How to Write for the Web – Live Webinar

We’re covering the most important elements of taming your website copy in Keep, Cut or Kill: Writing for the Web webinar on September 2. We’ll reveal how to plan for a copy overhaul, how to be merciless with what you do have, and how to optimize what’s left. You’ll get practical techniques to purge and polish.

The 30-minute presentation is lead by our CEO Monique Cuvelier, who spent 20 years as a journalist and web editor. Here are a few ideas from the talk as a preview:

Know your audience first.

You need to be able to put yourself into your readers’ shoes before you know how to speak to them. Teens will respond to different language than Baby Boomers will.

Be merciless.

Website copy has a tendency to grow and expand, especially over time. Every once in a while, review your copy and be totally honest with yourself. Do you need it?

Clean up.

When you’ve cleared the website clutter and you’re left with the content that really should be there, make sure it reads well. Optimize for web reading, and people will respond better.

>> Sign up for the live event

September 2
2 p.m. Eastern
Online

Contra Costa Midrasha’s Small Investment & Big Payoff

It’s easy to think in extremes with websites. Your website might be looking a little tired, and you might think, “Time for an overhaul!” Often all you need is a little freshening up, and you’ll notice a big payoff. As long as you’re reasonably happy with your content and you don’t have any technical problems, you can execute a few tweaks that are far cheaper than an overhaul, and that pay off big time.

Contra Costa Midrasha just went through what I’d classify as a “refresh” rather than a “relaunch.” CCM is a program for Jewish high school kids in Walnut Creek, Calif., and every year they start a big registration push to recruit more students.They were already planning a “Put Yourself in the Picture” direct mail campaign and had designed a postcard.

It seemed like the perfect time to breathe new life into the website while using it as the hub for registrations, donations and news about events. After a few discussions with Devra Aarons, the program’s executive director, we came up with a plan of attack that would be budget-friendly but still achieve her goals of getting new recruits and collecting information. We decided to also align the site with the “Put Yourself in the Picture” campaign.

Here’s the plan:

  • Design a new header to match the campaign.
  • Add punchy noticeable buttons to encourage donations and registrations.
  • Create motion and interest through an interactive slide show.
  • Use an expanded online registration tool.
  • Promote their new social media campaign.
  • Use analytics accounts to track usage.

New header

The old website header was designed to match a brochure. It was eye-catching, but this was probably the most impactful way to update the look of the site. We used an existing postcard for the upcoming campaign and extended the movie metaphor with CCM’s color palette and some layered textures. Here’s the old banner:

Contra Costa Midrasha Old Banner

And the new banner:

Contra Costa Midrasha New Banner

Donate and Register buttons

For a long time, Devra knew she wanted to add call-to-action buttons to encourage donations and registrations. There was a blank area above the banner that was the perfect spot. We created a couple buttons that matched the new header and that stood out.

Donate

Slideshow

The biggest wow factor on the page comes from the slideshow. It cycles through a series of pictures with text, and each image links to a corresponding page. Since Devra wanted to ramp up registrations, we made them all lead – for now – to the registration page.

Contra Costa Midrasha Slideshow

Registration tool

Devra decided to largely scrap the paper registration and put it all online. The form was long, to be sure, but we streamlined as much as possible and used fieldsets to group like information with like. We also used collapsible fields, which open with a click and reveal more information. This is helpful for information that might not be relevant for everyone. The end result for the user is a friendly flow of information that’s a little easier on the eyes.

The payoff here was clear and nearly immediate. Registrations started coming in right away, and the feedback was good: “I got a lovely e-mail from a parent saying how user friendly our registration form was!” Devra said.

Contra Costa Midrasha Form

Promote social media

CCM just started using Twitter, so we added this and a link to their Facebook Group to the homepage, where it’s easy to click through.

Contra Costa Midrasha social media

Analytics

Finally, Devra set up accounts on Google Analytics and Clicky, both helpful tools to show the who, what, where and when of people visiting the site. After making these kinds of changes, tracking usage becomes a helpful benchmarking tool to know what decisions are resonating and identifying possible issues. The data that comes in over the following weeks and months will help plan for the future, as needs and responses change through the course of the program.

Here’s the whole site, but make sure you visit so you can see it all in action.

Contra Costa Midrasha

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Users

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.

A New Day Dawns

Take a look at A New Day, a heroic organization in Massachusetts that helps victims of sexual and relationship violence. We helped them bring a bright and hopeful face to the work they do with a new logo to match their new name (they’re formerly known as Womansplace Crisis Center). The new logo provides instant recognition to non-native English speakers and those who may be illiterate. It also communicates calm, freshness, vibrancy and empowerment.

A New Day Logo

A New Day Logo

Visit them at their website: anewdayma.org, and stay tuned, because big things are planned for this space.

Who Is A New Day?

A New Day is a free and confidential space for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their family. They provide counseling, medical advocacy, 24-hours’ response to individuals who have been sexually assaulted (including meeting them at the hospital and staying with them through procedures), legal advocacy and prevention, working in the community to change the way they think about and respond to domestic and sexual violence in hopes to stop it at its roots. Check ’em out. They’re worth every bit of good will they get.

Find Your Hidden Audiences

We talk a lot about discovering who your audience is and talking directly to them through your website. If you’ve been a faithful reader, you know by now that it’s an exercise in self-aggrandizing to focus the website on the big wigs at your organization. However, you should also be looking at less visible audiences.

Let’s say you’re a social services agency, and you say, “Our audience members are the people who come in for treatment or services.” Good start, and your website should make it clear to those people how to do things like book appointments and give feedback on services they’ve received. But you have more work to do.

If you’re that social services agency, think about what you can add to your website to address these additional audiences:

Local and regional governments.

You’ll want to swap information with them and also receive client referrals. Make it easy by providing clear channels and maybe even building networks on the website to facilitate the flow of data.

The locals.

Social care businesses occupy an important segment of the community, so remember to engage the people around you who may one day depend upon you. They are one of your strongest sources of new clients, so think about how you can make it easy to include them.

Partner organizations.

The other social care, transport, hospitals, education, law enforcement, housing services, leisure services and benefit entitlement services all depend on you for information and vice versa. Create a strong connection to them through technology, and you’ll serve yourself better, as well as your clients.

Your staff.

I’m not talking about putting biographical information on the staff pages. I’m talking about how your website should support your field staff in their daily activities.

The key is to think about your website not as just a way to push information to your primary audience, but to also think about it as a connecter throughout your community. This is the kind of thinking that will help you and your website reach out to new people and make them better cared for while making your website a worthwhile investment.

3 Ways to Get to Know Your Community

[This little gem is the e-mail newsletter our subscribers just received. Want a slice for yourself? Sign up now.]

The more you know about the people who visit your website, the better. Creating a profile of the people who visit your organization site can help you make better decisions about what you can do for them.

Your website should be the central repository for this research. Here are a few tools you can add to your existing website to compile info on your users.

Feedback forms.

A simple feedback form can gather so much. Tuck these around your website soliciting comments, and you’ll start learning more about who your people are.

Surveys.

If you want serious feedback, host a survey. If you build this into your website, you can keep names, contact information and responses local to your website rather than a third-party service. You can also set it up so you receive e-mail alerts every time someone submits a response.

E-newsletters.

E-newsletters are good sources of information as well as good ways to deliver targeted information to your subscribers. Make sure you have a sign-up form on your website as well as archives.

Call (888) 810-9109 or e-mail if you want demos or pricing.

August Birthday Goodie: Free Webinar

We’re halfway through our 10th year and still celebrating. For August, we asked you what you wanted for a freebie, and you spoke. You want a crash course on how to write for the web. We’re taking registrations through August, so sign up now for this handy session on how to fine-tune your writing to appeal to online readers.

Keep, Cut or Kill: Writing for the Web is Sept. 2, 2010 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

>> Register now!

Keep, Cut or Kill: Writing for the Web Free Webinar

We’re halfway through our 10th year and still celebrating. For August, we asked you what you wanted for a freebie, and you spoke. You want a crash course on how to write for the web.

We’re taking registrations through August, so sign up now for this handy session on how to fine-tune your writing to appeal to online readers.

Keep, Cut or Kill: Writing for the Web is Sept. 2, 2010 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Click here to register now!

[Image: Flickr user BOSSoNe0013]

Six Party-Planning Tips That Make Your Website Rock

You’d never throw a party without sending invitations. Who wants to sit alone with four dozen spinach triangles and a couple cases of beer? (If you just answered, “I do!” then you might want to get out a little.)

That’s effectively what you’re doing if you’re like one of the many people I talk who aim to have an “interactive” website but don’t kick-start the festivities. They expect people to start participating, yet they don’t tell anyone what’s happening or make it a destination worth visiting.

It helps to think of your website as a venue where the party never ends. An always open house. How do you do this? By applying some of the same principles you would to any bash you host.

1.Send out invites.

If you know how to reach them online, you can invite them through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, listservs or however you normally chat with them. Are your partygoers the type to read a paper invite over an electronic one? Put it in the mail. The point is to invite them. Check out 18 Ways To Promote Your Website for ideas.

2.Keep inviting.

Remember, you website isn’t the one-time event of the year. It’s the ongoing event of the decade. Inform people they’re welcome to drop by any time. And then keep inviting them. People forget, have dentist appointments, get interrupted, so you need to keep the invites coming.

3.Plan something fun.

You don’t have to whack a piñata every time you throw a shindig, but people minimally expect snacks, drinks and good music. Why would they come to your website if there weren’t some kind of payoff? Make it worth their while, and they’ll keep coming.

4.Take pictures.

You know how weddings nowadays have disposable cameras in the middle of the tables? It’s because everybody likes to see themselves and their buddies participating. That transfers to your website too, whether it’s actual photos of the people you know or representations of them.

5.Make it pretty.

Picking up the dirty socks from the sofa and doing the dishes translates into fixing broken pictures and links and correcting typos. Read our Spring Cleaning guide so you can get everything sparkling before the party starts.

6.Plan for amounts.

In the event-planning world, you need to know who’s attending your party so you rent a big enough space, have enough canapés and staff appropriately. If you have the kind of website that’s likely to receive a surge in traffic, make sure you’re expecting it. If you aren’t, people might receive a message that the website isn’t available. Up your hosting account, talk to your webmaster about planning for what happens if 100 people try to click the same thing at once.