Resolutions (Not Really)

January 9th, 2017
By Sarah Fazenbaker

Ah, the turn of a new year. Nothing like it to inspire some better habits and righting some areas you’ve been slacking on…like flossing, regular exercise, or say, posting on your blog.

roller coasterWe’ve been working at a furious pace in the Web Office and this blog has taken a back seat, unfortunately. I was hoping to document our redesign process along the way but it may need to be more of a retrospective after the dust settles (or the birthday candles have been blown out). We’ve been joking that the roller coaster we’re on has been clacking its way up and now that 2017 is here we are in that fleeting moment at the top right before we whoosh down and have everything rush at us at blinding speed. Aahhhhhh!!!

Of course, this is a crazy year because the Museum is turning 100. We’re having a blowout gala in April and we’re planning to roll out our site-wide redesign in time for the big party. At the same time, we’re launching the separate companion website for the 100th anniversary exhibit, so no pressure there!

Getting these two high-profile projects pulled off by April is going to take everything we’ve got with all hands on deck. I wish I could resolve to write in Webology regularly, but let’s be honest, I need to be realistic here.

Okay, so I can’t spend a lot of time writing posts on what we’ve been up to for the past 6 months, but here’s some of the other highlights that I’ll circle back to later in the year:

  • Phasing out Concrete5 as our main CMS – C5 made some (wise) changes to their codebase with their 5.7 version, but unfortunately that meant breaking backwards compatibility with the version we’re running. This marks a huge shift in strategy for us and I definitely want to dedicate a post on how we arrived at this decision.
  • Launched the #FMScience site – one of the museum’s strategic goals is to “become an established source of science-related news for major national and international media outlets.” This site was an outgrowth of our existing Science Stories site to shift from being a once-a-month publishing cycle to a platform for all levels of articles about research coming out of our institution and a landing place for our social media efforts.
  • Shifted to using GitHub repositories instead of self-hosted SVN – this was a department-level change in how we’re handling version control.

The Web Office has had some personnel changes too:

  • Said farewell to Chris Dell – our web developer has moved on to further his career. We wish him the best of luck and are currently attempting to fill his shoes. (Hopefully I’ll have some good news on that front soon.)
  • Radha Krueger went to full time – in addition to Web Designer, you can now add Content Strategist and Science Advocate to her many hats here.
  • Hired James Young – we are lucky to have snagged this talented designer to create our new look and develop our CMS themes.

There are also some new Museum blogs to check out:

  • Happy Flippers – follow Radha’s musings and observations as she grows into her new Science Advocate role at the museum
  • Spineless Science – this long-time Blogger site has finally been imported to the museum’s WordPress multisite. Get a fun look at our invertebrate zoology team and their research adventures
  • Experience Exhibits – take a behind-the-scenes peek at the developments in our exhibit hall…from the construction of the new Discovery Zone to the latest additions to the Butterfly Rainforest

Happy new year! This is going to be one-of-a-kind for us. You only turn 100 once… we goooooo!!!!!

Killer 75-Foot Killer Sharks Might Be Trying to Kill You

June 10th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Beach Bod Shark Attack CompositeIn the normal course of our day, we read a lot of stuff. We filter through a lot of articles and other site’s publications about us and our material, or even trending topics that we specialize in. It helps to be plugged in and up to date on what people are talking about, because sometimes it relates to the Museum.

Of course anything to do with shark attacks points right back to the International Shark Attack Files, which lives right downstairs here.

In no way do I mean to make light of any shark attack victims, because it is a tragic experience and completely unexpected.

Media headlines ABOUT shark attacks are anything but unexpected. They are carefully planned to get the most clicks and the most reads. And yes, sometimes they ARE tragic.

Get Your Beach Bod Ready for a Summer with Record Shark Attacks

Thank you Yahoo! News for really putting it into perspective. I realize this was Yahoo! trying to be a little bit funny or trendy or… something.

It still makes me cringe inside. Yes, there will probably be more shark attacks this year. It’s about math and statistics. ISAF pretty much sums it up repeatedly, saying more people in the water means more shark attacks. It’s the numbers.

But hey, beach bods get eye-time, and anything that gets people aware of an issue is great. (But really, Yahoo!… ouch) Long story short, headlines are important. Keep that in mind when you’re writing your next blog post or scientific research paper 😉

Original article:

P.S. Many apologies for the composite image pulled from stock photos. I am actually good with Photoshop.

Anatomy of a Fish Redesign, Part 5

May 6th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Redirects & Why They Are Amazing

Have you ever clicked on a link and gotten one of those pages that say something like “404 error. Page not found”? We all have. It usually means there used to be a page there and now there’s not. Which is disappointing.

Google 404 page

In moving the fishes and sharks pages from their old locations to their new locations, and condensing them from 1,781 to 642 pages, we would have sent almost 154,000 people per month to one of those 404 error pages. That’s a LOT of disappointed visitors.

Fortunately we are the Office of Museum Technology for a reason, and a lot of smart people work here to make the museum better. Years ago our genius programmers wrote a fancy application that takes a list of old web pages on our site and matches them up with the new ones so that when people follow a link to a page that doesn’t exist anymore our server quickly and efficiently redirects them on to the new page without even the tiniest hiccup.

Okay, that sounds simple. And we like that. We strive to find the simplest, most efficient solutions to problems. But I have to brag on our tech team for just a second because there isn’t a program like this commercially available to institutions like ours. We have actually been approached by other institutions for this sweet little tool.

So with a little bit of forethought, we keep the site running seamlessly through major renovations and reorganizations.

That’s not to say we never have to show a 404 error page. Oh my, that does happen a lot still. Which is why we always want to know if visitors click on bad links. And we review our 404 error logs to fix things behind the scenes. Because 404 happens 😉


[Editor’s note: Read the full series of Ichthyology redesign posts here: Part 1: The Short Story, Part 2: Condensing, Reorganization and Discovery, Part 3: Bounce Rate and Page Time and Part 4: The Final Countdown.]

Anatomy of a Fish Redesign, Part 4

May 5th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

The Final Countdown

Finally we could see a light at the end of the tunnel with the Ichthyology site reorganization. We started to negotiate an official launch day to finish up and flip the switch to turn on the beautiful new site. Which turned out to be an easy task. At least identifying the date. First week of February. This was when the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) released their year in review on shark attack data, and the media usually went a little bonkers. So this would mean a big bump in traffic to the site.

The deadline was a little tight though. We still had a lot to do, and it would mean really putting our shoulders into the last big push. The hard part. The really complicated part.

ISAF Charts and Maps Transformation

You see, again, back in the day, there were only two things you could put on a website. Text and images. There was a lot of fancy stuff you could do with those two things, but it was limiting. In order to offer all of the ISAF data, the sharks team had to extract data from their databases, make it into a chart in Excel or Photoshop, make that chart into an image, and put that image on the website.

Did I mention that they have over 180 maps, charts and graphs in the ISAF section? That is a LOT of work.

But we have new technology and the web is constantly evolving to be more flexible and responsive. We found AmCharts, a great chart- and map-making framework, and we set Chris Dell, our Web Office programmer extraordinaire, to work with the ISAF team to create a seamless tool that could publish the data in their databases directly to the website with a few mouse clicks. And the charts and graphs would finally be interactive and mobile friendly.

One day we’ll get Chris to write a detailed post on exactly how this setup works. This is some pretty technical web nerd stuff right here, but it’s too cool not to mention. Here goes: Chris wrote an ETL (extract, transform & load) tool written in C# with a SQL database that was designed to store queries that could be executed on the ISAF Access database. The tool converts the queries (one for every chart and map…) to JSON and exports those JSON files to the web server. (This ensures there is no direct connection between the public website and the ISAF database since it contains confidential medical information.) Then, he wrote custom plug-ins for our Concrete5 CMS so we could insert the chart and map JavaScript on the webpages to use those JSON files. There was even more behind-the-scenes work to make sure the data and maps displayed the data properly too. Whew!

Previous chart:

old ISAF Florida attack chart

New and improved chart:

So again, generating 187 maps, charts and graphs, plus hours and hours of programming and bug fixing, in front of a tight deadline. And not just a deadline. It was going to be opening night. When we opened the curtains, there would be people anxiously waiting to see what we had for them. Nerve wracking!

Speed is Everything

While we were working on the site in the final days, we noticed something that no one wanted to talk about at first. The fish pages started to feel slow. Would it clear up once we went live? We decided to not leave that to chance with our big press debut. After some head scratching and collaborating with our Systems team we finally tracked down the problem – the site was too big for its own good! The side menu was building its links dynamically on each page load and with 600+ pages it was bogging things down. With only days to go Chris was able to alter the menu to get around this feature. Page load times immediately went down by 400%.

Ready to Launch

It took a lot of juggling and tap dancing, but we managed to turn the new site on just before the big ISAF report was released to the media. The ISAF section of the site normally averages around 1,000 to 1,400 page views per day, but on that day we got over 8,000 page views. The entire fishes & sharks section got over 12,000 page views on that day.

If you want to see what all of the hubbub is about, here are some of the top visited pages in ISAF:


[Editor’s note: Read the previous Ichthyology redesign posts here: Part 1: The Short Story, Part 2: Condensing, Reorganization and Discovery and Part 3: Bounce Rate and Page Time.]

Anatomy of a Fish Redesign, Part 3

May 4th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Bounce Rate & Page Time

Way back in the stone age, we used to get excited about the little hit counters we put on our site’s home pages, because it was the only way we could measure if people were even interested in our site. But in the decades since, we’ve learned that a visit to our homepage means almost nothing.

Now we know a lot more about how people use our sites. Over 64% of visitors to the sharks and fishes site arrive from a search engine. Usually Google. The fishes and sharks homepage was looked at only 28,467 times last year. Out of over 2.7 million pages looked at, that’s barely more than 1% of our visitors seeing the front door to the site.

Instead of counting visits to the homepage, we can look at how relevant the content of the site is to people. Is this what they are looking for? Is this interesting to them? Is this engaging them?

Two keys to gauging this is bounce rate and time on page.

Bounce rate: If someone comes to a page through a search engine and then backs out away from the site without interacting with the page at all, we say they bounced. This could also be a visitor following a link from another site to ours and realizing the page they arrived at was not what they expected. A bounce could mean the page provided all the info they needed to know, but it can also indicate that it was not what they were looking for.

We compared the bounce rate of the three weeks since launching the site to the exact same time period last year. Yes, we accounted for the ISAF review precisely. Last year our bounce rate was 77.31%. This year it was 71.67%. That’s an improvement of 5.64%. Doesn’t sound like a lot, right? But if you factor in how many pages people look at over a year, this upcoming year we expect people will look at 152,506 more pages.

Time on page: The measure of how long someone interacted with each page they looked at.

Last year the average time on page was 1:40. A little more than a minute and a half. This year same three weeks, time on page had jumped to 1:59. Okay, we added a whole 19 seconds. Big whoop. Factor that out over a full year and people will spend 14,271 MORE HOURS looking at the fishes & sharks pages.

The truth is, even we had to bounce around the site to find the pages we were looking for often, so we aren’t sure if long-term the page views numbers will go up (people being able to explore the site better), or actually go down (less hunting through irrelevant pages). In the first three weeks, page views have gone down, while time on page has gone up, hinting that people are getting to the pages they want faster. Which is a major goal for us!

[Editor’s note: Read the previous Ichthyology redesign posts here: Part 1: The Short Story and Part 2: Condensing, Reorganization and Discovery.]

Anatomy of a Fish Redesign, Part 2

May 3rd, 2016
By Radha Krueger

[Editor’s note: What’s this all about? Get the lowdown in Part 1: The Short Story.]

Condensing Pages

There’s always been a close race between Herpetology and Ichthyology for the top overall visitation to their sections of the site. We noticed a satisfying increase in numbers for Herpetology after their section of the site was revamped, and we were sure the same would be true for sharks and fishes.

But first, we had to tackle one major project. The sharks and fishes site had nearly 1,800 pages, accumulated for almost 20 years. Back in the internet stone age, it was far too easy to create pages and forget they existed. Just one of many reasons we needed to move the Museum’s website into a true content management system– so we could…you know, manage the pages on the site.

To do this, we had to make a full list of all of the pages in the Ichthyology site, and then look to see how much they were used. Thankfully Google Analytics can tell us how many times each page has been visited. And if a page got less than 10 visits a year, we had to ask if the info was relevant anymore.

Also, the web has come a long way, and most people have moved off of a slow dial-up connection. Back in the olden days of the internet we would put only a few pictures on each page so as not to force people to spend 5 minutes loading a page. Now it’s not an issue, so we were able to condense pages together.

That’s the long way of telling you we were able to take those 1,781 pages and turn them into 547 of the new ichthyology site and 95 pages for the stand-alone South Florida Environment online exhibit. From 1,781 pages to 642 pages. And we didn’t give up any relevant content.

Here are some examples of how we were able to condense pages:

Species Profiles – there are over 260 species profiles pages, and originally there were three different pages with flat lists of the species with links to their pages, each list sorted by either scientific name, family, or common name. By using an interactive table  we were able to reduce these to one page and make the list searchable.

Megamouth Shark – Originally there were 65 pages devoted to the rare and fascinating megamouth shark. This included a list and some general info on each and every known megamouth sighting. We’ve reduced it to only three pages:Megamouth shark

White Shark Feeding Observation – This story and photo gallery used to be on 12 different pages because dial-up connections have limited download speed. But with most of our web visitors having moved to faster internet access, we can put the story with a photo gallery on one page without slowing down the page load.

South Florida Environments Glossary Pop-ups – This educational site was made back in the late ‘90s…back when pop-ups were still a new thing. When visitors clicked on vocabulary words a pop-up window would open showing a webpage with its definition. Super cool back then, a blocked-by-default annoyance now. Since browsers weren’t letting visitors see them anyway, we moved the glossary terms on the page to the bottom of the content and that allowed us to get rid of 315 “pages” that had just one sentence each!


Simplifying Navigation

It’s certainly a luxury to stop and spend a few weeks looking at your website when you’re a research department with a lot of projects going on. So when the web team looked at the sharks and fishes site, we saw years of vigorous growth and huge buckets of useful information stacked up and jammed in like that one closet in your house that you can barely close the door to. When you’re tracking shark attacks worldwide or counting catfish, do you want to open that digital closet and sort through a decade of stuff? No! You’ve got better things to do.

However, our staff did have the luxury of time and energy to pull it all out, look at everything, and reorganize so that it had room to continue growing in a manageable direction.


The relative risk of shark attack pages are extremely popular – large, visual image links get people there fast

We also looked at how the site was used, and we focused on helping people quickly get to the parts they were most likely to need. The shark attack data and reports are all neatly tidied away in their section. Information about the Ichthyology collection is sorted away with info on the history of the collection and info on accessing the collection for research. And we brought together all of the resources for teachers, students, and citizen scientists under an umbrella called ‘Discover Fishes & Sharks’ to make it easier for that audience to explore content most interesting to them.

And to make it even easier to access, we identified the most-used pages or features, and made them into clickable quick links on the front page of Fishes & Sharks, and the front page of the International Shark Attack File section. This way people can find what they’re looking for fast instead if wandering through a forest of links and pages in hopes of stumbling into the right information.


Discover Section

So let’s talk about ‘discovery’. It’s about learning something exciting. It’s about feeling excited to learn something. I imagine kids turning over rocks in tidal pools, or somebody rock climbing and finding eggs in a bird nest tucked into a tiny ledge. It’s not necessarily finding something revolutionary that changes the world as we know it. But it is about changing the world for one person.

research team on the beachWhy am I waxing poetic about this? We have a real struggle with words and with ideas online. We live by the ‘rule of threes’ in web design. One of those rules is that people spend about 3 seconds glancing over a webpage to find what they’re looking for before getting frustrated. So it’s critical that our navigation be clear, simple, and targeted to the person we want to speak to. They need to see an item on the page and think “aha, there it is!”

When we reorganized the Ichthyology section (or fishes and sharks – see, words for different audiences already), we focused on the people who would use the material presented. So we put all of the ISAF and shark attack related stuff together. And you’ll find technical info and references together, the staff and students under ‘Staff’, and sawfish research separated from the freshwater research. Different interests and audiences.


We gathered all of the info aimed at teachers, students, citizen scientists, and ‘average people’ into one place. But we have always agonized about what to call this section. This is a concern across the museum website. A lot of people suggested titles like ‘Online Exhibit’ because it’s very much like a physical exhibit in that it’s intended to educate the general public. Our only problem is that we’ve found the term ‘Online Exhibit’ gives a lot of expectations to our site visitors. They often expect the online exhibit to have an accompanying exhibit in the museum building.

After circling around and around for well over a year, we’ve gently, tentatively settled on Discover [blank], or a variation of this.

What can you find under ‘Discover Sharks & Fishes’? Lots of simple anatomy diagrams of sharks, fish, sawfish, skates and rays. All of the species profiles of sharks, fish, sawfish, skates and rays (all very popular). Printable class projects for teachers to download. Diagrams on how fish swim. Info on careers in biology or ichthyology. Even photos of shark dissections. All in ‘normal’ language rather than technical, scientific language.

This took some work to rethink the pages we were moving into the new site. For example, there were over 260 species profile pages, each highlighting a specific fish, shark, ray, etc. And we had to turn each of the pages upside down as we moved them. Originally the page began with the scientific information, including the history of the scientific names and changes. Which can be a bit dry. So we moved that down on the page, and pulled up some eye-catching pictures and interesting info for each to draw readers in. This took about 400 hours of work, but it was well worth it.

modern vs fossil shark morphology

modern vs fossil shark teeth

Here are some highlights from the Discover section:

And our ten most popular species profile pages:

Goblin shark jaw

Goblin shark jaw. Photo © George Burgess


Up next: Looking at Bounce Rates and Page Time.

[Editor’s note: Read the previous Ichthyology redesign post here: Part 1: The Short Story]

Anatomy of a Fish Redesign, Part 1

May 2nd, 2016
By Radha Krueger

[Note from Sarah: The newly revamped Ichthyology site launched in February. We had to immediately press on to other projects, but now that UF’s summer is here it feels like a good opportunity to pause and reflect. So we present to you a week of posts on our most complex collection site redesign to date. Take that, Shark Week!]

The Short Story

For the longest time, every collection in the museum had their own website and it was the Wild West. Each one had a completely different design and none of them had any branding, menus or navigation in common. In the interest in maintaining the sites and presenting the Museum’s resources in one place, we’ve been moving all of these sites into a content management system—a single piece of software that makes adding, updating, and tracking pages across the whole site MUCH more efficient. And it clearly looks like a unified institution to our visitors.

A great deal of the free-ranges sites had already been moved by the time we rolled up our sleeves to deal with the Ichthyology collection. By page count and visitation traffic, it is one of the biggest areas within the Museum’s website. And it had been actively grown for well over 15 years, so there was a lot of nooks and crannies to discover.

The project was a little breathtaking. Now that we’re able to look back over the process of moving it (and take a moment to breathe), we’re kind of amazed at how big it actually was.

A Quick Summary

old fish homepage

Ichthyology homepage before the switchover in Feb 2016

It was approximately 22 months from our first initial review of the ichthyology site, to the day we flipped the switch and turned the new site on. A quick glance at the numbers:

1,781 original pages

642 final pages (why less? read Condensing Pages)

3,541 original images and PDFs (not including the image gallery)

3,277 final images and PDFs

187 charts and graphs

1,094 hours of front-end time

720 hours of programming time

The Medium Story

There were a lot of decisions that we made during this process, and a lot of factors we had to consider. We did research on site usage and visitation, similar sites, potential site growth, and long-term development. We looked at how the ichthyology staff and researchers would interact with and add to their site. We investigated new and old technologies that would better assist our many users explore the ichthyology collection online and in person. And asked how we could assist the Museum to achieve its goals to inspire people to care about our environment.

Essentially what we do is create a place where technology and human beings interact. We are constantly educating ourselves on technological advances, as well as enriching our understanding of the full human experience. So this is not just about moving data from one place to another. It is about reorganizing information to make it more accessible to the people who need it.

Which leads us to the long story… (join us tomorrow for Part 2).

What Did I Almost Step On?!

April 1st, 2016
By Radha Krueger

Snake pages traffic, 3-2016

Spring is here and summer is around the corner! How do I know? It’s not the pollen in the air or the inaugural turning on of the air conditioner at home. It’s not even the first wave of mosquitoes!

All I need to know about the weather patterns of this area is revealed in the page visitation statistics of our Herpetology Collection’s Florida Snakes section of the site.

Okay, actually it tells me two things—how nice the weather has been, and when people have time to get outside. More people outside in nice weather + snakes out in warm weather = more snake encounters.

Snake ID screenshot

Visit the Snake ID Guide

What do you do when you almost step on a snake in your back yard or hiking San Felasco? Pick up your smart phone and anxiously search for info on that snake to see if it’s dangerous. Which is how a lot of people end up on the Museum’s ‘Online Guide to Florida Snakes’, where we have a step-by-step ID guide and a visual ID guide, as well as more info on snakes.

Pro-tip: There are six venomous snakes in Florida, but none are actually poisonous. Grammar police? YES!

If you see a snake, leave it alone. They’re part of the ecosystem and just doing their jobs. (Yes, even the venomous ones are important!) If you can’t just leave it, our herpetology friends have a handy how-to showing an easy way to capture and relocate a snake. Plus they have lots of pictures and other cool reptile and amphibian info.

Back to my Google Analytics. As you can see by the pretty charts, higher page views closely reflect how nice the weather was and how much free time people had to get outside. There are small bumps showing where school holidays and summer break meant more hiking and springs trips. And of course weekends mean more puttering around the yard.

Pro-tip #2: If you want to get out in nature with the most peace and quiet, our charts suggest Tuesday has the least snake interest and is probably the best day to skip work and go for a walk on Payne’s Prairie. But stay alert because snakes are everywhere in Florida—and they’re super cool!

I like to know that technology doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and that the work we do here at the Florida Museum has an impact on real people. And patterns like this draw a very real line between our website and the living ecosystem of Florida.

Visit Herpetology:

Oh, Hamburger!

March 18th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

If you know someone really well, you can sometimes say one word or phrase and guarantee they will absolutely go bananas. This can be fun sometimes. There are three different things I can say to my sister that will have her ranting and gesturing wildly in under 30 seconds.

We web designers have a few triggers like that. And there are some very firm lines drawn in the sand, with designers very adamantly on either side.

FLMNH carouselOh my, just ask about carousels. So many opinions about them. So much eye rolling. When you first get to a site (or, gasp, are deeper in a site) and you have those big images that flip through or slide through a series of big pictures like ads or features for things in the site. Those are carousels. Yes, we have them on the Museum’s site.

Designers hate carousels, but we all use them because people expect them.

Hamburger Icon

Hamburger Icon

But that’s not the button I’m pushing today. Pun intended. The drawn out controversy for the last year or so has been the hamburger.

If you use a smart phone or tablet a lot, you’re probably familiar with the three-lined icon. The problem is that a lot of people are new to mobile devices, and the hamburger icon isn’t very ‘discoverable’. It’s not something that would intuitively make people click on it to find out what it does.

But with smaller tablet screens, and even smaller phone screens, how do you give people enough tools to navigate your site or app without cluttering up the little space you have? Apparently there are a LOT of people who absolutely detest the hamburger.

Let’s talk about icons for a moment. Some of us old folks remember what a floppy disk is, so it’s okay that the ‘save’ icon is a floppy disk. How many kids handle paper envelopes and know why mail would translate to an email icon? Enough, I’m sure. And a lot of us know what a regular phone is, so that icon is safe for at least another decade probably. But does an icon have to look like something in order to represent it?

Back to the hamburger. And why we care.

We’re redesigning the Museum website to celebrate our 100 year anniversary. PLUS this year will be that defining moment when we have more than half of our site visitors browsing on a mobile device. So we have to start thinking ‘mobile first’. Everything we do from here on out has to start with “how does it look on a smart phone or tablet?”

Comparing Navigation

Hamburger navigation (left) and Florida Museum (right)

We have a LOT going on here at the Florida Museum. Which is a totally awesome thing to be able to say. (In this day and age, many small university natural history museums are actually closing!) The website needs to reflect how wide and broad and deep the Museum’s research, collections, education programs, and public outreach really is.

It’s going to take quite a bit of creativity to make the site as easy to navigate on a smart phone as on a desktop computer, while still helping visitors find the exact information on the site that they need. We are open to the hamburger idea, but we’re also scouring the web for other options that make sense for us, too.

Only time will tell as we #redesign100years at the Museum!

Some fun additional links:

Spikes are for Hedgehogs

February 12th, 2016
By Radha Krueger

We watch web traffic to the Museum’s site, and we’re used to the ebb and flow of cycle and regular trends. On weekends we know more mobile phone users will visit the section of the site about exhibits and parking as parents try to find cool things to do with their kids on the fly. In the summer months, the Florida Snake ID gets busy as people encounter snakes in their yards.

We’re even used to a surge here and there when a new exhibit opens. And we brace for a known spike in traffic, such as when the International Shark Attack File’s yearly summary is released, as it just was this week.

Every so often we feel random spikes though, and we investigate to see what’s going on. Usually it’s social media powering a sudden interest in a shark, like when a new megamouth is caught. Once in a while we’re not quite sure what’s going on though, and we have to poke around until we can find the source of a mysteriously large surge in site traffic. It keeps us on our toes.

Stats, ISAF Shark, Concerto Traffic

You can see a tiny average, then a jump in August which stayed steady until it dropped back to normal in January.

We recently noticed a solid spike in traffic to a specific page deep in the ISAF part of the site. Starting in early August that page alone went from averaging 1 to 5 visits a day, to getting about 400 visits a day. And then in early January it stopped. Mysteriously. In that time period over 63,000 visits came out of nowhere. Why?

Well, first you need to know that when people are writing new programs, they don’t often have existing content for the programs, so they ‘borrow’ content just until they have the real stuff in place. Nothing’s worse than showing off a new program that’s just a bunch of blank pages.

Apparently these guys were making a new program to power the kind of electronic signs and monitors you see at schools, shopping centers, banks, and other public venues that display an assortment of ads and announcements. Their software would allow their clients to select info and display boards from the internet, allowing bigger organizations to share or store material for the boards online.

That sounds great. Really. But they must have forgotten to remove the ISAF page from their default list when they switched from testing to releasing the software in August. Suddenly 400 times a day all over the UK monitors were asking for that one page on the ISAF section of our site. And then in January they released an updated version of their software, with their default list updated and the link to our page removed.

hedgehog, public domainI can’t even tell you for absolute certain that this is the whole explanation. I don’t know if anyone actually saw our single web page anywhere in the UK. But after a lot of poking around, this is what I could come up with this time. Next time it could be something even more strange.

Long story short: web traffic to sections of the site account for something.  Sometimes important things like funding. So when we see spikes, we try to figure out what’s going on. We don’t like mysterious spikes. We DO like hedgehog spikes.

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