Thursday
Jan302014

The Ultimate Checklist to Choose a Web Vendor

Many nonprofits who are going through a website redesign on a tight budget want to know the best ways to find and hire a web vendor, especially ones that will understand their goals and challenges. As the founder of a web agency and former nonprofit campaigner I have sat on both sides of the table. I recently found this great checklist (via Darren Barefoot) that I think will be very helpful in talking with web vendors and helping your organization find the perfect match.

Experience

  • For the key people working on your web project, how much experience do they have?
  • Confirm which staff will actually be working on the project.

Subject matter expertise

  • Have they developed other sites for non-profit organizations?
  • Have they developed other sites related to your particular cause?
  • What is their background or experience in search engine optimization?

Aesthetics

  • Do all of the web projects they’ve recently worked on have a similar aesthetic? That’s okay, as long as you like that look and feel.
  • In your initial conversations about the aesthetic you’re after, does the agency staff communicate in language that you can understand? Are they able to articulate back to you what you’re after?

Technology

  • What technologies (platforms like WordPress or Drupal and development environments like Ruby or PHP) do they have experience with?
  • Do they have expertise in a particular technology? If so, ask them when it’s not appropriate to use that technology? You want to avoid an agency where every problem looks like the perfect nail for their hammer.
  • What changes will you be able to make to the site without their aid, or that of another designer? Ask for a demonstration on another site they’ve worked on of how to make those changes.
  • What CRM systems (such as Convio, Democracy in Action and so forth) do their technologies integrate with?
  • What CRM systems have they completed recent integration projects with?
  • What are the staff training implications of the technology choices the agency makes?
  • Can you to talk to a customer for whom they completed an integration project?
  • Have they talked to you about the mobile audience, and how their design will accommodate users on smaller screens?
  • Do they talk about where and how to host your web project? Do they have a relationship with hosting companies?
  • What considerations does the agency give to web accessibility?

Support and Maintenance

  • Do they offer ongoing support?
  • How much does ongoing support cost?
  • What response time do they offer with their support package?
  • Can you talk to one of their customers who have been a longtime user of their support services? You want to talk to somebody for whom the honeymoon period is over.

Budgeting

  • How will billing work?
  • What systems and practices do they have in place to ensure that they don’t exceed the agreed-upon budget?
  • What happens if they find they need to exceed the budget?
  • In their proposal, have they accounted for additional costs unrelated to staffing, such as stock photography or software subscriptions?

Process

  • What are the milestones associated with their development process?
  • What are the deliverables associated with each of these milestones?
  • Are they comfortable with hitting the deadline you’ve identified?
  • Who will be the project manager on the project. Ask if you can have a quick call with this person, to gauge their likability and communication style.
  • How many design revisions are included in the process? That is, how many steps are there between the first draft and the final one.
  • If you need to register a new domain, who will do this?
  • Will the agency have a role in developing the website content? If so, what?
  • Do you have multi-language needs? If so, has the agency worked on other multi-language sites?

Other

  • Do you actually like the people at the agency? You’re going to be working with them for months.
  • Who will own the source files (Photoshop files and such) associated with the project after their work is complete?
  • Who will own the copyrights associated with their work on your web project?
  • Have they genuinely attempted to understand your organization’s goals for the web project?
  • Do they speak in web marketing lingo, using terms like ‘conversions’ and ‘calls to action’? While it’s not hard to fake this, a few probing questions about previous projects should separate the fakers from the experts.
  • Where is the agency located? A few in-person meetings can go a long way.
  • Do they outsource their work? If so, what parts and to whom?
  • Has the agency asked about the demographics of your audience? If many of them are elderly, for example, or in the developing world, then they’ll want to factor these issues into their designs.
  • What is their reputation? Ask your colleagues if they’ve heard of the agency, and what they think of them.
Monday
Jan272014

Upworthy Type Headlines: To Like or Dislike?

Upworthy, a site that focuses on curating social cause related videos and content has been receiving a lot of media attention for changing how bloggers write headlines. In November of 2013 Upworthy traffic grew to about 87M unique visits, which was quite a drastic leap from less than 5 million a year ago, according to Quantcast. In December traffic dipped about 21% to 68M unique visits. These numbers are still quite respectable. But is this a signal that people are growing weary of the “and you won’t believe what happened next” headlines? And what does this trend mean for nonprofits?

Please do not run out and start using Upworthy like subject lines on your online advocacy and fundraising appeals. Just because this tactic works for Upworthy (who is driven by a ton of testing on their own website) does not mean it will work for your organization. Remember, you are not a viral news sharing startup. Just like you were never the Obama campaign when their fundraising tactics were all of the rage. Raise your hand if you adapted those tactics a few years ago and suddenly raised an extra few million dollars. Any takers?

However, trying to amp up your creativity with headlines and testing them to see if they resonate with your audiences is something you should always be investing resources into. And that is one of the key take-ways from Upworthy’s success. The startup is constantly experimenting and testing to see what headlines and messaging works best with their target audiences. And if you look at their website right now, you will find that some of their headlines are simpler and not the hyped up "and you won't believe what happened next."

What about Facebook?

Upworthy is a great example of how compelling content can generate a lot of shares and comments on Facebook too. Should your organization adopt a similar model and share popular memes and videos with your audience on Facebook to generate more engagement? You bet so as long as there is some connection to the issues you are working on. However, memes and videos should not be your only source of content. Drew Bernard over at ActionSprout likes to compare this content strategy to broccoli and cheese. You need to balance just the right amount of cheese (fun stuff) and broccoli (your engaging messaging and content) to get the perfect dish that everyone loves.

Has your organization tested Upworthy like subject lines or headlines? What have the results been?

PS: Be sure and check out this fun Chrome plugin called Downworthy. It changes viral headlines like ""Will Blow Your Mind" to "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment". #SoAwesome

Monday
Jan202014

Social Media Stats You Need To Know

It's the end of January and that means organizations social media and marketing plans for 2014 are off to a running start. As you begin to execute your campaigns, take a look at these social media stats from 2013. The stats are impressive. For example, did you know that there are 250 billion photos posted on Facebook daily? Or that 28% of RT's on Twitter are due to the inclusion of "Please RT". Side note: please don't use this tactic in every tweet you send out, or else people will start to ignore you. Save it for the VIP tweets.

 

Wednesday
Jan082014

Webinar: Social Loves Email

Direct mail acquisition costs continue to rise and while most organizations have a social media presence, most aren’t using it to fundraise. The good old-fashioned email address is the secret to activating and cultivating these channels more effectively. Join Justin Perkins of Care2 and Roz Lemieux of Attentive.ly and Salsa Labs for this insightful webinar to learn why Social Loves Email and how a simple, effective strategy for getting the most out of integrated email, social media, and multichannel marketing will pay off with your donor outreach.

You will learn simple strategies and tools that will help you to:

  • Recruit more donors and super activists
  • Raise more money more efficiently
  • Save loads of time and budget
  • Simplify your multi-channel integration; and
  • Stretch your marketing efforts further.

When: Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 2PM

RSVP: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=8cz32z8v9ppt

Saturday
Jan042014

5 Web Design Trends To Watch Right Now

Is your organization embarking on a website redesign in 2014? Here are five design trends to consider.

1. Simpler Navigation to Get Readers to Focus More on Content

One of the big design trends that is beginning to fade is mega navigation menus that are cluttered and distracting to website visitors. This year we will see more websites with simplified navigation. Designers are taking cues from the way users navigate website menus on smartphones. For example, to get users to focus on reading or skimming the content on a desktop website page, navigation menus will temporarily disappear. To use the navigation, users will see the “hamburger” looking menu bar icon at the top of the screen. The Daily Beast is a good example of this.

2. Bye Bye Sliders?

Organizations have loved sliders for the past few years because it provided an easy way to highlight key priorities for the organization. However, over the years, some data shows it’s only the first slider that generates much clicks. In 2014, sliders will start to be replaced by one prominent photo or graphic with a small amount of text. This is called the hero area or intro area. This design element was clearly adapted from print reports.

While I love the focus on a single element, many designs use enormous photos or graphics, which fills up the entire screen. This is problematic from a UX perspective because it does not give website visitors a preview of other key content on the page. If that first image did not draw users in, visitors will immediately click off the site as users have very low attention spans on the web. These oversized images also require a lot of art direction. If your organization does not have a graphic designer on staff or retainer, this could be hard to maintain and have it look awesome.

3. Scrolling is Normal

I work with a lot of organizations on redesigning their websites at Rad Campaign. The number one request in the design process is that they want to fit everything in “above the fold”. Websites are not print reports or newspapers so remember to not treat them as one. If your websites architecture is solid and the design is clean and has good hierarchy users will scroll with no issue. Don’t fear scrolling. It’s in!

4. Flat Design

For the last few years, web design has had a lot of focus on drop shadows, gradients, and textures to give design elements a 3D effect.  Now web design is headed in the opposite direction focusing more on minimalist design. Design will focus on incorporating more muted colors (though you can certainly use bold colors with flat design), more use of white space for a cleaner look, bold and larger typography (like 16 to 18px for the body text) for readability, and simpler buttons and icons. A good example of flat design is Medium and the Ecology Center.

BTW notice, the Ecology Center’s use of sliders (which move way too quickly) and how some of the large photos they chose, don’t really work with big white text overlaid on top. See how the white text blends into the background? This is why art direction is so important for managing areas that require large photography or graphics.  

 

5. Simpler and More Focused Mobile Sites

In 2013 we saw much more focus on responsive websites, which is a step in the right direction. However, the sites on mobile still replicated the desktop sites from a design and content perspective. Essentially they have been trying to squeeze all of the content and design elements from the desktop version into a small mobile screen. This presents many UX issues for users who are looking at sites on small smartphone screens. In 2014, organizations should expect to see simpler sites on mobile that focus on the most important content you need users to have. Extraneous content and design elements will be hidden on mobile VS desktop. Remember these users are on the go. You must get them info as fast as possible with minimal taps and swipes.

*This article was updated on January 8, 2013

Wednesday
Dec182013

This is What Nonprofits Need More Than a Facebook Donate Button

Yesterday on Care2’s Frogloop, we discussed the value of Facebook’s new Donate button and its potential impact on nonprofits. If you did not get a chance to read it, I encourage you to, as there are some implications you need to be aware of. For example, since Facebook won't provide donor data to nonprofits this could easily lead to people receiving multiple donation solicitations when they just donated to the organization via Facebook, thus angering supporters, as Rob Manix, one of my colleagues at Rad Campaign stated yesterday.  

While adding the Donate button is a nice gesture towards the nonprofit community, what the nonprofit community really needs is a Facebook Ad Grants program, an idea that Beth Kanter and I discussed a few months ago. The program would function similarly to Google’s AdWords program for nonprofits.

A Facebook Ad Grants program would be extremely beneficial to the nonprofit community given Facebook’s recent priority of paid content over organic reach. Nonprofit organizations on a shoestring budget have put in a lot of staff time over the last few years building a community on Facebook organically. But many nonprofits can’t afford to pay Facebook to promote their important content and fear that the years of work they spent building their community will now go down the toilet. No one wants to see that happen.

The right thing for Facebook to do is to work directly with the nonprofit community, gather their input, and create a Facebook Ad Grants program to help nonprofits continue to thrive on Facebook.

Very soon, a few of us in the nonprofit community will be organizing an open letter campaign to Facebook encouraging them to start a Facebook Ad Grants program. In the meantime, please share this article and idea with your collegues in the nonprofit community. The hashtag we are using for the campaign is #FacebookAdGrants.

Here are some other articles that highlights the need for a Facebook Ad Grants program:

http://communityorganizer20.com/2013/12/18/need-more-than-facebook-donate-button

http://www.johnhaydon.com/2013/12/18/this-is-what-nonprofits-need-more-than-a-facebook-donate-button/

http://www.bethkanter.org/facebookadgrants/

Monday
Dec162013

Facebook's New Donate Button: Good or Bad for Nonprofits?

The nonprofit world was buzzing today over the announcement of Facebook rolling out Donate buttons to nonprofit organizations on pages and posts. This will be similar to the Facebook Gifts button that they have been testing with about a dozen nonprofit partners for the past year.

The big question on every nonprofit organizations' mind is, will this Donate button help their charity raise a decent amount of money? From all the donor data I have seen on Facebook, the answer is NO! I predict that the majority of nonprofit organizations won’t raise very much money on Facebook unless your organization’s mission is to protect cute wildlife and animals, or works on disaster relief during a disaster. Here’s why:

People Don’t Use Facebook to Donate Money

People use Facebook to share stories, photos, and videos with friends. They comment on posts and like status updates. It’s a social space to be, you guessed it - social. Giving money is not a very social activity on Facebook. And when it comes to nonprofits, your supporters want to be engaged and feel like they are helping you to achieve your mission. There is a time and a place for giving money, and Facebook is not really that place. BTW, you should check out the Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report, which historically shows that the majority of nonprofits have not raised a dime on Facebook. And remember the days of Causes on Facebook where many nonprofits struggled to raise money?

Facebook’s User Experience is Not Focused on Donation Conversions

There is a lot of design and user experience strategy that goes into raising money online. That’s why nonprofits spend a lot of time and resources on designing donation pages that focus on conversion rates. While it’s nice to see Facebook being charitable, having a little Donate button mixed in with all of their other features vying for users attention will negatively impact conversion rates.

Donations are not a priority for Facebook. What is a priority for Facebook is Wall Street, ad revenue, and paid partnerships. Facebook’s cluttered design has never been a good user experience, but nonprofits have muddled through it. After spending a few years building a community, now nonprofits are experiencing a decrease in organic reach as Facebook changes its algorithm to focus on paid content. Perhaps, in the future, Facebook will offer nonprofits paid options to better highlight the Donate button. However, the poor donation user experience still remains a large issue. 

No Access to Donor Data

Facebook does not plan on permitting donors to opt-in to have their information shared with nonprofits. Donors are the lifelines to nonprofits, yet nonprofits will not receive donors’ names, email, or other important contact information to continue cultivating these important people. This is problematic says Rob Manix, Senior Web Director of Rad Campaign and who works with me. "Many nonprofits dedicate considerable resources to track supporter’s multi channel donations and activities. Donor history is integral to strategically targeting advocates with relevant campaigns, avoiding donor fatigue, and stretching limited resources. Without this data the potential for multiple solicitations and angry supporters, is inevitable."

Why is Facebook doing this? They want all relationships to stay on Facebook.

It’s also not clear if nonprofits will be able to tell if donors “Liked” their page.

However, since Facebook is prioritizing revenue over community these days, I suspect they will offer paid options in the future for nonprofits to receive opt-in donor information.

If your nonprofit is interested in testing out the Facebook's new Donate feature, you can apply to be part of their program. However, my advice is not to get too excited about the this new feature. Experiment with the Donate button a bit, but do not turn your Facebook page into an ATM platform or your community will disengage.