What happens if I remove 20% of my website?

As I’ve noted, our organization has lost our government contract (they’re taking it in-house). One of the services we provide is that we host a list of approved professionals, the “RASP”. We have several pages on our site on this topic (how to search and how to apply for example), and this accounts for 22% of our landing pages in 2016.

Of all our visitors, 22% start on one of these pages, and while some move to non-RASP related pages, many don’t (these are task-oriented visitors). That’s going to be a significant loss in visitors; but will it impact the rest of our services?

I’m trying to look at our Analytics stats to figure out what we can learn to help new viewers find our website, and to organize and streamline the website. This is part of my Board Report, to show how we will be planning for life beyond the government contract (I also won’t be employed by the much smaller organization, so we want a really streamlined website). So what am I asking from the stats?

  • how do people arrive at our website?
  • what pages do people visit?
  • what pages do people land on?
  • how many people visit the donations pages specifically?

What do we do with those stats once we have them?

  • plan to increase visitors nationally and internationally
  • plan increase visitors from “not Google”
    • Social Media
    • Emails
    • Links on other sites
  • target topics in which to develop or link to more information
  • create targeted GoogleAds

 

This is my starting place: what am I missing?

Who is our audience?

The autism community. In B.C., specifically.

That narrows it down, but not by much. We are working on the development of a new website at work because at the end of June, a contract we’ve had with the Ministry of Children and Family Development for 12 years is terminated. As this was 3/4 of our product, and a significant source of traffic to our website, we need a considerable re-think.

Who will our audience be? The autism community, but more internationally.

I know. It just got WAY bigger. But. If you remove the very B.C. specific service we provided, and look at the information and online training that we provide? We know there are huge gaps that the autism community in different provinces, states, counties and countries are facing. So who are we looking to reach in this global community?

  • parents seeking high quality training and information resources so they can help their kids.
  • community professionals without autism training seeking to provide better supports for kids with autism.
  • community professionals with autism training who are seeking informal (and sometimes formal) professional development

What are some of their characteristics?

  • Mostly English speakers (we do have some information in Chinese)
  • Parents will come from the entire range of education and income
  • Most will  be seeking information that can be applied (less theory)

I would guess that the first two users are looking for specific topics (choosing an intervention, help with toilet training or puberty), whereas the third more likely to browse.

Step two – what do we want them to do on our site? What’s in it for them?

Asking for feedback; not just for annual surveys

Inspired by a #NPMC chat on twitter today, I’m reviving a dormant goal I had for my online videos project.

I’m proposing incorporating a one question poll into our monthly newsletter; low-stakes, it’s a means of collecting feedback from the larger community. I hope that the questions would help recipients reflect, normalize their own questions and fears, and direct them towards resources.

I can use Google Forms to embed it right in the email, and the following month, suggest resources related to the answers.

My father wants an eReader

I’ve discussed with my sister the idea of getting our father an eReader. He’s interested in one, and I get it. He can download books from the library, it takes up very little space in comparison, it’s lighter… and what else? I don’t know. I’m a confessed book snob. I like my wrinkled Rushdie book that I bought in India, or the book of Leonard Cohen poetry that an old boyfriend bought and inscribed for me. I like moving back and forth in the book, pausing to consider Alice Munro’s marvelous turn of phrase, with my finger keeping my space between the pages. I always look to see what people are reading on the bus – much more difficult on an eReader.

So yes, I agree with Sara Barbour in her June 17th opinion piece. It’s an emotional kick for me, my attachment to books.

However.

I remember first year university: the massive biology textbook, the stack of books for my women in literature course, the mammoth introduction to English text that had poetry by Eliot, prose by Chaucer and short stories by… several authors. It’s a doorstopper that you see in many second-hand bookstores or parental basements. In addition to the sheer weight of these books, there is a culture of lineups at the bookstore, lugging heavy backpacks of books for your reference paper, selling the books at the end of the semester, and deciding how much to mark up the text books (highlighting can help you study, but diminishes the re-sale value). eReaders and eBooks could revolutionize academic textbooks.

Electronic textbooks could be cheaper, cutting out printing and shipping costs to start. Errors or updates could be easily implemented, downloaded from the Internet. The electronic textbooks could be more interactive, with quizzes at the end of chapters, or the ability to share notes or questions as a class. They could include multimedia. For the sciences, this could be a 3D image of DNA, a video of cell division, or an animation to demonstrate the physics of acceleration. For the arts, it could be a video of a First Nations potlach, and audio recording of a poem, or and animation of sequencing of behaviours. Perhaps it could make texts more accessible for students for whom English is not their first language (with links to dictionary definitions), for those with visual impairments (screen readers or bigger fonts), or for those with mobility challenges (less to carry, easier to navigate).

I say “could” alot. It depends on publishers being willing to change their practices, re-evaluation of digital rights management. It depends on accessibility and technical support for students and faculty members. Lots of maybes and questions that are still unanswered, but there are opportunities here.

But I’m still buying paperbacks for myself and others. That won’t stop.

Writing Community Guidelines

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of developing, building, and soon to be nurturing an online community.

This week I’m thinking about who our users are (personas), privacy issues, and writing community guidelines.

I’m a generally positive person, and I like to believe that all will be sunshine and butterflies. And it won’t, but I don’t want the fear or worry to prevents us from building the community, or worse (?) creating one that is so rigid and fierce with rules that it sucks all the fun out of it. Since you know, the goal is a community, not enforced participation like in the prison yard at lunch (er, for example).

Question #1: is it pessimistic that I’m thinking about this before someone even posts?
Question #2: I’d love to have the community collaborate on these guidelines, but the members will come and go, and besides, as above, it’s not open yet!

So do some research
I’ve started by looking at some examples. One was short and sweet:
“We love hearing from ya. We try to keep it light & fun (it’s only decorating), so we’ll nix comments that are snarky/spammy (our moms are reading). If you don’t see your comment it’s because they’re manually approved (it should pop up soon-ish). Occasionally our spam filter eats one. Boo spam filter.” from <a href="www.younghouselove.com"Young House Love, a recommendation from a colleague.

Another colleague suggested that I look at the Guardian Newspapers standards and participation guidelines. I particularly love the last entry, that reminds us that the conversation belongs to everyone (I may steal this for mine). Overall however, it was a bit strident perhaps (and given that their commenters by nature have strong opinions about divisive topics such as politics, perhaps necessary). Do like their inclusion of a section on Moderator Approach (will steal this, too), and their final summary “In Short:”

Then I asked Twitter, and boom, received two suggestions to look at Flickrs Community Guidelines. And I like these ones. They start with the Do’s, not the Don’ts, and they’re knowing in their admonitions: “Don’t be creepy. You know that guy. Don’t be that guy.”

So after this day, my conclusions are:
I’m going to have a Please Do, Please Don’t and Moderator responsibility sections. Start with the good! Tell people where to do with concerns! I’m going to talk about copyright and linking (don’t cut and paste), and I’ll have to bring up how to disagree responsibly. I hadn’t considered that people may try to sell or solicit on the forums. I’ll have to consider how people looking for contractors or people looking for contracts might be able to connect. It’s not our responsibility, and we can’t vet contractors, but….

I think that this is a good thing to do. What I learned in post-secondary was that it was when you didn’t have the classroom guidelines that things went bad. It gives other community members something to point to (“hey, read this”), and shows the community members that we are committed to respectful and productive conversation.

So now I guess it’s time to start drafting something up.

When is it too much instruction?

Today on Twitter I asked: “If I don’t offer detailed instruction, & assume that people will rise to the occasion, do you think they will? Does instruction = laziness?”

And the reason I ask is that some of these online, EdTech, Social Media technologies are kind of self-evident on a basic level. And I want my users to join a community I’m developing at a basic level. No video editing, RSS parsing, database tinkering required. Just login, post stuff, read stuff, share stories. I want the sharing stories to be the most important thing. So if I create a handout with step-by-step instructions am I assuming a lack of self-reliance? Do I encourage rote step-by-step following instead of exploration?

Do my users want to explore, though? Does that get in the way of the participation?

I’m going to join CPSquare, and hope that I can discuss these questions and more with them.