Tag: visual communications

We live in a visual world where people make snap judgments about quality based solely on aesthetics. This means that the first impression formed on the quality of your digital badge program may likely be based on your badge’s artwork. It’s hard to imagine that this small digital artifact could have such influence, but it does. The risk is that vague, overly simplistic, or poorly colored badge art can project a false impression of poorly designed content.

The use of digital badges for credentialing is a relatively new emerging technology; as with any new technology, there is a learning curve. Badging came to mainstream attention in 2011 when the foundational paper, “An Open Badge System Framework,” was published by Peer 2 Peer University and The Mozilla Foundation. Two years later, in 2013, former President Clinton created the Clinton Global Initiative to expand the use of open badges “to help employers and universities across the country incorporate Open Badges in hiring, promotions, admissions, and credit” (check out this blog post from The MacArthur Foundation). In 2014, Dr. Daniel Hickey of Indiana University published “Design Principles,” a two-year comprehensive study of the successes and failures of 29 different badge systems across the United States. And while instructional designers and subject matter experts continue to investigate what makes a successful badging system, as a graphic designer, I have begun to focus on one aspect—the digital badge artwork.

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As a visual communicator, my aim is to help establish design criteria that developers can use when making design decisions. My intent is not to ridicule or talk negatively about any existing badge artwork. I’ve seen digital badges that project a very positive, clear message, and I’ve seen artwork that did not reflect the quality of material presented within. And, as mentioned, in the beginning of any new product rollout, there is always going to be a learning curve with design mistakes along the way. What is important is to learn from those mistakes to improve the overall design process.

Before designing your badge, your best chance of a successful badge initiative is to ensure your content already exists. According to Dr. Hickey in “Where Badges Work Better,” “The nine ‘responsive’ projects that started with content and then built badges and technology were generally most successful.” It is essential to remember that content is king. Badge art is important, but it should never be the focus of a badging initiative. At his DevLearn 2015 conference presentation, Dr. Hickey cautioned about one badge initiative that failed because the developers focused more on the badge design than the actual content. Good artwork cannot save poor content; but good content can survive poor artwork.

So what does a developer need to know about badge artwork? What criteria do developers use to judge artwork’s effectiveness to communicate? In the article, “10 Lessons Learned from an Award-Winning Digital Badging Program,” author Sondra R. Smith, Director of Special Projects at Educause, writes, “Digital badges should at the minimum convey a descriptive title and/or artwork that communicates the achievement, and that identifies the issuing agency.” This is good advice, and I will expand on this below. Even if you can’t draw a straight line, you can use this information to critique and direct your design.

Designing an effective badge

There are four main design elements to consider when creating badge art. There are no rules stating that all four must be used within your design, but maximizing the potential of all four will increase your chances of an effective communication and create a positive first impression.

The first design element is image. According to the cognitive theory of image superiority, our eyes focus on images first. As Smith mentions above, artwork should communicate the achievement earned in the badge. When choosing an image, you should consider the symbolism associated with your subject matter. If your training deals with microbiology, try to find a related image, such as a microscope. Try to avoid overly stereotypical images; remember, you want your badge to be noticed. You can select from a diverse range of art styles, ranging from the minimalist iconic style of The Noun Project clipart to more complex artwork using color and gradients.

When multiple badges are being designed, you’ll want to keep the artwork visually consistent, or have each badge look like part of the group. In some badge ecosystems, earners can progress vertically to a higher level. You need to consider how your artwork will reflect this progressive achievement.

NestorCarl.art

The second design element is text. It’s important that the viewer understands what the badge represents and, if possible, who issued the badge. The cognitive theory of dual encoding states that comprehension is strongest when the message is communicated using both text and images. You should strategically choose your amount of text to display. Space is limited. You should also choose a font that is readable, especially in small sizes.

NestorCarl.text1

The third design element is the badge’s background shape. This is the framing device that holds your image and text. Whether you choose a circle, square, octagon, or other shape, you should always think about getting the best use out of your overall 600 x 600 pixel digital real estate.

NestorCarl.shapes

The fourth, and final, design element is color. Color attracts the eye and enlivens your design. Color also sets your communicative tone. For example, bright colors project a more youthful approach, while more somber colors like black and grays project a sophisticated, formal tone. Some organizations have specific branding style guides, and you should ensure that your color choices follow these guidelines. Avoid colors that clash. If you’re not good at picking colors, ask an art person to help. There are online tools, such as Adobe Kuler, to help you build your color palette.

You’ll notice in the example below how color was used not only to create a sophisticated look, but it also was used to distinguish levels within the hierarchy.

NestorCarl.color

In this brief article, my goal has been to share four common design elements necessary to creating an badge that clearly communicates what the earner has achieved and who issued the badge. Whether you design the badge, or hire someone else, you as the developer can still direct the effort and make informed design decisions. Projecting a positive first impression that reflects the quality of your learning material is important.

If you have a design question about creating dynamic badge artwork, email me.

 

When you bring youth to the Arctic and Antarctic for educational expeditions, there are bound to be a few stories to tell. There is the story of legendary explorer, Dr. Fred Roots, at 90 years old sliding down an Antarctic ice sheet whooping it up with a group of teenagers. Another story is about students performing a flash mob to “Ice Ice Baby” in downtown Iqaluit, Nunavut, before being escorted by the Coast Guard through an ice-choked harbor. This summer, 16 zodiac boats carrying 200 participants huddled together in Jakobshavn Icefjord, Greenland while having a sing-along with Sarah Harmer to the sound of a thousand swaying icebergs.

There are countless other stories like those that capture the connections our students make with the natural world, the educators who lead their path of discovery, and with one another.

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Since Students on Ice began in 2000, we have shared these stories with people back home by sending blog posts, photos, and videos to our home base via satellite. This practice has been a core part of our culture of storytelling for 15 years. Along the way, we have learned about how to tell good stories and how to use those stories to share the Students on Ice experience with the world and further our mandate.

Technology Can’t Tell a Good Story for You, but It Can Help

There have been a lot of changes to our technology use since 2000. Our shipboard hardware has improved. Whereas previously we sent grainy video clips of penguins sized less than 100 kilobytes, today each two-week expedition sends home an update video every second day to share highlights with those at home.

Online, our website has been overhauled to become more visually appealing to draw people in to the unique expedition micro-sites that highlight blog posts, photos, and videos from each trip to the Polar Regions. Social media supports the in-depth stories and relationships that emerge from our adventures in the Arctic and Antarctica.

The expedition media team has gone from a few education staff members with cameras to dedicated photography personnel—a team of media professionals including photographers and videographers led by a production coordinator. Our partnerships with the likes of Parks Canada and The Weather Network have put GoPro cameras in the hands (and on the heads) of students to share their POV. Our move into shooting with 4k video is also promising for the evolution of our visual storytelling. The inclusion of an aerial drone this summer created opportunities to glimpse ice caps and Greenlandic towns from a whole new perspective.

Create Meaningful Experiences and the Stories Write Themselves

The thrust of Students on Ice storytelling has always been sharing experiences directly from the youth and staff participants on-board the ship. Capturing the excitement in this “user-generated content” is key to conveying the message at the heart of Students on Ice. We want to promote our key messages to inspire change and action.

We have limited capacity to share this transformational experience with a small number of people each year. It is our hope that, using our unique media strategy, we will have each expeditioner become a storyteller and share their messages about climate change, social action, Arctic peoples, and connecting youth with nature.

In order to have the stories told by students play an effective role promoting our message, we must create meaningful experiences for the students. Sometimes the opportunities come naturally, such as a Minke whale playing peekaboo with the expedition ship for days in the Drake Passage along the Antarctic Peninsula. At other times, the education program serves to inspire youth. Educators are key to making meaningful moments happen when they galvanize youth into social action or new, never-before-considered career choices.

Whenever something catalyzes a participant on our expeditions, they are excited to share their thoughts and their stories. We are better able to package stories beautiful, convey them to broader audiences, or engage on deeper levels thanks to new technologies; but at its core, our storytelling depends on our participants having a transformational experience that they are excited to talk about and share with the world.

Make the “Raw” Voice the Core of Your Branding 

This summer’s Arctic expedition saw more than 110 students and 80 staff connect with one another at the top of the world. That means there were countless points of connection and inspiration leading to stories that each of these individuals wants to share. The result is many diverse storytelling voices that are representing and creating the Students on Ice and storytelling voice.

Rather than try to control the stories and filter them to fit our media and communications strategy, it makes sense for us to incorporate these voices into our organization’s story. Bringing together all of the different moments and experiences seen through lenses made diverse by geography, culture, and personality helps to shape our own identity and keep us in touch with our audience.

The stories shared on our expedition micro-sites through student and staff blogs are honest, sometimes awkward, usually funny, and always heartening.

Make Storytelling Work for You 

Students on Ice is a platform for sharing messages of change and action in the Polar Regions. We use our storytelling strategy to share powerful messages with a broad, global audience and reach our mandate.

From our experiences with digital storytelling, we have done our best to work with new technologies and use them to our advantage to tell interesting stories. But technology alone will not tell your story, no matter how many apps or what multimedia equipment you use.

Creating meaningful experiences—for your client base and you—means that people will be excited to talk about the organization and the transformational experience they had. From there, the stories can write themselves, driven by enthusiasm and given form and structure by technologies.

Adding filters to your stories can help them stay in line with your branding, but there is value in embracing the unexpected and making raw voices part of your organizational identity. This presents an honest portrait to people who want to get involved with your programs. People connect more deeply, even digitally, when they hear a story that comes from directly one heart to another.

This article was originally posted on Stone Soup Creative’s blog on July 11, 2014. It is republished here with permission from the author.

Creating an annual report is never an easy endeavor. Here are three tips to make the process a little easier, a little faster, and a little more budget-friendly.

1. Make it Shorter
Direct mail isn’t dead yet. For many groups, printing and mailing an annual report is still relevant. It makes donors feel good to see their names in ink.

However, whether the publication needs to be 20 pages long is debatable, as the costs can be prohibitive. Since a shorter report is cheaper and faster to produce, consider instead a small publication presenting a summary of your organization’s work – which may be as simple as a postcard, poster, or booklet. Use a link to direct constituents to more detailed resources — a page on your website that lists donors, grants, and gifts.

Alternatively, keep the long report but print fewer of them (digital printing is highly cost-effective when the print run is less than 500 copies) and make a companion shortie piece to go with it. Print the short version on less expensive paper, and size the piece so that it will fit easily in a standard No. 10 business envelope (which is less expensive to mail). Insert it into a piece you already produce, such as a newsletter or event program. Or put it on a webpage.

Not only will you save money and time, this option will drive friends and fans to your website. Plus, it will be easier to instantly update those lists whenever necessary.

2. Don’t Mail it (or Mail Fewer Copies)
The postage for most annual reports makes it prohibitively expensive to mail to large groups of donors.

The answer? Mail fewer copies! Try this:

  • Send a target mailing to constituents who are (perhaps) older and more responsive to paper mail
  • Make the annual report available online
  • Send an email blast that announces the report and links to the online version. Let readers know you’re happy to send a hard copy to anyone who requests one

While our primary report is web-based – basically a micro website that will give viewers options to select content based on their interests – and distributed by an email blast, we still print small quantities of the annual for use at meetings, to have in our lobby, and for other specific uses. A few years ago, we would print some 20k; now we print only about 3k.

– Tom Austin, Director, Public Relations Operations, NeighborWorks America, Washington DC

3. Don’t Print it
Many organizations find it unnecessary to print and mail an annual report. Instead, the report can live on your organization’s website as:

Can you see your group joining the growing ranks of the print-less? It depends on two important factors:

How do your audiences prefer to receive and respond to communications from your organization? If they rely on e-mail, visit your website, live on Facebook, and tweet constantly…then by all means consider an innovative way to inform and engage them online.

On the other hand, if they expect a linear, direct-to-mailbox, hold-in-hand, place-it-in-the-bathroom-for-later-leisurely-perusing, traditional print publication — this is probably not the best solution.

What staff resources are available to produce content? Do you have a board member with a specialty expertise – like videography? Or do they have contacts that do?

However you do it, an annual report is one of your nonprofit’s best promotional and development tools.

Resources

The Right Annual Report for Your Audience – Part One
The Right Annual Report for Your Audience – Part Two
Appealing for Gifts with Your Annual Report: Is it a good idea?
Rethinking the Annual Report

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On August 2-3, I attended the 5th biennial Money for Our Movements (MFOM) social justice fundraising conference in Baltimore, Maryland, convened by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.

I felt really humbled to be amongst a highly diverse group of both budding and seasoned grassroots activists. The last time I was in Baltimore was in 2007, with Amnesty International at their regional conference, attending as a bright-eyed student organizer trying to learn how to more effectively spread the good word of social justice and human rights (the story of how I got involved in nonprofit marketing!).

At #MFOM14, I participated as a speaker, leading one workshop, Email Marketing to Support Year-Round Online Fundraising, and as a panelist for the session, Visual Communication: Create pictures, videos, and presentations quickly, easily, and affordably.

Key takeaways from the Email Marketing workshop that took place on Day 1:

  • Fundraising is dependent on relationship building: Nonprofits should work year-round to cultivate and maintain relationships with donors, so that “the ask” is not a cold call at the end of the year. Channels such as social media can really help with this.
  • Think about goals and audience: Before youcreate content, first think about the ultimate goal and the target audience. Let that inform your decisions on what channel(s) to use to reach your audience. For example, if you’re trying to reach new donors, consider participating in #GivingTuesday (in addition to running your year-end campaign) to help increase visibility by connecting to this broader movement. Download this free recording from Blackbaud’s webinar about setting your goals for #GivingTuesday.
  • Set your own benchmarks: Guidelines, benchmark reports, and best practices are helpful to know, but ultimately it’s important to know your audience. To learn this, test as much as you can in order to get to know your audience well and understand what resonates with them. For example, consider creating a strategy for segmenting your emails and testing, this is a great resource from Kivi Leroux Miller.
  • Everyone is a fundraiser: People donate to entire organizations, not just to one department (or silo). Make sure you’re set up for integrated fundraising success by regularly checking in with staff/departments to ensure that you’re accurately representing their work. Learn more about the three common barriers that nonprofits often face on Nancy Schwartz’s blog.

To learn more about how you can use email marketing to support year-round online fundraising, I’ve uploaded my slides to Slideshare.

While my workshop on Day 1 focused a lot on internal processes and best practices, the next question that we anticipated from attendees was, “What tools can I use to help create this compelling content?”

mfom14_visualcommspanel.jpgOn day 2, I was part of the Visual Communications panel with four panelists (some you might recognize from the NTEN Community!): Tomás Aguilar, Progressive Technology Project; Yee Won Chong, Fundraising Consultant; Nadia Khastagir, Design Action Collective; and Chris Tuttle, Tuttle Communications. (See photo on the left)

Together, we joined forces and presented on the top tips and tools for creating visual media with a limited budget, and explained why it’s so important. We drew information from Resource Media’s Seeing is Believing report, and explained how the language of pictures is universal – picture processing is an ability that we’re all born with, as opposed to reading literacy. This is especially relevant if you’re working with audiences around the world that communicate in multiple languages, or are illiterate.

Check out our presentation slides, as it’ll give you a lot of new ideas that can help support your year-end fundraising, as well as day-to-day content creation for social media, marketing, and beyond. Specifically, here are the key tools that are free/low-cost and easy to use:

We also asked the audience what tools they would recommend through Poll Everywhere. Here’s what they said.

Special thanks to the mighty team at the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training! To learn more about the 2014 MFOM Conference visit the conference website, and check out the conference hashtag on Twitter: #MFOM14.

I’d love to continue the dialogue about these two topics! Please post a comment below to share your thoughts and ideas about email marketing or visual communications, such as:

  • What are some email marketing tips that work for you and your organization?
  • What free or low-cost tools do you rely on for creating visual media?

Understanding what you need to do with video on mobile devices starts with a basic understanding of the principles of mobile marketing. Because mobiles have a small screen and often more limited download speed and bandwidth restrictions, you are well advised to deliver a more focused and simplified experience in your mobile content.

Some things to consider when integrating mobile into your video and content strategy:

1. What it’s Like to Watch Video on a Smart Phone

The good news for nonprofit leaders is that technology companies have done most of the work in making video work for smart phones. Playing a video from YouTube, Facebook, or many other websites on a mobile device is often seamless. Pressing “play” triggers the built-in video app which then fills the screen and plays the video.

If you embed videos on your website from YouTube or Vimeo, or even private label services such as Brightcove and Kaltura, your technical needs are, for the most part, solved for you.

But having something “play” for you does not necessarily mean it will do what you need it to do. While there are people who watch TV shows and football games on their iPhones, most of the video-watching on smart phones from nonprofit organizations will be bite sized. Your 7-minute dinner video is not a great candidate for smart phone consumption.

In addition, if you have a substantial amount of video content being consumed on a smart phone (which you should be able to tell from your website analytics) you should consider the following:

  • Screen Size – the screen size of the phone is smaller than a computer and much smaller than a TV. Video ideal for a phone will often use more medium and close shots so the details are visible on the small screen.
  • Sound – smart phone users are often listing to the video in a public place and often without a headset. Having a video that works even if you don’t catch every single word is more likely to impact the smart phone viewer (and is a good idea in general because we live in a world of constant distraction.)

2. Don’t Forget Everyone Else

While smart phone adoption is increasing rapidly, there are plenty of people – your constituents included – that do not yet have smart phones or data packages. Many teens and low-income families, for example, cannot afford the smart phone plan, no matter how much they really want one.

The guaranteed way to reach people on their phone is through text messaging. But what does that have to do with video?

When several New York-area Planned Parenthood Federations wanted to reach youth at risk they knew that both video and texting were key to that audience. We worked with them to develop a program that used short online video stories to encourage text-based opt-in from the youth.

The videos ended a short story before the dénouement and in order to find out what happened, you had to text in.

Youth Video + Texting Campaign - Planned Parenthood of New York

Youth Video + Texting Campaign – Planned Parenthood of New York

In this case, engaging video was key to the execution of a mobile strategy.

3. A Pathway for User-Generated Content

When we discuss video and mobile we are often focused only on consumption. But we can’t forget that the iPhone in your pocket is also a top-notch video camera – far better in many ways than the camcorders of yore.

One look at the aftermarket for camera add-ons for smart phones shows how serious these little devices are today. Tripods and steadycams, external mics, professional lenses, you can pretty much get anything you need to turn your pocket camera into a professional tool. And there are an increasing number of apps for video editing that make the phone a complete video system.

Even for the casual user, these phones turn consumers of content into producers of content. This mixing of roles is a central quality of the internet era and tapping into the creative talents and inspiration of your constituents is part of being a successful “networked nonprofit” that Beth Kanter and others write about.

Imagine knowing that many of your most active and motivated donors and advocates are walking around with a high quality video camera – all the time! How are you tapping into this potential to tell the stories of your constituent heroes?

4. The Growth of Mobile Video Services

Smart phones allow users to take video and easily share the video through the services connected to their phone. For example, after taking a video on an Android phone, the share button allows for a one-touch upload to Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Picasa, text messages, email, Twitter, Flickr – any service to which the user is connected.

There are an increasing number of smartphone apps that make taking and sharing video even easier. For example, consider Vine, a service that allows for a maximum of 6-second videos to be uploaded. These (very!) short videos loop and allow for Twitter users to capture and tweet snippets of their lives.

Tout is a video service that allows for the recording and sharing of 15-second videos. It is trying to be a “Twitter for Video” and media companies and brands are using the service to get their constituents to go that extra level of engagement.

My company, See3, is also launching a service for the nonprofit community called Propeller. Like these other services, Propeller will allow for users to upload short videos, in this case a lengthy 21 seconds.

5. Beware the Shiny Objects

There is, rightfully, a focus on mobile communications as more and more people use their phones to access everything from email to video. At the same time, we do not help our causes if we focus more on the technology than the relationships to our constituents.

We live in an attention economy, where time and attention is in the shortest supply. We need to focus not only on the solicitation of funds and actions from our constituents, but in building deeper and longer lasting relationships. Mobile video is a perfect platform to steward a relationship with a constituent over time, to deliver bit-sized and snack-sized video content that lets your donors and activists know that their efforts are paying off.

At the same time, we can use these devices as a tool to activate our constituents to work on behalf of the cause. By creating personal videos about their connection and passion for the work, they will feel more invested in the outcomes and become a recruiting center for their own social networks.

Welcome back for the second part of my series on interactive data visualization (dataviz) tools. In part one, we covered three cool tools for visualizing charts and graphs and many other data types on a webpage. In part two, we take a look at three more tools that are a bit more complex but have some incredible data visualization capabilities.

  1. jQuery Visualize (Part 1)
  2. Google Charts (Part 1)
  3. Highcharts (Part 1)
  4. Simile Exhibit
  5. JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit
  6. D3.js

4. Simile Exhibit

dataviz-exhibit.png

Exhibit is a very robust and customizable offering. One of its main strengths is a unique approach to rendering the data. In addition to easy-to-use filtering, sorting and search tools, it allows you to use an HTML template (called a “lens” in Exhibit) to be constructed to get everything on the page looking exactly how you want it. It’s almost like a mini-CMS for dataviz where you can access your data through attribute values directly in the lens. For projects that require a high degree of sensitivity to look and feel, this extreme level of flexibility for building data visualizations is fantastic.

  • Visualization Types Supported: Line Graphs, Maps, Scatter Plots, Multi-Filterable Lists, Timelines, Timeplots and more…with widgets!
  • Data Input Sources: JSON, Spreadsheet
  • Data Output: HTML
  • Styling Options: CSS
  • Type: Javascript library

PROS
Flexible & Powerful Approach to Design
I really like the approach of Exhibit, where data is presented through a “lens” – an HTML template shell that elements are placed into. This makes the system completely customizable and CSS styleable, which means designers love it, and creating consistency for clients’ brands is a snap.

Strong Filtering/Sorting/Search
Letting users filter your data by any number of criteria is incredibly useful, and turns your information from static content into a real interactive feature. Filtering is built right into Exhibit and it’s easy to implement. Server-side filtering can be a chore (not to mention expensive), so Exhibit really stands out in making user filtering incredibly quick and easy. The same goes for sorting and search. Exhibit makes it very easy to give your site users control over getting exactly the view of your data they want, and therefore a more valuable understanding of why it’s important.

Strong Documentation
Jumping into complex dataviz tools can be an undertaking and requires some trial and error. Exhibit really speeds the process with great documentation on their website and some excellent beginner tutorials.

Widgets!
Want top push Exhibit even further? You can add functionality with widgets. There are widgets available for bibliography and citations collections, a CoverFlow style image viewer, timelines, and timeplots—just to name a few. This kind of product extension makes Exhibit one of the most robust and flexible options out there for data visualization.

CONS
Steep Learning Curve
Like the other more complex libraries, there is more coding involved with Exhibit than most options, and having previous Javascript experience is definitely very helpful. I did, however, find the tutorials to be really well done and fun to do, so once you get started, it’s really easy to get on a roll.

5. Javascript InfoVis Toolkit

dataviz-infovis.png

Javascript InfoVis Toolkit is a nice suite of tools for creating charts and graphs on a webpage. It features a nice list of supported chart types and introduces some animation features into the mix (e.g. the bars of a bar chart can expand to their size when the chart is loaded – this kind of thing). The animations are nice and can definitely add an extra level of polish to your site. There are also some cool interactive features, like applying a “Filter” to a graph by clicking on it. The graph then just shows the one series you clicked on until you remove the filter. Check out the demos to see more of what this toolkit is capable of.

  • Visualization Types Supported: Area Chart, Bar Chart, Pie Chart, Tree Map, Force Directed, Radial Graph, Sunburst, Icicle, Space Tree, Hyper Tree
  • Data Input: JSON
  • Output: Canvas
  • Styling: Javascript parameters
  • Type: Javascript Library

PROS
Unique Chart Types
I really like the various non-standard visualization types available in the InfoVis Toolkit. This tool might be overkill for the occasional pie chart but could really shine when you have to approach display options for more complicated data.

Animations / Interactions
The animations are a great addition to these charts and graphs. They lend a nice Flash-like quality to these charts that is really nice. And the ability to interact with these graphs – dragging stuff around and manipulating the graph (like this one) is very cool and could be really useful.

CONS
Learning Curve
With all of these great features comes complexity and, although the documentation on the website appears to be good, this tool requires some good Javascript experience to get the most out of it.

6. D3.js

dataviz-d3.png

Wow, D3.js is cool! I just got lost for a few hours poking around the D3 website and the possibilities seem endless. This tool definitely requires a pretty high level of expertise with Javascript and JSON but it generates some gorgeous, sophisticated charts. Check out the examples.

D3 isn’t really like the others. It is not a “ready-to-go” charting tool but rather a framework for drawing data-based elements. The D3 website says it best: “Rather than provide a monolithic system with all the features anyone may ever need, D3 solves only the crux of the problem: efficient manipulation of documents based on data.”

And, since you can create SVG graphics, you could use this output anywhere, including print applications. D3 could be the center of a slick web/print publishing workflow for a graph heavy project.

  • Visualization Types Supported: All? The sky’s the limit.
  • Data Input: JSON, GeoJSON, CSV
  • Output: HTML, SVG
  • Styling: CSS, Javascript
  • Type: Javascript library

PROS
Unlimited Flexibility
You can pretty much use D3.js to draw anything you want based on data. This is an amazing tool for people how create new data visualizations and visualizations built on really large datasets.

Output
Very cool that you can tell D3 to create HTML items as well as SVG. Definitely opens to the door to styling with CSS, which is ideal.

CONS
Learning Curve
You’ve got to be an accomplished Javascript, JSON, and math person to get D3 to jump through hoops. And some of the examples boggle the mind but go ahead and run through the tutorial. It isn’t that bad and, if you are familiar at all with jQuery or Prototype, a lot of this will look familiar. And a lot will not…

Conclusion

These six products are just the tip of the iceberg for dataviz. There are dozens of other great products out there. But these should give you a good idea of what is happening and a sense of the range of capabilities and complexity of the interactive dataviz world.

It is so exciting to see so many open-source data visualization projects and the list is growing every day. As browsers continue to support more and more robust visual features and computers and mobile devices continue to get more powerful, I’m sure we can expect the world of data visualization to get even more sophisticated and expansive.

This article was originally published at http://www.ms-ds.com/our-thinking/insights/6-great-interactive-data-visualization-tools-part-2 and is reprinted with permission.

Here are tips 5, 6 and 7 in our series of posts on effective nonprofit websites. I hope you have enjoyed the other posts. Check out Part One and Part Two if you missed them!

Let’s get right into the next three best practices for effective nonprofit websites.

5) Ensure Ease in Navigation

“User-centric web design has become a standard approach for successful and web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist.” – Vitaly Friedman, “10 Principles of Effective Web Design”, www.smashingmagazine.com

  • Provide multiple interaction paths – not everyone accesses information the same way, make sure key content is accessible multiple ways – navigation, search, calls to action, etc.
  • Test yourself: Access your own site different ways, see how easy it is to find key content and adjust accordingly.
  • Does it take two-click or less for key tasks? (hint: effective nonprofit websites follow the two-or-less rule) If not, revise your structure. You can’t have 2 clicks to everything, but you can prioritize and make sure key tasks and content are the easiest to get to.

6) Include Clear, Bold Calls to Action

“Assuming that you’ve written a brilliantly persuasive page, it’s still next to worthless without a strong call to action…” – Brad Shorr “Five Copywriting Errors That Can Ruin a Company’s Website”

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  • Remove all obstacles to action – if someone clicks “donate now”, they should not be taken to another landing page with all of the ways they can give. Effective nonprofit websites take people directly to the donation form where they can give that gift!
  • Provide a tangible to an intangible (eg. Please give $10 today Please give 10 meals to your community today)
  • Calls to action should be clear and compelling
  • Never say “click here”
  • Say “become a habitat volunteer today”

7) Showcase Your Stewardship

img2.jpg60% of donors visit a nonprofit’s website before making a gift. They want to know what impact they’ll actually make. Great web design shows them!

  • Show the impact of the support visually through stats or infographics (see my last post for more on infographics, my new obsession)
  • Be transparent – share your annual report and show how much of the support goes to the cause.
  • Say “Thank you” – seems simple, but it’s often forgotten. Your website is a great place to say it publically.

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This article was originally published at http://www.netwitsthinktank.com/web-design-and-branding/effective-nonprofit-website.htm and is reprinted with permission.