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Netroots Nation #NN10: How to Plan for Your Website Redesign


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This training was sponsored by DFA (Democracy for America) at Netroots Nation 2010 in Las Vegas, NV.

Thanks to Paula Brantner of Workplace Fairness and Erin Hofteig of Middle Coast for helping with this training.

Second iteration of First training done with Fureigh: and @fureigh on Twitter

Redesigning your website can be easy and fun or expensive and painful. We'll cover content management systems (CMS), customer/constituent relationship management (CRM), writing RFPs and how to select a vendor. This panel will include a handful or organizations and blogs that have recently completed the redesign process.

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Netroots Nation #NN10: How to Plan for Your Website Redesign

  1. 1. How to Plan for Your Website Redesign Julie Blitzer, Erin Hofteig & Paula Brantner Netroots Nation Thursday, July 22, 2010
  2. 2. Who are we? <ul><li>Julie Blitzer </li></ul><ul><li>Strategist </li></ul><ul><li>Advomatic </li></ul>Paula Brantner Executive Director Workplace Fairness Erin Hofteig Founding Partner Middle Coast
  3. 3. What are we going to discuss? <ul><li>Internal planning & research, budgeting </li></ul><ul><li>Content Management Systems (CMSes): what, why and how to choose? Open source or not? </li></ul><ul><li>Customer/Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) </li></ul><ul><li>Request for Proposals (RFP) </li></ul><ul><li>Selecting a vendor </li></ul><ul><li>What to expect from your vendor </li></ul><ul><li>Case Study: Workplace Fairness </li></ul>
  4. 4. “ We want a new website!” <ul><li>The Board, Executive Director or Editor-in-Chief asks for a new site. Now what?? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer: Plan, plan, plan! </li></ul>
  5. 5. Planning, Part 1: Logistics <ul><li>What technology capacity (skill and time) do you have inside your organization? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your budget for the project? </li></ul><ul><li>What can you get with $1,000, $10,000, $50,000 or $100,000? </li></ul><ul><li>How soon do you want your site to launch? (Note: “ASAP” is not the right answer to this question.) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Planning, Part 2: Your Organization <ul><li>What are your organization’s stated mission and goals? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your organization’s character? </li></ul><ul><li>What portion of your members are online? </li></ul><ul><li>How big is your email list currently? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Planning, Part 3: Target Audiences <ul><li>Who are you trying to reach? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential donors, Readers or Activists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How do you want to engage your users? </li></ul><ul><li>What parts of the site do you actually want them to go to? </li></ul><ul><li>Think about demographics: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Age, Location, Familiarity with technology, Knowledge of your brand or organization </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Planning, Part 4: Basic Goals <ul><li>What are you trying to accomplish? </li></ul><ul><li>Nonprofit/Advocacy Websites 1.0 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“Brochure” sites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bad designs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Nonprofit/Advocacy Websites 2.0 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Action tools (e.g., “Write your representative”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social media integration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Community functionality </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Planning, Part 5: Internal Feedback <ul><li>Talk to your staff. What do they need? How do they use the site? How would they like to use the site? What would their ideal website provide? Relevant staff members may be in communications, development and political departments. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Planning, Part 6: User Experience (UX) <ul><li>Don’t skip it! (What if I can’t afford it?) </li></ul><ul><li>UX documentation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>User research: Personas, interviews, competitive analysis, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Site map </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wireframes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User Workflows </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content inventory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User permissions </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Sample Site Map:
  12. 12. Sample Wireframe: New Leaders Council
  13. 13. Planning, Part 7: CMS & CRM <ul><li>What’s a CMS? </li></ul><ul><li>Why you need a CMS </li></ul><ul><li>Open source vs. proprietary (Don’t go custom!) </li></ul><ul><li>Popular open source options: Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress </li></ul><ul><li> comparing_os_cms/ </li></ul>
  14. 14. Planning, Part 7: CMS & CRM <ul><li>What’s a CRM? </li></ul><ul><li>Sample features </li></ul><ul><li>Popular CRMs: CiviCRM, DIA/Salsa, Convio, Kintera, Salesforce </li></ul>
  15. 15. Site Audit, Part 1 <ul><li>Why should you audit your current site if you are going to replace it anyway? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the goals? What’s the audience? </li></ul><ul><li>What works? (“Name a few things that you love about the website, things that have been working.”) </li></ul><ul><li>What doesn’t? (“Name a few things that have been problems.”) </li></ul><ul><li>What tools are you missing? </li></ul><ul><li>What tools are unnecessary or outdated? </li></ul><ul><li>Look at your metrics. Very useful: Heat map of home page in Google Analytics. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Site Audit, Part 2 <ul><li>On your new site, what do you want (functionality, features, design)? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do you want a rebranding process? Or do you want to stick with the logo and/or colors you have and redo the rest around it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What do you not have that you want? Why do you want it? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you have separate sites or blogs, what are your thoughts on keeping them separate or integrating them? </li></ul><ul><li>Priority for each of these items? </li></ul>
  17. 17. To RFP or Not to RFP? <ul><li>Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Documented process to show your higher-ups at work </li></ul><ul><li>Easy to get 50+ responses (good and bad) </li></ul><ul><li>Forces you to write out your requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Cons: </li></ul><ul><li>Cheapest option may not be best option </li></ul><ul><li>Vendors make pricing assumptions too early </li></ul><ul><li>Impersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Asking vendors to price undefined scope </li></ul><ul><li>Eliminates vendors who don’t respond to RFP’s </li></ul>
  18. 18. RFP vs. RFQ <ul><li>RFP: Request for Proposals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focuses on client’s requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>RFQ: Request for Qualifications </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focuses on vendor’s experience </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. How to Pick a Vendor w/out RFP <ul><li>Choose 5 or 6 peer-recommended vendors </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know the vendor </li></ul><ul><li>Release an RFQ, do discovery first </li></ul><ul><li>Look for a vendor who works with similar organizations in size, budget, requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Ask for references </li></ul><ul><li>Are you a match? </li></ul><ul><li>Go with your gut: if you are nervous, the vendor is probably the wrong choice </li></ul>
  20. 20. If you do write an RFP… <ul><li>Be specific! Include documentation from your internal research, your site audit, and feedback you’ve received </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t leave anything out: List budget and time constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Include clear feature descriptions </li></ul>
  21. 21. If you do write an RFP (cont.) <ul><li>Organizational background </li></ul><ul><li>Scope of this project </li></ul><ul><li>List your goals </li></ul><ul><li>Specify your target audiences. </li></ul><ul><li>Results of internal feedback and site audit. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify key features and functionality </li></ul><ul><li>Contract requirements </li></ul><ul><li>Budget & Timeline </li></ul>
  22. 22. Explaining Features & Functionality <ul><li>Helpful: &quot;We need a calendar that will appear on one page and can have private events as well as public events, with registration restricted to current members, and that provides reports of event registrations.” </li></ul><ul><li>Not as Helpful: &quot;We need a Google Calendar,&quot; or &quot;We need a widget from .” </li></ul><ul><li>What do you think should go on each page? </li></ul><ul><li>Include a rough site map if you can. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Selecting a Vendor <ul><li>Follow-up phone calls or meetings are common practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider budget AND experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid: Developers without experience in your selected CMS/CRM, retainer contracts for a single project, flat rate billing that doesn’t get specific about the services provided. </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to contact references and ask a lot of questions. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Red Flags <ul><li>Changes made to live (not private) site. </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of transparency about day-to-day progress, billing, experience </li></ul><ul><li>Limited communication & missed deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Bills with unexpected charges. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vendor should warn you when you suggest features that are outside of the agreed scope. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Limited or no quality assurance, browser compliance or user testing prior to launch. </li></ul>
  25. 25. What Your Vendor Expects From You <ul><li>Be prepared to provide pictures, content, and technical information to your developer: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hosting (DNS Info) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Text for issues/about/action pages as well as forms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pictures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Account info for Social Networking sites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook/Twitter/Flicker/You Tube etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Quick response time on questions. Slowness will delay your site launch. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Surviving the Website Redesign Process Perspectives of an Accidental Techie Paula Brantner Executive Director, Workplace Fairness
  27. 27. Paula’s Background <ul><li>Employment lawyer, not trained in technology </li></ul><ul><li>Started building Workplace Fairness website in 2001, before many current tools available </li></ul><ul><li>Survived two major redesigns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2004-05 to build custom CMS to manage content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2008-09 to improve design, make more user friendly </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Learned what I needed at conferences & trainings like this one. </li></ul>
  28. 28. It turned out all right… <ul><li> : (website) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>two-time Webby nominee (2007 for Best Employment Site; 2009 for Best Law Site) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PC Magazine’s Top 100 Sites You Can’t Live Without </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>500,000 unique visitors per year </li></ul></ul><ul><li> : (blog) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One of the very first nonprofit org blogs (Jan 2003) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> Best of the Web Career Blogs </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>1. You don’t need a huge budget or a big-name web firm. </li></ul><ul><li>Never spent over $25,000 a year, even when redesigning (just web development, no strategy) </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t have dedicated in-house staff, never had more than 4 staff members total </li></ul><ul><li>You probably haven’t heard of my web firm (Midwest New Media, based in Cincinnati…although you should have!) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>You do need to know WHY you’re redesigning your site. </li></ul><ul><li>What is the most important thing you want to accomplish? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the most significant failure/deficiency of your current site? </li></ul><ul><li>Who will be happiest when your redesign is complete? </li></ul>
  31. 31. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>3. This must be the most important project for someone: make it someone’s priority. </li></ul><ul><li>Program Staff: Web project probably isn’t as important as the substance of your work. </li></ul><ul><li>Communications: Trying to integrate web work with other organizational communications. </li></ul><ul><li>In-House Web Staff: Working on daily content and strategy, hard to focus on long-term project </li></ul><ul><li>Outside Consultants: Juggling w/ other clients </li></ul>
  32. 32. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>3. This must be the most important project for someone: make it someone’s priority. ( continued ) </li></ul><ul><li>Program Staff: make it be part of deliverables </li></ul><ul><li>Communications: offload some other tasks to someone else, outside consultant </li></ul><ul><li>In-House Web Staff: Block out time; interns to do some routine tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Outside Consultants: financial incentives for meeting deadlines </li></ul>
  33. 33. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>3. This must be the most important project for someone: make it someone’s priority. ( continued ) </li></ul><ul><li>Person in charge: project manager (whether it’s in the job description or not) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem-solver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision-maker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholder herder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consensus-builder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadline dominatrix </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>4. You MUST know your audience better than anyone else. </li></ul><ul><li>Your site probably has multiple audiences, but who is the most important one? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is it today? Who isn’t there, despite your best efforts? How might it change in the next 3-5 years? </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t let web firm guide this: you must do the work to find out if you don’t already know: surveys, user testing, analytics. </li></ul>
  35. 35. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>Rolling your own is fine, but do you really need to? </li></ul><ul><li>I’m a bad example : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>custom-built content management system (CMS) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>back-end customer relationship management (CRM). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why? started building our own when we couldn’t afford what was out there; web developer builds exactly what we need </li></ul>
  36. 36. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>Rolling your own is fine, but do you really need to? ( continued ) </li></ul><ul><li>I’m a good example : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WordPress (formerly blogger) for the blog </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Democracy in Action for e-newsletter signup, advocacy tools. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why? I knew there were tools that were more than adequate for us, wouldn’t allow my developer to tinker. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>Content is king. And queen. And the whole frakkin’ royal court. </li></ul><ul><li>Know your audience, know what they’re there to read. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What can people find at your site that they cannot find anywhere else? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What do people expect to find at your site that’s not currently there? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your audience probably doesn’t have your expertise </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep things jargon-free, industry-speak free, acronym-free (my site: problem is legalese – what’s yours?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use friends who know nothing about topic for feedback </li></ul></ul>
  38. 38. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>Content is king. And queen. And the whole frakkin’ royal court. ( continued ) </li></ul><ul><li>Write and display your content for an internet audience. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No PDFs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information architecture help if you have anything beyond a basic brochure site. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make content searchable. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility guidelines: no excuse for lack of accessibility : moral if not legal imperative, will help with SEO, mobile use, etc. </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>7. Having the latest bells and whistles isn’t the most important thing </li></ul><ul><li>Simplicity and usability are highly underrated. </li></ul><ul><li>Everything you add should have a function: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is it important enough to be part of your navigation menu? The fewer choices the better </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you add Facebook and Twitter buttons, is there a staff member who will actually use Facebook and tweet on your organization’s behalf? Same with a blog: whose job is it to blog regularly? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Everyone who’s done sites for a while has made a Flash mistake: what is the next big no-no? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Midwestern cool </li></ul></ul>
  40. 40. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>8. Trust your instincts: don’t let lack of expertise derail confidence in your own judgment </li></ul><ul><li>If you know your audience, have done content homework, and ensured everything has a purpose, then you’re an expert on your site’s audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t pay by the hour, design process so that you must be satisfied every step of the way without taking financial hit. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask for multiple drafts, regular check-ins in at multiple stages so you can troubleshoot before entire project derailed. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t fear saying no or starting over if you have to. </li></ul>
  41. 41. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>9. Document, document, document </li></ul><ul><li>If you left your job today, would someone else be able to complete the project? </li></ul><ul><li>If you changed web firms for your next redesign, how would they keep from reinventing the wheel? </li></ul><ul><li>Internet history is ephemeral: are you doing screen captures, saving documentation of each iteration of your site? </li></ul>
  42. 42. Important Lessons I’ve Learned <ul><li>Redesign every day. </li></ul><ul><li>What dynamic content should be part of your site? </li></ul><ul><li>Build in last-changed date for every page: incentive to regularly review </li></ul><ul><li>Redesign process should include post-project testing, analytics, review timeline </li></ul><ul><li>What mini, low-cost project can you do in the next six months? </li></ul><ul><li>A website is never, ever done! Nature of the beast. </li></ul><ul><li>Change your copyright date – obvious, yet oft neglected. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Resources <ul><li>NTEN 501 Tech Meetups & Conference: & </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  44. 44. Q&A
  45. 45. Thanks! Julie Blitzer @zhuli Paula Brantner http:// @pbrantner Erin Hofteig http:// @jadesfire