"Opening the kimono" and seeing the ins and outs of wireframing for web information architecture is something many of us never actually get to see. Seeing the "behind-the-scenes" work that goes into sketching, laying out and setting up the foundation for a web site is not well shared in the industry, but in the session "The Right Way to Wireframe" at this year's SXSWi, Todd Zaki Warfel and Russ Unger worked to change that.
For the layman web user or designer, you might be asking - why is wireframing important? Well, wireframing is the foundation of your web site, and thus one of the most important aspects any web site should focus on in the beginning stages of formation or redesign. Having worked on full-scale web designs, I was intrigued to see what some of the leaders in the industry had to say about wireframing and user research for web design -- an imperative aspect for nonprofits I might add as every organization should have a web site designed for optimal user experience and effectiveness.
The great part about the workshop was that the speakers worked with Lend4Health, a nonprofit focused on micro-loans for health issues and children, run by one woman (Tori Tuncan) out of her home to use as the focus for their work. Tori is currently using a BlogSpot, one page website. Tori knew she needed a more effective website and got paired up with a set of Information Architects/User Experience experts to help come up with ideas and wireframes of a new site for her nonprofit organization. Oh, and they were concurrently competing with each other on how the others would approach the project and the tools they would use, not sharing an information with each other along the way.
The Goal: turn her website into multi-page, effective web site that would allow her to handle the volume of work that was coming her way.
This video shows one of the processes from start to end, looking at sketching to actual technical design (sans the first 10 seconds of the video).
All in all, the main elements the speakers harped on included:
And, one of my personal favorite quotes from the panel that I thought worthwhile to share"If you're not considering mobile on your site in 2010, what's wrong with you?"
The session was chock full of great information for anyone interested in gaining perspective on what goes into a user experience research and information architecture on the web. The presenters were able to show how they're working to "change the world through design" one day at a time.
So what about you? Are there any great tips you have for information architchture work? Or any questions you have about the work for the experts out there?
An obvious place to sign up for an email newsletter. A well placed donation button. A prominent photo that conveys your mission. I’ve seen how these tactics can boost the results of a nonprofit’s website, but there’s plenty more that organizations can do on this front. These top five lessons serve as a good starting point for evaluating the effectiveness of your organization’s website.
1. Back to the basics. Does your homepage cover essential points that meet the basic needs of your website’s visitors? To see how good a job you’re doing at providing this critical information, ask yourself a few questions. Who are we? What are we trying to accomplish with our site? Do we proudly display our tagline, which clearly summarizes what our organization does? If your homepage answers these key questions, then you’re on the right track.
2. Tell a compelling story and tell it well. Whose lives are you affecting? How are you making a difference? Clearly communicate these details on your homepage if you want to convince a visitor to become engaged with your organization. If a visitor understands how their involvement could make a difference, then they are more likely to dig a little deeper and might even give you their email address, make a donation, take action, or volunteer.
3. It’s never too early to start building a relationship. Does your content try to address the masses, or does it target the major audiences you want to reach? Hopefully, it does the latter. Your website content needs to be structured in a way that meets the information needs of these different audiences. Think in terms of personas, each with its own detailed demographic information, description, online habits, and needs as they pertain to the programs and services your organization provides.
4. Keep it fresh. Are you presenting website visitors with content that is timely? Are you refreshing it frequently to encourage them to visit more than once? Dedicate at least one section of your homepage to the latest news, call-to-action, or other piece of current information that will appeal to your target audiences, and update it regularly.
5. Data is priceless. Do you track key information about your website (e.g., source of visitors, actions once a person arrives on your site, which pages visitors look at, how much time they spend on your site, etc.)? If not, then get cracking. But remember, just tracking information isn’t enough. You need to use it too! Make informed decisions about website content, design, architecture, advertising and more based on an analysis of the data you collect.
Admittedly, these lessons only scratch the surface of website effectiveness. Read more tips in the 2010 Nonprofit Resolutions Guide and share some of your own here.
Many non-profits struggle with website redesign projects because they are such a huge undertaking. They can be both time and labor intensive – involving numerous stakeholders (board members, department directors, and key staff) and often you don’t see results for more than a year.
Convio’s proven methodology, ensures that clients take a more iterative, quick hit approach that allows them to see results faster while tackling the larger web presence redesign in parallel.
Project HOPE is a Convio client I work with who recently re-launched their site after only working with our interactive agency practice for 4 months. The new site has immediately improved the user experience and increased donations. The client worked with us on a quick turnaround redesign project which we started by conducting several interviews with key HOPE stakeholders. Armed with increased knowledge of the organizational goals and priorities, we developed a new information architecture and wireframes for the site. Then, since any successful web site redesign (even a quick one) should incorporate feedback from real users, we tested out the wireframes with some of HOPE’s target constituents. Once finalized, we designed a sharp new look and feel, which is live on the site today.
Katya Andresen gave kudos to Project HOPE for the effort thus far, but what people may not realize is that the team is working on a bigger launch in another few months where we will infuse even more user research and data with the stakeholder input driving the larger initiative.
Keep your eyes open for the next launch and thanks to the Project HOPE team for their great work in the Haiti Earthquake response.
I’m a sucker for new web tools and gadgets and luckily I am surrounded by, and work for, many folks afflicted by the same condition. Last week I saw a TechCrunch article about an SEO analysis tool that went BETA on January 20th called WooRank which has become a quick favorite. Provide this tool with any URL, and it will give you a breakdown and ranking of how well the site does against most of the standard SEO best practice areas and gives you tips for improving your ranking.
The current free version compares 50 fields but the soon-to-be-released version will have 120, according to the TechCrunch article. For me, the free 50-field version is a good gut check on how well I have my SEO basics down as I code and develop a site. For my non-profits friends, it is definitely a great amount of value and insight from only a 15 minute investment in reviewing the results.
At the risk of being hunted down by some friends in marketing, I tested Convio.com to see how well our homepage faired. Fortunately, we came out above average with a score of 66.4. (To give some perspective, median is 51.4 (of sites currently tested), and sites such as code.google.com, Wikipedia and Mozilla.org are in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Like most sites, Convio.com has a mix of easy and hard fixes that will have to be address over time. However, knowing what need to be done now means tweaks can be worked into other projects that are planned in the near future which will reduce overall implementation time.
For most of my results, WooRank had descriptions of what the crawlers are looking for and how I could improve the ranking. The descriptions are very helpful and they link to other references and resources for digging deeper if you want more information. If you are new to SEO, or like me, have long stints between these types of projects where you might forget some of the standard best practices, then it’s a great one-page refresher on what you should be thinking about.
There were a couple things I found myself hoping for in the tool that I would like to see in future releases. Not every item description has information that is actionable by me which can be frustrating. (For example, the Alexa and Compete ranks being ‘high impact’, but there are no descriptions as to why or how.) Also, one of the mantra’s of many SEO companies is ‘content is king’, yet there aren’t many references on the site related to writing good SEO content. However, these items are minor compared to what you do get overall and they could be soon available in the premium version, so I’m interested to see what the new 70 fields will include.
I can describe the tool more but really it’s easier to play around with it at http://www.woorank.com/. Any thoughts on how this stacks up against more industry standard SEO tools that are paid-for services?
My team here at Convio has started getting more and more invested in content strategy, and to be honest, I’m totally geeking out. As a technical communications major, I’ve always had a particular propensity for all things regimented about writing. I can’t help it.
I already was following RSS and Twitter feeds associated with grammar and writing, but I’m always on the hunt for more. Recently, I’ve become a big fan of the Word Spy site, or, more accurately the Word Spy twitter feed, which highlights new words and phrases (e.g., email apnea and nontroversy). As such am constantly on the prowl for new words and phrases.
So, you can imagine my utter delight when I stumbled across this phrase as I was reading an entry on Wikipedia: “This paragraph may contain unsourced peacock terms that merely promote the subject without imparting verifiable information.”
I can’t say I know the root origin for the word “unsourced”, but I was more immediately intrigued by the concept of peacock terms. Essentially these are adjectives or prepositional phrases that don’t really have any facts associated with them, but are added simply to be promotional. Examples of these include phrases like among the greatest, the most influential, and the most important.
Certainly there are some times when these are necessary or warranted (something can be the longest, the largest, or the finest), but this guideline is telling Wikipedia content contributors to focus on two core principles of content creation: know your audience and focus on your message. The point of adding information to Wikipedia is to give information seekers more information. Adding irrelevant words and phrases disregards these two characteristics, thereby weakening the information and defeating the purpose of Wikipedia.
Without arguing the merits of all Wikipedia articles as fact (see wikiality), I have to applaud a guideline that says that even though anyone can be a content contributor, there have to be rules in place in order to maintain the effectiveness of the site.
How many organizations and businesses can say that they have guidelines like this? I could rattle off a long list of websites that use a lot of words but don’t offer lot of content. These organizations have lost sight of who they are writing for and what they are trying to convey, and their websites are weaker for it.
Maintaining focus when you write content can be difficult, but losing focus on who the audience is for the content and why they are coming to your site can be detrimental to your mission. Take a cue from Wikipedia on this one, and check out your content. If you notice more conjecture than fact, it may be time to implement the peacock term rule and start trimming away some of the showy feathers.
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