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Image from the panel at Live beyond the Infographic session at NTC

Take-aways from human-centered design and infographics sessions at #16NTC

After three very helpful, informative, conceptual and practical days of sessions at NTEN's NTC, my final day was more refreshing and clarifying than I had expected. I chose well, in attending these two sessions.

An exploration of human-centered design

The first, My Dad and Other Real People Designed Our Online Strategy was led by Trista Kendall of the newly rebranded and Danielle Siembieda of Leonardo/ISAST
The session was an exercise in questions, essentially. We talked about who to ask questions of, what questions to ask, and how to make sure you're asking the right questions. This was all based on their experience leveraging IDEO's Field Guide to Human-Centered Design to help with their redesign. 
My key take-aways are listed below. 
When taking the human-centered design approach, don't skip to solutions. Just get a good question established.
When seeking user feedback: You can talk to people you know. You'd be surprised at how little your friends and family take in what you do.
When talking to major donors, use the term "advice visit"
Think in terms of Facebook ad criteria when figuring out types of people to talk to.
Some great questions to ask when seeking user feedback: 
  • What conversations happen between you and your friends IRL vs social media?
  • What would you expect to find when you go to our site
  • How would you expect to hear about our organization's failures?
  • What is something you were looking to do on the site that you were not able to do?
When you focus on just one group's needs you still help others with the outcome.Ask yourself: Who has more needs that are harder to meet?
Your digital program affects people you're never going to hear from, and will never know they're there.

Life Beyond the Infographic  

Later in the day, I was among the first to arrive for the Life Beyond the Infographic session, which I was so happy existed, I thanked the panel even before it started. 
The panel of Marianna Sachse and Shannon Ryan from Burness and their client, Robyn Carliss of Sustainable Conservation discussed their experiences working on an overhauled messaging approach that involved a strategy of creating visuals that get people's attention, even when they're on a mobile device.  
My biggest take-aways are below
55 percent of users on a page are only there for 15 seconds
Curate info for a-ha moments ... Don't say everything at once
People respect and appreciate when you respect and appreciate their time
Keep minutiae grounded with visuals and anecdotes
Focus on the human angle to make change possible
People like to see things in progress. It makes them feel invested. It doesn't have to be super polished when it comes to photography.
What the panelists found helpful:
  • Open the conversation (instead of trying to say everything at once)
  • Bold photography and great smart typefaces go a long way
  • Simple images and anecdotes from the field help connect supporters
  • repurpose, repurpose repurpose - memory isn't as great as you think so repetition is helpful
Use stats wherever you can ... but maybe just one at a time
There is a difference between accuracy vs. precision
  •  Scientists want it precise. We want it accurate.
  •  Scientists want a  bullseye. We want it to be on the target.
  •  Ultimately when deciding which way to go, you need the more compelling way to communicate to a broader audience. 
Key questions when putting planning and designing an infographic:
  • What is the story
  • What will resonate
  • What can I demonstrate
  • Should I give story a human face
  • Do I have compelling data
If you have a long story, do it in parts. ... Give people digestable information
Overlays: If you start using text overlays, you start seeming more like a company and less like a person.
Make sure the graphic and visual is really telling your story, and ensure that there aren't multiple intrepretations of a graphic. Are 1 in 10 sick, or are 9 in 10 not sick and is there is there a difference that could undermine it.
DIY tools 
  • - a simple-to-use DIY graphic design tool for simple, compelling infographics.
  • Infogram for charts
  • Over - social media graphics done by your phones ... Size for social media sizes
Cheap, good or fast? These are considerations to balance when building an app

Thoughts on planning, designing, building, testing and marketing an app from #16NTCBuildApp

I bailed on a Session That Shall Remain Nameless, and was happy I landed at the session "So You Wanna Build an App for That: Experts Share Tips on Taking Apps from Need to Launch" run by communications consultant Lauren Girardin.

While there was some discussion about being sure that you really need to build an app (a topic I have written about previously)  the dialogue and discussions were very real-world focused and intended to get small groups thinking about challenges and considerations around planning, designing, building, testing and marketing an app.

Lauren reminded the group that there is a growing sentiment around thinking about app building as one that is done "with, not for an audience." This set a great tone for the rest of the discussions and is great for teams to keep in mind throughout the process.

Some key considerations from the session are below:

Establishing limits and setting expectations

  • Understanding the idea that you can only get two out of the three between cheap, fast and good.
  • Limit the number of stakeholders who can steer the project.
  • Limit communication with coders after a certain point
  • Change orders are important and a means by which to communicate the impact of delays
  • Scoring features empowers compromise down the road. Not every feature is created equal.
  • Speak in seasons instead of specific dates
  • Be aware of development cycles when planning for updates

Feedback and testing

  • Build in feedback time early
  • Think about bringing in your community to design apps early ... There might be a gap between what audiences needs are and what they say their needs are. Listening is crucial.
  • Think about how to reward those who provide input (Food, alcohol, Discounts for a paid app, Badges)
  • Testing should be thought about early in the process
  • Use third party security testing
  • The roadmap always changes after the first 10 percent of the development
  • Use people outside the project who don't know about the planning
  • List as many variables to test as possible (WiFi on, Cell data on, Platforms, Devices etc.)

Working with vendors

  • When searching for a vendor, test them on low-risk projects
  • Make sure someone outside of your organization reads the RFP first. This can eliminate a lot of internally-focused terminology
  • Use services like Glassdoor to research the firm
  • Pick a vendor that understands that change is part of the process


Thinking about launch and post-launch

  • Include marketing in your budget
  • How are you going to include this app in your marketing
  • Build in app review invitations; You're building in engagement; Thank people for positive ratings
  • Build analytics into the app
  • Use your website to talk about the features of your app that you can't do in the same way in the store; Explain very clearly and show the value of your app
  • Think of launch as a starting line and not a finish line
Jessie Lamb and Anne Bell-Fysh

Session Take-aways from Targeting Your Digital Audiences: Multichannel Segmentation Strategies

I attended a wonderful session this morning, Targeting Your Digital Audiences: Multichannel Segmentation Strategies with tons of insightful, thoughtful tips from the speaking team of Jessie Lamb, Senior Web Analyst, and Mercy Corps and Anne Bell-Fysh, Digital Marketing Strategist at Mercy Corps.

I unfortunately neglected to attribute each quote to each speaker, but the wisdom and helpfulness shouldn’t be diminished.

Within audiences we weren't looking to see what's really going on. When we looked, we found the same people responding over and over. But a whole group, we weren't reaching. The result was a predictable communication outcome. If we had looked over the past five years, we would have seen they were never responding. We had the data.

"It's easy to send people the same message in social as you do via email with the tools that are available now."

We found out we can load our eCRM lists and load them into Facebook's custom audience tools

We know if we have five digital touches, people tend to donate.

We used a newsfeed ad because you get more space for your message

It's important to have a control and test approach, and thinking out our full year, and running a full control-test model.

We know what the optimized experiences should be. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel everytime.

Make sure you have staff and budget when choosing tactics.

Document things very carefully when choosing audience segments. It can keep you from looking stupid.

Understand that not everyone in your org is going to have the expertise, so it takes time to bring people up to speed.

Privacy: Some people get a little "squishy" when they realized they're being tracked.

Understand that you're looking at AUDIENCES and not SPECIFIC PEOPLE. Avoid drilling down too much.

Just because you have the resources and the staffing, it doesn't necessarily mean you have the time.

If you keep going down the rabbit hole, eventually your day is lost. We can create a situation where we're not productive. Avoid targeting the five people who really care about X. That's more for our major gift officers, not the digital marketing team.

If you're using Google Analytics, the demographics tools have finally gotten to a point where that information is actually useful.

GA Retargeting tools - you can build out audience segments. Most of the time our audiences aren't overlapping. So we built them out as segments. That allows us to see what's going on with just them. It also allows us to build them out as an audience for re-targeting. We can access that audience in DoubleClick without adding additional pixels to our site.

Consider KISSMetricks for tracking one-on-one behavior. You can add to email, and track engagement on a variety of platforms.

If we take the time in the morning to evaluate campaigns, it can save us time by showing us what we don't need to pursue.

If it’s not working, don't do it.  ... Detach from it emotionally. You might see greater impact somewhere else.

Use Facebook and Twitter pixels to build custom audiences, if you don't have an email list you can use.

Measure your results with the people who hold the budget strings.

We're moving to the Donor Drive platform soon.

Qualitative vs Quantitative data: I come from the math world. People do what they do and math tells you what happens. We also do get great quotes from our donors too. When we get it right, we usually get both.

If we lose certain audiences via email, we can get them back via social media.

Getting started with targeting on Social: Look at what your Facebook audience wants from you and what your Twitter audience wants from you and start there.

We are trying to get as much info into our eCRM (ActionKit), they're really flexible so it works well for us. We have a SQL DB that pulls in from Raiser's Edge and our eCRM. It's a lot of work, but it's really beneficial. Try not to use too many platforms. ... KISSMetrics has been really helpful to us. Getting as much info into that tool from social etc. really gives us a more 360-view of that person. A lot of times we're downloading data from one platform, throwing it into Excel and checking it. It's never going to be seamless.

We are developing an engagement score that includes opens, clicks and others. We're trying to identify the bottom 50 percent and are the least engaged.

Social media users tend to click because they're curious. I tend to think of them as an initial digital touch focus. This could be their first introduction for these people, so making sure you give them a good landing page experience is important.

When we changed messaging with some test audiences, while we got increased engagement and donations, we also saw unsubscribes go up. But that's ok. If you're not losing a lot of subscribers.

Social media data, for whatever reason, really impresses CEOs.

Mercy Corps is a little unique as it started as a fund-raising organization. Our marketing team is only three years old, so fund raising has really managed the metrics.

Asking people what the numbers they present to you means to them is a great way to start the conversation about what is valuable.





Selected Tweets from NTEN's #16NTC conference

There is a lot of excitement around NTC, and with good reason. That means there are a LOT of tweets. In fact #16NTC is currently trending on Twitter as I write this. However, some tweets need to be saved for future reference. That's what we're attempting here. This will update throughout the conference so check back. You can also suggest tweets to add by tweeting @TaotiCreative.

NTEN #16NTC Drupal Day

The good, the bad and the evolving from Drupal Day at #16NTC

I am excited to be attending the NTEN Non-profit Tech Conference in San Jose this week. Ahead of the main conference (which starts Wednesday), there were three concurrent Drupal, WordPress and SalesForce days with a fair amount of ability for attendees to mingle regardless of their primary interest.

As the sessions started to blend together, I started listening at a higher level and ended up with two major take-aways. One positive, and one very much not.

A plea for creating clarity

I'll start with the bad news first.

While there are a lot of smart, well-meaning, interesting people at this conference, I couldn't help but feel like there were some key missing people. These people are the CEOs, vice presidents, and other chief stakeholders of organizations that set agendas and make life either wonderful or miserable for the digital teams who largely made up the group of attendees.

So many stories that were shared here had to do with the by-product of internal organizational confusion, or a constant unwillingness of an organization to let go of the old while breathlessly chasing the new.

There is a weariness among many attendees here. They are often excited about the potential of new technology, but worn down as their enthusiasm is thwarted by their organization's inability to clearly articulate what its primary strategic goals are.

This sounds like a simple observation. And it is. It's also far from easy. However, that is the precise reason why addressing it is so vital.

When an organization is able to be open and honest with what it is doing well, what it's not doing well, and is able to establish a clear understanding of what its priorities need to be, the results can be borderline miraculous. It can turn literally turn a beleaguered digital team into an energized, focused, world-changing army.

When orgs are not able to clearly articulate these objectives, it effectively creates a vacuum. That vacuum is filled by a thousand requests a year for quick, easy, and often redundant web projects that only meet the needs of fewer than five people.

Put another way, if non-profits were as good at monitoring the percentage of digital work that aligned with their strategic goals as they were about articulating the percentage of donations that actually went to their stated cause, the world would be a much better place.

It's for this reason that I wish more non-profit course setters were in attendance today. And since they weren't, I thought I would speak some truths to those powers.

It's a role we're accustomed to playing at Taoti during the discovery phase of projects, but it doesn't mean we like that it’s a role that needs to be played.

The good news ... powered by open-source

The other big take-away from Drupal Day is just how much open-source has not only firmly established its bona fides, but how many organizations are sounding as strategic and savvy as many Fortune 500 companies when it comes to describing their digital projects.

While there were obviously the demonstrations of effective story telling that has been a staple of non-profits for ages, what stood out this year to me was how many attendees and organizations are looking well beyond that as a baseline.

From Salesforce / CRM integrations to creative engagement opportunities for target audiences to web security, the ability of non-profits to tackle the challenges of the future, in many instances, seems to rival many larger for-profit entities.

In a conversation I had with a payment gateway vendor, we talked about how the willingness of non-profits to fully embrace open-source solutions to these challenges is no coincidence. By embracing the ability of open-source tools to enable smaller organizations to pivot and provide more tailored user experiences, they are also able to pivot in ways larger organizations that more closely resemble aircraft carriers can only dream of.

In another conversation with a donation plugin creator, we talked about how the culture of open-source, and the willingness of developers to share solutions to security issues, has created a situation where open source can provide a more secure solution than many proprietary solutions that can often be slow to move on vital security improvements.

I mention all of this because of how different the world seemed to be in this space even five years ago. Back then, an embrace of open source technology was seen as more rebellious than responsible.

Now it seems that the "rebels" are laughing at those without a clue.