Welcome to Our Website! (Except for You)

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

I’ve yet to work with a client who doesn’t use the word “welcoming” in some way to describe the website they want. No doubt that goes for just about anyone reading this article right now. In fact, most people will spend considerable thought and effort coming up with the best open-looking fonts, the friendliest text, the warmest colors when it comes to designing a website or online course, all in the service of being more appealing to their audience. For this, I commend them.

But you can’t really be selectively welcoming. “Welcome,” by definition means everybody, not cherry-picking the people who are the easiest to accommodate. It means you need to make your website accessible. It also happens to be a legal requirement for many states who have to comply with Section 508.

So your job – if you’re serious about welcoming – is to make sure your website appears for everybody, no matter if they’re using an iPad, have low vision or some other disability that prevents them from using your website as you intended.

Where to start? An accessibility evaluation is the best place. Talance works with many government clients who are required to follow Section 508 accessibility rules, so we can give your site a thorough evaluation. Contact us for information.

You can also improve your website’s accessibility by running it through one of these free tools. They’ll give you a handful of items you can fix yourself, as well as a solid notion of what to take to a web company to address. Try any or all of these:

Wave

Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility

Functional Accessibility Evaluator

WebAIM Section 508 Checklist

Want more? Talance can provide expert web accessibility evaluation and consulting to pinpoint problems and provide specific recommendations. Contact us for information.

New Logo for Brockton Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

Announcing the new Brockton Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program logo:

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Brockton Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Logo

BTPPP is an organization in Brockton, MA, that aims to reduce teen pregnancy rates. They needed a new logo for web and print that would appeal to teens as well as their mentors.

Talance delivered! The new logo is modern and abstract but still demonstrates health and wellness, rather than sex, and inclusiveness.

4 Risk Management Steps That Could Save You

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!]

Egypt’s Internet Shutdown a Lesson for Non-profits

CIO magazine ran an article about how Egypt’s Internet shutdown should be a wakeup call for CIOs. It’s a fair point, considering how many organizations run their businesses completely online – in the cloud. If the cloud were to go down, they’d be without a business.

It’s not a far-fetched notion. The CIO article says:

Virtually every country’s government reserves the right to temporarily nationalize and control what’s considered critical infrastructure, which usually includes mobile networks, fixed-line telecommunications and Internet backbone systems.

Governments can invoke that right during national emergencies, whether they be natural disasters, terrorist attacks or any other incident that qualifies as such under a country’s legal code.

If CIOs of corporations are starting to sweat a little, so should non-profit execs. Many have organizations that work in countries where civil unrest isn’t a possibility, but a given. That doesn’t mean they should backpedal into a dark, unconnected communications landscape, in which they rely solely on mailed letters and phone calls. It just means they need to do some risk assessment.

Non-profit leaders should sit down with their entire team and think about what such an event would mean to their organization. What would people do if they rely on the website to gather up-to-date information? What’s the plan if text messaging fails? Is there redundancy built into website backups, if they’re stored on a virtual machine?

Risk assessment is one of those activities that’s easy to put off until it’s needed. But by that time, it’s too late.

With the Egyptian uprising happening in the background, this is perfect time for non-profit leaders to stop procrastinating with their risk assessment. They should think about the most necessary technologies they use and come up with a concrete plan for what to do in their home country as well as those they work in if Internet technologies are canceled.

Your Turn


National Center for Jewish Policy Studies Launch

Every website launch is a celebration, and today we’re tipping our glasses to the brand new National Center for Jewish Policy Studies (NCJPS) website.

The NCJPS is a nonpartisan think-tank publishes on topics of concern to the Jewish community, including synagogues in Jewish life, vouchers for religious schools and interfaith marriage. The website is a place for supporters to learn about research, consultations, conferences and scholarly publications.

Talance is proud to help communicate this organization’s mission. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing to the new National Center for Jewish Policy Studies website.

Learn More About ATutor and LMSs

Come learn about ATutor, Blackboard and other learning management systems during a panel discussion at the Boston chapter of the American Society for Training & Development. The meeting is Jan. 18, 2011, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. in Newton, MA.

Here’s the overview from the ASTD:

The first part [of the meeting] is Tech Talk, featuring Shawn Stiles, providing an overview of Lectora. In this presentation, Shawn will discuss Lectora, a popular development tool. His presentation will be an overview of the product including costs, competitors, why he likes this product as well as some pros and cons. He’ll also cover a brief how-to demonstration and end by showing the final product, live and on-line.

The second part of the evening will be an interactive panel discussion with several LMS expert, sharing and comparing their insights on specific LMS tools. LMS experts will be covering discussions on products from Learn.com (Shannon Courtney), Blackboard (David Rosenbaum), ATutor (Monique Cuvelier) as well as others.

Location: Rebecca’s Cafe 275 Grove Street, Auburndale, MA 02459, 617-969-3382. For those who have not been to this Rebecca’s location, it is very easy to miss as you will not see a sign for Rebecca’s from the street. 275 Grove St. is the Riverside Office Park, right next to the Riverside MBTA train and bus stop. Rebecca’s is located at the back of the building, by the parking garage.

See you there!

Definitive Website Pre-Launch Checklist

Websites can have as many moving parts as a jumbo jet, so it’s easy to lose track of something. That’s why checklists abound here at Talance HQ. They’re one of the best ways we know to make sure we don’t forget something while juggling all the building, writing and planning pieces. We know that when it comes time to launch, it’s particularly easy to forget something important.

Below is a list of top items that can make the launch of any website easier and more organized. We’ll keep adding if we think of anything new. Did we forget something? Add it in the comments, and we’ll update.

Also check out our 9-point SEO checklist to help you show up at the top of those search engine results.

[This appeared in our January newsletter. Wanna subscribe?]

Copy

  • Spelling correct on every page
  • Check for typos
  • All pages reviewed and accounted for
  • Outdated content removed
  • Placeholder content removed
  • Check for consistency in writing voice, tone and style (including first person vs. third person, singular and plural, eccentric capitalizations and words like “website” vs. “web site”)
  • Non-spelling errors, such as old addresses, phone numbers, former employees, etc., corrected
  • Stylistic inconsistencies fixed
  • Terms of use updated
  • Copyright updated
  • Privacy policy updated
  • Contact information accessible on every page
  • All hidden copy checked (error messages, JavaScript functions, transcriptions)
  • Jargon removed
  • Content quality evaluated

Formatting

  • Most important info listed at the top of the page
  • Appropriate use of bold and bullets for easy scanning
  • No written text within images
  • Colors and typefaces consistent on every page
  • Each page format uniform
  • Images resized and consistent
  • Menus not overloaded with too many items
  • H tags used for headlines rather than bolds or size increases


Technical Quality Assurance

  • Internal and external hyperlinks work
  • Pages checked against WCAG guidelines
  • Private data secure (passwords, contact info, etc.)
  • Usability testing complete
  • Sitemap updated
  • Everything works
  • Important pages print OK
  • All old URLs point to new URLs

Accessibility

  • “Alt” attributes used for all descriptive images
  • Pages accessible
  • High contrast color used everywhere
  • Color and size used for critical information
  • Tested on most common browsers
  • Tested on mobile devices

Marketing

  • PR releases written
  • Social media launch campaign planned
  • Off-line promotion planned
  • Friends, colleagues notified
  • E-newsletter notification written and ready to send
  • Business cards, letterhead, envelopes and other printed material updated with new address
  • Voice mail updated with new address
  • Email signature updated with notification about launch
  • Link submitted to directories and search engines
  • Ads created
  • Blog entries planned or written
  • Marketing plan revised
  • SEO checklist completed

Support

  • Training completed
  • Extra help on website support procured
  • User feedback surveys written
  • Maintenance and update schedule created
  • Plan established in case of heavy traffic
  • Databases set to backup in case of roll-back

Talance After 10 Years

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2001 to 2011 and Beyond

When I was a kid, I thought the relativity of time had something to do with how it sometimes flew by, and other times it crept along (like my trip to Disneyland at 10 vs. my entire school education grades K-12). I’m hardly any brighter about physics now, but it still seems the last 10 years have passed by both in a blur, and also slow enough for a tremendous amount to have happened.

It was just after New Year’s Day in 2001 that we officially launched Talance, handling software development, writing copy and managing projects. Every year has been absolutely packed, but we’ve been marching steadily toward our goal of being a friendly, dependable technical resource for nonprofits and government agencies.

I’m happy to say that on the days when I have time to look up, I feel like we’re doing it. We’ve started new initiatives (print design), built up some of our cornerstones (e-learning and web development) and meet clients that feel more like friends. We’re working together to evolve in a space that’s changing so fast it’ll give you whiplash if you watch (ahem, social media).

Rather than making this a 10-year retrospective, I’d like to look forward. It’s much more useful to think about where we’ll be 10 years from today rather than the other way around. Where’s the progress in that? I don’t know what the technological landscape will look like (did anyone expect to be here back in 2000?), so we’ll bundle up our collective experience and move forward on a clear open road, equipped for twists and turns.

I know that wherever we are, it’ll be built on a foundation of expertise and helpfulness. Thanks to the clients who work with us and thanks to all the developers, designers, testers, writers and all other people who have helped make Talance what it is.

Here’s to the next decade.

Monique Cuvelier
CEO
Talance, Inc.