10 ways to improve your website over summer break

For some, the approach of summer break means things will be slowing down, allowing more time for those tasks that had to be put aside earlier in the year. And what better task to turn to than tidying up your corner of the Millersville website?

The following list will provide you with a good starting point for doing just that. So strap up your sandals, set aside your snow cone, and get ready to get knee deep in web content, imagery, and SEO.

1. Remove outdated content

As responsibilities ramp up through the Fall and Spring semesters, it’s easy to let web content take the back burner. We encourage reviewing and updating content throughout the entire year, however the summer months provide a great opportunity for some much-needed catch-up.

Things to look for include:

  • Events and other dates that have passed
  • Information that has changed or no longer applies
  • Office hours that have been changed
  • References to faculty and staff members no longer with the University

2. Make use of semantic text formatting

selecting the heading format in a text editor

What is semantic markup?

Semantic HTML markup means presenting your content in a way that is meaningful, rather than focusing on only visual formatting.

For example, a heading could be incorrectly styled by typing in all caps, or making the text bold using the WYSIWYG formatting toolbar.

To format a head correctly, or semantically would mean using the “heading” element that was specifically designed to denote a heading. Doing this creates the correct HTML markup that tells screen-readers and search engines that this is a heading, in addition to applying pre-formatted heading styles that maintain consistency throughout the site.

Some quick tips for using semantic markup:

  • Use the heading element instead of bold or uppercase letters to create emphasis
  • Don’t type in all caps unless you’re referencing an acronym
  • Use bulleted lists instead of line breaks for lists of items

3.    Fix spelling and grammar mistakes

Using correct spelling and grammar creates credibility, especially in a higher ed context. Several tools are available to help with fixing these mistakes.

Cascade’s WYSYWIG tool includes a spell check feature which allows you to easily check content while creating or editing a page.

Don’t hesitate to request a report on your site from our quality assurance tool Siteimprove. We can provide you with a comprehensive list of all spelling and grammar mistakes on your site at any time.

4. Fix or remove broken links

Screenshot of Siteimprove data showing increasing and decreasing broken link counts
Siteimprove tracks increasing and decreasing broken link counts.

Given the sheer number of pages on the Millersville website, it’s no surprise that there are always broken links to be fixed. Some of these are external resources that have be removed by the content owner, and others are internal links that have been deleted, moved, or renamed.

Broken links are harmful to a site’s user experience and can be penalized by search engines. They’re also fairly quick and easy to address, making this a perfect task for your downtime.

Take a look at our Preventing and fixing broken links article or tips on how to tackle these and feel free to request a report for your site.

5. Ensure that your links are accessible

One often overlooked aspect of web accessibility is the use of descriptive link text. To ensure people using screen-readers have a positive experience using our website, it’s imperative to use well-thought-out link text.

Screen reader links list showing Read more, Learn more, Click here, Get information
Example of a links list provided by a screen reader showing link text such as “read more”, “learn more”, and “click here”.

To address this, replace any instances of “read more”, “learn more”, and “click here” with text that defines what the user will find when visiting the link. More details on this can be found in our Accessibility basics for an inclusive website article.

6. Optimize your content for SEO

In the early days of SEO, a large amount of importance was placed on keywords. Many websites would use a tactic referred to as “keyword stuffing”, which nowadays would likely make an SEO consultant cringe. Keywords are still important, however only in ways that are relevant and helpful to those visiting your site.

Google and other search engines are smarter than ever, and a lot of your ranking is determined by how well you serve your users:

  • Are they finding what they need?
  • Does the page load quickly for them?
  • How much time are they spending on your site?

To correctly use keywords, incorporate them into your website’s “Title” field, headings and content in ways that makes sense. Keep you content focused and keep your user in mind at all times.

In addition, every other tip in this article will help with your search engine ranking. So don’t forget to use semantic text formatting, fix your broken links, and optimize your images.

7. Update masthead images

While a masthead (the large image area at the top of the page template) can add a great amount of visual interest to your page, it can also be a detriment to your site if used incorrectly.

Common issues with masthead images include:

  • Images files that are too large, causing slow page load speeds
  • Images that contain text
  • Images the crop strangely at varying screen sizes (be sure to look at the page on mobile)
  • Low-resolution images that appear blurry or pixelated

If any of these issues apply to your masthead images, summer break would be a great time to look at correcting or replacing them. Please read Best practices for masthead images to learn how to best utilize this area.

8. Optimize images for page load times

loading graphic

In addition to slow-loading pages being an annoyance for our web visitors, Google’s newest algorithm is making page load times a key factor in search result rankings. This means it’s more important than ever that we make sure to optimize images.

Our wiki page on editing images in Photoshop offers simple instructions on optimizing images. If Photoshop is not available to you, there are many free online tools that offer similar “save for web” options.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Never use the original on your website, make sure to crop and resize to the recommended dimensions (typically found in the helper text)
  • There is an generous upload limit of 1.5 mb in Cascade, however please try to keep your image well below this if possible
  • Too many images on a page, even if optimized, will slow down the page load
  • New image formats, such as WebP, offer even better image optimization if you have the capabilities to generate them

9. Add or improve your contact information

example of the campus map displaying a building location

The “Contact Block” component in Cascade provides a great way to display contact information on your website. We previously covered the Contact Block in depth, however there are some new and additional features you can now make use of.

screenshot showing how to dynamically select a building locationLink your location to our interactive campus map

The Contact Block now has the ability to either:

  • Manually enter a location address and information
  • Link it dynamically to a location on the campus map

Choosing to dynamically link the location will allow it to automatically populate all of the address fields, as well as creating a link to the campus map page on our website. When clicked, the link will pan to the correct location and display an info window with information on the building.

Add social media links

Social media is a great way to connect with students and community members. The Contact Block includes an option to add all of these links, making them easy to find and allowing you to further engage with our web users.

10. Review and reorder your site navigation

As pages are added and removed throughout the year, it’s easy for your navigation to get complex and out-of-order. The good news is, if you’ve got a few minutes to spare, reviewing and reordering your navigation menu is one of the quickest tasks you can tackle.

Follow the tips on Naming and ordering your navigation to ensure your navigation is clean and user-friendly.

The content of this blog entry was accurate at the time of publication. You can find the most current Cascade-related information in our Cascade wiki documentation.

Virtual training sessions

Although we are not currently offering in-person training sessions, remote training is available upon request. Please submit a Help Desk ticket to arrange a time for your training.