Balance Blog

July 30, 2012
Posted by Jeannette Modic | in CMS, in Web Development | Comments (0)

This blog entry is a follow up from my Capital Camp 2012 presentation on Bundle Publishing and Workflow on July 27. (View the slides)

When using both the Workbench Access and Workbench Moderation modules, you will inevitably want to notify your editors when content makes a transition. This can be accomplished using the Rules module.  You will need to make one rule for each transition using the following steps.

  1. Create a new rule using two triggers: After Saving New Content and After Moderation Transition.
  2. Add a condition to your rule to check the Current Moderation State.
  3. Add the action Send Mail
  4. In the action for the TO value, add this PHP snippet, replacing [ROLE_ID] with the role id of the role you want to send your notification to:
    <?php
    $permission_group = $node->workbench_access;
    $result = db_query("SELECT user.mail AS mail FROM users user, workbench_access_user workbench, users_roles roles WHERE roles.rid=[ROLE_ID] AND user.uid=roles.uid AND user.uid=workbench.uid AND access_id = :permission_group", array(':permission_group' =>$permission_group));
    $emails = array();
    foreach($result as $record) {
    $emails[] = $record->mail;
    }
    print implode($emails, ",");
    ?>
  5. Also in the action, edit the FROM, SUBJECT, and BODY of the email.

Now the appropriate users will be notified when they need to take action or otherwise need to know that something happened with content they are interested in.


July 23, 2012
Posted by Beth Bacon | in User Experience | Comments (0)

In recent usability testing for a Balance client, we uncovered a series of items that frustrated users. These things are typical on an information-rich site with lots of documents and images. Below, I describe what frustrated users and best practice solutions to improve usability.

Users were frustrated by:

1) Unexplained steps that appeared before they could access the document they wanted. The site asked users to select their state and another piece of information, each on a separate screen, in order to provide a tailored document, but there was no explanation of why users were being asked these questions. Nor did the site offer users a chance to “skip this step” and just provide a general (untailored) document. If an invalid choice was made, the error message read: “An illegal choice has been detected. Please contact the site administrator.”

Make pathways to information direct. When users make a choice, they expect to get to the information or document on the next screen. If you need users to make additional choices before showing them a document, explain why. And, write error messages tailored to the task.

2) Too many link choices and other details on a main list of documents. When displaying a list of documents, the site linked two file formats of the document – without user-friendly names – plus a ShareThis link for every document. Visible tags for each document were also listed and linked. Users were confused by all the choices for each document. The page was cluttered and hard to scan.

Minimize the choices on a list of documents or events to help users scan for what is relevant to them. Too much information on a list makes it harder to scan and choose.

3) Nothing but images in an “Idea Gallery.” The site presented a good number of images for the different ways the organization’s product has been used, but users saw only a series of images on the first screen of the Idea Gallery. When they clicked on an image to learn more, they just saw a larger image with a short, often undescriptive, title. Users wanted more specifics about each project pictured. And they said it would be helpful if they were offered links to related in-depth or technical information elsewhere on the site for the images.

Use the opportunity of an image gallery to provide details and link to related information. Pictures are a good way to draw people in; sometimes people are more likely to read text if it accompanies an image.

4) No Home button. Many users did not know how to get back to the home page. The site didn’t have a “Home” button, even though the organization’s logo in the upper left was linked to the home page – as is conventional on websites. But many users didn’t know that convention.

Provide a prominent home button, preferably in the main navigation bar, on all pages except the home page.

5) Document thumbnails were not linked. The site showed an image of a key industry checklist on a page with related information, which was an important topic in the organization’s specific industry. But that checklist was too small to read, and it was not linked to larger images or a PDF version. Users knew this was an important document, but they could not access it.

When possible, link thumbnail documents to the full document, and link thumbnail images to larger versions with more information.

Content is the most important element of a website: that’s why people go to websites. If they stay on a site, it’s to read the content. If your site contains rich information and documents, you don’t want users to leave your site – or even be frustrated with it – because they face usability barriers in getting the content. Think about how your users will approach your content, and make the pathways to content the most direct as possible.


July 13, 2012
Posted by Carrie Hane Dennison | in Web Strategy | Comments (0)

I recently tried to make a purchase on the apparently "new" Pampered Chef website. My friend is the rep, and she was doing a fundraiser for our pool's swim team. So I was fairly motivated to order, and did so – BY SENDING AN EMAIL TO THE REP AND GIVING HER A CHECK THE NEXT DAY!

Why am I shouting? Because I should have been able to order online and use by credit card at my leisure at 11:00 PM like I tried to do. You may be asking why I didn't do that. BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ORDER BUTTON ON THE SHOPPING CART SCREEN.

I normally only shout at my kids, but in this case, I want to make a point. When talking to my friend when I handed her the check, she told me how frustrated she was with the new website and wondered how many people just gave up in frustration – costing her and the company lots of money.
I told her that this happens repeatedly. She was amazed at this, as well she should be.

So if you want to fail at your redesign, do these things:

1) Don't do usability testing – This will uncover information that will help you make the site better and easier for customers to use. But if you don't want to sell more products, by all means, do not ask for user input.

2) Skip strategy – This will provide a roadmap for your project – and beyond. It will also match your business objectives to what your website does. Who wants to take the time to figure out exactly what why your website exists and figure out how to measure its success? Taking the time to sit down and figure out your messaging, architecture, and objectives, as well as honestly analyzing your current site and those of your competitors, will pay off in the long run.

3) Expect to get the job done fast, cheap, and right – In just about every business, you can only get two of these things. Fast and cheap usually means it won't be right and you'll have to do it over. Fast and right is usually expensive. Cheap and right will probably take a long time as the people doing it will do work for better paying clients or do higher priority tasks first.

4) Set unrealistic timelines or artificial deadlines – "I think five months is enough time to build a website." Or maybe you could map out a plan and see what a realistic timeline is. I'm not saying you can't build a website in 5 months, but there are many factors to consider when scoping the timeline. (BTW – that project took closer to 8 months.)

5) Don't listen to expert advice – You're only paying consultants to give you professional advice, why should you listen to them? Don’t hire someone (either as a consultant or a staff member) if you don't think they know what they are doing.

6) Don't do governance – It's launched. YIPPEE!! Break out the champagne! Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled programming. Look forward to a site that will gather cobwebs or get overgrown with weeds. Then you can do another redesign next year.

These are just a few of the multitude of ways a website redesign can fail. There is movement afoot to kill the notion of redesigns, replacing them with incremental changes based on good data instead. I'm all for that. In fact, I'm all for any method that will result in fewer websites that suck.


June 29, 2012
Posted by Rich Wolford | in Project Management, in Web Strategy | Comments (0)

In May, we published a whitepaper entitled “Knowledge is Power: Know Your Website's ROI,” which shows how to measureg the return on investment (ROI) that can happen following website redesign project. It provides a how-to guide for using ROI as a tool for planning, budgeting, and implementing a website redesign including:

  • The What – Defining what ROI is and what it measures
  • The Why – What is in it for you to do the analysis
  • The When – ROI must be done in the early, pre-RFP process
  • The How - A specific ROI model and how to perform on-going measurement and extend the value of a website redesign

One of the reasons we published the whitepaper was to help educate the marketplace on the value of the ROI analysis. Management of a website has shifted from IT to marketing departments. It is our belief that while IT investments are often justified via an ROI analysis, marketing expenditures are not. This was based on our own experience with clients as well as online sources covering the topic. We decided to test the hypothesis by conducting a survey. We asked companies some basic questions about website ROI and found that in fact it was true – most companies do not conduct an ROI analysis despite the obvious benefits. A few findings from the survey:

  • 85% of respondents who had redesigned their website within the last 5 years did not do an ROI analysis prior to implementing the project.
  • Firms who did the ROI analysis invested more in their redesign.
  • The main approach for conducting an ROI was a simple cost-benefit analysis.

We continue to believe that conducting an ROI analysis is an essential step in a website redesign process that will help better define the scope of the effort as well as its successful implementation.