Most of us in nonprofit technology who have launched a new website or rolled out a new software applications know why it’s so important to allow enough time for testing. If testing shows problems, then there has to be time to fix them. And if there isn’t enough time to do this, then the launch has to be delayed. And there has to be honest communication with the users to explain why the delay is needed.
Certainly healthcare.gov is not your every day website and some of the issues since its October 1st launch date have been due to much higher traffic than was expected. But it seems that more testing might have resulted in a much better experience for those who have tried to sign up for medical coverage. Since the President’s health care plan has been so controversial, all the more reason to make sure the site worked flawlessly before it was made available to the public. It’s interesting that a ‘apply by phone’ option was recently added, but other sign up options should have been provided from the beginning; not everyone is comfortable using the web.
Testing isn’t always fun but it’s an integral part of every website rollout. Make sure this type of experience doesn’t happen at your nonprofit by allowing sufficient time for testing and fixes, and communicating with your stakeholders about what’s happening.
Addendum 10/28/13 – here’s some practical tips from usability experts Nielsen Norman on how the health insurance marketplace site can be improved.
Addendum 11/5/13 – From ProjjectManagers.net, how a staged rollout might have helped. Is poor project management to blame for the launch of the Obamacare site?
If you’re planning a website redesign project, download this updated free resource from Smart Cause Digital, the Nonprofit Website Project Handbook. As a sample, below are my tweets while I attended this week’s informative webinar by firm founder Yesenia Sotelo:
- Building a new website? Be specific about audience you’re trying to reach (e.g. not just men or women)
- Picking a website design vendor? Do you want fast, cheap or good (pick 2)
- Sending Out a RFP for your website project? Include a budget!
- During website redesign process, document major decisions (in place where everyone can access)
- In addition to building website for mobile, also make it accessible and search engine friendly
- Show your website designer example of other sites that compelled you to take action
- Most delays in website development are due to delays in getting content
- All website content doesn’t all have to be written by your org. Ask stakeholders to help
- Make sure to include enough time to user testing of new website – and to fix what issues they find
- Also to help with website testing – try Feedback Army or User Testing, or even better if you have limited $/time – ask active volunteers to do specific task on staging site
- Training on new website / CMS is not a one-time event – make it ongoing for new & current staff
- Ready to launch new website? Be careful about scheduling too close to major event (allow time for possible delays)
- Boring stuff but a must – make sure you have documentation and regular backups of your new website
Learn why communication is the most important skill of a successful project manager in this new Project Management Institute Pulse of the Profession report.
Want to learn from the most experienced and successful online fundraisers? Download 30 Brilliant Bits of Online Fundraising Wisdom by Care2. Its three major recommendations:
- Optimize for small screens – make it easy for constituents to give and take action from a mobile device
- Improve data communications and data sharing within your organization
- Learn how to tell powerful stories about the impact of your work\
Finally, if you make a mistake in your Facebook post, you can finally correct it – on Web & Android now, coming to IOS soon. (Makes you wonder why this was so long in coming.)
I’m currently working with DataCaliper to design a new online database to replace a MS Access system that no longer meets my organization’s needs. At the beginning of our project, we spent several days reviewing requirements with users to make sure we knew what type of data to collect and how the information should be reported.
When I’ve done this type of project in the past, the approach has usually been to design wireframes to show what the system would look like before any coding was done. This time, my vendor prepared a series of linked HTML files which we used to simulate how the completed site will work. As expected, my users had many more revisions once they were able to visually see the new design. But unlike when using wireframes, these HTML files will be used as the nucleus of our new database.
While we’re still a few months away from completing this project, I am pleased to see how well my users are responding to this approach. It’s been especially helpful since my main contact at the vendor has shown a rare combination of programming knowledge and people skills, e.g. being patient when users come up with new requirements that they didn’t mention at the original requirements gathering sessions.
As a project manager, I’ve learned that it’s not always simple for users to express what they want. So that’s why it’s so important to have ongoing communication with developers as a new system is being built – not just at the beginning. But I will also make sure my users understand that we will soon have to lock down the design and not accept further changes.
Another nice feature of our new system: in most cases, users with administrator rights will be able to add their own options for drop down menus through an ‘manage codes’ process. This reduces the work that has to be handled by our developer.
Even if you pick a great product or platform you select for your next database, you won’t be successful unless you also select the right partner to work with. (Reminder – interview at least three vendors and make sure you check references before making your choice).
If you’ve been wondering when you can build your nonprofit page on Google+, now’s the time. Heather Mansfield offers help on How to Create a Google+ Page For Your Nonprofit. Also view this video by John Haydon. Here’s Beth Kanter’s take. But the jury is still out on whether Google+ pages will prove to be as popular as Facebook pages.
Frustrated trying to keep up to date with Facebook? Get help in John’s Tactical Guide to Recent Facebook Changes and sign up for next month’s bi-monthly Facebook features update from Common Knowledge.
Planning to roll out a new website with Drupal? Have you already launched, but finding it difficult to manage how to manage content edits and approvals? Join Michelle Misner and I on Nov. 29 to learn How the NYPL Successfully Project Managed a New Drupal Website. (It’s free if you’re a Nten member!).
Speaking of Nten, I’ve just signed up for next spring’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco. Please register now to lock in the lowest rate. It’s always the premier event of the year for the #nptech community.
It’s year-end fundraising season again. Get a jump start by reviewing Farra Trompeter’s online fundraising tips, Convio’s How to Get Your Holiday Appeals Opened and Jeff Brooks’ reminder to Avoid Common Fundraising Mistakes, e.g. remembering that you are not your donor. And of course, don’t forget to plan a multi-channel campaign.
If you’re in NYC, join us at next week’s 501 Tech NYC event; this month we’ll chat about Google for Nonprofits. Also if you manage a nonprofit website, sign up for the next quarterly gathering of the Not-for-Profit Webmaster Round Table, planned for mid-December.
For best results in ephilanthropy initiatives, I’ve always advocated for an active partnership between Communications and Development. Here’s more reasons why from Kivi Leroux Miller, If you’re not getting the type of response you want from your nonprofit e-newsletters, Kivi also offers a free 15 day e-newsletter course at her Nonprofit Marketing Guide website. which offers many simple tips you can easily implement.
The debate continues on the new Google Plus. Beth Kanter offers her take, as does Frogloop and TNW Social Media. I believe there may be a benefit to adding your contacts manually, as it forces us to give some thought of who should be in each ‘circle.’ According to the Huffington Post, nonprofits are wasting no time in kicking the tires of Google’s answer to Facebook.
If your organization is undergoing a major change (as most of us do sooner or later), Peter De Jager provides many great resources on change management at Technobility. See also Chaos is the New Normal.
Learn about fundraising and emarketing in Blackbaud’s Summer School webinar series which starts this week and, if you’re in NYC, attend next week’s 501 Tech Club meeting featuring how to get started with WordPress (which this blog uses).
As a follow-up to last week’s post on How to Make Your Projects Successful, Ben Lichtenwalner offers his Inverted Pyramid of Project Success.
I’ve long advocated using web based applications, but are we ready for a cloud operating system? Here’s a first look at Google’s Chrome OS, planned for release next summer. (Why not just focus on Android, which is already in wide usage on the mobile platform?)
Need help in planning a social media and online engagement strategy? Here’s a great overview of what’s involved, thanks to Big Duck‘s Farra Trompeter. For example, pick the channels where you have the time and resources to participate (you can’t be everywhere).
Will you join me at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in March in DC? For a preview of some issues we’ll be discussing, Nten summarizes the best of nonprofit technology in 2010.
In social media, a key principle is to listen first. Janet Fouts recently offered a terrific webinar on Streamlining Your Social Media Workflow , and offers this useful list of listening tools.
Only two weeks left to get out your year-end appeals. Here’s why you need to act now, and some last minute advice, more tips on making the ask and best practices for year-end fundraising.
While this is a busy time for fundraisers, I hope you still find time to celebrate the upcoming holidays.
2010 will begin the fourth year for Nonprofit Bridge. Whether you have recently discovered our blog or have followed us since the beginning, I’d like to offer any small nonprofit organization a complimentary phone consultation to discuss how you can effectively implement online strategies. Some questions I often receive:
- With a small budget, how can I effectively do online fundraising?
- How can I develop an email marketing campaign?
- How much should we use tools such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with our constituents?
- What is the best way to update our web content?
- We’re considering a new donor database or content management system – where do we start?
- Should I put my events online, even if they have no charge to attend?
- Which department / staff member should take the lead in online / Internet strategy?
Please contact us to take advantage of this offer.
With year-end approaching soon, don’t forget to send out a last minute appeal to your constituents (and thank them for their past support).
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful holiday season and new year.
Many articles lately on how supporters can be your strongest fundraisers: In Understanding the New Breed of Digital Donor, Fundraising Success demonstrates how social media is enpowering supporters to fundraise on their own, with minimal involvement from the nonprofit they support. In Enlisting Your Supporters to Fundraise For You, Idealware describes how friend-to-friend fundraising can be used. In Donors Give Most When Friends Ask, AFP reviews a recent study on large gifts and reaches the same conclusion. (Thanks to Kivi Leroux Miller for highlighting nonprofit communication recently.)
Congratulations to winners of America’s Giving Challenge, proving that even the smallest nonprofits can compete with the larger organizations by taking advantage of social media tools such as Facebook’s Causes application. Social media guru Beth Kanter agrees. Nten also offers ideas on how to Raise Money on Facebook. See also Clicking for a Cause for more thoughts on how social media can help engage constituents and encourage involvement with your cause.
David Roodman’s recent blog post and this week’s follow up NY Times article, questions are raised about the model of newer nonprofits such as Kiva and Global Giving which have supposedly allowed donors to decide specifically how their money will be used. This has resulted in a recent change in Kiva now describing its mission as “connecting people through lending to alleviate proverty.’ My take – this shouldn’t stop the trend towards nonprofits giving donors more of a say in how their contributions will be used. However, it does provide a wake up call on the importance of transparency in explaining how the process works.
This week I had the pleasure of participating in Nten‘s first Online Nonprofit Technology Conference. While on a much smaller scale than the annual spring event, the two days of online webinars featured some of our sector’s brightest stars and allowed an opportunity for much more interaction with the presenters than is normally possible at the live event. Some highlights:
- Network for Good‘s Katya Andresen reminded us that raising awareness of our organizations isn’t enough, it’s to ‘get someone to take an action.’ She also recommended we let the constituent be the messenger for our cause (much more effective than if message comes directly from organization). She implored us to focus on the donor when designing our web sites, not on the organization structure, mentioning Kiva and DonorsChoose as examples of how to do this right.
- ConmmonGood Career’s James Weinberg described how social networking sites are replacing online job boards. As a way to encourage staff longevity, he suggested finding ways to change job responsibilities even if the position doesn’t change. If nonprofits can’t create opportunities for staff to advance, it is their responsibility to help them move elsewhere (not sure how many nonprofits would agree)
- Idealware‘s Laura Quinn offered a sneak peak at her Field Guide to Software, to be released later this year. She added that the choice of donor database is probably the most critical decision (and to make sure everyone in organization is comfortable using it)
- Beaconfire‘s Michael Cervino discussed using benchmarks from sites such as PewInternet and e-Benchmarks-Study to measure how well our organizations are performing, also showing how Google Analytics funnels can be used effectively. He also described how online surveys are best used frequently with few questions. (I added this is a great way to add data to help segment your database)
- Philantech‘s Dahna Goldstein discussed how to help staff deal with change, e.g. making sure that staff are fully involved and kept informed
- Consultant John Kenyon and American Lung’s Rusty Burwell discussed online communications and the importance of inter-department collaboration. See my previous post on this topic. In response to my question, John stated emphatically that social media will never replace email as the main communications medium.
Thanks to Holly and the NTen staff for putting on another great program, and congrats also to Holly for being recognized by Nonprofit Times in the Top 50 Power and Influence!
This week has featured a flurry of comments about whether nonprofits are taking advantage of new social media tools such as Twitter. Seth Godin says no but the Chronicle of Philanthropy gives several examples to show how some nonprofits are doing things right. See also social media guru Beth Kanter’s attempt to reconcile the two sides.
My take: smaller organizations such as Charity:Water will continue to take the lead on showing larger nonprofits how to raise funds and engage constituents in a variety of new ways. Larger organizations are still trying to deal with what Clay Shirky‘s observation during his year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference: nonprofits have already lost control of their branding and messaging .
Here’s a newly released report on How Nonprofits are Using Web-based Technologies to Reach Their Goals. Not surprisingly, many organizations are still experimenting to discover what works. On the for profit side, some companies are using outside firms to manage their Twitter and Facebook presence; my take – social media works best if it’s coming directly from organization staff.