Author: Donald St. Martin

Web Technologies & Development at 2018 Tech Summit

2018 Texas A&M University System Technology Summit
Moody Gardens Convention Center, Galveston, TX
February 26-28

The Texas A&M University System Technology Summit is the place technology experts come to learn from the best, exchange ideas on common challenges and spend time together. Professionals have the rare chance to blend technical learning across a wide range of subjects. TechSummit offers sessions to help you master your daily work, while enjoying a taste of island time. This year’s web track is full of valuable sessions:

  • New App, Who Dis? : A Journey Into Modo’s Mobile App for Education
    A presentation on what went into Tarleton’s decision to leave their old (Ellucian) mobile app and go to a new app powered by ModoLabs. Presentation includes what Modo is, pros and cons of the two apps, and lessons learned throughout the process of getting people to abandon the old app and embrace the new one.
  • Code K-9
    Automation has become an integral part of any successful team in software industry. A team which can master the concept of doing more with less, can achieve rapid product development with consistent higher standards. PHP Code Sniffer, which analyzes your code directory against a set of rules/coding standards, will be discussed.
  • Infrastructure as a Service at UNT: A Case Study of a Successful Private Cloud
    The University of North Texas System provides IT services to three universities in the Dallas area. By embracing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), we have successfully provided self-service cloud services to our customers with greater reliability compared to traditional IT systems, and significant cost savings compared to public cloud offerings. We have proved that the journey to the cloud starts in your data center on premise.
  • Getting the Most Out of HTML Emails
    Email continues to be the most reliable form of communication to campus members, but mastering this tool can be very intimidating. Using campus tools like Bulk Mail, Maestro, and Listserv allows you to do and learn more to reach your audience. Join this session to explore the possibilities (and constraints) of HTML emails, how to use analytics to determine the success of your message, and address accessibility in your inbox.
  • Creating a Custom WordPress Plugin 101
    WordPress has many functions that come “out of the box” and you can find plugins that perform a lot of functions. What do you do when you can’t find a plugin to meet a need or you need to change some functionality of a plugin? We will discuss the basic principles of plugin design and development. We will take a look at a custom plugin that modifies an existing plugin. Lastly, we will look at a custom plugin that has an admin form, custom database table, and presents content to users. Come hear how you can use custom plugins to tailor WordPress to your needs.
  • Find: “Motivation” – Describing and Finding The Right Image
    “A picture is worth a thousand words” is an understatement. In this talk, we will unlock the data in an image. With a functional examination of strategies, techniques, and technologies we will define and leverage what images hide in plain sight. 
  • Enhancing Web Accessibility and User Experience with ARIA and HTML5
    HTML5 offers some great ways to make our sites more accessible, but there is one catch: not all browsers support these new techniques. Enter ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications), which can extend the capabilities of HTML by adding attributes and allowing interaction of dynamic changes to content that are well supported by most browsers and assistive technology. In this session, you’ll explore the differences between HTML5 and ARIA and learn how ARIA – when properly implemented – can complement your HTML5 markup to enhance the accessibility of your website.
  • Next-Generation Campus Portal Implementation
    TAMUCT has recently implemented a next gen campus portal environment that allows students, faculty and staff to quickly locate and access services—from any computer or mobile device. This session will outline why a new portal was needed, the implementation process and the lessons learned during the first semester of use.

Pre-conference workshops specific to web development:

  • Workflow Essentials for Web Development
    This workshop will expand your knowledge of the web development process by providing you with a few essential tools and tricks needed to help you create more user-friendly and accessible websites.

GoWeb After Dark

Howard Technology Solutions treats you to hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary first drink. Join the Texas A&M GoWeb group and end your day in a casual setting. Network with web professionals and discuss everything web, from the latest trends on analytics, accessibility and branding to recent successes and challenges.

Please check out the complete schedule and we hope to see you in Galveston!


Donald St. Martin & Morgan Hammond
Track Chairs, Web Technologies & Development

Addressing the struggles of making sites accessible and usable

Accessibility and Usability Vin Diagram

Credit: Unknown

 

A question was asked at an Accessibility Special Interest Group meeting along the lines of, “Do we have access to a report that shows all the accessibility issues for our sites?” A comment was then made, “I just don’t know where to start.” I immediately reflected back to when Erick Beck and I gave a presentation along with representatives from SiteImprove of the various components of the SiteImprove suite. The same type of question was asked during the Q&A section. I felt it was time to write an article to share with the entire web community on campus my thoughts on bringing every site into compliance making our sites usable.

Triage known issues

The first step I recommend is triaging known issues on all your sites collectively and establishing a plan. Start by looking at reports, whether in SiteImprove or another reporting tool, and find similarities or patterns. For example, if you notice a contrast ratio issue on all your reports and the same theme is used on each site, then a simple CSS fix to the theme and your theme’s source files will resolve the issue.

Identify teaching opportunities

If you see a lot of issues on alternative text, such as filenames used as alternative text, use it as a teaching moment. Send a polite email to your content contributors stating that you have noticed a lot of images added with the filename used as the alternative text. Provide simple steps to correct the issue and avoid mentioning the rules or policies associated with it. Please do not misunderstand me and think that I do not believe the accessibility rules and policies are not important. The rules and policies are important but, the idea here is to gingerly tell those who contribute content to the site to be mindful of certain things. We don’t want to beat them into the ground with the rule book.

Make the content usable

Instead of embedding an image containing paragraphs of text, tables and supporting images, make the image accessible by making it usable. We all agree that we want Google, Bing and any other search engine to index our site. Why should we then mask our content within an image? We want visitors to be able to find something on a page. Why should we put all our text in an object that can’t be searched? We want those looking at our site with a mobile device to read what we have to say without pinching to zoom in and out. Why include it in an image that scales automatically making the text difficult to see? Extract the content from the image and place it on the page so that everyone can read it making is usable and accessible.

Remember, the end goal is to have our sites accessible by making them usable. Try your best not to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

  • Start by triaging the reported issues and establish a plan.
  • Identify the issues that pertain to a theme or template where one fix resolves the issue in several places.
  • Use your analytics to identify your top 25 or 50 most visited pages and resolve all the issues on those pages.
  • Work your way down to the fourth, fifth and sixth level pages eliminating the issues reported by your scanning tool.
  • Finally, you can review your site to check the tabbing order or if the appropriate landmarks are being used as both of these items need human interaction to verify they are within the guidelines.

Help is on the way!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The odds are high that someone has been in the same circumstance and can help you along the way. Join the accessibility sprint on July 14th where the goal is to bring people and technology together to improve the usability of our sites. This is a great opportunity to interact with others across campus who are also making updates that impact accessibility!

Web Technologies & Development at 2017 Tech Summit

2017 Texas A&M University System Technology Summit
Moody Gardens Convention Center, Galveston, TX
February 20-22

The Texas A&M University System Technology Summit is the place technology experts come to learn from the best, exchange ideas on common challenges and spend time together. Professionals have the rare chance to blend technical learning across a wide range of subjects. Tech Summit offers sessions to help you master your daily work, while enjoying a taste of island time. This year’s web track is full of valuable sessions:

Pre-conference workshops specific to web development are:

GoWeb After Dark

Equidox by Onix treats you to hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary first drink. Join the Texas A&M GoWeb group and end your day in a casual setting. Network with web professionals and discuss everything web, from the latest trends on analytics, accessibility and branding to recent successes and challenges.

Please check out the complete schedule and we hope to see you in Galveston!


Donald St. Martin
Track Chair, Web Technologies & Development

HTTPS and the CAS Maestro WordPress plugin

At the College of Engineering, we are in the process of adding SSL certificates to all of our WordPress sites. On top of faster load times with HTTP/2 and higher page rankings in Google’s search engine, we also wanted our WordPress logins to be secure. It is a simple procedure that adds one more layer of obfuscation. Well, it was supposed to be a simple procedure but I ran into an issue when securing the WordPress login process.

Convert Case

Convert Case is a great tool when copying content from another website. Due to CSS attributes or someone’s finger constantly hitting the caps lock key, I often find myself wanting to change the case of text I am copying and doing it quickly. Convert Case will change input text into sentence case, lower case, title case, among others so you don’t have to manually convert it. Next time you find yourself converting text from ALL CAPS to Sentence case, check out Convert Case.

pattern lab

Atomic design is a methodology used to construct web design systems. The PHP version of Pattern Lab is, at its core, a static site generator. It combines platform-agnostic assets, like the Mustache-based patterns and the JavaScript-based viewer, with a PHP-based “builder” that transforms and dynamically builds the Pattern Lab site. By making it a static site generator, Pattern Lab strongly separates patterns, data, and presentation from build logic.

View the full documentation online for further information.