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Blog Posts


Seven Deadly Mobile Myths

Posted by Lacey Kruger at May 14, 2012 01:10 PM CDT
Categories: Content Management, NPtech, Technology, Usability

Mobile MythsWhen you think about someone accessing your nonprofit website from a mobile device, how do you picture them? I can imagine you’re thinking of someone who is in a hurry, maybe standing in line somewhere, at the airport or in a car. While that’s probably the case with a lot of your mobile audience, it’s not always true.

I heard a great talk at the IA Summit a few weeks ago that debunked many ideas and assumptions we’ve made about mobile context. As a designer of mobile experiences, I too am guilty of these assumptions. Josh Clark, the presenter, defined the 7 Deadly Mobile Myths as follows. You can also download the slides from his presentation here.

  1. Mobile users are rushed and distracted

    Per my illustration above, it’s easy to think of mobile users as always on-the-go but the reality is that people access the mobile web in many contexts like when they’re lying on the couch or trying to kill time on a 3 hour travel layover. Josh cited a statistic that 28% of mobile users in the US are “mostly mobile” users meaning they rarely use a laptop or desktop computer.

  2. Mobile = Less

    Because users are not always rushed and distracted, they also don’t need a “lite” or dumbed-down experience from their mobile phone. Another statistic cited was that 85% of users expect your mobile site to be “at least as good” as your desktop site. Josh argued that users don’t like the “View Full Site” option and would rather be able to access all of your content in a mobile-friendly format. He said that omitting certain content on your mobile site is like an author leaving out chapters in a book!

  3. Complexity is a dirty word

    So we’re now challenged with providing the entirety of what could be a very complex nonprofit site in a mobile format that still feels uncomplicated and easy to use. Making the complicated seem uncomplicated. The nice thing for most of you reading this is that you can leave this challenge up to your designers. For the mobile designers out there, the next myth is really good news…

  4. Extra taps and clicks are evil

    When you’re dealing with such a small screen, the best approach is to use progressive disclosure. This means showing the user a little, and then having them click or tap to see more. We use this principle with navigation on a desktop website and it’s even more imperative with mobile. Josh said that the quality of the click or tap is far more important than the quantity.

  5. Gotta have a mobile website

    Let’s clarify here… you don’t need a separate mobile website. You still need to offer your constituents a mobile experience but Josh argued the best approach is to make your existing content mobile-friendly. Thanks to Convio CMS and other content management systems, this is not difficult. It does mean that you may have to start thinking a little differently when you create new content though. Perhaps there are additional fields you might need to add for each content item to make your mobile display work better.

  6. Mobile is about apps

    Josh stated that app vs. mobile website vs. desktop website are all just containers we use to present content. So apps definitely have a place in the mobile landscape but they’re not the end-all be-all. He played this NFL commercial to illustrate that users expect to access the same content across multiple devices. Again, this boils down to making sure your content is adaptable to all of these devices.

  7. CMS and APIs are for database nerds

    Going back to what I mentioned above, content management systems and APIs are the tools that we need to make our content adapt to all devices. Not just the devices we use today but the devices that we’ll be using in the future too. All we need to do is learn how to write content that will scale across multiple screen sizes and then rely on the CMS and API technology to control the display.

Do you agree or disagree with these mobile myths? What are some things you can start doing today to make sure your content is truly future-proof and adaptable to different devices?

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4.8 billion reasons for a mobile site

Posted by James Burden at May 10, 2012 09:06 AM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Social Media, Technology

Mobile phoneLast week an important anniversary crept by — barely noticed. The humble SMS had its 20th birthday. It is now estimated that more than two-thirds of the world’s population have access to SMS. With 4.8 billion mobile phone subscriptions, we are in the startling position of living in a world where it is highly likely that more people own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush (toothbrush owners come in at a paltry 3.5 billion). And as the number of people who own or access a mobile phone increases, so will the penetration of more sophisticated handsets. Today, 1.2 billion phones are internet-connected.

The mobile phone has created a direct, instant connection to the majority of people on our planet. And as the technology increases, that sense and reality of that connection will have a greater impact — both for the user and for the content (and content originators) with whom they interact.

Only a few years ago social media was seen as a passing fad — a distraction. Now it is not only integrated into the lives of people and businesses, but is defining the development of communication. More than half of the 900 million Facebook users use their mobile to access Facebook. More than half of all twitter traffic is also from mobile. Mobile is the growing country in our new world order.

There’s a reason why Facebook just spent $1 billion in acquiring Instagram (the free photo sharing app). And it’s not because of the quality of the filters. It’s all about mobile! Facebook currently has no income from mobile, which considering how many hundreds of millions of people access their account via a mobile phone is astonishing. Instagram (whilst having zero revenue throughout its fledgling history) has a single-minded focus on mobile as a platform, and has the potential to support the primary use case for Facebook — sharing photos. Facebook is not a mobile-first company and has poor location data on its users. Instagram’s single-minded focus provides both of these — arguably to a greater long-term value than $1 billion.

So what are you doing about it? What is your nonprofit doing about it? It is very hard to overstate how crucial it is that the nonprofit sector understands the genuine and seismic shift that mobile technology is bringing to our world. The ability to engage with people, no matter where they are, is the most powerful and effective way of getting donors involved.

Out of those 4.8 billion reasons why you need to have a mobile website you can narrow it down to the one key fact that people are consuming more and more content on their mobile phones. That content (some of which your non-profit might push out as a text messaging campaign, QR code, location-based campaign, app etc.) invariably leads on to somewhere else. Do you really want that content to lead to a web page that was designed to be read on a 12-14” computer screen?

If you’re making the donate ask on mobile you need to keep the user journey within mobile. If you’re not making the donate ask on mobile, it would seem that there are just a few reasons knocking around why you should be.

Go be mobile!

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3 Analytics Terms for Success

Posted by Guest Blogger at Apr 24, 2012 06:36 AM CDT
Categories: Content Management, NPtech, Research, Technology, Usability

We often use history to predict the future. I checked wunderground.com's history of temperature averages before selecting my summer vacation destination. Predictive analytics has become a hot-button term over the past two years as business intelligence vendors have begun to incorporate simulation and forecasting into their offers. In order to predict with greater confidence, here are three terms you must know.


It is easy enough for the human eye to observe, "It looks like the test significantly outperformed the control." But statistical measures are necessary to interpret the repeatability of the observed result. Statistically significant findings should be reported with a confidence level. Think of a 95% confidence interval as an indication that if you were to take 100 different samples from the same population, the test would "outperform" the control in about 95 of the samples.


Did you note above that "significance" requires your sample observations to be representative of the greater population? For example, Congressional representatives are supposed to be a sample of the population within their districts. Ironically, Congress is seldom a good example of a truly representative sample. Scrutinize the universe under observation. Very likely you are making observations today that will influence your strategy implementation tomorrow. You cannot control for environmental changes over time, but as much as possible you should manage your test sample to represent the population in your future. Read more about Tests, Controls and Results.


Be on the watch for confounding. Hidden variables that are correlated with both your dependent variable and your independent variable(s) are called confounding variables. The classic example is ice cream sales as a predictor of drowning deaths. There is correlation, but the underlying influencer of both is temperature and season encouraging both ice cream consumption and water sports. Avoid this oversight by brainstorming potential hidden variables with your colleagues.

Keep these three concepts in mind when you are creating your own predictive analytics hypothesis or reviewing analytics provided by others. When you know your level of significance, know that your sample is representative, and have accounted for hidden variables you will be able to support strategic decisions with confidence.


Rebecca SundquistRebecca Sundquist is a lead analyst in Convio’s strategy practice group, her goal is to lend confidence to strategic decisions. She investigates constituent data to uncover trends and confirm or deny hypotheses. Rebecca practices the art of info viz (information visualization) with a commitment to simplicity. She wants to help clients see clearly where they have been and how to reach their goals.

Since 2004, Rebecca has worked with nonprofit data, implementing and monitoring acquisition, renewal and reactivation practices. She also has experience with donor upgrade strategies, activity cross over and sustainer programs.

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Finally, Politics is Good for Something!

Posted by Tim Grailer at Apr 23, 2012 02:05 PM CDT
Categories: Email Marketing, Nonprofit Trends, Social Media, Technology

A presidential election year gives us an interesting opportunity to analyze and understand how some of the biggest constituent engagement operations are spending their dollars to communicate to their constituents.  Today we are going to look at some of the trends in the campaigns this year, and more specifically on the Obama for America campaign.

Multi-Channel Strategy and Channel Changes
Obama for America, known for their cutting-edge digital strategy and understanding of constituent behavior, spent $3 million on digital ads in February alone.  When combined, the Obama campaign and the DNC has spent over $10 million on digital since the launch of the campaign.  During the month of February, OFA spent about the same amount, $3 million in February, on postage and printing, indicating that they are using multiple channels to reach multiple audiences.

Obama for America is using some of the same strategies that won Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago his election.  Using social media, and an aggressive digital strategy, Rahm was able to drive voters to the polls and educate them on campaign news and events.  Facebook has published a case study.  

Data Warehouse and Analytics
The ‘Big Data Movement’ has overtaken politics as well.  The Obama campaign has invested significant resources in building a sophisticated centralized digital database of information about potential voters.  Data is collected from vendors, web analytics firms, and field offices and fed into a digital data warehouse.  Once there, the data is available for complex analysis, allowing the campaign to better target their constituents and focus their messaging on where, when, and to whom it will make the most impact. 

They are using this environment to merge information captured online (like email interaction history, website visits, web ad interaction, ecommerce, social media information, mobile information) with traditional offline data (including voter files, 3rd party appended data, demographic data, information from data brokers) to give the campaign the necessary information to target messaging, channel, and frequency to key constituencies, both from the Democratic base and independent, or swing, voters.

Changing Media
What really got my attention, was that during February, the same campaign that spent over $6 million on digital and direct mail, spent only a few hundred thousand dollars on TV advertising, typically a lofty line item for political campaigns, especially national campaigns.  How drastically technology has changed the way we communicate and others communicate with us!   Campaigns formerly were able to count on the timing and reach of television communications, but with the introduction of TiVo and other recording devices, and Hulu and other streaming websites, the control over messaging is continuously slipping away.

As with any marketing organization, control of the message and measurement of impact is critically important.  As more control and measurement is available in digital channels, it is clear why this has drastically overtaken traditional media in a short three election cycles.

What does this mean?
As we’ve seen dramatically over the last three presidential elections (from Dean to Obama), contstituent engagement strategies change about as quickly as I change my socks (thus, the below list might be outdated by the time you finish reading this!)

  • Expanded digital channels are increasingly important beyond simple email,
  • A strategy that includes multiple channels (mobile, social, mail, email, phone, web advertising, etc) is necessary and expected by constituents to engage them initially and to keep them interested,
  • Complex analytics and data warehousing is becoming common place.  Those that do not start down the road of collecting and analyzing data will be left behind,
  • The precedent (not president!) has been set that organizations will communicate with their constituents with the appropriate channel, frequency, and messaging without the constituent telling you (as my wife would say, “You should know how I feel!”)

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The Cloud

Posted by Martin Campbell at Apr 05, 2012 10:49 AM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, Technology, Usability

If you're too young to remember where you were when JFK was shot, you might well remember where you were on December 26, 2004 when a massive tsunami caused a deadly natural disaster around the Indian Ocean.   I'll remember that day well because I was on call as the manager of the British Red Cross' online donations and messaging platform.  Of course the disaster prompted a flurry of activity at the Red Cross which sent aid to the region both directly and through local partners, and mobilised thousands of supporters to donate goods and cash in support of the effort.  

One of the reasons that the date is so firmly etched in my memory is that the Red Cross did not use a cloud hosted solution.  That meant that physical computers had to be racked and configured in pretty short order just to cope with the surge in demand caused by this significant event. 

When looking at their future online platform requirements, I'm finding that the charities we work with are all very interested in what the cloud can offer.  This is where the charity sector's specific needs really need to be addressed.  There are some general reasons why cloud computing is gaining adoption and is seen by many as "a very good thing", but what I have found is that those charities choosing it aren't always doing so for the reasons that commercial organisations adopt the cloud.  In our world, there seem to be three key strengths of the cloud which just can't be matched any other way:

  • Scalability:  The massive scalability that cloud can offer is something that charities often rely on (even when this isn't part of the plan).  You don't know when your charity will hit the news or when a key celebrity will tweet about your campaign, but you'd better be ready!
  • Flexible cost:  The "pay as you go" aspect of cloud means that if you're an organisation which knows you'll get peaks and troughs in demand, you don't need to plan for - and pay for - keeping the maximum capacity online the whole time.  And that can save a lot of money.
  • Payment options:  When you're using software as a service, you don't have to pay for it all up front - prior to taking delivery, you pay for it over the period you use it over.  Whilst commercial organisations can "capitalise" the cost of software - and use various financing mechanisms to cover it - charities don't always have that option, and the ability to spread payments throughout the life of a platform means that you don't have to make a big financial commitment up front.

So whatever systems you're considering for online - don't just read the standard stuff which applies to commercial organisations - cloud applications are super-charity-friendly in special ways!

If you're interested - you can read more about my boxing day antics at http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=776182

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