Case Study: Voices for America’s Children Web Renewal
Voices for America’s Children was at the starting point of evaluating what next steps to take with their current Web site. They knew that the site wasn’t performing up to par, but didn’t know where to begin in tackling a redesign or developing their requirements.
The Voices for America’s Children site was an html site that written with a distributed publishing model. Public policy experts created content on their areas of expertise and somebody in the IT Department published it. Nobody at the organization had ever scored the site as a whole against best practices in usability, there were no publication guidelines and nobody had received any training on writing for the Web and how it differed from writing for offline content consumption. As a result, the site was inconsistent and had a messy look about it. Content was often dense, published with errors such as typos and had poor readability.
They needed to build internal support to hire a technology vendor to build a new Website, however they needed something more. They wanted to pair the technology project with usability and training expertise to prepare for a successful Web improvement project.
This was a book-end project with the goal of helping their organization guide development and make smart choices and decisions about managing the site build and maintenance. We began this consulting project with a baseline review, inventory and audit. After the site launched, we returned to train their team to manage their new resource well. End-to-end we were on call to help this organization meet the top performance goals they were aiming for.
Usability: Preparing for Success
We decided to start with an expert review using our scorecard and make it a standards based process for evaluating their current site performance and decide which next steps to take. The expert review deliverable is a reusable Excel spreadsheet format that lets the client continue to track their progress after the first evaluation, so they can track their improvements over time.
The Web scorecard is a roadmap to help find where you need to tweak, where you need to overhaul and where you are doing well.
We also used the Powermapper tool to take look at their site inventory and look at the depth of the site, broken links and poor file structure.
The scorecard process involved putting my usability skills to work doing a sampling of pages to check the site’s performance against 36 known performance factors for effective content, navigation and feedback. I spent a day preparing a deep evaluation of their site, and then prepared briefing documents to support a two-hours meeting to discuss the results with their senior leadership.
Training: Web Publishing for Non-Techies
Our training effort with this organization began with reviewing their needs and then fashioning an afternoon session that covered the landscape.
We created and presented a half-day “Web Renewal” training, in four-parts:
- Writing for the Web
- Being Search-Engine Friendly
- Using Graphics on the Web
- Putting PDFs on the Web
Later, we led a workshop at their annual conference on effective adoption and use of social media and the reprised our training for DC staff re-delivering our “Web Renewal” training package.
Our engagement with this organization was a model effort on helping a team and organization at large reset and recharge its digital life. Often the technology build of a new Web site benefits from an independent vendor-neutral voice to help the organization in driving toward its goals and filling in skills gaps that the tech vendor may not bring to the table.
Voices for Americas Children used my independent evaluation to rally support for a complete overhaul of their Web site. In addition, the DC training, written materials and the conference workshops armed key people with information they could use to take immediate steps to improve the presentation and editing of content on their sites.