Do You Really Need a CMS?
(Techs and Balances)

CMS considerations

Off the top of your head, what are the two most important (and often overlooked) considerations when answering the question, “Do I really Need a CMS?” In my experience, they are:

  1. Will there be a positive ROI?
  2. Is your organization ready for a CMS?

If you think you need a CMS, you probably fall into one of these categories:

  • You’re launching a new website
  • you have a site with lots of pages that needs to be managed
  • your vendor is recommending it
  • your CTO says you need to have one

There are hundreds of articles to help guide you in evaluating whether these reasons, or others, make you a good candidate for a CMS. (I’ve put a few links at the bottom of this blog that can help you if you’re interested.) Read the rest of this entry »

Outwit, Outlast, Outwalk: What Zombies Can Teach Us About Risk Management

I was watching the finale of “The Walking Dead.”

Yes, the zombie is trying really hard to be the new vampire, but there are just no hot young stars these days willing to play dumb, slow, and flesh-obsessed, except maybe the Kardashians. Anyway, something about the plot of this story got me thinking about stakeholders and projects in web dev.

No, I’m not saying that stakeholders are like zombies. Nor am I saying that projects can get so bad, they revive the dead. But stranger things have happened.

I don’t seem to be starting off on the right foot. Let me try again. Read the rest of this entry »

Between Less and More

I consider myself a fairly conservative Information Architect. I tend to err on the side of caution, forgoing radical, but potentially innovative ideas in favor of more tried-and-true approaches. Over the years, I developed a simple mantra: “less is more.” I believed this because adding more stuff, i.e., features, functions, and options tend to confuse the user experience, ultimately detracting from core functionality.

However, my beliefs have been shaken by some rather basic marketing education and some new knowledge of human behavior. The bottom line is that clients often want more features, even at the risk of reduced usability. Read the rest of this entry »

Mixing It Up At The Inbound Marketing Summit – Boston

I was fortunate enough to run a session at last week’s Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston. While I was not on the main stage, I am proud to have been on the same roster as Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott and Scott Stratten, to name a few. The speakers were chock full of new ideas, strategies and funny stories. Overall it was a very entertaining conference. Many attendees I spoke with remarked on the fact that this was a social media conference but that there was little to no actual conversation happening. I took that to heart and decided to do something different for my session on Day 2. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Up With Wire Frames?

Wire Frame Sample

Wire Frame Sample

Wire frames are one of the most recognizable deliverables in any Web development project. They’re visual, substantive, and often serve as a blueprint for the actual site. Clients love them because it’s the first tangible proof that something is actually being created.

However, wire frames can also cause lots of problems. Many clients don’t understand the true nature of wire frames and their purpose. Clients start making assumptions about what they’re seeing — confusing visual design with functional design, questioning “Lorem Ipsum” text, and asking if all page elements are going to look like boxes. What can be done? Read the rest of this entry »

Tips and Secrets for a Successful Website Redesign – The Development Process

How do you get started with the development process? Well, the idea is to sit down and start by looking in. Have a handful of internal conversations where you discuss what you really need. The objective is to figure out what you need, not what you want.

A lot of organizations will say, “Well, we want social networking and we want people to set up profiles and we want people to talk to each other.” I believe that’s always a nice to have and it may be a want, but is that what you really need? This involves you having internal meetings with your stakeholders. Talk to your people, talk to the different departments–whether it be a program department, development department, marketing department or your executive director.

Then, really start to hone in on what it is that you need to reach your goals. Are you looking for donations, because you do not have donations? Are you looking for advocacy and maybe there is a way that you can get an advocacy section on your site? What you want to do is put together a Blue Sky Document. It does not have to be a 500-page document, but it should be more than just five or six bullet points so that everybody who gets it has enough information to either answer all of your questions or think of great questions to ask you.

By putting together this document, it allows you to compare apples to apples. If you just go out to people and say, “Hey, we need a new website and we want this, we want that” and you are not clear on your objectives, then what is going to happen is you are going to get proposals from five or six different firms and the budgets are going to range from $5,000 to half a million because people do not know exactly what you want.

So again, look internally, have these discussions and figure out what it is that you really need. Then, you want to get a short list of firms. You really do not want to go more than three to five firms, because if everybody is going to turn in a 30-page proposal (or even a 20-page proposal), it is a lot of bedtime reading. So, really get your list down short.

Be Honest and Transparent and You Will Be Unique

Yesterday I received an email from a gentleman I met through a Boston University alumni event. I was class of 1991; he was  class of 2007. He told me that he and a partner were going to set up a Web Marketing company and asked if I had any advice for him.

Ah, the young seeking advice from the old … but in my case, not so much the old as the experienced.

My initial reaction was, “poor young grasshopper … why on Earth would you want to start a web company? And why now in 2010?” But then I thought about the day I started imagistic with my partners. We knew nothing about the Web – it was 1997 – no one knew anything. But there were a lot of small companies out there trying to figure it out and the competition was fierce. So what we needed to do was figure out what made us unique.  What could we do to make people take notice of us? After 13 years I have hundreds, if not thousands, of stories to tell about customers, projects and employees, but there is one core tenet that I passed on to my fellow Terrier.

Be Honest and Transparent and You Will Be Unique

I am in no way a business expert or qualified to teach at an MBA program. But I do know what it takes to run a successful company; and that is happy and satisfied customers. On that fateful day in 1997 my partners and I decided that supplying exceptional customer service was the thing that would make us different. And 13 years later we continue to do so. With over 95% of our business being either repeat or based on referrals, it is our personal touch that sets us apart. And how do we do that? By being honest and transparent with our clients. Don’t ever lie to a client – they will know it, and in the end, it hurts you more than it could have ever helped you. You gain trust and respect by admitting your defeats and your faults. There are always solutions to every problem. Realize that and you will not only have happy clients, you will have a very successful company.

Why You Need To Write An RFP

How do you get started with a Web development project? You need to sit down and start by looking within. Have internal conversations with your team to discuss not just what you want, but what you need. Expand these conversations to include different departments and stakeholders throughout the organization. Then, really start to hone in on specific features and functionality. Are you looking for a donations module? Are you looking for an event calendar? Do you need a CMS? Get it all down on paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Why You Won’t Read This Article – 10 Tips on Writing for the Web

As Internet guru Jakob Nielsen touts, Web users by nature don’t read copy, they scan it. He conducted a very enlightening study which found that 79% of users scanned Web pages, whereas only 16% read word for word.

The bad news is: if you’re not doing it right—your website copy could be shooting you in the wallet. The good news is: you can fix this right now. and write effective Web copy.

Here are 10 Web content tips to get users to focus on your message, and take your desired action.

1. For ease of scanning, put your copy in list, bulleted or numeric form.

2. Write clear headlines to help your visitors know they are in the right place and should continue reading. (Or, scanning).

3. Try to focus on one idea per paragraph. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong P@$$W0rdS – Why They Complicate the User Experience

Chuck Norris is both strong and secure, but he doesn't care about your password or usability.

User names and passwords are an annoying but necessary evil. In the old days, the only password we needed was an ATM PIN. Coming up with a PIN was a chore, but it pales in comparison to what we have to go through today. Is this preoccupation with passwords really making us safer and is it worth the decrease in usability?

Read the rest of this entry »