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Client Analytics: The Next Big Thing

If your organization is like most, you’ve probably got all these individual components you work with in a given day, clicking back and forth like a mouse-wielding ninja: your website, your client or member database (or both), your email marketing provider, and so on. And you wish there was a way to tie all that data together to get an accurate picture of the true engagement of your clients / members. Instead, you know only that you had X number of views on your website and that X number of people opened your last email newsletter, but none of that is tied to your client database. 

 

Cue the parting clouds and choir music. i2Integration is building tools to be able to tie all that together. Client analytics: This is going to be “a thing.”

 

Let’s say your association has an upcoming event. You create a registration page for the website and a Constant Contact campaign to promote it. By implementing these new tools, here are some things you could find out: that associate-level members opened the email, clicked on the link to the website but did not register, but affiliate-level members from Florida opened the email, clicked to the site and did register. Or that a majority of premiere-level members started the registration process but didn’t finish. Maybe affiliate members require a different email campaign? Maybe associate members would rather register by phone? This allows you, in real time, to analyze the data and make informed decisions in the future. And as you capture this data, you establish a level of engagement and track it over time. Wouldn’t that be nice to know when dues time rolls around?

 

None of this is “out-of-the-box” right now, because everyone is running a different combination of systems, which means it requires some customization via coding. 

 

Before you ask, no, this won’t require a second mortgage. But when it comes to saving you in more accurate segmented marketing, eliminating false starts, redundancies, errors and inefficiencies created by moving data from one medium to another, it will pay for itself very quickly.

 

Ten years ago, nobody knew what a content management system was. Now everyone does, and nearly everyone has one. In a matter of years, every website will be doing Client Analytics as a matter of course.

 

Want to know more? Just ask!

 

 


 

Four Ways to Trim Your Website Redesign Cost

Reducing costs shouldn’t mean sacrificing quality. And when it comes to web redesign, there are reasonable compromises that can be made in order to get what you need and keep the project within budget.

 

  1. Go with a template design. What used to be one of the major expenses in a website redesign was the actual design, because lo’ those many years ago, every website was created from scratch. Now there are thousands of templates available that you can leverage and with only minimal changes, can make them look completely your own. The nice thing also, is that most themes already have mobile-responsiveness and UI/UX goodies baked into them. Going with a pre-designed theme won’t completely eliminate design, but it will definitely reduce the time needed in coding the architecture of the design.
  2.  

  3. Migrate your own content. One of the major time-sinks in a site redesign is moving content from the old site to the new or placing new content. This isn’t usually a difficult and technical task, but just extremely time consuming. We see anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes per page to clean and move content. With a little bit of training, this task could easily be done in-house by your staff and potentially save hundreds of hours in cost.
  4.  

  5. Reduce custom development. As soon as you want to build anything custom, the ol’ cost-o-meter starts spinning. Is there a way to leverage something that’s already out there? And if what’s out there can’t do everything you need it to do, is there one that is open source -- meaning you get access to the original code -- , one that could be modified without having to build from scratch? One question to ask your developer when they tell you “This may be custom” is, “Is there something already out there we can modify?”
  6.  

  7. Think of your redesign as a sprint, not a stroll. If you keep the project within a tight timeline and have all your ducks in a row before the redesign begins, costs can be kept to a minimum. If, for whatever reasons, your schedule is more loose than it could be or you don’t have all your content ready, the timeline can drag out. In a lot of cases, drawing a redesign out over a longer period of time only draws out more costs. Making the timeline aggressive can keep costs in line.

 


 

RFPs: Why they suck and don’t work.

Our company responds to anywhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 RFPs a year, and we’ve been in business more than 20 years. That’s a lot of RFPs. It’s also a lot of time contemplating their effectiveness. Or their lack thereof. 

 

The inherent problem with RFPs is that they force the organization that doesn’t have the expertise to do the work themselves to write the specifications for the project. In application and web development, that involves a lot of technology experience from people whose business isn’t technology. It’s the equivalent of a patient arriving at a hospital and saying, “I need brain surgery. Here’s how I want you to do it.” 

 

Based on that, three not-so-good things happen:

  1. The customer ends up asking for something that may or may not be the right fit
  2. The vendor must respond to the specs of the RFP whether or not it’s the right fit
  3. The customer may not be getting a realistic quote

 

In addition, there are probably key details that will be missed in the bid and those could affect the price. So even the comfort of having a fixed price RFP is a sort of myth in itself. Worse, some companies exploit that and low-ball the bid, knowing there will be significant overages later on.

 

In our experience, RFPs are bad for the client, bad for the vendor and bad for the project.

 

But there is hope. And a good solution. Here’s a scenario using an alternative approach to the RFP:

 

Say you need your website redesigned and you’ve found 4 developers that might fit the need. Instead of writing an RFP, have them submit an expanded Request For Information (RFI). You say to those vendors, “Here are the goals of the project, here is what we want to achieve (more web traffic, convert visits to sales, etc etc).” Then, ask the vendors for the standard credentials (number of employees, how long they have been in business, similar clients, etc).

 

But here’s where the expanded RFI blows the RFP out of the proverbial water: Ask the vendors, “Knowing our goals and looking at what we are doing now, and based on your experience, what are your recommendations? What are your observations? What are your ideas? And based on similar projects you have done, what were the costs for those projects?"

 

With this approach, the customer gets the vendors’ recommendations based on their expertise rather than a regurgitation of your specs. Also, you get insight into their thought processes and thoroughness, as well as an estimate of the cost of a similar project.

 

Now, here’s the big closer: once you’ve chosen the vendor who most closely matches your needs, together you then build the final specs for the project and from that, develop a firm, final quotation. This is the vendor who will guide you through the pitfalls, and can save you costs, save you time and save you a lot of the headaches that are endemic to the web development RFP world. You get what you want and what you need.

 


 

DNN vs SharePoint: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Which One You Need

DNN and Microsoft SharePoint. They’re both powerhouses when it comes to content management functionality, but there are differences it would behoove you (we love to say that) to understand when it comes to choosing one system over the other for your website.

 

Document management: If you are dealing with thousands or tens of thousands of documents, SharePoint is the better choice as SharePoint is basically built around a powerful document management system. For DNN, there are third-party document management modules such as DMX, which is great for smaller scale document management (hundreds or a few thousand documents).
Advantage = SharePoint.

 

Forms: Forms creation and processing is built-in with SharePoint. In DNN it requires plugging in third-party modules, such as Dynamic Forms. Both do the job just fine.
Advantage = none (tie).

 

Search: DNN provides a basic site-wide search, but does not include searching document content, so if you’re looking for content within a PDF document, you might be in a real pickle unless you also install a third-party module like DMX. SharePoint comes with site-wide search, including document content.
Advantage = SharePoint.

 

Integration with Office®: SharePoint is a Microsoft product and was built to integrate strongly with Office, including Outlook. DNN, not so much, and there’s very little out there in the way of third-party modules.
Advantage = SharePoint.

 

Customization: Both SharePoint and DNN are designed to be customizable. In SharePoint, it's the ability to create custom "Web Parts" based on a client's needs. In DNN, the same capability is possible through creating custom "Modules.” In short, both systems are well-designed and built to be customizable.
Advantage = none (tie).

 

Graphic design flexibility: Both SharePoint and DNN are structured to allow for flexible graphic designs, though in this area, DNN has proven easier and cleaner (coding-wise) to work with than SharePoint. It's not that something can't be done in SharePoint; it just might take a little longer versus DNN.
Advantage = DNN.

 

LDAP integration: This means that administrators can use the same sign-on that they use to log on to their workstation as they do to the website system. Both SharePoint and DNN provide this feature.
Advantage = none (tie).

 

Licensing cost:
DNN / Evoq License Cost: Community version: free; Professional version: $2999/yr.
SharePoint License Cost: License cost: approximately $6700
Advantage: DNN.

 

So which to choose for your enterprise website? Both are good. But if large-scale document storage is important, integration with Office®  or integration with internal systems, and if licensing cost is not an issue with your budget, then SharePoint may be the best way to go.
If cost, content management, design or customization is your priority, then DNN may be the better choice.

 

Both have their merits. We can help you choose.

 


 

It’s time to go “Mobile First”

According to industry reports, 60 percent of total digital media time spent from 2013 to 2014 was done from a mobile device. And that’s only going to increase. To effectively reach this audience, it’s time to start thinking about moving your website away from a Desktop First approach, and over to a Mobile First approach.

 

Traditionally, a website was built with its priority toward displaying on a desktop computer, where it could then be scaled down for use on a mobile device. That’s called “graceful degradation.” 

That’s worked just fine for several years, but with that 60 percent number climbin, that method isn’t going to cut it anymore.

 

With your audience primarily using mobile, you should be designing for Mobile First. With this method, your site is designed for mobile use primarily, then can be scaled upward to the desktop. That’s called “progressive enhancement.” 

 

We’re starting to see our clients and their needs going more toward this Mobile First philosophy, and that changes everything: how you look at navigation, how you look at prioritizing the content structure and the overall graphic design of the site.

 

Navigation, in the traditional Desktop First version, has tons of options: think pull-downs, subpages and deep, deep navigation menus. You can’t do that with Mobile First; what you need are fewer options that get people where they’re going in as few touches as possible. This can be done by creating more landing pages, for example, but the navigation menu itself should have very few choices.

 

Graphic design, if you are going Mobile First, means getting rid of the extraneous: flashy graphics and fluffy content have no place -- it will be ignored or even worse, drive users away. You have limited bandwidth and limited screen real estate to work with. Mobile First is all about action and content: content that is short and concise, and action that should be easy to get to and prominent (think register, sign up and purchase here).

 

It sounds easy to say Mobile First, but it truly is a complete mindshift. In some ways, it’s almost a throwback to the days when we first started (21 years ago) and the web was young. Back then you had very little bandwidth and small monitors that affected how you designed a website. Same thing today when it comes to mobile. The only difference now is that we can do far cooler stuff within the same limitations than we ever thought possible back then.

 

Maybe a better of way of saying it is it’s Back to the Future for all of us.

 


 

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