Laura Quinn's blog

Content Management Ease of What? For Who?

Here at Idealware world headquarters, we're in the thick of researching a report comparing open source content management systems - WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and Plone. We started with a bunch of interviews, and one of the themes that emerged was crystal clear: ease of use was critical to almost everyone evaluating systems.

But trying to pin down what exactly "ease of use" means is a lot harder.

There's a lot of different users and functions of a CMS, and the ease of use appears to - from our initial research - differ for different functions, even in the same system. So for instance, it's looking like the CMS that's the hardest to install is actually one of the easiest to setup a simple site with (once it's installed). One of the ones that's easiest to learn how to implement is one of the most difficult to add a new menu item. Etcetera.

So there's a lot of different types of ease of use to look at and try to boil down to compare the systems. Here's what I'm currently thinking - though this will no doubt evolve as we work on the report... I'd love your thoughts.

For Non-technical Folks Updating the Site

  • Ease of Core Content Admin: Can someone non-technical easily edit the text on a page? Add a page? Add an image, doc, video?
  • Ease of Site Extension: Once a site is up and running, how easy is it for content admins to, say, add a new menu item? Or add in a new event calendar?
For More Technical Site Admins
  • Ease of Installation: If you're starting with just a server, how hard is it for someone experienced with the system to install the CMS?
  • Ease of Theming: How easy is it to implement a custom graphic design, for someone familiar with the system?
  • Ease of Setting Up a Simple Site: How easy is it to configure the structure and pages for a simple site - just a handful of pages and perhaps an event calendar?
  • Ease of Setting Up a Complicated Site: It's never going to be trivial to configure a complex site, but does the system support the advanced configurer in doing complicated things? Or does it require lots of crazy workarounds?
  • Ease of Customization: If you want to create your own customized modules, apps, etc, how easy is that? Does the system give you solid hooks, or make you jump through hoops?
  • Ease of Upgrades: How easy is it to tell if an upgrade is something you want, and then get it installed?
  • Learning Curve: And for all this more technical stuff - how hard is it to learn? What's the difference between the time it's likely to take the first time, and then after?
Okay, so that's a lot. No idea how we're going to analyze all that data down into something comprehensible, but, well, the journey begins with the first step.

What do you think? Is this a solid list, or did I get it wrong?

Resource Roundup 1/20

Using video in online appeals (Mal Warwick's Newsletter)
Michael Stein offers some useful tips for integrating videos into your fundraising appeals.

Adults and Social Networking Sites (Pew Internet)
Woohoo! Solid, reliable data on who's using social networking sites (a lot of people!), and a bit about what they're doing there.

What Does “Viral” Mean? (e.politics)
A nice look at what "viral" means - and doesn't mean - in the context of say, a viral video

The Three Dimensions of Social Media ROI (NTEN)
Nice, common sense look at how to go about thinking about ROI for social media (or really, any outreach effort)

14 free tools that reveal why people abandon your website (Conversion Rate Experts)
Great roundup of tools and utilities that can help understand what folks are doing on your website

Integration of CRM and CMS (Zen of Nonprofit Tech)
Over on her own blog, friend of Idealware Michelle Murrain talks about the desirability of and some of the possible methods to integrate a website Content Management System with a Constituent Relationship System.

A Look at Social Media Activity

We have a Business Week diagram in our Considering Social Media for Your Organization seminar that everyone keeps asking me for - so here it is. The data shouldn't be considered gospel (I'm pretty sure it's the same Forrester data everyone uses for this, so it's from 2006, and only describes "online consumers", whatever that might mean) but it provides a really useful talking aid for thinking about what folks are doing with social media across age ranges.

The difference between younger and older folks is just amazing, for instance. As per this data, 60-70% of folks over 50 weren't doing anything with social media, including reading it. But 70% of folks 18-21 years old - an incredibly high number to be doing anything -were using social networking sites. 30% of folks 22-26 years old were *creating* content online, as opposed to less than 7% of folks over 50.

View in an actually legible format, on the Business Week site.

Do You Implement CMSs? Get Listed in Our Directory!

Do you implement content management systems for nonprofits, or help advise them on what CMS to use? Make sure you're listed in the Service Providers Directory in our upcoming report WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and Plone: Comparing Open Source CMSs for Nonprofits

This report will build on the strong traffic and reputation Idealware already has in open source content management system area. Our article comparing Joomla!, Drupal, and Plone gets more than 2000 unique page views per month, and is in the top four Google search results for any combination of the three platform names! The team, led by Michelle Murrain, will rigorously research the features that are important to nonprofits in Content Management Systems, do a feature by feature comparison of the systems, and then summarize the findings into an easy-to-understand report.

So what is the CMS Service Provider Directory, and how will it help you? All companies, organizations or individuals that advise on or implement Content Management Systems for nonprofit organizations will be listed by region and technology focus in the report. Want to reach tens of thousands of nonprofit staff members who are researching potential content management systems? Basic listings start at just $45. Or want to make more of a splash? Purchase a half-page advertisement!

There's more about the report, directory, pricing, and other advertising opportunities on the website. Katie Guernsey's leading the charge on this for us - you can reach her at if you have questions.

And please, pass on the word. I really think this is going to be a great way for nonprofits to find consultants, and vice versa... but only if we can spread the word pretty widely, especially to the smaller firms and independent consultants who are often hard to reach.

Buying Email Addresses for Your Direct Mail Recipients

I've heard of the idea of email appending - the idea of sending your direct mail list off to a vendor in order to buy email addresses for them. It's intriguing, but as it doesn't seem like many people know about it, I wondered how useful and widespread a practice it is. So I did what I often do when I'm wondering about something in this vein: I sent my question to the smart and friendly folks on the Progressive Exchange discussion list.

And I got a lot of terrific answers! Email appending is certainly something that nonprofits are doing, and finding generally worth doing and a good bang for the buck. Here's a summary of what learned.

Folks mentioned that it can be a useful technique particularly to get a big chunk of names at once, although it's not a perfect technique - matches are not always correct, for instance (i.e. an email address may be for a different person), and depending on precisely what the vendor's doing, it may not really be an opt-in process for the matched people (several recommended starting with an email that allows them to opt-in, or at least easily opt out).

Nonprofit staff are generally seeing match rates of 10-15%, or as high as 20% for a list that's never been matched that contains mostly younger donors (just for references, all the match rates sent to me by vendors were considerably higher than those sent by nonprofit staff). Prices vary widely, from maybe $0.12 - $0.60 per matched name, depending on the size of the starting file ($0.12 would be for millions of names) and how precisely a match is defined (some, for instance only count deliverable addresses or those who opt-in for the list, while other count all addresses). Often, there's a minimum of a couple of thousand dollars.

The performance of the matched list obviously depends on the quality of the list you start with. In general people seemed to find performance okay - not amazing, but not bottom of the barrel.

In terms of vendors, FreshAddress was mentioned by a number of people as a good provider of match services. Also mentioned: TowerData, Astro Data Services.

Thanks as always to everyone on the Progressive Exchange list for their wisdom! Particular thanks to Mikaela King at the CDR Fundraising Group who spent a bunch of time with me on the phone explaining the ins and outs.

New article: A Few Good Email Discussion List Tools

Rounding out a fair number of email articles from us recently, here's A Few Good Email Discussion List Tools - taking a look at the software that's available to help you facilitate email conversations among your constituents, partners, or staff. Compared the dozens or hundreds of broadcast email tools, the options are surprisingly limited - but we round up the choices recommended by our contributors.

There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Software Package

If I were to group all the questions I get into categories, one category would be far and away the most numerous. I'll call it the "options for people who can't afford software" category. As in, "Well, those databases for $300 or $20/month sound great, but we can't afford to pay anything - what can we get that's free?"

No question riles me up more. This is a really dangerous mind set. Would you think this way for other types of investments? "That Executive Director candidate seems really great, but who can we get that we don't have to pay?" "That office space seems perfect for us, but $100/month is a lot of money - what can we get for free?" Okay, possibly some nonprofits actually would do this for other things... but it's equally dangerous. Things worth having are worth paying for.

And not paying for them up front almost always means that you're paying in some other way. That free office space is great until it starts raining asbestos on your employees, or you're evicted to make way for a paying tenant. That free software might seem great, but if it doesn't do what you need, or your staff can't use it, or it's full of bugs... then it's useless to you, and it doesn't matter how free it is.

Also, I reject the likelihood that your organization has no money of any sort to devote to software. If you can't raise $300 to purchase a donor database that will help you solicit donations more effectively, you need donors much more than you need a database. I'm not saying that you should spend tens of thousands. I'm saying that you should decide the priority of having effective software and assign a budget to it accordingly. Yes, that might mean you'll have to fund raise for it.

Don't get me wrong. Free stuff is nice. I use some free software myself. But it's a BONUS that it's free. You can't start with that as a requirement and expect to end up in a good place. If a software package will help you save time or money, or earn more money, then it's worth paying for....and if it won't, you shouldn't waste your time with it.

New article: Online Fundraising for Year End Procrastinators

Ack! Forgot to link to this one! In the Nonprofit Times, I talk through a some steps and tools for Online Fundraising for Year-End Procrastinators. At this point, you've probably procrastinated too long for even this process (which is likely to take about two weeks to get up and running), but maybe you can get some good tips for next year.

New article: Selecting Software on a Shoestring

Here's a new article that I'm really proud of: Selecting Software on a Shoestring. I know it's not the sexiest topic, but this is the type of thing that we often overlook as technology consultants and service providers - sometimes you don't need that huge, all consuming process to pick a software package. In fact, sometimes that huge, all-consuming process is really silly, and all your really need just a simple set of question that work.

New article: A Few Good Association Management Systems

It's another new article! This one takes a look at Association Management Systems - the fairly complex systems that can help membership organizations track their members, events, gifts, payments and more. There's a number of different options available at different price levels, and Eric Leland rounds them up, with the help of a number of intrepid contributors.
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