Continuing the theme of "busy mom" from last month, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the need for organizations to optimize their sites for use with mobile devices.
I'm not going to tell you HOW to do it - the nuts and bolts are for others to discuss. Rather, I want to convince you of the NEED to do it.
First - some stats. Nielsen reports that as of Q1 2010, 23% of people with mobile devices now have a smartphone instead of a regular old boring/dumb cell phone. (Boring/dumb is what I currently have, by the way - early adopter I'm not.) Compare that to Q2 2009, when just 16% of consumers had a smartphone. This is a trend that's only going to grow.
What that means is that more and more people are going to be viewing your website with a mobile device. And while I don't have a smartphone myself, I do have an iPod touch that I used to access websites while on maternity leave. If you've never viewed a site using a mobile device, and you're in charge of your organization's web presence, then I implore you to borrow someone's smartphone so you can see for yourself. After viewing a couple of sites, you'll be convinced.
First, go to one of my favorite sites - Wikipedia. Wikipedia will sense that you are using a mobile device and will automatically display the version of the site that is optimized for mobile. It makes the browsing experience a lot better. Then, click on the link that says "View this page on regular Wikipedia." You'll see the difference.
Okay, so what does this mean for nonprofits? You'll want to view this through the lens of how you want people to be interacting with your site using mobile devices. Wikipedia wanted to make it a better experience for people to look up information and then to easily read/consume what they found.
Nonprofits might have different goals. Do you want people to donate? Then you'll need to create mobile-optimized donation pages. Are you running a big campaign around a piece of legislation? A mobile action center might be right for you. Does your organization publish research to which reporters and professionals need ready access? You might consider optimizing those pages.
And since people will generally just go to the URL for your main website, instead of the mobile version, you'll want to put something in place to detect whether people are using a mobile device. And then, the $64,000 question - what to feature on that mobile homepage.
Making these decisions will certainly be a big deal - perhaps almost as much of a big deal as what to display on the main website, since there will be less real estate available. But don't let that be a deterrent - rather, think of it as a challenge and an opportunity to test what works best. First impressions are everything - and let me tell you, I'm much less likely to go back to a homepage that isn't optimized for mobile. So do something - anything - and then build on it.
Does your organization have a mobile version of your homepage? How did you decide what to feature on the homepage? Share the answers to these questions - and the URL for your mobile site - in the comments.
In the June edition of Wired magazine there is a fascinating article about how the web is changing the structure of our brains. The article was adapted from the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. You can guess by the title of the book Carr surmises that the internet is not promoting deep thinking on singular topics but rather skimming the surface of multiple subject matters. And to prove his argument I am not going to go into the details of the article, ha! Instead here are some of the theories outlined that I believe are good considerations for planning, designing and/or writing for your site. Make your site an oasis in the sea of information by creating a design and content that is relevant, fresh and succinct. And get a subscription to Wired if you don’t have one already. Carr, Nicolas. “Chaos Theory.”Wired. June 2010: 112+
In the June edition of Wired magazine there is a fascinating article about how the web is changing the structure of our brains. The article was adapted from the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.
You can guess by the title of the book Carr surmises that the internet is not promoting deep thinking on singular topics but rather skimming the surface of multiple subject matters. And to prove his argument I am not going to go into the details of the article, ha! Instead here are some of the theories outlined that I believe are good considerations for planning, designing and/or writing for your site.
Make your site an oasis in the sea of information by creating a design and content that is relevant, fresh and succinct. And get a subscription to Wired if you don’t have one already.
Carr, Nicolas. “Chaos Theory.”Wired. June 2010: 112+
Like any other technophile out there, I'm constantly finding new ways to clutter up my virtual space with gadgets, feeds, and bookmarks. But recently, after a weekend of spring cleaning at home, I decided that maybe it was time to do some geeky spring cleaning as well.
With an approach similar to cleaning out a closet, I began sorting through the clutter around me in my virtual space. Asking myself questions like, "I know you like the author, but do you ever really read this?" or "Can you even remember the last time you used this application?", I may as well have been standing in my closet pulling tattered jeans off of the hangers. After a while, I finally had widdled away a large chunk of hard drive space, and I reveled in my new freedom to focus.
I realized in doing this that there are a lot of analogies between the closet content and website content. For example, news websites like BBC.com are the little black dress of the web world; the styles may vary, but every woman needs a good one that she can turn to. Conversely, websites like The Hampster Dance are the Zubaz of the web world. We all loved them at some point, but their relevance was short-lived. (Wait, we ALL loved them, right?)
There's nothing wrong with the difference - in fact, people often underestimate the value of the quick, topical website. As consumers, we generally understand our responsibility to sort through these different types of information consumption and figure out which one matters the most to us. But as producers, do we always understand our responsibility to figure out what our sites' purposes are and to create that experience for our consumers? The answer in a lot of cases is no.
How does this apply to your organization? Do you think visitors can tell what type of website you are trying to be? If you think you have a handle on this with your organization's website, give it the friend-link test.
First, take a few minutes to really think about what the primary goal you want people to achieve is on your site, and how you want your site to be perceived. Now, go to your site and click around it the way you would if your friend sent you a link to a site you'd never been to before. Ask yourself a few questions as you click around, approaching the content like any clutter-cleaning project: Is there a consistent theme in what you have on your site, or does it seem slightly frenetic? Are you trying to be too trendy in some sections? Has the content evolved with your organization? Are there areas of the site that never get updated? If so, is this because you simply have neglected them, or is it because they are no longer useful? These are basic questions, but their answers can reveal a lot about your site.
Like keeping a closet orderly, keeping your website clutter-free is not effortless. But neither is finding information on a site that's in disarray. As a producer, the greater responsibility of creating the order, theme, and consistency falls on you. And the final product - a neat, organized, website where everyone can find what they are looking for - is well worth the effort.
After my last post, a reader asked for more information and instruction on creating a content inventory. What a great idea for a follow-up post! Maintaining an up-to-date listing of all content on your site will help your web team make decisions about adding new content and removing or updating outdated content to keep your web site fresh and entice users to come back. Also, content inventories are essential for any web site redesign to ensure the new site structure accommodates all types of content you’re looking to include. So, how do you make one?
Below is an example of a content inventory for convio.com where we've completed a few lines. Hopefully these guidelines will have you on your way to developing an inventory of your own. Feel free to post questions or ideas in the comments.
|2.2.0||Common Ground CRM||http://www.convio.com/our-products/products/convio-advocacy.html||Chris|
The question I pose today may seem really obvious, but I’ve noticed lately that many organizations try to make their web sites look simpler than they actually may be. I think it's often because the web site has grown and evolved so much that its navigation and design is no longer suitable. Great news though - there is a way to ensure your navigation evolves along with your web site! I posted a long while ago about navigation best practices. Today, I want to hone in on one of my navigation test questions: “Is your navigation representative of your entire site?”
Starting with a content inventory is always a good way to test this out. Content inventories, though perhaps not so fun to make, will make maintaining, optimizing and eventually redesigning your web site so much easier. I cannot stress enough the benefits of keeping an up-to-date inventory of every page on your web site.
Snapshot of a Content Inventory
Now that you’re going to run out and make one, keep it consistent with your web site’s navigation and/or sitemap so you can easily see where everything fits. As you evaluate your content and add new content, there should be a logical “home” for each item. If there isn’t a natural fit, flag the item in your inventory and consider changing your navigation once you observe several flags. A few questions to consider when testing whether your navigation reflects your sitemap…
Keep in mind that your navigation should scale with your web site so that you’ll easily be able to change it as you begin answering “yes” to many of the above questions. Unfortunately, your web site will never be done - continuous evaluation and iteration is key to staying successful online. Have you noticed any of these symptoms on your own site or on other web sites? Feel free to share ideas in the comments.
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