Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

Measurable Goals: the Difference Between E-learning Success and Failure

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Think back on every one of your failed New Year’s resolutions. The reason you failed probably had something to do with abstract, unspecific goals: get thin, exercise more, enjoy life more. Without clarity, it’s nearly impossible to figure out how to succeed. You’re doomed by January 2.

Bilski and software patents

Goals should be less abstract, more concrete

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]

The same kind of thinking can harm a new e-learning project. Unspecific goal-setting can prevent you from knowing if your e-learning project is a success. If before you begin developing your training curriculum, you specify abstract goals like, “train employees,” “put this PowerPoint presentation online,” or “set up e-learning infrastructure,” you’re bound for failure. Instead, think about what success looks like, think about how you’ll arrive at success, and you’ll know if your online training program is doing what it should.

An easier way of arriving at a list of goals is to pose these simple questions to yourself or your team:

  • Why do you want to do the training?
  • What will your learners get out of it?

When you answer these questions, make sure to attach a number (like a percentage), so it’s measurable and a due date, so you have a focus and target–a must for continued funding.

Measurable, actionable and realistic e-learning goals

As soon as you pose meaningful questions to your team, you’ll find it’s much easier to create measurable, actionable and realistic e-learning goals. That will also help you keep spending in check and calculate the return on your e-learning investment. Training programs are expensive, so you need to be able to show how well your new e-learning initiative works.

What might those goals look like?

  • Transfer 50% of training programs into online format by the end of the next fiscal year.
  • Train 95% of employees in HIPAA requirements by January 1.
  • Increase awareness of new products by 25% among sales staff by the end of the quarter.
  • Successfully operate new medical device in five minutes or less by the product launch.

See how easily you’d be able to see if you met those goals or not? Prefix each list item with “Did we …” and you can answer each by a simple yes or no. Also by setting goals at the beginning, you’ll have something concrete to shoot for.

When Browsers Make Websites Look Bad

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Thank you, Internet Explorer, for another gray hair. As if I needed that. But there you go, rolling out another version of your web browsing software and forcing all of our clients to upgrade from IE7 or IE8 to your new IE9. IE9 is the primary browser on 36.2% of Windows 7 machines, and it’ll keep growing.


When Browsers Make Websites Look Bad

Now all of our clients’ websites will look funky, and they’ll wonder why.

Then the phone will start ringing. I’ll have to explain that their websites were built before your new browser appeared. I’ll have to tell them that a website doesn’t automatically update to match new browsers. I’ll have to find a way to explain why IE9 is a web designer’s nightmare.

In other words, I’ll have to explain what cross-browser compatibility is, and why the same sites look different depending on which browser someone is using.

What is cross-browser compatibility?

For this, I rely on NetMechanic, who describes the way browsers interpret information with this analogy:

Your Web browser is a translation device. It takes a document written in the HTML language and translates it into a formatted Web page. The result of this translation is a little like giving two human translators a sentence written in French and asking them to translate it into English. Both will get the meaning across, but may not use the same words to do so.

When we roll out a new website, we’ve got it covered. We test all of our new sites in the most used browsers to make sure they display pretty much the same in each. We also build our sites to “degrade gracefully.” In other words, if some new and unidentified browser or device comes out that doesn’t support the way we’ve built the site, it still looks reasonably OK. We do all of this before we even launch.

Sometimes, though, a new Internet browser pops up, and all sites need to be tested against it. It’s always a good idea for anyone with a website to make sure their site is usable across all the most popular browsers (old and new), mobile devices (like iPads or iPhones), or any other web browsing devices.

The web browsers that matter

How does one find out what browsers are most important for testing a site? Start with looking at an analytics account, something like Google Analytics or Clicky. Another handy technique is to check usage share for most browsers. According to StatCounter, here’s how they’re breaking down for February 2012:

  • Internet Explorer – 35.75%
  • Chrome – 29.84%
  • Firefox – 24.89%
  • Safari – 6.76%
  • Opera – 2.03%
  • Other – 0.73%
  • Cross-browser testing tools

    Then it’s a matter of downloading all of those browsers and seeing how it looks. There are also a number of useful tools that make this job a little bit easier, especially because it’s time-consuming to install all of the major browsers.

    Here’s a brief run-down of cross-browser testing services from Noupe:

    Adobe Browser Lab
    Adobe Browserlab offers an awesome solution for viewing on demand screenshots of your site.

    Makes screenshots of your web design in a lot of different browsers. After you submit your URL, it gives you a url where your screenshots will be loaded up.

    Browser Sandbox
    Runs an application to view your site in a variety of browsers.

    (More tips on what to check on the healthy website checklist.)

    My guess, IE, is that this nonsense isn’t going to end any time soon, especially since your share of the market is on such a sharp decline. So I’ll just keep an eye on the grays and do my best to keep on the treadmill.

    (While I’m at it, thanks to you too Firefox, for all of your upgrades, and a tip-o-the hat to Chrome and Safari for keeping up the guesswork.)

    [Image: Flickr user bottled_void]

First Impressions Matter Online

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The first impression someone has of your website carries the most impact. As rich and useful as your website is beyond the homepage, this is still the most important page of all.

Don’t waste the opportunity to turn one-time visitors into loyal supporters. Take a minute to look at your homepage and make sure it supplies the following elements:

  1. An elevator pitch explaining what you do. Make sure this is SHORT – not a page-long mission statement.
  2. A way for people to get involved easily. You might include a link to your Facebook page, a sign-up form for your newsletter or a donate button.
  3. Attractive imagery. Avoid pictures of empty rooms and building fronts.

You can also look at the seven best ways to update your homepage. Make sure you’re not driving people away after you’ve worked so hard to bring them to your website.

[This article originally appeared in our 52 Web Marketing & Promotion Tips newsletter. Get a quick tip delivered to your inbox weekly. Sign up for 52 tips now.]

4 Risk Management Steps That Could Save You

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

It could be a punishing snowstorm that brings down power for weeks. It could be a hacker that vandalizes your website. Or a war-torn country that inhibits communication with your team. It might even be as simple as a data backup that stops running for some reason. Running an organization with an online element is inherently risky, yet few leaders think seriously about what those risks might be and how they might affect day-to-day operations.

Earlier this month in the blog, we talked about how non-profits should think about IT risk management when they have an online element to their organization.

But how do you create an IT risk management plan? Start with these four steps:

1.     Identify possible risks.

First think of all the forms of electronic communication you use, and brainstorm together some worst case scenarios. What could possibly go wrong? Write them down.

2.     Categorize and prioritize.

Now look at your list and decide which is the most potentially damaging. You might rank the risks by Low, Medium and High, so you can decide where to put your most careful plan.

3.     Determine plausibility.

Some of the items on your list are more likely to happen than others, even if they’re damaging. An earthquake might flatten your off-site storage facility, but is it likely to happen in the middle of Utah? Rank your items based on plausibility: Possible, Probable and Likely are helpful labels.

4.     Make your plan.

Now you have a good idea of what could go wrong and the likelihood it will. Think through each item and plot out what you would do in case it happens. Will your web project manager quit?  Have a good staffing agency on call. Did you delete your website’s homepage? Have your web host on speed dial so they can revert to the latest backup. Write down every step so anyone can pick up the plan and know what to do.

Educated plans are the best, so don’t shy from asking others what they might do. Plan within your department, and call in colleagues and other professionals for their advice.

Your turn: do you assess risk? Let us know in our poll if you have a risk management plan for your organization. We’ll share the results in our next newsletter. Take the poll!

[This appeared in our February newsletter. Wanna subscribe? Do it now!]

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Users

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

1. They’re not all using their desktop computers.

Seen all those people trying to meld with their Blackberries? They may be looking at your site on that thing, so make sure it looks good.

2. They have the patience of a puppy chugging espresso.

Get to the point. Fast.

3. They like pretty things, but value efficient navigation more.

Designers do funny things when they get hold of sites. They make them look beautiful, but don’t always think about what they’re supposed to do.

4. They don’t always like slide shows.

Slide shows often go nowhere. Sometimes they want to get directly to the meat.

5. They love trusted recommendations.

Think of what partners and relationships you can recommend that actually do your users a service. It’s karmic – it’ll come around to you.

6. Pop-ups.

They make them go away and hate you a little bit.

7. They adore before and after stories.

This should set off little bells amongst fundraisers.

8. Forcing behavior.

Listen, people will sign up/donate/attend if they want to. Don’t slap them around with a request.

9. iPads, iPods and anything that handles apps.

Do you have an inner app? Think what apps provide, and see what something similar might do for your website.

10. Egotism.

Talk about your capabilities and successes, but don’t go on and on about why you’re the best. Total turn off.

Wedding a Blog and a Website

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Vintage Wedding Postcard ~ Bride & Groom

[Photo credit: Vintage Wedding Postcard ~ Bride & Groom, on Flickr]

So you’ve decided to start a blog – good for you! Blogs are important ways for you to build a faithful following and enrich your site with valuable content.

But before you open up your first free Blogger or WordPress account, think about how that blog will integrate with your overall communications strategy and online presence. Websites and blogs should support each other, not compete. Too many efforts are siloed, the blog hanging off the side like an extra appendage, or vice versa.

A few ideas for integrating them more closely:

Publish blog entries directly into your website. If what you’re writing in the blog relates to your site, make it show up there. Vice versa, if you’re creating content within your main website that could be useful for your blog readers, republish.

Share tags.
Tags, or categories, can be shown on both website material and blog entries. Link them together.

Make the blog appear within the framework of your website. The Talance blog is actually on WordPress while our website is on Drupal. But we’ve made them look the same so you never really feel like you’re leaving our website.

Create a related links section
at the bottom of blog entries that refer back to related material on your main website.

Create a Feedback page
on your blog that links back to your website feedback page.

Focus Your Social Media Strategy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

One of the nice benefits of our Talance’s Massachusetts Non-profit Social Media Report is how many conversations it’s opening up about how non-profits are actually using social media – or struggling with how to use it.

Someone in one of my networks said her organization doesn’t use social media precisely because it does work. This is a charity that receives loads of requests for services, but that’s sorely needing donations. She’s afraid if she does start a social media program, she’ll be overwhelmed by more requests for service that she can’t handle.

My suggestion to her and anyone thinking about a social media program is to focus your efforts. Social media shouldn’t be a distraction. You’ve got to fine-tune what kinds of programs you’re using and what results you hope to get from them. If you need donors, then you don’t need to focus on awareness campaigns. You need to focus on fund development campaigns.

Make sure you know what you want to get out of any marketing program before you start one. (And of course, the best place to start is by reading the benchmarking survey.)