next few months.  

A New Lease on Student Life

We are happy to announce the launch of a new site for “Student Life”! Once you click from Miami’s homepage, you will see a new presentation of the exciting extracurricular activities and opportunities students can expect as a Miamian!

The “Student Life” homepage then leads you to new sites for all offices within the Division of Student Affairs. We believe this new web presence is a great improvement, bringing together the units into a cohesive whole like never before. They have all worked hard to make this happen, and we are proud of what they have accomplished!

Next up—the College of Arts and Science! Training is in full force, with some departments finishing up their work and others, just beginning. You should see that division wearing a new face soon as well. We’re flying as fast as the snow these days, so stay tuned!

All things new

Welcome, new readers, to our first post in 2014!

The entire campus will soon be back in full swing as our team continues the business of “Fixing the Web.” The new year will bring lots of changes, not the least of which is the launch of a new site for the Armstrong Student Center! With its opening just days away, this site allows readers an early peek into this beautiful facility and the services and amenities it will afford the Miami community—especially our student members! From the welcoming Shade Family Room and state-of-the-art Harry T. Wilks Theater to the variety of new dining options and numerous meeting spaces, this Center is sure to remain a hub of exciting activity for years to come!

The Armstrong site will soon be joined by other offices/units within Student Affairs, who are busy wrapping up their migration activity in anticipation of a division-wide launch. On another front, departments within the College of Arts and Science are also rapidly joining the ranks of the CMS community!

Don’t forget to encourage your colleagues to follow our blog, if they haven’t signed up already. For those of you who have attended CMS training in the past, also be aware that we have relocated our workshops to 110 King Library. The larger space allows us to accommodate more trainees and meet users “where they are” with more personal, individualized attention. We love our new “home”!

That’s all folks (for this year!)

With the holidays fast approaching, our farewell to 2013 is a reminder that the CMS training schedule will include a new venue for Spring 2014. Training will no longer be conducted in Benton Hall but is now moving to 110 King Library. That space will allow for more attendees, and also for more private, individualized attention. The lab is equipped with Mac computers, so we ask trainees to come prepared for that, although because work is done through a web browser, most PC users will be able to adapt quite nicely. (Trainees always have the option of bringing their own laptop as well.)

We’re continuing to expand our instruction set, and we encourage users to consult that as a first line of defense. We’ve recently added procedures for using Amara, our preferred tool for closed-captioning, so be sure to consult that when preparing your videos.

In response to a few of the common issues users experience, we have included the following reminders:

1. To access the CMS in the web browser, you must use “httpS” in the URL (i.e., Note: Only those who have attended training can gain access.
2. Remember to follow the proper convention for system names–lowercase, no spaces, and hyphens between words.
3. Please consider resizing and preparing your images BEFORE uploading them to the CMS. Pixlr is an easy, free, online tool you can use for this. See Resizing and Cropping Images for the Web and choose the Pixlr option for a video on how to use it.
4. When uploading images and other document files, remember to leave the system name field BLANK. The only action required is to browse to the file and click “Submit.”
5. Because every single page resides within its own folder, the alignment of folders and thus, orientation within the asset tree, can be difficult. You can use the small “plus” or “minus” box next to the folder to expand or collapse it in order to help identify your targeted index page.

Finally, the entire web team would like to say “Thank You” to all our CMS partners for their diligence, patience, and commitment to this effort in 2013. Since launching the new CMS in April, we’ve experienced many bumps in the road but also many successes, which fuel our optimism and enthusiasm for the year ahead. We are happy to announce that OARS has just recently launched their new site, and we trust this overhaul will go a long way toward reaching their communication goals. The spring semester’s beginning will include several more sites wearing a new face and training that will bring many new users into the system each month.

To date, we have nearly 200 CMS users in the new system, and that number will likely double by spring semester’s end.

There is no doubt that Miami’s new web presence represents a tremendous undertaking. While in the broad scheme of things we’ve only just begun, like the newly accepted Class of 2018, we’ve got a lot of accomplishments to look forward to!

Happy New Year!

Cascade Upgrade

As we go into the Thanksgiving break, we wanted to alert our CMS users that an upgrade to Cascade Server is coming Tuesday, December 3! We will alert everyone when they need to be logged out of the system, but no existing pages/content will be affected. We think you’ll be pleased with several new features available:

Saved User History
Now your history will be saved after you log out of the CMS. Pages you frequently edit will be listed in your History menu (in the blue task bar at the top of the page).

Smart Version Comments
When a page is submitted and a new version of that page is recorded, a summary of changes will be created for viewing in the version comments. You can now view the versions log and roll back to a previous version of the page more easily, if needed.

Stale Content Reporting
A list of pages, widgets, or other assets in the system that haven’t been updated within six months can now be exported to an Excel spreadsheet to help you keep track of pages that could be outdated.

Improved Image Editing Capabilities
Cropping dimensions will now be displayed while selecting a crop area. You can lock the cropping aspect ratio so that your images don’t become distorted by holding down the Shift key while selecting that area.

We are looking forward to more training workshops when we return from the break and as the fall semester comes to a close. We appreciate the positive feedback we’ve received from trainees as well as the comments that are helping us improve the process. We are truly thankful for our partners in this venture and invite all CMS users to reach out for any support and assistance they might need.

Training update

This week of training has come to a close with several new CMS users now working on their websites!

We are very pleased with the interest of our attendees and are confident that once they are comfortable in the system, they will progress nicely. In our training of the Student Affairs and College of Arts and Science (CAS) groups, we have been made aware that attempts to cover all the training in one session is problematic for some. Due to the varied nature of skill levels represented, the material is readily absorbed by a few but difficult to grasp for many. Because of this, we are breaking up these introductory training sessions into two separate ones in order to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to learn.

We have also been making a lot of progress on our online instruction set and adding to it every day. We now have online registration available for training and ask that those planning to attend sign up through the form at

In the weeks to come, we will be leading follow-up workshops for those already trained and look ahead to scheduling the CAS groups in Phase 2 before winter break.

Moving right along

During these last several weeks, the migration project has been progressing steadily, with a focus on the sites within Student Affairs as well as those in the first phase of the CAS migration. Now that the information architecture for the sites has been approved and the site frameworks, built, this week marks the beginning of a wave of targeted training sessions to be held throughout the month of November.

These special sessions are being scheduled so as not to interfere with our “regular” training, which occurs every other Tuesday morning and every other Friday morning (on alternate weeks). While these sessions are typically attended by a handful of new users, those invited to train with a specific division might find these sessions a helpful reinforcement once their initial training has been conducted. Some users simply schedule this time as a workshop or to collaborate with their peers, knowing trainers are readily available when questions do arise.

We’re also getting ready to launch some new sites in the days ahead, so we’ll continue to update you on those developments as well as progress on the second and third phases of the CAS site.

More on Accessibility

Last post covered the need for Web accessibility and Miami’s commitment to the adherence of industry standards and guidelines.

Although law is a driving force behind new initiatives regarding access, readers challenged with identified “disabilities” are not the only benefactors. As user expert Jakob Nielsen stated, “It’s an oversimplification to distinguish between users with and without disabilities as if that were a dichotomy. It’s really a continuum of people with more or less severe disabilities.” That, in addition to the fact that the world’s population is getting older and more diverse, should be our motivation for allocating necessary resources toward the effort, not simply compliance with the law.

So, what can we as website owners do to enhance comprehension (i.e., accessibility) of our content? In the months ahead, we hope to provide some clear directives that you can use to verify the accessibility of your web pages. In the meantime, however, PDF accessibility is also a topic that you’ll be hearing more about.

PDF Accessibility

For those of you who are unaware, PDF files are not typically created in Acrobat. They are usually created in another program and then converted to PDF. For example, many documents are created in a word processing application, such as Microsoft Word, and then exported as PDF documents.

Optimally, document accessibility should begin in the native document format. Dozens or probably hundreds of programs can create PDF files, but very few of them produce “tagged” PDF files. Tagging is just one of the many things that must be done in native document applications to support accessibility. Tags express the structure of the document, including the logical text-flow or reading order, and the presence of significant elements such as figures, lists, tables, and so on. Even seemingly small errors in document structure can easily render a file completely incomprehensible by readers with disabilities. In fact, you might consider using your computer with the screen turned off to get some idea of how important logical text-flow is to anyone who needs a screen-reader!

Getting Started

The common use and sheer ubiquity of PDF files can make the road to accessibility seem rather intimidating. To date, most content creators know very little about requirements and even less about methods for following them. As we educate ourselves and work to discover best practices for accessibility, we will pass along information to keep you “in the loop,” and raise awareness of what’s to come.

And Access for All

According to the U.S. Census figures for 2000, 20% of Americans have a disability that impairs access to websites and Internet content, and that percentage is increasingly disproportionate with population growth.

This phenomenon has fueled the recent focus on Web accessibility, which has become one of the most critical issues in higher education. While the disabled population has skyrocketed, poor design and technical incompatibilities have prevented full access to digital learning resources; thus, accessibility laws are expected to expand and become more strongly enforced in the future.

Here at Miami, we are trying to educate ourselves, not only about the legal ramifications of the issue, but also about the available tools at our disposal and best practices to promote. Accessible content benefits not only those with disabilities, but also those who prefer to learn in more than one format.

You will be hearing more about the Web accessibility issue in future posts, as information on new federal requirements and/or guidelines becomes available. The ultimate goal is the formulation of new policies to ensure compliance across Miami’s web presence.

While cost can be prohibitive, we want to take a proactive approach that involves long-term planning and implementation. Modification of ALL legacy content cannot be readily achieved, but we can learn how to create new content that is inherently accessible and continue our campaign toward a more inclusive culture.