Blog Archives

Websites for Small Orgs – A Resource Round-Up

I’ll be talking to the Audubon Society this weekend about how local chapters can get on the web. I’m hoping to post the slide deck afterwards but in the mean time I wanted to share this list of resources here. It starts from a pretty basic approach but there’s good info in here for every level of web operation. It’s by no means all inclusive, just some links I have found helpful and hope someone else will too – and feel free to add your favorite “Getting Online” resources in the comments. Read more ›

Take Aways from Design for Mobile Seminar

So I’m back and as promised, here’s what I have to report.

I definitely went to the big city, both literally and figuratively. San Francisco and the Nielsen Norman Group seminar respectively – both a bit like Oz. They were exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

While I was already a bit intimidated by the vast sea of things to learn about designing for mobile/tablet sites and apps, I found things are even more complicated than I knew. So much for a quick one day learning experience. As usual, I have been sucked into researching and reading everything I can get my hands on about this new (to me) area of design. Read more ›

Notes from SXSW

(originally posted on the Idealware Blog)

South by Southwest is everything they say it is and probably a whole lot more. This being my first year, I was dutifully overwhelmed with the sheer number of options for learning, inspiration and fun. I had planned to report back on the nonprofit oriented sessions I attended and their take-aways, but something else has struck me as even more important to highlight. Read more ›

From the Idealware Blog: A Year End List of Lists

(originally posted at

In the last week of the year you can count on at least  two things it seems: the ubiquitous  “last chance to give a tax deductible donation” emails from your favorite organizations and recap and top 10 lists from just about everyone online. A favorite way for bloggers to draw us in, lists can actually be very useful to pare down the vast amount of information out there into bite size chunks we can consume in one sitting. Read more ›

Idealware publishes updated Open Source CMS report

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Idealware, the nonprofit that does research and publishes information on technology for other nonprofits.

So it comes as no surprise that I have been delighted to co-author the  2010 Comparing Open Source Content Management Systems: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Plone report. It includes unbiased detailed reviews with a feature summary,  as well as a directory of consultants. Read more ›

Update on Sprout Builder and Nonprofits

This is basically the same as my comment on my Idealware post about Sprout Builder shutting down.

Something of an update via Facebook fan pages, which I suppose is a sign of the times.

First, in the group Jeff Wassermen started and mentions in the comments on my first post and Johanna mentions on Idealware “Spurned Sproutbuilders Unite!” Carnet did indeed say that all existing Sprout subscribers that are members of the group can get the half price discount ($1500 a year) by emailing with subject line “early adopter discount” . You’ll need to give the email address you used for your Sprout account , if different your paypal email so they can send you a manual invoice. This is because you will need to pay the for the full year up front and they are discontinuing Pay Pal billing.

Also on Beth Kanter’s Facebook fan page there is a reply to Jon Dunn’s post about Sprout’s discontinuation from Michelle Wohl at Sprout saying that they “..are working with existing Sprout non-profit clients on pricing. Please email for info. ” And Beth’s indication that it will be on an individual basis.

The company has expressed their concern for nonprofits and intentions to do all they can to support them in the past, so its likely they will offer some sort of discount for 5013c organizations.

In any case, all nonprofits using Sprout would be wise to contact them soon and see what can be done for your organization.

Sprout Builder shutting down (unless you have $3k)

The do-it-yourself widget maker so many nonprofits grew to know and love, Sprout Builder, announced today that they are shutting down all subscription service to concentrate on their enterprise ($3000 a year +) offerings. This is sad news for nonprofits using the service and if you are one of them you’ll want to read the Sprout FAQ right away. You’ll have a little lead time to find a solution though – until the end of March to be precise.

Just about a year ago the service went from free to fee and although there are probably more alternatives now, my post about what else is out there may come in handy again.

[Update: I posted  more on this topic at Idealware’s blog and am hoping that post becomes a place for sharing alternatives and what’s to do for those losing their Sprouts – please check it out and contribute your solutions and ideas]

From the Idealware Blog

More Fun with Open Source Content Management

(originally posted at

I’m really thrilled that the Idealware report comparing 4 top-notch open source content management systems is now available. I think it will prove invaluable to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes for a long time to come and know I will be recommended reading for many friends and potential and future clients.

Even if you have already seen the CMS Showdown and the competition sites implemented on WordPress, Drupal and Joomla now that the report is out they are worth another look.

If you didn’t make it to SXSW conference or haven’t heard about this brilliant project – here is an excerpt from the site:

Originally presented at South By Southwest Interactive in March, 2009, the Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny is an “Iron Chef”-style competition pitting three teams of all-star Web developers from the Drupal, Joomla! and WordPress communities against each other to develop the same Web site in each of their chosen open source content management platforms.

In addition to a fascinating look behind the scenes at each teams decision-making process, there are lots of productive insights to be gained by looking at the finished products of their labors. Many of the key points in the Idealware report are evident on the demo sites and by reading the team notes.

Despite (or maybe because of) the 100 hour total development time limit, each site demonstrates its system’s strengths and weakness fairly accurately or I should say in keeping with my own experiences of them. Not all of them managed to accomplish all the requirements, which points out what takes more time or work to implement for that particular system.

One thing that can be confusing is that the specifications for the site required that most of the content be available only to authenticated users. The sites for Drupal and Joomla, who were able to achieve this, seem a bit bare, especially Drupal where they didn’t create any publicly viewable items in some areas. So you can’t access the galleries, blogs or member listings and its a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a demo user/password available anywhere to see the full sites. If anyone knows of one, I would love to take a look.

Also, sadly there was no invitation for a Plone team this time around, but if you want to see it included next time I’d suggest you contact the organizers.

Check out the CMS Showdown as a handy companion piece to the Idealware CMS report for a real world apples to apples demonstration (sort of) of how each system looks at some familiar features. And read the team notes on for some helpful hints and tricks the they used on the sites.

From the Idealware Blog

Great Resources on Vendor Websites

(originally posted at

One of the great things about working in the nonprofit sector is the spirit of sharing and helping one another succeed that I continue to find among organizations and consultants for online technologies. Many resources on how to choose technology and how to use it wisely are available from great nonprofit and consulting companies. But the hungry mind wants more so, although it might be obvious, I wanted to share another great way to find metrics, best practices and how to guides – technology vendors resource sections.

Over the years I have found that many vendors of both nonprofit and for profit technology and services offer a wealth of high quality information on their sites that cover far more than just their own products. I see it as enlightened self-interest, since successful customers are happy customers and the basics apply no matter what platform you are using for your web site, fundraising or bulk email.

Here are just few that I have found worth checking in on regularly, but be sure to check for a resources section on your own vendor’s websites.

Email Vendors (Lyris)

Websites and Fundraising
and some older but still useful items at Kintera/Blackbaud

Network for Good has a whole site about fundraising:

But wait there’s more!
Don’t forget that most of the time resources for profit companies are equally useful in the nonprofit sector or can be with a little adaptation. Check out sites offering general best practices like Marketing Sherpa and Copyblogger. You can find good advice and information that applies equally to any type of communications strategy.

Please share your own favorite vendor or for profit resources in the comments and we can all learn a little more.

From the Idealware Blog

Minimum Usability Testing: Now there’s no excuse not to do it.
(originally posted at

According to the author of the web usability bible “Don’t Make Me Think” Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than testing none and testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end. To that end, I’d like to suggest testing 5 or 10 more often and found a couple of services that make it possible.

While I am afraid that too many of my Idealware blog posts have been focusing on cheap or free resources, I do believe that the easier it is for nonprofits to do usability testing regularly the better their sites will be – so here is one more post about a couple of low cost options.

Feedback Army:
Strictly a quick an dirty sort of testing, I stumbled across this crowd-sourced usability service on a blog and had to check it out. For $10 you get to set up your own questions or scenario and receive responses from 10 reviewers.

The results are, as you might expect for that sort of money, a mixed bag from a wide generic set of users. Although I really don’t believe any site should be targeting anything so broad as “general public” it can be helpful to have this kind of input. I would see this as useful for organizations doing a redesign to try out a couple of different directions or make a specific design choice (red or orange for that donate button?).

The site provides a bit of guidance for how to get the best and most useful responses and I have to say, man, is it fast – less than a day turnaround time to collect 10.

The reviewers come from a service called Mechanical Turk which, although I have been around the web a while, I had never heard of before. Its an Amazon program where users offer and accept small tasks best done by humans for small fees. Its feels a little creepy, and I do have some doubts about ethics and ramifications, but apparently it has a big following and fan base on both sides. Feedback Army acts as oversight and interface in order to maintain quality control, so only reviews they judge to fulfill your requirements filter back to you.

Overall I found the feedback to be helpful in my test case and will probably use this again when I need an “outside perspective” on design decisions.
A comment from the original blog post pointed me to, which is a bit more expensive ($20 per tester) but which blew me away with what you get for your money. I submitted my site for a trial and received an incredibly well thought out and thorough review video in which you see the user’s screen and mouse movements while listening to a narrative of what they are thinking as they complete your request and answer your questions. It gave me a lot of new ideas and insight about where I was missing the mark by being too close to the subject. In addition you get a standard written report answering basic usability questions that is also useful.

Jakob Nielsen, the godfather of usability testing, makes a good case that testing 5 users will yield the highest value of information in the most economic way – so for $100, a nonprofit could conduct some of the worthwhile usability testing that seems to always fall through the cracks.

And of course if you ask the right questions you can also test new ideas and designs with your own supporters using a survey tool like Survey Monkey for free, so there really is no excuse not to do usability testing at this point.

More on quick and dirty usability testing and why you need it, as well as what to test and how, can be found on Jakob Nielsen’s site:

Fast, Good and Cheap:

Usability for $200

Usability on Nonprofit Web sites

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