postheadericon A Great Example of How NOT To Use Technology for your Nonprofit

Once Upon a Time

It drives me crazy when I see websites that are still super flashed –out; and I mean literally using Flash all over the place so the site is technology-heavy but very un-user-friendly. All the tech guys went crazy once upon a time and for quite some time everyone oohed and aahed over all the fun stuff you could do (and the cute little noises everything made) until finally someone had some sense to realize that by the 3rd time a visitor came back to the site they were DONE with all the cute parts and just wanted to get at the information. And in case no one believed me when I said Flash was dead (or mostly dead) as an allover site solution, I would direct them to the Macromedia site – the people who created and sold Flash (which of course would now be the Adobe site since they bought out Macromedia – and I’m not very happy about that either) to say “look, even THEY aren’t using Flash for their entire site.”

Flashback

Change
So why in the world is NTEN using Flash for their Change newsletter that they introduced in March 2011? I am at this moment placing my cursor over the various articles which make a cute BEEP sound each time I touch one and it’s completely annoying the hell out of my web project manager. I admit, I’m doing it non-stop and trying to figure out if I can make it play a song.

Open Open Open
I’m actually lucky I even got it open. When I got to this page with all the little newsletter thumbnails, I clicked on the latest one and it comes up bigger with a giant Click Here to Close message at the top – except that I don’t want to close it – I want to OPEN it – all the way. So I click somewhere in the middle but nothing happens so I click like a crazy fool everywhere and it finally “opens” up after the third try. Wow – you are really going to have to be seriously motivated if you want to read this newsletter.

Navigating
Then I click on the Feature Article and a nice big screen comes up with a bigger graphic of the one on the front page of the newsletter – hmmm – no article – so after clicking various places, I realize I have to click on the TINY little arrows on the right and left – but I have no sense of where I am within the newsletter or where to go from here. And trust me those little arrows are only obvious in the photo because I circled them.

Instructions
While I’m exploring I find an actual ½ page dedicated to INSTRUCTIONS for using the newsletter – so I can’t be the only one that found it challenging. Well, I was going to read the main article, but now I can’t find it, nor can I find the front page. I really don’t want to take the time to read their Navigation Tips – oh, well, if I could find it again I might read it.

Google Grant
What I find even more intriguing is the fact that NTEN received a $1.1 million dollar grant in 2010 to “support NTEN’s work to educate technology leaders about the evolving role of technology in nonprofit work” and part of those funds were used to develop and distribute the NTEN:Change quarterly journal.

Takeaways

1. If your newsletter or any other communication tool requires Navigation Tips, MAYBE it’s really poorly designed and needs to go back to the drawing table. It’s just a thought.

2. Making things look cool with Flash (or any other technology) should NEVER take precedence over usability.

3. If you are going to be responsible for educating technology leaders about the role of technology, part of that education should include when NOT to use it.

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10 Responses to “A Great Example of How NOT To Use Technology for your Nonprofit”

  • Annaliese:

    Thank you for reading the issue and writing up your review of the e-reader platform we use for it. I’m happy to troubleshoot some of your navigation troubles (your screenshot that limits the navigation tools to only the side blue arrows is not the standard navigation in the platform, and you can definitely turn off the sounds), but there are some more important things to address here in response:

    - There are multiple formats for you to access when you get to the page you describe with the thumbnails. Before scrolling down to see the thumbnails, there are 3 options: open the e-reader, download the PDF, access the text-only HTML version. The thumbnails is the “archives” section of the page you landed on.

    - This isn’t a “newsletter.” This is a journal — a peer-reviewed, professional journal. It isn’t meant to be like an email newsletter or a blog. That was a deliberate, strategic decision. This is geared towards an audience who don’t necessarily read blogs, for example. It’s also meant to go more in-depth (as a journal or magazine would) for non-technical leadership staff, but at the same time move away from the traditional paper-journals. (You likely aren’t our target audience.)

    - I hear you on the problems with this platform. There are quite a few things we’d like it to do better. We’re always on the look out for improved delivery models that still meet all our basic goals (accessible on multiple devices, which this is; easy to manage from a staff perspective, which this is, supports social sharing, which this does, provides multi-media integration, which this does, is within our budget, which this is). We haven’t found an improvement on our current platform for our needs, yet.

    As you probably know very well, when it comes to selecting technology solutions, there is no “perfect tool” that will do everything you need or want. Selecting solutions is a matter of priorities, strategies, resources, weighing alternatives, and making compromises.

    There’s no doubt that the particular e-reader platform for this quarterly journal is the result of some compromise, but it’s also the result of weighing priorities and goals and resources against alternative solutions. We believe it serves our goals and priorities for this particular resource and for our target audience.

    I’m always interested to hear about alternative solutions and models to weigh, so if you have recommendations, please get in touch!

  • Annaliese:

    Thank you for reading the issue and writing up your review of the e-reader platform we use for it. I’m happy to troubleshoot some of your navigation troubles (your screenshot that limits the navigation tools to only the side blue arrows is not the standard navigation in the platform, and you can definitely turn off the sounds), but there are some more important things to address here in response:

    - There are multiple formats for you to access when you get to the page you describe with the thumbnails. Before scrolling down to see the thumbnails, there are 3 options: open the e-reader, download the PDF, access the text-only HTML version. The thumbnails is the “archives” section of the page you landed on.

    - This isn’t a “newsletter.” This is a journal — a peer-reviewed, professional journal. It isn’t meant to be like an email newsletter or a blog. That was a deliberate, strategic decision. This is geared towards an audience who don’t necessarily read blogs, for example. It’s also meant to go more in-depth (as a journal or magazine would) for non-technical leadership staff, but at the same time move away from the traditional paper-journals. (You likely aren’t our target audience.)

    - I hear you on the problems with this platform. There are quite a few things we’d like it to do better. We’re always on the look out for improved delivery models that still meet all our basic goals (accessible on multiple devices, which this is; easy to manage from a staff perspective, which this is, supports social sharing, which this does, provides multi-media integration, which this does, is within our budget, which this is). We haven’t found an improvement on our current platform for our needs, yet.

    As you probably know very well, when it comes to selecting technology solutions, there is no “perfect tool” that will do everything you need or want. Selecting solutions is a matter of priorities, strategies, resources, weighing alternatives, and making compromises.

    There’s no doubt that the particular e-reader platform for this quarterly journal is the result of some compromise, but it’s also the result of weighing priorities and goals and resources against alternative solutions. We believe it serves our goals and priorities for this particular resource and for our target audience.

    I’m always interested to hear about alternative solutions and models to weigh, so if you have recommendations, please get in touch!

  • Thank you for your comments and the offer to troubleshoot problems! I’m using the latest version of Mozilla Firefox which apparently may not be 100% compatible, and I think there is always that danger when we use the latest and greatest technology – that it may not work perfectly for everyone – even if it is a professional journal aimed at the industry.

    I did notice the pdf version after the fact – you have to understand that people are scanning, not reading your pages – and the visual archive stood out first. I would recommend making the pdf version just as prominent – your content is great and it would be a shame to have it overlooked because someone in a hurry (and isn’t that really all of us?) doesn’t want to take the time to figure it out or find the best alternative.

    As for the target audience – I am a member of NTEN and a marketing/technology consultant that works only with nonprofit organizations. I love reading stuff online (both blogs and journals) – I just don’t want to work that hard to do it. The first thing everyone in my office noticed was that your navigation system was far too complicated and far too SMALL compared to the size of the content. In this day and age, web design and communication tools are about simplicity and ease of use, not bells and whistles. Every element needs to have purpose and I just don’t see the purpose of having the sound added on – it just feels like some techies went a little overboard having fun with it rather than focusing on functionality. I completely understand about setting priorities and I’m wondering if you have put together a survey to get real feedback (and suggestions) from all your subscribers (or, even better, all NTEN members in general) to see what THEY think is really important.

    In the meantime, I would consider making the navigation easier and removing the sound!

  • Thank you for your comments and the offer to troubleshoot problems! I’m using the latest version of Mozilla Firefox which apparently may not be 100% compatible, and I think there is always that danger when we use the latest and greatest technology – that it may not work perfectly for everyone – even if it is a professional journal aimed at the industry.

    I did notice the pdf version after the fact – you have to understand that people are scanning, not reading your pages – and the visual archive stood out first. I would recommend making the pdf version just as prominent – your content is great and it would be a shame to have it overlooked because someone in a hurry (and isn’t that really all of us?) doesn’t want to take the time to figure it out or find the best alternative.

    As for the target audience – I am a member of NTEN and a marketing/technology consultant that works only with nonprofit organizations. I love reading stuff online (both blogs and journals) – I just don’t want to work that hard to do it. The first thing everyone in my office noticed was that your navigation system was far too complicated and far too SMALL compared to the size of the content. In this day and age, web design and communication tools are about simplicity and ease of use, not bells and whistles. Every element needs to have purpose and I just don’t see the purpose of having the sound added on – it just feels like some techies went a little overboard having fun with it rather than focusing on functionality. I completely understand about setting priorities and I’m wondering if you have put together a survey to get real feedback (and suggestions) from all your subscribers (or, even better, all NTEN members in general) to see what THEY think is really important.

    In the meantime, I would consider making the navigation easier and removing the sound!

  • Katya:

    I think that’s great advice for NTEN (and I’m on the board). I agree you are part of the audience, and we’re lucky to have an audience as engaged as you. As Annaliese noted, we greatly appreciate the feedback!

  • Katya:

    I think that’s great advice for NTEN (and I’m on the board). I agree you are part of the audience, and we’re lucky to have an audience as engaged as you. As Annaliese noted, we greatly appreciate the feedback!

  • Annaliese:

    Thanks, again for this — I just wanted to clarify what I meant by “target audience” for this resource, because I don’t want to imply that anyone in the nonprofit and technology communities, especially an NTEN member, isn’t part of ANY of the work we’re doing.

    What I mean is that this particular resource is designed specifically for an audience that is not already in the NTEN “choir,” if you know what I mean. We’re trying to reach people who don’t already read NTEN (or other nonprofit technology-oriented) blogs or newsletters, who don’t attend our webinars or our conferences, who aren’t already thinking about technology as an essential part of any of their organization’s strategy.

    Our goal is to provide even more ways for nonprofit staff and experts like you to share knowledge and experiences. I echo Katya’s appreciation of your care in what NTEN is doing. And again — I totally hear you on the e-reader platform.

    While we can’t customize the e-reader platform tool itself, readers can turn off the sounds in the e-reader. Our reader surveys have indicated that our subscribers are overwhelmingly satisfied with the content, and they are reading the journal in various formats — some on their iPads, some on their computers, others download the PDF — so it’s important to us to continue to provide those options.

    We’ll also continue to seek out feedback, and we appreciate your concerns — again, I’ll put this out there because we’re interested: if you or any of your colleagues have other digital publication platforms in mind, we’d love to hear about them. We’re always looking!

  • Annaliese:

    Thanks, again for this — I just wanted to clarify what I meant by “target audience” for this resource, because I don’t want to imply that anyone in the nonprofit and technology communities, especially an NTEN member, isn’t part of ANY of the work we’re doing.

    What I mean is that this particular resource is designed specifically for an audience that is not already in the NTEN “choir,” if you know what I mean. We’re trying to reach people who don’t already read NTEN (or other nonprofit technology-oriented) blogs or newsletters, who don’t attend our webinars or our conferences, who aren’t already thinking about technology as an essential part of any of their organization’s strategy.

    Our goal is to provide even more ways for nonprofit staff and experts like you to share knowledge and experiences. I echo Katya’s appreciation of your care in what NTEN is doing. And again — I totally hear you on the e-reader platform.

    While we can’t customize the e-reader platform tool itself, readers can turn off the sounds in the e-reader. Our reader surveys have indicated that our subscribers are overwhelmingly satisfied with the content, and they are reading the journal in various formats — some on their iPads, some on their computers, others download the PDF — so it’s important to us to continue to provide those options.

    We’ll also continue to seek out feedback, and we appreciate your concerns — again, I’ll put this out there because we’re interested: if you or any of your colleagues have other digital publication platforms in mind, we’d love to hear about them. We’re always looking!

  • Wow – I’m not really sure where you are going with that target audience which appears to be a non-NTEN member that doesn’t read other nonprofit technology blogs or newsletters, doesn’t attend technology webinars or conferences and generally ISN’T technology oriented (and doesn’t use Mozilla as a browser because you can’t use most of the functions) and you re targeting them with a completely high tech digital journal that is challenging to navigate – unless you are using an ipad (I just checked it out on my ipad and while it was REALLY slow to load, it’s much easier to use).

    Even if we ignore the target audience issue (which may be a bigger problem than the usability issue??) I do see some much-easier-to-navigate options in other digital magazines using Blue Toad Digital Publishing. On the Blue Toad website all the examples they showed came up in a 2 page layout which is much easier to use and they all had the classic right bottom corner page turned up to indicate “flip me”! This layout (link below) comes up with previous issues on the left (love it) and text instead of icons across the top and no weird little extra toolbar off to the right (on wide monitors the toolbar isn’t even close to the document when you have a single page layout defaulted).
    http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?m=5033&l=1

    And if you’re going to stick with tabs – this example has much more readable tabs – so clearly some customization options ARE available. http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=9116&l=1

    The content is fabulous – I just don’t think usability (and usability specific to your target audience) should ever be compromised.

  • Wow – I’m not really sure where you are going with that target audience which appears to be a non-NTEN member that doesn’t read other nonprofit technology blogs or newsletters, doesn’t attend technology webinars or conferences and generally ISN’T technology oriented (and doesn’t use Mozilla as a browser because you can’t use most of the functions) and you re targeting them with a completely high tech digital journal that is challenging to navigate – unless you are using an ipad (I just checked it out on my ipad and while it was REALLY slow to load, it’s much easier to use).

    Even if we ignore the target audience issue (which may be a bigger problem than the usability issue??) I do see some much-easier-to-navigate options in other digital magazines using Blue Toad Digital Publishing. On the Blue Toad website all the examples they showed came up in a 2 page layout which is much easier to use and they all had the classic right bottom corner page turned up to indicate “flip me”! This layout (link below) comes up with previous issues on the left (love it) and text instead of icons across the top and no weird little extra toolbar off to the right (on wide monitors the toolbar isn’t even close to the document when you have a single page layout defaulted).
    http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?m=5033&l=1

    And if you’re going to stick with tabs – this example has much more readable tabs – so clearly some customization options ARE available. http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=9116&l=1

    The content is fabulous – I just don’t think usability (and usability specific to your target audience) should ever be compromised.

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