You asked for it…you got it: Go Links without the toolbar

One of the main comments/concerns/aggravations about the new Go Links service was the addition of the toolbar. I’ve added a new option for link owners to address their concerns and requests, but first let me explain why the toolbar exists now.

Go Links is a self-service, self-policing method of creating shortened “branded” URLs for NC State University. We did not implement an approval mechanism that stood in front of your ability to create a Go Link, because we knew that would hinder the service’s adoption, and also create an unsustainable amount of administrative overhead.

The toolbar is the first line of defense for this self-policing service. It provides an instantaneous method for visitors to report misuse or abuse of any Go Link, directly from the link itself. If the service was a blind redirect (like Bit.ly or Goo.gl), then there would be no easy way for visitors to report abuse (they would have to visit the NCSU homepage, search for contact information, and hopefully find their way to the help desk). The toolbar makes it easy for people to immediately report these problems, as well as contacting the link owner if it’s a question that should be directed there instead of an administrator. This reason seemed to be sufficient for most people, as we were only asking people to click the “close toolbar” button to remove it if desired.

However, some problems were reported that made me realize that the tool bar’s implementation needed to change slightly. The initial reports were:

  1. Printing the page — caused only the toolbar to print instead of the target website
  2. Bookmarking the page — cause the go link to the bookmarked instead of the current page navigated to.

Instead of the requests just being “would be nice if there was no toolbar,” now there are actual usability problems to address.

The Solution:

The default for all Go Links is still to have the toolbar be displayed. However there is now a new “Theme” option that allows link owners to specify if they want their link to be a “Direct Link” which will go directly to the URL, bypassing all themes, toolbars, and additional analytics. It is simply a blind redirect without any additional logic at play.

To access this new feature, link owners can sign into go.ncsu.edu, go to the link details page for one of their links, and click on the Theme tab.

This allows link owners to choose the behavior that works for their individual links. If they choose to have a themed link, then they can still do that. If they want a direct link, they can do that too.

Hopefully this will help to meet the needs of all link owners, while addressing the usability concerns some people had with the toolbar.

An added note on the accessibility options:

If the toolbar is displayed, there are screen-reader friendly links at the top of every page (before the toolbar) that give the user the ability to go directly to the link, contact the link owner, or report abuse or misuse.

Social Media Presentations

I delivered a social media presentation at this years UNC CAUSE conference: Social Media Goes to College: Building Your Campus Community. I did a similar presentation the following week for another conference, the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association annual conference in downtown Raleigh. The two presentations were about planning an implementing social media and how to build your community (aka: street cred). I am including the second of the two presentations entitled, “Implementing Social Media” on this site.

One note: the first presentation I did with my friend and co-worker John Martin, who is also the person in charge of the bulk of our OIT social media. The second presentation was given with Mike Sink, an employee of the Town of Cary Parks & Recreation.

The Genius of WordPress

I gave this presentation at a NCSU WebDev meet-up a few monts ago and tweaked it slightly for a recent Lunch n’ Learn. It covers the basic options for WordPress: either using it via the WordPress website (wordpress.com) or downloading and installing it in a hosted environment (via wordpress.org).

Let me know if you have questions or would be interested in using this presentation for yourself!

QR Codes for Go Links just got more awesome

Yes…it’s only been a couple of hours, but already the QR Code feature for NC State Go Links has an upgrade.

Now, there are two methods to get the QR Code for a Go Link:

  1. Link Owners can go to the details page for their individual links, and check out the “QR Code” tab
  2. Anyone can append “.qr” on the end of any Go Link, and the appropriate QR Code will be displayed.

This is very similar to the Goo.gl and Bit.ly service…if you were wondering.

Go ahead…try it out:

Go Links: Removal of Social Media buttons

After much consideration, the social media buttons have been removed from the Go Links tool bars and custom themes. There were many reasons to remove them…and here’s the most important of them:

  • They will potentially conflict with a target site’s own sharing options, making it confusing for the visitor which set they should use
  • They creates the future problem of which social media services to include, and will cause unnecessary debate over which should be listed, and which should be left out.
  • They cause the scope of what the Go Links service provides to creep into unneeded territory, rather than sticking to what it’s supposed to do….provide a shortened URL for a target website

I received much feedback about these buttons, and after careful consideration, I realized that the only necessary buttons that need to appear on the toolbar for Go Links, are the 3 that now remain:

  1. Report Abuse/Misuse
  2. Contact the Link Owner
  3. Close the Toolbar

Any other buttons are unnecessary, and distract from the real purpose of the service.

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback, and hopefully this small change will improve your experience with Go Links.