Accordion Web Content: The Good, The Bad, and What We Recommend

It is so nice to be back to writing the Caught in the Web Consulting blog after a wonderful summer.

Our team spent lots of time with family, friends, at the beach, in local pools, visiting numerous museums, day trips around Virginia and Philadelphia, grilling out, and continuing to offer digital strategy, design, and support to our wonderful clients including The PLAY Project, Harris & Harris Wealth (led by the amazing Zaneilia Harris!)The Childhood League Center, the Long-Term Solution Services Center (an outstanding collaboration between our client, LeadingAge and the University of Massachusetts, Boston). We are so excited about these projects, and look forward to sharing them in the ‘Our Projects’ section of on our website.

Recently, a client asked me about accordions and whether or not it is a best practice to utilize them on their new website (we are providing design and content strategy for their effort).   A website accordion is a web treatment that vertically stacks list of headers that can be clicked to reveal/ expand or hide/collapse content associated with them.

When determining whether or not to use an accordion for any of our clients’ website projects; we first review all of their content to determine if it can be used (and if the functionality [typically content management system] will allow it) with carousels, polls, etc. instead of solely presenting passages of content within accordions.

Here are the pros, cons, and what we recommend for using accordions for content on your website.

The Good

  • Accordions are definitely idea for growing mobile audiences as users can have an upfront sense of the information they find available.  Similar to hamburger menus that collapse and reveal navigation; audiences have become accustomed to this type of functionality, as well as read more drop downs (blogs) are more commonly using this treatment). On small screens, people often stop scrolling before reaching the end of an extremely long page. Collapsing the information is a better alternative as it reduce excessive scrolling.
  • One of the main reasons we implement accordions in so many of our clients’ web treatments is to allow mobile-first visitors to have control over their content path so that they can decide whether to expand or defer it for later, giving them the choice of what to read and what to ignore.
  • Accordions are most ideal when the audience only requires a few key pieces of content on a single page. By hiding most of the content, users can spend their time more efficiently focused on the few topics that matter.
  • Also, accordions should be seen as a way to present support information. Key, required/must have content should never be placed in a content. Make sure that it is always readily available, visible to users as they are picking their path.

The Cons

  • Accordions become problematic when they become a substitution for overall best practices for content length. Accordions are quickly abandoned when users realize that they are just a dumping ground for long passages of content.
  • Accordions are not the most print-friendly content on the web. When printed, accordions do not automatically expand all of the content. If your audience tends to lean towards desktop usage, I would suggest that a statement is positioned above the accordions that offers a brief explanation on using the expand-all icons to display content before printing.
  • Any keywords that are only nestled in accordions will not display in search results. It is important to ensure that any keywords that are specific to the accordion content are added as overall keywords throughout the page and website. Otherwise, they will not display in search results.  We do know that Google™ is working with an array of developers to find solutions to this.

What we recommend

So, should you use accordions in your website content? It really depends on what your analytics show, or how your audience engages with your website.  If you have a mobile-heavy audience, we definitely suggest the implementation of accordions. If you have a more desktop-heavy audience, focus on brevity of content.   Relevant, strong content is more important than length, any day.

We believe that the best approach (and one that your audience will appreciate) is to provide a strong but natural, balanced mix of content genres and methods for displaying content for improved user experience.

Please contact Caught in the Web Consulting to discuss how we can help you determine when accordions do and do not make sense for your content.

While we began our blog by talking about all of the fun we had this summer, we cannot ignore some of the very troubling and tragic events that occurred.  The barring of transgender Americans who want to serve their country and are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice. Dreamers or ‘DACA’ participants who are often in the early stages of their education, careers, and are frequently breadwinners for their families; who now must live in fear of deportation for no fault or wrongdoing of their own.  The horrifying events in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to an unforgivable day of hate, rage, violence, and death.   And sadly, the extreme devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey that have left many without their homes, basic supplies, and has left at least 70 people dead as of the time we write this blog.

The point of our blog is not to be political. But we can’t ignore what is going on in our world. And some issues are not left or right. They are a matter of basic human rights, decency, and morality. Discrimination is wrong. Bigotry and hate should never be tolerated. And in times of natural disasters, non-partisan, non-biased support is vital. We stand with and for love of all people, no matter where they come from, look like, who they choose to love, or what they believe in.

Our amazing designer is based out of Houston, TX and somehow, kept a positive outlook and continued to serve clients in unimaginable conditions. 

If you would like to give a donation to support good, honest charities that are helping families impacted by the hurricane, please visit this website.

Don’t Be Fooled by Your New Analytics

Congratulations! After months (or even years) of hard work, you’ve launched your new website. It looks great. Your users are sending you great feedback. Online Sales and or donations are up.   Your web administrators are loving the new content management system that your site is built on.

But, your website traffic is suddenly lower. Ack! Before your panic, here are a few things we recommend that you check and consider:


Reduced page count means reduced pages to visit.

Through a website redesign effort, your content strategy tasks should have included a website audit. During the phase, you would have uncovered cases of redundant, outdated, or redundant trivial (known as a ROT analysis). Your assigned content strategist would have also developed content recommendations that may have included consolidating pages. These two tasks are vital for reducing unnecessary content on your site. Don’t be surprised if you see the number of page views go down on your site. It could simply mean that the number of pages has gone down.  Stay focused on how people get to your content (your site’s navigation, internal search from your site)  or external, organic search) and how long they stay on your page.

Don’t forget your new sitemap.

In the same way that wireframes are the recommended blueprint or roadmap of our client’s websites- so are website maps. They help guide search engines while crawling the site. An XML sitemap should be uploaded to better inform search engines as well as to rank all of your related pages. An updated sitemap should be posted to the site after any major enhancements are made to the website. This is a critical step in any website effort to ensure that search can identify and crawl all pages migrated into your new content management system as well as not listing those that have been deleted prior to migration.

SEO Matters on Desktop and Mobile.

One issue that we see with some clients that develop content internally is cutting content during a redesign. While reducing pages (as we discussed above) is ideal, reducing word count must be done with caution. However, relevant brevity is key. The process of writing content for mobile should not be considered the same as “trimming down the fat.” All content, whether it’s viewed on a mobile site or desktop should be relevant. If it’s fatty, it should go, period. Best practices for web content say to keep page length around 500 words. Keep in mind that the average mobile device will only display 80-90 words before you have to scroll. This should be considered when incorporating page breaks, graphics, etc. The rules for SEO on mobile differ from those on standard websites and change frequently. As a comprehensive SEO strategy will accompany the overall web content strategy, please refer to: Google’s latest and greatest SEO mobile guidelines.

Lack of frequently updated content.

As a part of its search algorithm, Google also accesses the indexed age of a website, including its content and the links that are pointing to it. Websites that lack fresh content are viewed as lacking in credibility. No one wants to go to a health website with outdated treatments, or an ecommerce site with old, inaccurate pricing. After launching your website, it is imperative that you keep content fresh on your site. Consider updating your service capabilities or non-profit work by highlighting case studies, stories from donors and those your organization services, employee bios, job opportunities, blog post (link to March blog) and your social media content.

Need help analyzing your analytics and making adjustments after your site launch?
We can help!

Five Ways to Keep Your Blog Alive

It’s easy to say your website needs to include a blog.

It’s a great way to drive traffic, and to present fresh content to your audience. But once you get started, how do you keep the content process going?


Here are 10 ways that you can keep the blog alive:

1. Ditch the Press Releases.

Not only are press releases time consuming to prepare and distribute, but they provide very limited opportunities to present call to actions. Instead, consider using your blog as your company’s news channel.

2. Promote the good stuff you do.

Does your team volunteer or offer pro bono services to a charity?  Tell your followers about it.   People love to connect with those that have like-minded interests and passions.  They are more likely to want to engage with your brand if they know your commitment to making a continual and lasting impact in our communities.  Plus, this can provide your followers with tangible call to actions such as volunteering with you, donating items from a wish list created within your blog, and more.

3. Let your website drive the content.

Your blog should provide stronger visual tie-ins to key features of the website. The blog should offer a “promo spot” – reserved for promotion of upcoming events/campaigns, milestones, or to highlight key content. Related content and stories from your website should be included at the bottom of your blog entries, so that the viewer sees it after they have finished reading the article. This could lead to more engagement with your web content.  Check out how Conservation International does this.

4. Highlight your team.

I recently read a blog post from the DC-based health Communications firm, Hager Sharp (who I love working with!) that highlights the 11-year career milestone of one of their Millennial employees. Not only did the article give their audience a personal look at a member of their staff, it presented the firm in such a positive light that it would be easy to imagine the amount of people that took a peek at their Careers section as a result.

5. Well, IMO…

Ahh, the infamous comments section of a blog.  We’ve all seen them.  For better or for worse, people read them.   Consider using your own blog to comment on another blog post.   Of course, keep it professional and related to the original post that you are responding to.

Need help giving your blog content a boost?
Contact us today!

Instead of going round and round, let your carousel navigate.

Carousels have had a long stay in an ever-changing web space.

Carousels have gotten bigger as a result of hero imagery. And, they have gotten smaller to meet the needs of mobile users who swipe instead of click. We even did a blog post in 2014 encouraging alternatives to the carousel.

Blogs are also another mainstay of websites. They went from one-way communication channels, to hateful, ranting platforms where we wish commenting had never been invented (more on that in an upcoming blog post *smile*).

So many of our clients spend a lot of time on their blogs. Instead of updating evergreen web pages, they devote effort on their blog and social media. Doing so allows them to present fresh content, and to respond to new issues and key objectives. It’s the same reason we update our blog. Blogs are also great traffic drivers as your audience can subscribe to your blog, and become accustomed to the frequency in which you post new content to it. We also see top lists (a la Buzzfeed) keeping their pace as popular, shareable content.

So, if your blog content is frequently updated, and is shareable, and is popular- why shouldn’t it be a part of your navigation?
We are not suggesting that you get rid of your top nav menu on your site (this would be a no-no for 508 compliance and mobile users). But, if you produce a lot of news features, articles- why not?

In adding a story/blog/article-specific carousel or rotator under your main navigation, you can give your audience a more prominent way to view and engage with your latest content. The content that you’re spending the most time developing and publishing. Through a good content management system, you don’t need to update the carousel, uniquely. This content should be dynamically updated along with your blog. And, the thumbnails associated with your blog can give you the opportunity to draw readers in with beautiful imagery that audiences aren’t used to seeing in navigation. And, doing this is yet another way to boost SEO.

Want to see what we mean? Check out this site.

Interested in upgrading your carousel to present your great content? Contact us today!

Lights. Camera. Wait. How Long Should My Video Be?

Happy New Year!!

We’ve always followed the rule that shorter videos will get more members of your audience to tune in. However, Facebook is about to change the rules, once again. As you consider your social strategy, make sure that you check out this articleand how longer videos means more prominence in Facebook news feeds. We’re not so sure we’re convinced yet… So let’s stay tuned. And, while we anxiously await to see what changes happen in regards to best practices for presenting video online, here are some reasons video can improve digital strategy:

  • Video is visual and familiar. People are used to watching TV, watching movies… Videos provide an approachable way to introduce and share information. It conveys emotion when words and numbers alone aren’t enough.

  • They make us human. Video humanizes complex topics and allows audiences to relate to people/conditions/research that might otherwise seem inaccessible.

  • A good content strategy presents storytelling. Video supports this as it is a great tool for persuasion, advocacy, and awareness-building.

  • Keep it simple. When video incorporates animation, and unique content genres like infographics and design; it clarifies complex ideas, making them easier to understand. Something great to consider when stressing plain language.

Interested in developing a video strategy for your website? We proudly authored the video (as well as content, blog, and social) strategy for www.healthcare.gov and would love to help you develop yours.

Contact us today.

Give Good to Good – Our Gift this Holiday Season

 

After any new administration comes into the White House, everyone begins to wonder what will change.

As a consulting firm that services many in the government sector, we also provide consultancy to myriad non-profits.

We say what we mean on our website- that we love and are passionate about non-profits. Non-profits help the disadvantaged, they work to make a better life for at-risk youths.  Non-profits work behind the scenes to create and persuade policy that impacts the poor and the homeless. They fundraise to improve the quality of life and find cures for those faced with life-threatening and/or life-altering diseases.

Non-profits work to clean up and sustain the vital resources that our planet provides. And they identify ways to provide nourishment to the 842 million people around the world who don’t have enough to eat.

We could not be more proud of the work we do for our clients such as the Center for Law & Social Policy, LeadingAge, and the Childhood League Center. Nor could we be more inspired by the missions they strive to fulfill every day.

And we could not be more proud to work with our amazingly creative as well as genuinely good-hearted partners at Kardia Design Studio.  We shine all year round because of our work with them.

With the new presidency, we know that numerous government programs could be impacted through budget cuts and downsizing.  We also know that this means that many Americans will need to rely on non-profits to obtain the vital services they need.

With the new presidency, we know that numerous government programs could be impacted through budget cuts and downsizing.  We also know that this means that many Americans will need to rely on non-profits to obtain the vital services they need. The ability for a non-profit to make positive change only occurs when they are able to inspire supporters to give their time and money.

Our hope is that in response to the election, many will give to deserving, honest charities that make positive, tangible impact in our world. Those that care about creating a fun diversion for children with cancer, those that help ensure equal rights for individuals – no matter the sexual orientation of who they love or want to marry.

But we also know that some may be reluctant to give because they don’t know what will happen to the economy.

We also realize that some non-profits may be fearful of spending precious donor dollars on necessary materials such as a robust website, wireframes to plan the direction of their site, or the necessary digital strategy to bring in donations and inspire potential volunteers.

And that’s where we may be able to help.

We offer a program called Give Good 2 Good.  Through Give Good 2 Good, we provide pro bono web/digital strategy consultancy to deserving non-profits.

Interested? Submit your non-profit for consideration using our contact form

Black Lives Matter, White Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Latino Lives and Asian Lives Matter. The lives of Jews, the Lives of Muslims, the Lives of Christians, Matter. Again, All Lives Matter. All people, regardless of skin color, their wealth or lack of, their disabilities and abilities- have a meaningful life

Caught in the Web Consulting would like to wish EVERYONE Joy and Peace at the Holidays and throughout the New Year.

Keeping your .gov clients websites compliant, post the 2016 election

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Keeping your .gov clients websites compliant, post the 2016 election

We would love to say that we’re happy that the 2016 election is over. It was a painful, grueling, and at times- downright nasty campaign cycle.  Our children deserve better. We’d love to say that we’re happy that this nightmarish reality show is over, but unfortunately–it’s just getting started.

However, those of us who service .gov clients need to ensure that they are able to effectively communicate their agency’s objectives to consumers that reach them online.

While long-standing requirements such as 508 compliance for those with disabilities and plain language are still in effect (and should be); the long-awaited and newly-updated policies for federal/.gov public websites have been released. There are a few new requirements that we wanted to highlight and make you aware of.

Here are our eight tips for avoiding and eliminating never-ending revisions.

1.) As required in the Digital Government Strategy, every agency must establish a plan for governing its digital services, including websites and data. And, all agencies must publicly post their governance plan on their Digital Strategy page at www.[agency.gov]/digitalstrategy/ and update this page to reflect the current status of the agency’s digital governance structure.

2.) All agencies are required to participate in the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Digital Analytics Program (DAP) and implement the DAP tracking code on all public facing agency websites. The DAP provides agencies with access to free quantitative analytics to inform website management. Please note that while this is required, you can still use other forms of analytics (i.e. Google Analytics) with DAP).

3.) As more website visitors move to mobile for web browsing, all .gov public-facing websites must contain a search function. Please see http://search.digitalgov.gov for more info. Agencies must ensure that all content intended for public use on their website can be indexed and searched by commonly used commercial search engines.

4.) If your .gov client has been dragging their feet about making their site responsive now is the time to get them to make the change. For all new websites and major website redesigns, agencies must ensure responsive design that allows users on non-desktop devices equivalent access to Government information.

To see the other requirements please go to whitehouse.gov

While this is not a requirement, we would highly recommend that .gov web contractors work with their clients to refresh their About Us page. With the administration change, most agencies can expect to see a mass exodus or influx of new hires.  This is the time that you want potential applicants to learn more about what you do.

Here are some best practices we recommend
for your About Us page:

  • Tell your Agency’s story using the right voice
  • Show, tell, and brag (a little)
  • Organize clearly and effectively
  • Less is more
  • Provide a Summary: 1-2 paragraphs on the landing page that offer a bit more detail about the Agency’s goal and main accomplishments. Serious but show your personality.
  • Provide a Fact sheet: A section following the summary that elaborates on its key points and other essential facts about the organization (media-friendly).
  • Detailed information: Subsidiary pages with more depth for people who want to learn more about the organization.
  • Additional information
  • Photos of your people/team/or the office
  • History of the organization (at least the yr founded)
    – Community and social programs that your organization contributes to
  • Core values and culture
  • Contact information
  • Strategic, financial, or federal reports

Somehow, we survived this election.  And let’s hope that we never have another election like this again. We are looking forward to Making American Unified and Compassionate Again.  It was already great.

Ready to refresh your .gov or private-sector About Us page? Contact Caught in the Web Consulting today.

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

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There is nothing like a great, initial discovery session with a client. You feel inspired by their passion, they in turn are excited about your ideas for bringing their goals to life, online. The requirements are set. The deadlines are agreed to. The stakeholders have all been interviewed. There’s just one problem: Never-ending revisions.

Let’s be honest, revisions are vital. No one wants to navigate a website that is riddled with errors, inaccurate information, or broken links.  Nothing ruins your online reputation faster than a website that does not appear to be legitimate or professional.

However, a poor revision process can completely jeopardize a successful website launch, as well as its ongoing maintenance.

Here are our eight tips for avoiding and eliminating never-ending revisions.

1.) Set boundaries:

From the initial contract, statement of work, or scope document- make sure that your client is aware and in agreement of the amount of revisions that their project allows. And, be clear as to what is entailed in each round of revisions.

  • Do you allow only one page of edits?
    Or, will you accept 10 pages of edits in one document as a round of revisions?
  • Who will you accept edits from? Everyone who wants to send edits, or one dedicated project manager?
  • How many rounds of revisions are allowed for each deliverable?
    Wireframes? Design? Copy?
  • Should edits be sent in one, consolidated Word document, or do you allow clients to send you one-off edits in emails, Basecamp, and text messages?
  • After how many rounds of revisions do you start charging overage fees?
  • At what point should you flag your client to let them know that the deadline is in jeopardy?
  • How many days do you truly need to make revisions? And how many days does your client and their team need to review your work? Rushing through edits does nothing but lead to late nights and unnecessary mistakes.

2.) Know your client:

Some clients have one individual who is responsible for making all decisions. Others have groups of individuals who will review changes. Make sure that you know upfront who the key decision makers are, and what role they have in making editorial changes and granting approval. Nothing can impact your project faster than editing by committee.

3.) Go There:

Also-if your client is someone who works better in-person, meet with them. We often find that reviewing wireframes or design comps on-site with clients gives us the most thorough and definitive edits. And, be open to your client’s feedback. Respectfully defend your work, expertise, and decisions, but be even more respectful in supporting your client’s objectives and needs.

4.) Content is both political and personal:

As content drives information architecture, design, and development- it carries a lot of weight. Content is also a point of controversy and focus. Some of the most contentious content that we work with our clients on falls under the About Us and What We Do sections of their website. Everyone wants to make sure that their department is appropriately featured, and that the content truly fulfills their goals. We recommend having unique planning sessions to address hot topic content areas.

We also recommend that content editing focuses on four key areas:

  • Substance: This includes review of the cohesion and clarity of the content.
  • Copyediting: The nuts and bolts- typos, grammar, and consistency.
  • Fact checking and source cited: Give credit where credit is due, and ensure that the content is accurate.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization should be a part of both the writing and editorial process.

Please note: Designers are not editors. And editors are not designers. Make sure that major content changes are addressed with your writers, and that design feedback happens with your creative team. When possible, streamline these edits through the dedicated project manager.

5.) Don’t forget analytics:

When clients get stuck on where something should or should not go on the website, always refer back to your analytics as well as what you’ve heard through surveys, focus group, social media, etc. from those that care about your content most: your consumers.

6.) Be clear:

To make revisions work between web partners and clients, be clear about revisions. Clients should avoid ambiguity (not sure what we want here, but we don’t like the way it is)and adding questions in revisions (do you think this should be adding value, or providing services?). And, don’t be afraid to show examples from other sites or projects that you like.

7.) Set a schedule:

During the web project, use your project plan to clearly identify the editing process- both on the agency side and the client side. Be honest about turn-around times for both parties. After launch, set a clear schedule of when edits (those that can’t be made by the client themselves) will happen, and how long it will take for them to appear on the site.

8.) Speak now, but don’t forever hold your peace.

Every client wants to nail the launch of their website, or of a new content section. However, this should not mean delaying a project out of fear that something can’t be changed.

We see this a lot with new clients… They are coming from a negative experience with their previous web partner that was either unresponsive to editing requests, or- they were forced to manage their website in a cumbersome content management system. This is where it is imperative to share with your clients the ease of making additional edits, and even more important: Letting them know how many donations, sales, and connections they miss out on by allowing their same, old poorly performing website to stay online another day. No website should keep the same content. A dynamic, engaging site must stay updated. During those updates, edits and site upkeep should occur.   

A web project that never launches due to a never-ending revision cycle can ruin your budget, kill your deadline, jeopardize your business generation, and can reduce morale for your staff and your web partner.

Contact us today to create a revision cycle that works best for your needs.

What You Need to Know: YouTube Embed Videos

YouTube made some changes last week to how video embed code works.

YouTube uses HTML5 for embedded videos, and Flash now only works on some browsers for some users, depending on plugins. Many of our clients may now have videos that aren’t working, and they may not know about it yet.