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Agriculture Communication

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New Design for Center for Community Vitality Website

Lynette Flage, Center for Community Vitality (CCV) director, asked for my help in redesigning their website to make it more user-friendly and organized. I worked with her, administrative office manager Vicki Miller and graduate student Valerie Fechner. Here are the main points we adjusted to reach their goals.


When you work with Ag Comm, it’s essential that you tell us who your target audience is and what you are trying to accomplish. Lynette identified three main audiences for their website: people who are:

  • Enhancing Communities
  • Inspiring Leaders
  • Growing Economies

Graphic designer Dave Haasser made a button for each area to enable each audience quick access to their area of interest. Each button leads to a landing page where those programs are listed. The buttons are bold, eye-catching and prominently displayed at the top of each page on the site.

CCV logo and buttons.PNG

Homepage No Longer Static

The CCV team wanted something more dynamic so they made their previous homepage their About Us page. The homepage is the first thing people will see, and it now is in a blog-style format where staff will take turns contributing. Also, Google loves fresh content so will display this higher in search results.

Events Portlet

We added this because it helps the events stand out on the site. It’s also convenient for users because they can add the event right to their online calendars with a simple click. It’s also convenient that the event will unpublish itself after it’s done so you don’t have to go in and manually delete it. Consider adding Events on your website. They are easy to set up.

Link Checker

Since the CCV works with many partners and provides links to its resources, Vicki wanted to make sure all those links are up to date. She dreaded having to go into each one of the links to see if they still worked, so I had her install a Chrome add-on Link Checker, which pointed out that seven of the links were not working. She went in and updated them but saved a lot of time by not having to check each link. Also, Google likes it when your pages have no broken links.


Each Ag CMS site has Google Analytics code on it, so we can get great information on how your site is being accessed and what happens when people get onto your site. I took a look at some of the data and found the #1 link on the CCV site is Reports, Permits, Notices and Forms Required by the State of North Dakota. Since this is a highly sought-after page, we made it prominent by not only displaying it in the left navigation, but also in a portlet where it can stand out by itself.

I’m eager to look at the analytics in another six months to see if and how the redesign affects visits, links clicked on, time spent on page, etc. Will the redesign show that visits increased? Are their new pages getting views?

Contact Us   

Lynette wanted to make sure it’s easy for people to contact them. The previous director’s name was still on the Contact Us page so instead of having to manually update this when a staff person comes or goes, or an office moves, we set it up to go directly to the Extension Staff Directory that is always up to date. (Thanks, Lori Lymburner!) It’s easy to embed this directory on your site in a Contact Us page.


If you think your website could use some work, check out my Building Better Web Pages presentation on Slideshare. If you need help with the How To links in this post or want to talk about your website, please let Bob Bertsch or me know.

, Web Technology Specialist (701) 231-6403

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NDSU Cloud Storage and Collaboration

The archive of the latest Ag Comm Webinar Series webinar is below. It was presented on Feb. 17, 2016 and covers using Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Sites (Sharepoint) for collaboration and storage. These free solutions from NDSU are a great option for saving files from your computer to the cloud, sharing files with others inside and outside of NDSU and collaborating on a single document rather than emailing multiple versions back and forth.

If you have questions about using Google Drive, OneDrive or SharePoint, please feel free to contact me.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Giving Permission for Others to Use Your Photos

NDSU Agriculture and Extension uses a Creative Commons license to share our knowledge and some resources. Others are encouraged to use the information, photos, graphics and more as long as they follow our rules of use. These are:

  • Properly attribute the work (attribution)
  • Don’t make money from NDSU work (noncommercial)
  • Give others permission to use their version of the NDSU work (share alike)

Carl Dahlen, NDSU
So, for example, if someone contacts you and wants to use a photo that’s on your website or in your booklet, you’re welcome to explain to them that they may use it as long as they attribute NDSU and hopefully the photographer and they don’t sell the photo itself. No problem if they’re selling a book and this is just one of many photos in the book.

They’re welcome to use their own style for attribution: simply “NDSU” on or next to the photo, “photo courtesy of NDSU,” “photo by Carl Dahlen, NDSU,” whatever.

If, however, someone else sees the photo in their publication and wants to use it in a way that falls outside the permissions given in our Creative Commons license, the requester must come back to the original source – in this case NDSU – for permission. The person or organization that used NDSU’s photo cannot give permission for someone else to use it commercially or without attribution. NDSU is the copyright holder of the photo.

If an author must have more in writing rather than just a reference to our Creative Commons website, the request may be sent to

, Ag Communication Director, (701) 231-7875

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Upgrade to Office 2016 Available


Office 2016 has been tested and installed on new Ag computers since Jan. 1. This latest version of the Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) includes the latest security updates and a few new features, plus it can fix a few issues some Office 2010 and 2013 users have had.

If you are on campus and use Office 2010 or 2013, you can upgrade to 2016 on your own. Sorry, but this option isn’t available for off-campus computers.

  1. Click on the Windows start button in the lower left of the toolbar.
  2. Click on All Programs.
  3. Click on Microsoft System Center 2012 R2.
  4. Click on Software Center.
  5. Select Ag Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016, and click on Install in the lower right.

The installation may take a while, so you can select install before you leave your computer for the evening to let it run overnight.

The process automatically uninstalls your old version and puts Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, Skype and Outlook icons on your desktop.

The 2016 files still are in, for example, .docx format, and all the programs look very similar to the 2013 versions.

If you still use Office 2010, support will end this fall. We encourage you to upgrade, and we haven’t found problems jumping from 2010 to 2016.

The steps above only will work for supported computers on the NDSU campus. If you are in an off-campus office, contact the technicians to arrange for an upgrade.

The Office 365 cloud/online version of the software may be used for work or personal use since it’s not installed on a computer.

Home users with a non-NDSU-owned (personal) computer may either download a copy of Office Professional Plus 2013 from the online Web portal for free or purchase a copy of Office Professional Plus 2016 for $9.95 (digital download) or $24.95 (DVD). The Web download requires that your computer be connected to the Internet at least once a month to allow it to verify you are still an NDSU employee.

Learn more about these options for both NDSU-owned and personal computers.

Jerry Ranum, Jon Fry and Blair Johnson, Desktop Support Specialists; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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Facebook Page or Group?

Here’s some things to consider when deciding on a Facebook Page vs. a Group.

Facebook Pages are public and can be verified as “official”, while Groups can be private, public and even secret and rally around a shared interest. For instance, NDSU Extension Innovation Group is not limited to Extension employees. Anyone interested in Working Differently can join the Group. Since it is a closed group, those requests must be approved the Groups Administrator (Bob Bertsch).

Innovation logo.PNG
Groups can be open or closed, depending on how public you want your conversation to be.

Besides the innovation group, I’ve heard of agents who start groups for 4-H parents so they can share information and photos.

When deciding on a Page or Group, first you’ll want to consider if your audience is on Facebook at all. Chances are yes, as Facebook reported 1 billion daily active users last year.

Read more at Facebook Page vs. Group.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, 231-6403

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Using Office Mix for Recorded Presentations

Recently, I worked with Extension family science specialist Kim Bushaw on a series of presentations on Teaching Adult Learners. The goal was to produce some pre-recorded presentations that Extension professionals view on demand.

There's a number of tools available to reach that goal, including Tegrity, Skype for Business, or simply adding audio to PowerPoint, but we decided to try Office Mix, a relatively new, free plug-in for PowerPoint.

Office Mix helps you create and share interactive videos from within PowerPoint. Although Kim and I did not take advantage of all the capabilities of Office Mix, it did allow us to add video of Kim and digital ink on top of her presentation slides. Kim also found it easy to work with and was able to produce the presentations herself.

Here's one of the videos from the "Teaching Adult Learners" series.

Completed Office Mix presentations can be uploaded to Microsoft's Office Mix site, which supports the polls and interactive apps available in Mix. We exported the "Teaching Adult Learners" presentations to video and posted them to YouTube.

Let me know if you have questions about how Kim and I used Office Mix. I hope you'll give it a try.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Write the Right Word: When Not to Capitalize

You’ve probably read an ad, letter, email or other text with all of the words capitalized. Did you find the words hard to read?

If you did, some research can tell you why. Although the writer’s intent was to emphasize the message, the all-caps text actually de-emphasizes it because every letter is the same size. Contrast in letter size make text easier to read.

We’re not used to seeing every letter capitalized, so we have to slow our reading to make sense of what we’re seeing. While readers eventually can decipher the message, why make it hard for people to read? People are busy, and if they have to spend too much time trying to figure out what you’ve written, they probably will give up and move on to something easier to read.

Another reason not to capitalize everything is that all caps can give the impression you are shouting at the reader. People don’t take kindly to someone yelling at them, even in print.

While we’re on the subject of capitalization, stick to uppercasing just the first letter of nouns such people’s names, place and organization names, book titles and some job titles. Don’t  capitalize the first letter to emphasize a common word. Occasionally bolding a word or putting it in quotes gets the job done with less distraction.

, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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Using Skype for Business

The archive of the first Ag Comm Webinar Series webinar is below. It was presented on Jan. 20, 2016 and covers the use of Skype for Business for instant messaging, audio calls and video calls at North Dakota State University.

If you have questions about using Skype for Business, please feel free to contact me.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Windows Mobility Center Simplifies Notebook & Tablet Settings

Windows Mobility CenterIf you use a Windows notebook or tablet (sorry, desktop users), Windows contains a little-known but useful menu known as the Windows Mobility Center. This menu provides the most commonly used notebook settings all in one place for quick changes.

Settings vary depending on your version of Windows but can include display, brightness, power and wireless.

The easiest way to get to Mobility Center is to use the Windows Key + X key combination. This will open a menu in the lower left corner of your monitor. Near the top of this menu, locate and click on Mobility Center.

Jerry Ranum, Desktop Support Specialist; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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Marketing Minute: New Year’s Resolutions

Photos in Social MediaIt’s no secret that most people my age are glued to their phones a majority of the day, if not all day. It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I put down at night. My phone is my portal to family, friends, news, music and thousands of photos taken with my phone’s camera.

Recently, though, I’m starting to notice how much time I spend with my device and how exhausting it can be to always know what’s going on in other people’s lives.

My new year’s resolution includes putting my phone down more in my personal life and picking it up more in my professional life.

Why picking it up more in my professional life? Because studies show that including photos, videos, infographics or other media with text increases engagement. What better way to increase views and engagement with our NDSU educational material than to include a photo, even one taken on the fly with our phones?

Some of the reasons why photos are important include:

  • On social media platforms, articles with images get 94 percent more total views.
  • Including a photo or video in a news release increases views by more than 45 percent.
  • Consumers are 60 percent more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results.

By thinking about the visual content of our educational materials, we can increase the likelihood that our audiences will notice it, read it and then connect to it.

The next time you write a news release or get ready to post on Facebook, take a minute to think about how we can show, not just tell, our audiences about our research and education.

, Information Specialist, (701) 231-6136

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