Jakob Nielsen wrote an interesting piece for his Alertbox feature this week that shares some data from a study of 60 nonprofit websites. The findings suggest that completing the donation process on nonprofit websites took users 7% more time on average than it took to complete an e-commerce checkout process, that making non-monetary donations is difficult, and that people don’t use social networking tools to research non-profits or make donations. There’s good news, however, for those in the legal aid community who use the web to recruit pro bono attorneys: users gave a “stellar rating” for finding how to volunteer at a nonprofit organization. –M
Earlier this week, LSNTAP launched a newly redesigned website. Most noticeably, the main page was simplified, helping key items to stand out. Also, live chat support has been made available through out the site, so that help is available on any page, and an easy-to-find page was added to let you purchase training seats online.
So check out the LSNTAP site if you haven't visited it recently. If you like what you see, let LSNTAP know, or if you don't, let them know what you'd like to see. - K
A heads up for any casual readers of Beth Kanter's blog, Beth's Blog. It has moved to bethkanter.org and got a new look. If you've been reading the blog via RSS, no change is necessary. (And don't worry. The old blog at beth.typepad.org will still be around for a while.)
User Effect, a consulting firm specializing in website usability, has put together a helpful guide to free and low-cost web usability tools that covers twenty tools in four categories: heat mapping, screen recording, user testing, and user feedback. The free guide is available for download here (PDF). –M [Thanks, Dan!]
Content comes to website coordinators in many formats, such as Word or PDF. This content must be "fixed" before it's posted, a process that usually consists of converting the document to plain text or HTML and then making the document look like the original again. Speaking from too much experience, this process is tedious but necessary. If not done, the content will be poorly presented and difficult to use.
Caroline Robinson, the Website Coordinator for MassLegalHelp.org at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, pointed out a tool that she uses to simplify this process: HTML Tidy Online. Instead of combing through HTML code to clean up the tags or converting the document to plain text and then reformatting it, she pastes HTML code into HTML Tidy Online, and the tool cleans it up for her, saving valuable time. - K
assertTrue( ) documented an amazing trick: In Firefox, you can make any page editable. Granted, the changes aren't permanent, but with this trick you can make minor changes to a page before taking a screenshot, or you can show someone how edited text should look on the page without copying the page into another program.
All you need to do is copy this code into the address bar and hit enter:
Then start editing.
In seconds, I can transform the IllinoisLegalAid.org Form Library from its original form into a shorter, cleaner version for a handout or presentation.
Original Form Library Page
|Edited Form Library Page|
To turn it off, reload the page (or get fancy with Greasemonkey). - K
Sitepoint, an online resource for Web professionals, put together a short guide to image file formats used on the Web. A great resource, this post contains a description of three file types (GIF, JPG, and PNG) and explains what each format is best for. - K
Have you looked at the Supreme Court of the United States website recently? It's not very user friendly, the available information is limited, and the design is a bit dated.
And I'm not the only person who thinks so. The Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan nonprofit that works "to foster more openness and accountability in government," recently suggested that the site should be redesigned and recommended ways that the Supreme Court can "make the Court’s proceedings transparent, incorporate modern design principles, and meet the higher expectations of today’s web user." The resulting mock ups are beautiful and suggest several great ways to make the site more useful.
Fortunately, it also sounds like the Court recognizes the limitations of its current site and has asked for funding for a site redesign. Personally, I'd love to see the Court work with the Sunlight Foundation to implement a version of these designs. What a great opportunity to open the courthouse doors and save money at the same time! - K
The annual ABA/NLADA Equal Justice Conference will take place next week (May 14-16) in Orlando, FL, and as always there will be lots of innovative technology sessions to choose from. Below are a few sessions that I'll be a panelist on:
Making Recovery From Disasters Easier Through Technology
(Thursday, May 14th 9:45am-11:15am) Presenters: Matthew Burnett, Mike Monahan, Eve Ricaurte and Juliet Choi
The Future Is Here Now: What Emerging Technologies Can Do For Your Mission
(Friday, May 15th 8:45am-10:15am) Presenters: Shirley Williams, Joyce Raby, Matthew Burnett and Liz Keith
50 New Tech Tips To Survive Hard Economic Times
(Friday, May 15th 10:30am-Noon) Presenters: Rachel Medina, David Bonebrake, Glenn Rawdon and Matthew Burnett
Other technology sessions that you should consider attending include:
Not Just A Pretty Interface: A2j Author® Is Changing How We Achieve Justice Through Technology
(Thursday, May 14th 1:30 - 3:30 pm) Presenters: John Mayer, Rachel R. Medina, Eve Ricaurte, Ronald W. Staudt
Creative Uses of Technology in Addressing the Foreclosure Crisis
(Friday, May 15th 2 pm-3:30 pm) Presenters: David Bonebrake, Jason Vail and Liz Keith
Statewide Websites: A Showcase Of Outstanding Client, Pro Bono And Advocate Features
(Friday, May 15th 2 pm-3:30 pm) Lisa Colpoys, Michael Genz, Vince Morris, Ken Perri, Glenn Rawdon
Technology-Enabled Self Help Centers
(Friday, May 15th 3:45pm-5:15pm) Presenters: Carol Austin, Michelle Hopkins, Claudia Johnson and Liz Keith
For the full agenda, visit the EJC website. If you plan to attend, be sure to join us for a session or stop by the Pro Bono Net booth in the exhibitor area and say hi! -M
WomensLaw.org, a site that provides legal information and resources on domestic violence and sexual assault, was chosen as the winner of this year’s Webby Award for the Law category. The People’s Voice Award went to GetLegal.com, a commercial website with legal information and resources for lawyers and the public. Congratulations to the winners, as well as this year’s nominees and honorees! -M
It’s time again for the Webby Awards, but this year there’s a twist. Of the five legal websites nominated for Best Law Site, three focus on public interest topics: the Immigration Advocates Network, WomensLaw.org and Workplace Fairness. They are joined by last year’s nominee, JURIST, and a newcomer commercial law site, GetLegal.com. Hailed as the "Internet's highest honor" by the New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. From now until April 30th, you can cast your vote in the Law category (and 70 others) in The Webby People's Voice Awards at http://pv.webbyawards.com. Winners will be announced on May 5th, 2009 and honored at a ceremony in New York City on June 8th. –M
In late February, Matthew pointed out a few browser testing tools to help you see how your site renders in different browsers. Microsoft just announced an addition to that list: Microsoft SuperPreview. According to the post on SitePoint, the full version, which hasn't yet been released, will support Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Currently, a free pre-release version lets you test IE6 and IE7 as well as IE8 if it's installed. - K
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Cornerstone Magazine recently published an excellent article entitled "Meaningful Web Access for LEP Clients: Examples from the Net" by Liz Keith, Leah Margulies and Michael Mulé. The article "discusses the obligation to translate website content and highlights emerging and distinctive ways that programs are using Web technology to help ensure essential resources and information are accessible to LEP clients." If you are responsible for client-facing websites, including your own organization's website, please take a few minutes to give it a read. -M
Alyssa Gregory reviews 30 websites that provide free stock photography in her recent post on SitePoint, an online information provider for web developers and designers. -M [Thanks, Ken!]
If you work on web-based projects, you often want to know how your site renders in multiple browsers, but don't want to actually install them on your machine. Here are a few great free tools that allow you to do just that:
- Xenocode Browser Sandbox - Runs any browser from the web with no installation.
- LunaScape - Puts the "big three" browser rendering engines into one tool and allows you to easily switch between them.
- BrowserShots - Allows you to quickly run page tests on nearly every browser and version available.
Happy testing! -M
For those of use who don't have a paid web designer on staff, MailChimp is trying to help make our HTML emails a little prettier. They have made several HTML email templates available for free. Programs that want to experiment with e-newsletters or fundraising e-mails can use these templates to add a little panache without any expense. - K
- Learning Perl; or
- Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
Note: Accessing your free book requires that you sign up for a Safari Books Online account. -M
It's always helpful to have a few interesting fonts on hand to spruce up a report, distinguish your PowerPoint, or to help ensure that your marketing materials attract attention. Most fonts cost money, but not at dafont.com, where all of the fonts are absolutely free. To load a new font on your machine, first download the font and unzip it. Next, if you're using Vista, simply right-click on the font file and select "Install" (same goes for Mac OS X, but double click and select "Install font"). If you're using XP, just save the font file to C:\Windows\Fonts. After the font is is installed, you can select it from the drop-down list as you would any existing font on your machine.
And remember: just because you can use a fancy font doesn't mean that you should. Accessibility is important, so be sure to use fonts that are legible. -M
We've blogged about Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox in the past, but this week's post on the 10 Best Application UIs of 2008 is worthy of special attention. Among other insights, Nielsen argues that "[a]pplications are about features, but they are also about connecting with users. Several [winning] applications explicitly targeted emotional design that puts users at ease and projects a sense of playfulness." -M
Creating a quality website with little or no knowledge of HTML or other programming languages is no longer the challenge that it once was. With the evolution of blogging platforms, wikis and other web-based content management systems, you can now build a web presence for your organization or projects with little more than some extra time on your hands. Here are a few free hosted solutions that will put you on your way to a website without having to write a lick of code:
- Blogs: In addition to the popular weblog platforms such as Wordpress and Blogger, check out the tumblelog offerings, which land somewhere between weblogs and micro-blogging sites like Twitter. My current favorite is tumblr, which is extremely easy to use, allows you to post from your mobile device, offers a really nifty Firefox plug-in, and (with a little bit of effort or a free theme) is fully customizable.
- Wikis: Most hosted wikis don't make for particularly good general purpose websites, but wetpaint is an exception. Wetpaint's innovative social publishing platform allows you to effortlessly post and edit text and multimedia content in a wiki-like environment, as well as to easily customize the overall look and feel. If you're looking to build a website to support an online community, and can put up with a few Google ads, wetpaint is a good option.
- Other options: If the blog or wiki platforms above aren't the right fit for your project, consider Google Sites and Roxer. Google Sites, which we've showcased before in a Free Friday post on project management solutions, is somewhat of a hybrid. It supports collaboration (like a wiki) and fairly robust permissioning, but has a more traditional website feel. Roxer, while not big on collaboration, is one of the most innovative hosted website solutions that I've seen. As its website claims, "now anyone can create beautiful websites online in just minutes." It truly takes WYSIWYG to an entirely new level.
Also be sure to check out the recent webinar by LSNTAP and Pro Bono Net on building program websites. In addition to great suggestions on finding the right platform and host, it provides helpful tips and resources on layout, design and incorporating multimedia. Also, for those states using the LawHelp template, ask your Circuit Rider about program sites, which are free to legal aid and public interest organizations. -M
On the way to and from conferences, I usually catch up on reading. For the Equal Justice Conference, I packed two issues of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. I had picked them at the Pro Bono Net office after being intrigued by a couple of headlines. I hadn't ever had the chance to read a full issue before, and I was quite impressed.
While not necessarily about technology, a few articles are worth highlighting:
Drowning in Data - This article describes the difference between summative and formative evaluations and suggests that funders should be very careful about what type of evaluations they require nonprofits to engage in. Summative evaluations, which are conducted at the end of a project and determine whether the project met its goals, aren't necessarily the right evaluations for nonprofits. They assess outcomes and are expensive, time consuming, and hard to do right. Nonprofits should focus on formative evaluations, which take place during a program and identify places for improvements.
From Marble to Formica (Subscription Required) - Low-income communities don't tend to attract traditional banks. While there are many reasons, traditional banks often find that they can't build local bases of customer support. So Union Bank of California developed partnerships and opened Cash & Save, a bank that provides savings and checking accounts, loans, financial advice, and check-cashing services. They learned some important lessons as a part of the project.
- Ask customers what they want. Services and hours mattered more to low-income communities, and they cared very little if the bank had beautiful furnishings.
- Partner with local businesses. They have an existing customer base and know the community.
- If you build it, customers won't necessarily come. You've got to do it well, and you've got to give the customers a service that they actual want and can use.
How to Hire a Consultant (Subscription Required) - This article gives several hints to building a successful relationship with consultants.
- Hire people who come with recommendations from people without conflicts of interests.
- Consulting does not mean pro bono.
- Consultants should act professionally.
- Consultants are project partners.
- A consultant's work is useful only if you use it.
Diversity Training Doesn't Work (Subscription Required) - A study compared diversity training and performance feedback with both affirmative actions plans, diversity committees, and diversity staff, and mentoring and networking programs. It found that diversity training and performance feedback doesn't work. Organizations that appointed someone to be charge - a diversity committee or staff - were best able to up the number of managers who were women or black.
Designing Trust (Subscription Required) - Don't have a line for a graphic designer in your next website project? That could be a big mistake. Turns out that pretty and functional websites are easier to believe and easier to learn from.
Networks for Good Works (Subscription Required) - This article is a really interesting look at how networks work and influence individuals within a network. One example looks at the Mississippi Freedom Project of 1964. Over a thousand people applied, over 950 applications were accepted, but only 720 people showed up. Looking at the nearly 240 people who didn't show up, it turned out that they were generally part of a network that wasn't strongly involved in the movement. Those that showed up were. "In other words, the more deeply people are embedded in networks whose values are aligned with a social movement, the more willing they are to participate in that movement." (Personally, I think that this could have huge implications for developing a new generation of pro bono volunteers.)
Government by Numbers (Subscription Required) - This is a great look at how Baltimore city government used mapping to improve the community. Originally, it started with mapping crime statistics and identifying patterns, but eventually spread through the other city departments. The CitiStat program, as the mapping project is called, has improved city numbers and accountability.
Faith in Fair Trade (Subscription Required) - Lutherans love coffee. Lutheran World Relief worked with this fact and their brand recognition to encourage Lutheran congregations to drink fair trade coffee. Through education, they got congregations to promote and use fair trade before fair trade was cool. - K
So you've been put in charge of a web site design project, but you don't know a PNG from a GIF image, and your mother still tells you that your outfits don't match. Where do you turn? If you are looking for a quick read, I would recommend Jason Beaird's book, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design.
I happened upon this book while scanning the list of authors giving technical book readings at South by Southwest Interactive. Since I was looking for a book on "good" design and figured that someone willing to get up and give a book reading in front of techies must have something pretty interesting to say, I ordered it from trusty Amazon.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with my purchase. Jason gives a quick overview of web design principles without assuming that the reader has a lot of technical knowledge. In five short chapters, he quickly covers the basics - layout and composition, color, texture, typography, and imagery. And along the way, he develops a simple example to show the reader how to put it all together. For me, this book had two highlights. First of all, the chapter on imagery was amazing. I've played around with Photoshop and GIMP, but I've never gone much beyond the basic tools. Jason's examples have encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone and have given me enough information so that I should be able to replicate some of his techniques. The second nugget was when Jason pointed out two free web tools: the WellStyled Color Scheme Generator, which helps pick out color palettes, and the Colour Contrast Check, which checks to see if foreground and background colors provide enough of a contrast.
Before you run out and buy/borrow this book, a couple words of caution:
- This book is for beginning designers. If you have been exposed to a lot of color theory or have done a lot of graphic design or page layout, much of this book will be a review.
- This book won't teach you HTML or CSS.
So now, budding web designers, go, read, and learn. - K
I spent about 20 minutes playing with the recently launched Google Sites (fka JotSpot) this morning. Like most Google Apps, the interface is intuitive and there's lots of flexibility. It was easy to integrate into our organization's domain (we use Google's non-profit/education edition for email) and allows you to add calendars, presentations, attachments, etc. to a dashboard as well as create file directories and custom pages. You can also share it for viewing or editing with a defined group, your organization, or publicly. Overall, I like it better than many other online collaboration tools that I've used, both for the ease of integration with other Google Apps and its simple access and interface controls. -M