10 Things Your Non-Profit Can Learn from the 2016 Presidential Campaign

No matter what side of the aisle your political views are on, we can all agree that this year’s election has been full of shocking surprises as well as excitement. The 2008 Presidential campaign marked a profound change to the way that political campaigns were run. It was all about the emergence of Web 2.0, email marketing, and analytics.

In 2008, the Obama campaign ushered in a new, fresh way of communicating to audiences-especially those that had never voted before.  

While much has changed (see what we did there?) since 2008, the politics of campaigning remain the same. However, the platforms to run a strong campaign in continue to evolve.

Here are 10 things your non-profit can learn from the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

1.) Free press is good press.

Just like presidential candidates, many organizations spend a ton of money on paid media. This year’s election has proven that earned media is out there. For free. Just see the below screen capture. While we wouldn’t suggest being as controversial as some candidates have been in this election, we do encourage making appropriately-trained spokespersons available to the media. In addition, comment on blogs or social media to encourage more attention to your work. Campaigns and candidates make news when they propose change, make a statement, and call for action.

Earned Media

2.) Get a text buddy.

While many non-profits have begun to implement texting programs, they seem to be limited to fundraising or a response to a specific event (for ex: The Red Cross’ CTA to donate blood or money after the horrific tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub). One thing that we’ve seen that we love is the way that some of the presidential candidates have been using text to carry on a ‘conversation’ with a supporter. By texting with ‘Jess’– subscribers are able to see candid photos, see exclusive YouTube videos, share clever quotes and stories with friends, and of course- give money too.


3.) Strong UX means everything.

One of the things I love best about political campaigns is to check out the candidate’s online donation form. An online donation typically happens as an immediate response to an appeal someone receives via email that they see through a commercial or today—in a text message they receive. As mobile technology has improved, more people have become comfortable donating money online. Because giving is generally an immediate reaction to an appeal, it is imperative that your donation page is optimized for a prompt transaction with clear calls to action, minimal distractions and a simple form that only requires you to enter as little information as possible. As a reminder, here are some best practices that we recommend.

4.) Tell a good story.

Did you see Michelle Obama’s speech to kick off the 2016 Democratic Convention?  That amazing speech. Again, no matter what your political affiliation, everyone can agree that the story she shared was compelling, passionate, and most importantly, genuine. Authenticity of a candidate is what can determine who current and prospect voters will fix in the circle for on their election ballot. Take time to craft out meaningful stories to truly express who you are as an organization, and why your mission matters. That being said – your stories should not just be about your organization. Tell the stories of those you serve and those that help you serve.  Having and displaying empathy will resonate with your target audience and improve your brand image.

5.) More than just a tweet.

There are some candidates out there that just can’t seem to get enough of Twitter. They post day and night. Retweet without hesitation. They ask for congratulations when they think they predicted a tragedy that has occurred.  But there is one way that candidates are using Twitter that should be considered by your non-profit.  Twitter and CBS formed a partnership to stream CBSN’s live coverage from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions on Twitter. So far, the audiences have been HUUUUGE (see what we did there?). Consider live streaming of your organization’s gala, walk, or other ceremonies that are of interest to your constituents. And, don’t forget to release your late-breaking news through Twitter. Remember when everyone would scramble to ESPN to read the Breaking News ticker? Well, no one does that anymore. They can read their favorite sports journalists’ Twitter feed to get the latest news on LeBron James, or on the next player to be released or traded in the NFL.

6.) Got a platform?

One of the biggest complaints of one of the top candidates in the 2016 presidential election cycle has been a lot of talk with no substance. Your non-profit cannot underestimate the power of substance through content. A non-profit’s messaging should be robust, thoughtful content that clearly differentiates your mission from others. It should educate those interested in learning more about your work, and why your current and prospective members should support your efforts. The more polished content you can distribute through your blog, frequent but strategic posts on social media, or effective newsletters; the more opportunities you give current and potential supporters to engage with your cause.

7.) Join Us. OK. How?

We often see non-profits offer call to actions such as Join Us. Typically, this means joining an email list. Political campaigns take this a step further by offering prospective and current supporters myriad options for truly joining their campaign efforts. This is done by providing options to volunteer on election day, to sign a pledge, to attend a local event, rally, or fundraiser, or- to just stay connected through social media. Make sure that your non-profit clearly outlines all of the ways your audience can truly join you and your mission.

Join Us. OK. How

8.) Tag. You’re it.

A clever tagline makes campaigns memorable. When considering a tagline for your non-profit, make sure that the concept works with your organization’s key messaging. Consistency is key. If the tagline doesn’t relate to your overall mission, scrap it. Or, make sure that it is truly geared to a specific campaign or fundraising effort, and not your organization as a whole.  A clever tagline should evoke emotion as well as action. Think verbs. Not only nouns: Explore, Empower, Save.

9.) Small dollars add up to big ones.

We call this the Bernie Sanders effect. By now, you’re probably well aware that the average donation given to the Bernie Sanders campaign online was $27.00. Back to our point about taglines for just a minute…The Bernie Sanders campaign was all built on the concept of paid for by Bernie, not the billionaires. As someone who positioned himself as not one of the typical, wealthy politicians, not someone funded by super PACs, or corporations—the small dollar ask worked and was authentic to his stance. This effort created a profound message to small donors that earned Sanders tremendous loyalty and audience engagement. Non profits, take note.

10.) Analytics Matter.

During our work with the USO, we had the amazing honor of working with Dan Siroker. If you don’t know him, he was the analytics guru behind the Obama 2008 convention. A Google alum, Dan’s data found that a picture of Obama’s family with a button that said “Learn More” had a 40% higher chance of increasing the number of sign ups than buttons reading “sign up” or “join us now.And for all of you data wonks, be sure to check this out!

Don’t overeducate. Like politics, people seek out organizations because of their already held passions or beliefs. And while education is key for allowing individuals to learn about your cause, it takes motivation to get them to act in response to their passion. A truly powerful campaign reduces barriers against taking tangible action, and increases the incentive to take action. People expect a non-profit to need help. Give them a way to provide it.

Let’s be stronger together and make
campaigns great again. Contact us today!



10 Ways to Keep Your Website from Going on Vacation this Summer

If you’ve managed and/or owned a website since the Internet’s inception, then you’ve probably noticed that your website’s traffic declines during the summer months. Some causes of decreasing traffic are obvious:

  • People are on vacation
    • Your audience is stepping away from their computers and mobile devices, and are instead jumping into their local swimming pool
  • A website that is not responsive or mobile-friendly is a recipe for strong audience abandonment. No one wants to waste time on their vacation trying to figure out how to stretch, turn, and twerk a page to fit their mobile device.

However, it’s still important that you don’t encourage visitors to abandon your site. Here are 10 ways that you can keep your website from going on vacation this summer.

1. 86 PDFS.

If you aren’t familiar with the term ’86’- you’ve never waited tables through school like we did. This to us is easily number one our list. There are so many reasons why PDFs need to be removed from your website vocabulary.

  • PDFS can be slow to navigate and download from mobile devices, and they do not allow your audience to truly engage with your content.
  • PDFS do not provide easily digestable, scannable content.

If you are concerned about people needing the ability to print, please don’t be. Accordingly to Contently, 95% of people do not print web content anymore. That. Is. Huge.  Still need convincing?  Please see this excellent, excellent, excellent Benchmarking Report that was just released from Contently.

2. Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean that your content should be.

We all should decompress and take some down time in the summer. Before setting off for your vacation, make sure that you’ve taken advantage of tools that allow you to prepopulate content. If your content management system (CMS) enables you to preset content, do it. Blog tools such as WordPress will allow you to generate content in advance. And for social media, turn to great tools like Hootsuite to upload numerous messages, and then schedule their automatic delivery across your various social networks over the summer.

3. Make the worst time for fundraising, the best time for fundraising.

It’s no secret.  Non-profits struggle with fundraising in the summer. People feel much more generous during the winter when they know that the colder weather is impacting someone’s ability to stay warm.  Or, that a child may go without a holiday dinner or gift. However, it is a good time for your non-profit to evaluate new trends and tactics, as well as to review what’s worked well for your organization in the past. Take this time to plan early for critical end of year fundraising.

However, if your nonprofit can build an effective campaign related to the summer, do so. For example, the United Service Organizations (USO) recognizes the six week period between Memorial Day and the 4th of July as the Patriotic Six, and does key campaigning in this time frame.

4. And the survey says!

With less customer service inquiries, and smaller audiences- the summer is a great time to test the strength of your website. Consider hosting some user testing and focus groups where you can hear from your audience.  How easy is it for them to truly navigate your website?  Do the navigational headings you came up with best suit their needs?

5. Check in with stakeholders.

Take the quieter summer months to check in with the stakeholders that contribute content for your website. Along with your vital audience, ask them if they like the content organization and navigational headings. Is the appropriate amount of real estate being given to the most important resources? Don’t wait until a website redesign or refresh to listen to what your staff truly thinks of the site.  If they don’t’ believe in your site, they won’t use it or promote it to your current and prospective audience. But don’t forget critical website governance. This should not be a free-for-all process. A majority voice still needs to prevail as the lead in managing your website, and this voice should be the gatekeeper of what revisions and enhancements should be considered, and which ones are just griping.

6. Peep in on your competitors.

A competitor analysis is a great way to evaluate what your key competitors and comparable organizations are doing well and not so well online. It’s good to check in with them to see if your site is keeping up with the Joneses.

7. Paper or plastic?

Think about the packaging that your content is in on your current website. If it’s all just web pages, stop. Stop now, and start thinking of something new to offer that enables your audience to truly engage with your content. Replace boring, long passages of content with infographics, polls, quizzes, and slideshows. And don’t forget video! Which brings us to number 8.

8. Make a video.

So many of our clients have fully embraced content strategy, and are now seeing the tremendous value of video. Please refer back to that great benchmarking study we referenced in number 1 to see more about the power of video. Use the slower summer months to begin evaluating video production companies, and begin developing a video strategy for your content.

9. Grow and clean your list.

While looking at an article about Mike Tirico’s departure from ESPN the other day, I saw a brilliant overlay on a sports website that encouraged me to follow them on Twitter. While I had never considered following this particular brand, the overlay was so clever that I signed up. Take advantage of the quiet summer months to do some purging of old data, and to prepare campaigns for loyal subscribers, as well as those baddies who you haven’t heard from in months.

10. Get your customers offline.

What?! Yes. We. Did. If your business model allows, recognize that your clients aren’t online in the summer, and have them meet you in person. Have a great client that you connect with solely through email? Ask to meet them for ice cream or gelato, and game plan work, post-summer. Have a non-profit that serves the environment? Get your constituents to meet you at a local park to help you with a clean- up. And then of course, blog or Tweet about it afterwards. Do you have staff of writers and designers that churn out incredible work inside of their cubicle all day? Take them to an outdoor farmer’s market or festival to inspire creativity.

We can help you with all ten of these items this summer. Be in touch about how we can help you!
Enjoy your summer!

Why Your FAQ Page Now Matters More than Ever

This time last year, we were bombarded with all things Mobilegeddon.

We’ve seen more and more of our clients embrace mobile strategy. Not because they wanted to, but because they needed to after seeing their web traffic drop after failing Google’s mobile-friendliness test.

Adaptive Search Image

Enter adaptive voice and search.
Thank you, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.

What is adaptive voice/search?

It is a technology that uses a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text-to-Speech (TTS) to interpret a user’s voice search request. The request is processed within a search database, which attempts to match the spoken question with an answer.

How is this different from traditional search?

Unlike traditional search where you type in a few key words, adaptive search is speech-driven. And, rather than just providing a list of search results, you’ll instead receive a proposed answer to your inquiry.

Adaptive search is all about two-way communication.   Imagine that you want to search for pizza through your desktop computer. You’d most likely type something like ‘local pizza, or best local pizza.’ If you were to ask someone, your question may be, ‘where can I get could pizza in DC?’

The main difference is that traditional search works through generating a list of results based on the inclusion of one or a few keywords. Adaptive voice takes the search process a big step further by moving search to a Q&A model.  Adaptive voice provides you with a direct answer to your response based on the depth of the content. This in turn gives you much more compelling results.

Why this matters to your web content? 

Today, over 50% of teens are utilizing adaptive search, and just over 40% of adults use adaptive voice each day.   So yes, it should matter to you and your web presence.  Search results are not just based on a few keywords that are in your content. Instead, adaptive search looks for the best response to an inquiry, so content must be able to answer.

Best Practices for Adaptive Search

  • Be TMI with search Schema. Help search engines truly understand, and not just scan the contents behind a web page.
  • Location, location, location. Most people use adaptive search to look for local information.  Where’s the best restaurant in my neighborhood? Where can I donate children’s clothes in DC?  When possible, include location-based information in your text.
  • Can we talk? Consider a more conversational tone.
    • Natural phrases vs keywords.
    • Utilize long tail keywords—keywords with three or more words.
  • Don’t be a robot. Humanize with adverbs:
    • Who
    • What
    • Where
    • Why
  • Tomato. Tomato or Caramel/Carmel. Research misspellings that can result from common mispronunciations.
  • Any questions? Proactively generate questions, and ask for them.
  • Voice-activated search users are looking for direct answers to trivia questions.
    • Reword common search terms as questions.
    • Add positive or negative qualifiers to optimize long tail phrases for voice search.
    • FAQs are crucial.

So, SEO doesn’t matter anymore, right?

  • SEO still matters for both adaptive voice and traditional search. And don’t forget these rules that still apply, as well: Do not forget or reduce accessibility.
    • Adaptive voice is great for people with some types of disabilities, while it excludes those who are Deaf, hard of hearing, and/or those with speech difficulties. Make sure that traditional search results are still strong and accessible for audiences with disabilities.
    • Technology can’t understand accents and idioms.
  • Mobile first: questions and FAQ lists have to consider ‘fat thumb syndrome.’ Be sure that questions are not just links on your web pages, and instead- have them presented in call out boxes, or buttons to ensure ease of access.

We are working with many of our clients now to include questions to introduce key content areas. We do this by strengthening their FAQs, and by including questions and answers throughout the site based on inquiries from customer service via email, phone, or chat.  We are also encouraging our clients to use Top lists such as ‘What are five ways I can strengthen my financial portfolio? What are 3 signs of a good charity?’ as they too embrace adaptive search users.

How can we help you reach your adaptive search audience? Contact us today so we can get started.

Spring Cleaning for Your Website


Spring has sprung.

The snow has gone (at least we think), and people, plants, and animals are beginning to emerge from hibernation to step into the sun. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the DC area like us, it’s time to check out those incredibly amazing Cherry Blossoms!

We all are aware of spring cleaning for our homes. But this time of year is also a great time to do some spring cleaning for your website.

Here are our tips on how to do it:

Get rid of what’s R.O.T.ten.

Just like you remove spoiled food from your refrigerator, you should be doing the same with your website through a ROT Analysis. A ROT (Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial) analysis entails a full audit of your site’s content to determine what should be purged from your website. If you don’t have a content strategist who can dedicate time to this effort, consider completing a ROT for your homepage, and the top five most traveled pages on your website based on your analytics. We have done ROT assessments for sites that are 30 pages, and sites that are 20,000 pages. Let us help!

What’s New?

If your news section is promoting something that’s more than 90 days old, or you’re advertising an event that’s already occurred, it’s time to spruce up your news/events section of your website. Consider sharing a case study of a client you’ve served, the announcement of a new offering or product, or if you’re a non-profit, don’t underestimate the power of sharing a great story or testimonial. If you feel that it’s difficult to promote current, relevant news on your site, consider removing the News section, and instead, turn to social media to keep your audience abreast of your latest information.

Consider a Makeover:

In a previous post, we shared the difference between a full site redesign and a refresh. The spring is a great time to assess the look and feel of your website. Ask yourself and your team if the site’s design truly communicates the style and personality that you are intending to convey to your audience. If not, it may be time to do a light refresh of your homepage and frequently-traveled areas of your site.

Make 404s into 411s:

A site audit conducted in the spring can determine whether or not you have broken links on your site. Unavailable site content displayed through 404 page errors will do nothing but lead to site abandonment as well as poor SEO results. Identify the broken pages and work with your site’s administrator to correct them.

Mobile Too:

Spring cleaning for your website must include a look at your mobile presence too. Is your site truly responsive? If you have a unique mobile site, has the content been updated?

GPS for your Site:

During a website redesign, we focus in on strong navigation throughout the site. But after a site, it’s easy for web administrators to create links within content which is great for SEO, but the main and sub navigation should also be adjusted from time to time to ensure that your audience can find your vital content through both search and navigation.

Say Cheese:

Spring cleaning should include imagery too. Your web launch may have included an array of stock images which are now consider outdated, or off-brand. One thing we often notice in site assessments are images that include dated technology such as older versions of smartphones or gasp, flip phones. Speaking of stock images, think about investing some time and budget into having some professional photos taken. Audiences have grown very savvy to stock imagery and may cause them to view your brand as lacking authenticity. Try employing talented members of your staff and audience to provide real, candid photos for your website that truly reflect what you do and the people you serve.

Make the Call on Call to Actions:

It’s easy for a website to tell someone to buy now, or donate now, but does your website really make it possible to do this? Caught in the Web Consulting recently tested six political campaign websites (on both sides of the political aisle) to see how easy it was to donate $10.00 to their campaign. The results varied from extremely seamless, to – wow- we still can’t believe we couldn’t give… If you’re not sure what it takes to make a good donation page for your non-profit, check our past blog post for our tips.

Testing 1, 2, 3:

During the spring season, take some time to test what truly works on your website. Go beyond analytics and conduct vital A/B testing. For example, which rotator/carousel treatment gets more click-thrus:  One with a picture of your CEO, or a more emotional one with a picture of a family?  What gets more clicks: Donate Now, or Support Our Troops? What gets more downloads: A PDF or a video recap of our latest testimony to Congress? This information will be a critical driver in solidifying your comprehensive website strategy.

We hope that these tips help you with your website spring cleaning this season. And if you need assistance with your website, any season of the year,
we’re here to help. Happy Cleaning!

Content’s Vital Role in Successful Website Development: An Interview with Full Circle Communication’s Paula Whitacre

Happy New Year!

We have decided to take a different approach with our first blog of the New Year. We are very excited and honored to feature a blog interview with Paula Whitacre. Mrs. Whitacre is an amazing writer, editor, and owner of Full Circle Communications which she began in 1996.

We have had the pleasure of working with Full Circle Communications on an array of projects including the USO website redesign, Goodwin House Incorporated, The Childhood League Center, and many more.

We. Love. Paula.

Not only is she an excellent writer, she is an exceptional listener, respects and adheres to client’s deadlines, and our favorite thing- she loves good missions and projects as much as we do!

We wanted to get some insight into the vital marriage between content, content strategy, and web development. See our interview with the wonderful Paula Whitacre below.

Content and Design
Q) More and more of our clients are coming to us with a solid understanding of the importance of content strategy. Yet, they’re not exactly sure how to engage a copywriter. In your opinion—what role should a copywriter play in developing content strategy?

A) Content strategy is what you should do with everything your organization produces, whether online or in print: that is, create useful information for your target audiences.

A writer can ask you questions to define your target audiences, then help you determine what to share with them. Very important is to figure out what not to share so the audience focuses on your primary messages without a bunch of other stuff fighting for their attention.

Q) Our clients always say that they want a writer who ‘gets us.’ What should our clients be sure to tell you so you can “get” them, in order to capture the essence of who we are, what we do, how we help people?

A) A few things that immediately come to mind:

  • What distinguishes you from your competition?
  • How does your organization want to present itself to the outside world?(for example, hip, authoritative, compassionate—this helps in setting tone and word choice)
  • What are turn-offs for your organization?(certain words or ideas not to use)
  • What are some examples of other websites that you really like or don’t like, and why?

Writers can learn a lot from reviewing existing materials, but we can’t read minds.

Q) I think we have all had it with jargon such as value-add, break the Internet, unicorn, curate, rockstar, and authentic…How can web copywriting set clients apart from others without sounding like a cliche-filled broken record?

A) Provide examples that show you are authentic, or a rock star, or whatever more generic claim you want to make. Relevant stories and strong images help get away from the jargon. A writer ensures the copy is tight, easy to read, and not too self-promotional.

Q) The web continues to evolve on a daily basis. Why does SEO still matter?

A) SEO (search engine optimization) matters because people search online constantly, each and every day. Many aspects of SEO are beyond what the writer does. But we can help by understanding how a potential target audience seeks information related to what your organization does, then write to maximize the chances they will find you through their searches.

Q) How does your writing approach change as more and more people turn to their smart devices to access content?

A) We used to write with lots of clickable links and subpages. Now we want to make sure people reading on their smart devices, especially phones, can easily scroll down a page to read the most important content.

Q) In creating websites, we feel that we do our best work when our clients speak up in discovery with examples of loves, loathes, likes and dislikes. How can we make sure our clients are ready to work with a copywriter? Is there any prep work we can do that helps you do a kick-butt job?

A) It’s great to use discovery to guide the client to consider what they need in website content. But, in the name of efficiency, don’t screen the writer from the organization. If practical, ask the writer to visit on site. If not, at least include the writer in phone conversations or online chats.

Another useful preparatory step is to ensure everyone understands the process and schedule—how many drafts will be passed back and forth, the schedule for providing feedback and making changes, and the like. There is no “right” way to do this, as long as everyone is working under the same assumptions.

Q) What is one, must-have for providing the best online content possible in 2016?

A) Put the needs of your audience first. Everything on your website will flow from there.

Ten Things that We Loved about Websites in 2015

With 2015 coming to an end, we wanted to take a minute to recognize our 10 favorite things that we loved in the last year.

  1. Sign me up: Websites across the board did a much better job of streamlining the online registration process. Through one click, users could join a platform using a social account to sign up. Multi-step form wizards “chunk out” the required fields, and streaming app. Periscope allowed users to sign up by simply adding their phone number. Love it.
  2. PDF Intervention: Prior to May of 2015, the bulk of urban.org’s strong web content was in the form of PDFS. However, their analytics showed that these PDFs were only attributing to less than four percent of their site’s total pageviews. Not good. They decided that it was time to seek some content rehab and get some eyes on their best content.   Instead, they implemented single-column reports, developed HTML-first briefs and reports, and allowed people to get a sneak peek of their content before sending them into a PDF.   We hope to see this great trend continue in other content-heavy sites in 2016.
  3. Aw Snap!: Snapfish’s new website is a big wow in our book. Their site gets the fact that today’s web users are on the move, and that people save pictures in random places. Some times on our phone, our laptop, social media channels–they’re everywhere. With the launch of their new site, Snapfish allows their audience to Import photos from Instagram, enhanced their photo editing tools, and my favorite–you can seamlessly start or finish a product on any device. As a self-professed offline oversharer who orders tons of photos, I love this feature!FireShot Screen Capture #117 - ' Online Photo Printing I Photo Christmas Cards I Photo Books I Photo_' - www_snapfi
  4. Welcome, All: “The good news is that accessibility is usability under a magnifying glass. If you’re thinking about great usability, the chances are that you’re already thinking about great accessibility too” (From the Nomensa Blog November 13, 2012). As the web becomes more mobile-first, it has also inadvertently become more accessible to those with disabilities. More consideration to reading order, navigational and layout consistency, as well as stronger labeling not only improve usability from all device types, but they make it easier for those with disabilities to enjoy your site too.   To see more about how individuals with disabilities navigate the web, please watch this great video.
  5. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye. Well, Not That Hard… We thought about writing a blog post devoted to the year of great unsubscribe pages, but Contently (who we love) beat us to it! The best Unsubscribe pages of 2015 allowed people to get fewer communications, watch videos about the benefits of staying subscribe, and some provided downright hilarious comedy!
  6. Mobilegeddon: We haven’t let go of that catchphrase just yet. I received probably a million emails from my clients on this one in 2015. What do we need to do? When do we need to do it? Mobilegeddon wasn’t something to be scared of–it only made content and search–better.
  7. House of Cards: It’s a darn good TV show, but it also makes for great website design: Card design. Card design sites (also known as grid sites) are great for mobile and responsive design. Pinterest set the standard.House of Cards
    House of Cards 2
  8. Know When to Fold Them: With the emergence of responsive design, a lot of web wonks began to say something that we totally disagree with: That below the fold no longer matters. We could not disagree more. It does matter. What appears at the top of the page vs. what’s hidden will ALWAYS influence the user experience—regardless of screen size.   If you don’t have a good story to tell, engaging information or resources to present; there is no reason to scroll. People don’t scroll passages of content for fun. They do it for a reason.
  9. I Ain’t Scared of No Ghost: OK–so we’re showing our ages a bit with a reference from the Ghostbusters theme song. Ghost Buttons started in 2014, but became better and more prominent in 2015. Ghost buttons enable functionality without distracting from the user experience. They are called ‘ghost buttons’ as they are typically represented as outlined, clickable links that change when the user hovers over them. However, use them with caution as they can be a bit difficult to implement, aesthetically–and this is one area where you can lose 508 compliance without strong tagging of the outlined link.
  10. Menu du Jour: Amped up website navigation was one of our favorite highlights of 2015. Some navigation menus became sticky, some were slideouts, and some even flew. Others were hidden until you were ready to see them and only became visible when the visitor was ready to move on and clicked the appropriate icon. We love it for desktop, we love it for accessibility, and we love it for a strong user experience.

What was your favorite thing on the web in 2015? Or, do you need help achieving one or some of these tactics? We’d love to hear from you!

How Refreshing

Website refresh
Over the last year, I had two new clients (both of whom I love) approach me about redesigning their website. After completing an assessment of their websites, I determined that they did not need a full redesign effort. Now—as a web consultancy firm, you may be thinking; why we would talk our client out of such a project? However, there is a feasible alternative to doing a complete redesign: The website refresh.

Website Redesign vs. Website Refresh

A website redesign entails a complete overhaul of your existing website. This includes redoing all of the design, the content, and if necessary, the development back end of the site as well.   In contrast, think of a website redesign as a home remodeling process. You aren’t tearing down your entire house and starting over; you’re instead putting an addition on your home, and getting that dream kitchen that you’ve always wanted. Or, simply refreshing outdated wallpaper with some fresh paint.

Why Refresh?

  • Spring Cleaning: A website refresh is a great way to ‘spring clean’ your website. The design is not dated, but it could use some new touches such as iconography to bring out new design trends.
  • Practice Being the Best: A homepage refresh is a great way to implement new best practices in web design.   For example, instead of having a long list of content categories in a drop down nav, consider restructuring your site to use mega menus. Get more bang for your buck by creating fat footers to take advantage of below the fold real estate. Even better: use sticky navigation menus so that your audience can navigate your website no matter where they land on your page.
  • Testing 1, 2, 3: Your website may use a lot of content instead of imagery to convey a point. But should it be the other way around? Not sure? Through a refresh, you can use this process to perform vital testing to identify what truly resonates with your audience.
  • Be responsive: You have a great website… on desktop. But it’s not so good on a mobile device. A site refresh can focus on making your website look great, no matter what device your audience uses to view it.
  • Feedback: Your audience loves your content. They just don’t like how cluttered your homepage is, or how hard it is to find the ‘donate now’ button. If you’re using tools such as Foresee Surveys, questionnaires, or social media to gather critical feedback from your audience, listen. And act upon it.
  • It’s the Little Things: You’d really like your website if the carousel slides on the homepage were bigger. If there was a way to highlight all the great stories your consumers share on social media and on the phone. Your blog has great content, but the layout is awful. If there are just a few things you want and need to add to your site to better suit your needs, a refresh is the way to go.
  • Save Money: A website redesign can be a costly endeavor. And, avoidable through a refresh. Doing a refresh also allows you to take the time, and do the leg work needed to truly assess upcoming costs related to a redesign, if necessary.
  • Something New: It’s your organization’s 50th anniversary, you’ve just launched a new division of your company, there’s a great new campaign at your non-profit, or that new logo finally was finally approved. A website refresh is an ideal way of promoting these changes to your audience. Website refreshes can provide unique landing pages for campaigns, logo updates, etc.
  • Need for Speed: The Washington Post completed a refresh of their website in mid 2015. They were receiving numerous complaints from their audience that the website homepage loaded too slowly. And, this in turn led to audience abandonment. Through data analysis, they determined that this was the result of too many ads loading on the page which slowed down the user experience. Read more about how The Washington Post website refresh improved their site’s speed and audience satisfaction.

But sometimes, you do need a complete redesign…

There are times that a refresh is simply not enough. Here are some times that you may want to consider a full redesign effort.

  • Kickin’ it Old Skool’: It’s been more than four years since you last overhauled your website. When I was writing to and responding to RFPs in 2010–social media integration was considered a nice to have. So were responsive websites. Fast forward to 2015. These items are vital necessities. If your audience has to dust off their desktop Compaq Presario to look at your flash-based websites.
  • Stop.







    Smoke Signal.



    Web technology evolves quickly. Your audience expects you to evolve with it.


    • Survey Says: If your analytics show that people are leaving your website the second they arrive on it, or your number of web visitors has been on steady decline, it’s time to find out why and fix the problem.
    • Change: In 2011, one of my non-profit clients made a very stunning announcement: they completely changed their mission. The website had to serve as a critical communicator of this change and what it meant to their programs as well as to their supporters.
    • $&#@)$&!)! CMS!!!: Five years ago, your current or previous web partner approached you with this great idea of creating a hard-coded, proprietary content management system for you and your staff. Oh, and this system is responsible for reporting, donations, and ecommerce. There’s only one problem: It doesn’t work. And they have since moved on to a better platform and can no longer support the bad one they implemented for you. Hmm. No good. If you can’t update your website, why have it?   A poorly-operating CMS or not having one at all is big reason why you need to redesign your site.
    • It’s You. Not Me: If your website does not accurately reflect your brand, your audience, or fulfill your goals and objectives- it’s time to start planning your redesign. And, make sure that you have a robust discovery process with your new partner (how about us?) to ensure that your needs are truly heard and executed.

    It should be noted that either a website refresh or a redesign requires stakeholder and audience discovery, analytics/data review, and strategic direction.

    If you are ready to determine if you need a refresh or redesign, contact us today.

Top 10 G’s for Your End of Year Giving


Fall is my favorite season. Why? I love the cool, crisp air. The feeling of leaves crushing beneath my feet. Cooking with all things pumpkin and apple (I make a mean pumpkin roll and a yummy apple crostata), hayrides, and yes—football season! Oh yeah, I binge-watch football from Thursday–Monday. But I also love the excitement and anticipation surrounding end of year (EOY) fundraising for my non-profit clients.

Here are our top 10 G’s for you to remember when asking people to give back to your organization.

10.) Get started early.

By August- your organization should have its end of year strategy in place. End of year giving is not just about the month of December.   After people return from summer vacations, you want to get them reacquainted with your organization and its mission. It’s also the time to get new or prospective supporters signed up to your email list. November can best be used for not direct fundraising, but for a non-financial engagement activity that does two things:

1) Lifts the energy and interest of existing names on your email list prior to the relatively heavy-handed year-end fundraising period.

2) Adds substantial numbers of new people to your list in advance of the December year-end fundraising push. The month of December, specifically the final week must include:

  • Promotion across every channel
  • A campaign with a very strong deadline and sense of urgency
  • A holiday brand that is included on every channel (Facebook, YouTube should have the same treatment as the Web)

9.) Get an EOY website upgrade. Your website is the face of your year-end campaign and it should look that way.

  • The homepage should include compelling imagery that provides an emotional appeal.
  • The website should include several emotional appeals to both increase overall awareness and raise money for the mission which can be done with a more personal feel to the website.
  • Ensure that your donation pages have been optimized for year-end giving. Here are our tips on how to do so.
  • Imagery used for the campaign should reflect a holiday, winter feel but be non-denominational in nature.
  • Make your story front and center.
  • Consider an all things EOY page. This should include overview copy, a photo gallery, video from the show/teasers, social media links, and of course- the ability to give.
  • Donate now should be much more prominent on the site. If possible, the main graphics for the campaign should link to a donation page.
  • If this is not already the case, consider making Donate one of the main navigation headings so it can be on every page of the website.
  • With the launch of every EOY campaign email, the website should have a graphic on the homepage that is in sync with the messaging- providing a call-to-action to key elements (donate, share, etc.) from the effort.
  • Social media icons should be much more prominent, encouraging individuals to follow the holiday effort via Twitter and Facebook.
  • Don’t forget to add this treatment to all of your EOY campaign channels including your emails, blog, social media channels, SEM efforts, etc.

8.) Get creative.

Everyone knows to send good emails for fundraising, but what about stepping outside of the email box?   The USO offered holiday cards with combat boots instead of stocking hanging from the chimney to sell during the holiday season. Consider allowing users to be a part of an EOY holiday wall that allows them to share a video with their friends and family asking them to give with them.

7.) Go find your story.

Your holiday campaign should stand out from, yet stand with your mission.   When thinking of your focal story for your EOY of year campaign, consider the following elements:

  • What is/are the problem (s) we want to solve?
  • What is the solution our organization can provide with your support?
  • Why is this urgent? Why does the gift need to be received before the end of year? 

6.) Give options.

Current and prospective donors want to see what your organization is all about before just opening their wallets.   To encourage audiences to test drive your message in the weeks leading up to your core fundraising effort, give them a few options such as:

  • Signing up for an email for more information on how your organization works
  • Simply liking a campaign on social media
  • Watching a video
  • Reading a story 

5.) Get new emails.

We all have different views, but we tend to have family and friends that share our beliefs and likes. One of the easiest ways to grow your audience in time for critical year end fundraising is to ask your audience to become your brand evangelists. To encourage participation and to allow your followers to be involved, ask them to ask 3, 5, or 7 people they know on social media to share your message. From there, ask them to sign up to read your campaign.

4.) Go mobile.

People not only read and shop via their smartphones, they also expect to give this way as well. Make sure that your donation pages and appeal emails are optimized for mobile. Read this great article from Mobile Cause to see how. Don’t forget to consider a texting campaign.

3.) Give deadlines.

In order to encourage a sense of urgency for your campaign, there has to be set deadline. The average non-profit raises nearly 70% of their annual fundraising dollars in the month of December. It is the time of year when people are feeling more generous, and when they are eager to earn last-minute tax deductions. It’s OK to share with your audience that not only do their donations help your organization, but they too can benefit from tax deductions from their charitable act.

  1. Your organization should consider how end of year factors such as the weather, travel, or the holidays can support your message. Or, is it more feasible to have a more specific campaign asks at another time of year that your organization ‘owns?’
    For example: all eyes are on conservation and environmental organizations during the month of April surrounding Earth Day.  
  2. Consider that #GivingTuesday has a shelf life of 24 hours, so you must give today.
  3. An organization that provides resources to low-income families should highlight the immediate impact of frigid temperatures on those they serve, and should also position their message and opportunity for amplification at this time. 

2.) Get a matchmaker.

The end of the year is the perfect time to make a matching gift push because most matching gift deadlines are right around the New Year. Be sure to recognize the donor (even if anonymously), share a transparent look into where those donated funds will go (restricted or unrestricted), and why it’s important for your donors to give to enhance the depth of the match.

1.) Give thanks.

Yes. It’s that simple. Be sure to thank your donors and mission evangelists on your website, via social media, and email at the end of the campaign. Consider having your CEO, Executive Director, or Development/Fundraising lead star in a video that simply says thank you. Here is a great example from the 2011 year-end campaign I worked on with Conservation International.

Need help with your end of year fundraising efforts? Contact Caught in the Web Consulting, LLC today.

It’s our organization’s anniversary!
Now what?

How to observe and celebrate your organization’s anniversary with your online audience

A company that doesn’t have a history may not have a future.

It is always commendable when an organization reaches a milestone in years of service and mission fulfillment. However, most organizations forget to virtually-observe their anniversary which means that they also forget a great opportunity to reach their audience in new ways. An anniversary should be considered a campaign and like any campaign, you should determine the purpose for publicizing your anniversary.

  • Is the purpose to promote your brand?
  • To share a new service or offering?
  • Receive donations?
  • Increase your list?

Here are a few ideas to make your anniversary…kind of a big deal.

Where are they now?

thenandnowI always love when shows or magazines highlight celebrities of the past and provide an update on where they are now. As a supporter of DAWN (the Deaf Abused Women’s Network) – their annual B.O.O.T.S gala (Breaking Out of the Silence) – highlights abused women who were at rock bottom and how much their lives have improved since their time with the organization. It is extremely moving and inspiring. For non profits, they can take issues from 25 years ago- and show where they are today. With funding and policy changes- what impact has your organization had on a particular issue over the last 25 years?

Focus on UGC – (user generated content) – To best leverage your social media channels, allow your audiences to tell you what they believe were your biggest successes, and for them to identify what are your biggest challenges and opportunities for the next 25.

We Thrive in 25
Allow your audience to come up with lists (presented through social media or video) and tweets of 25 ways they and their friends come up with to help fulfill your mission.

Try to do this on the 25th of the year.

We Thrive in 25/Take 25 Each month of our anniversary

This could be a campaign effort through all channels where individuals sign a pledge (online form, social media, text) – Join us on the 25th of each month in an action that supports our mission. For environmental organizations, this could be conserving energy for 25 minutes: Turn off the lights at work. Power down the laptop. Get out of your car. For an organization like the USO- say thank you to 25 active duty troops or veterans. Or, donate $25.00 to allow 25 minutes of talk time. This effort could allow for a corporate challenge- get your partners to take 25 with you.


It sounds simple enough, but the power of these two words should never be underestimated.   In 2006, Oxfam celebrated their 50th anniversary by thanking their audience of then, over 250,000, for their support. They pointed to how their donors and volunteers impacted and saved the lives of 1,000s worldwide. They used this thank you as an opportunity to highlight ways that donor dollars DO work, and how their continued support will be just as important.

Show & Tell

Your organization should offer a timeline displaying your major milestones. Here is one of my absolute favorite timelines: http://www.childhoodleague.org/70th-anniversary-timeline/.

Other Non Profit Efforts and Partner Support:


WWF UK celebrated their anniversary with the creation of a garden that was inspired by their water-related conservation work.

WWF celebrated their 50th with many efforts including a commemorative poster (provided as a premium with a donation), that highlights the most popular species they’ve protected as well as their top initiatives over the last 50 years. Their partner, CVS- sold the calendar on their website as well as donated at least $10,000 to the poster.

Susan G Komen celebrated their 30 year anniversary by dividing their efforts into decades, highlighting and honoring their “commitment to their promise over each decade.” They focus on major leaders, individuals- who most impacted their efforts and success including policy leaders, scientists, advocates, and survivors.

Susan G Komen has previously engaged their partner, Kitchenmade, to sell products with their logo to commemorate their anniversary with a
portion of the proceeds going to Komen’s cancer research.

Online Campaign

An email as well as additional online and offline channels could promote your anniversary- 25 years of making a positive impact for 25 more years and beyond. A premium could be added that includes your 25 year logo, and messages.


While you have to be sensitive to your exist brand, consider a special anniversary logo as well as theme (campaign). They should be included in press releases, events, collateral, on the site, emails, and email signatures.


Turn the camera to your supporters and staff (don’t forget your sponsors and partners!) and ask them to talk about their role in your organization… A memorable volunteer event. A major milestone the organization reached.

Need help planning your online anniversary events?
We can help.

Review of www.aspe.hhs.gov

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'ASPE I Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation' - aspe_hhs_gov

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation or ASPE, recently launched their new website, http://aspe.hhs.gov/.

The mission of this agency is to ‘advise the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on policy development in health, disability, human services, data, and science; and provides advice and analysis on economic policy.’

Below is Caught in the Web Consulting’s review of the new website.


The new homepage for aspe.hhs.gov is outstanding. The rotator is prominent and easy to navigate with clear, navigational cues/arrows. The rotator executes best practices for 508 compliance across the board.

As the highlight of their content is informative data, the IA does a great job of segmenting the graphs by popular areas such as most viewed and level of interactivity.

The Twitter feed on the homepage is one of the strongest we’ve seen-providing users with the ability to scroll through additional Tweets without having to leave the page to venture away from their site.

While the social media icons are clear and easier to find, a data-driven website should include a larger search bar, and the ability to sign up for emails sits too far below the fold.

One of the strengths of the homepage is the strong usage of white space to break up the data sets.

The fat footer of the site is outstanding and the inclusion of clear icons for the contact options is excellent.

Top Navigation

The site implements best practices of top navigation by not exceeding seven main headings and simple uses four. The top nav headings are clear to understand and are easier to grasp. While the site does a great job of organizing content themes under Topics and Offices under About, the site should provide more categories for Publications as opposed to making users have to sort through over 10 pages of publications that are not sorted in any particular structure.

Interior Pages

For the exception of the About section, the great balance of white space and content hierarchy is not extended to the interior pages of the site which is unfortunate.


While the list of topics provides users with a solid understanding of the information ASPE provides, the pages are extremely difficult to follow. Under Affordable Care Act Research, the audience is introduced to ‘current publications’ yet some of them are over four years old. This page would be better structured with a drop down menu that enabled users to find publications by date/year. This would also help prevent all of the unnecessary scrolling.

The interior pages are inconsistent in their structure.   Again under topics, pages like Alzheimer’s/Dementia and Early Childhood are short in length.   However, the poverty section introduces sorting/filter functionality that does not exist under the Affordable Care Act Research content, yet would be well-suited for the page.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review appears to be a different sub-domain, has a dated look and feel, and introduces different navigation. The site should provide the same disclaimer that’s used for youth.gov in the Topics drop down to let visitors know they’re visiting another site to avoid confusion.

Site Search

Publications and Data and Tools both give site visitors the opportunity to ‘search in table for’- this should be the default for each section and should use additional filtering as shown in the Poverty section under Topics.   The Glossary section under Data and Tools would be easier to use if the ability to toggle through by letter as is done for most .gov sites under A-Z topics.


The mobile display of ASPE’s site should be further enhanced. The mobile version of the site uses three lines to spell out the agency’s name which pushes down the search and menu which are key header elements for mobile. Once you do get to the menu, it is pushed down so far that you can only see ‘about’ and not the other menu options.

Some of the visual elements look wonky on mobile. Not sure if that’s just an iPhone issue, but some graphics look distorted on an Amazon Kindle as well.

With such a great homepage, the interior pages should be revisited to make the entire site shine.