On April 12th I had the great opportunity to represent the Community Comms Collective at TechSoup New Zealand's 2016 conference—Advance: 2020—Connect. Innovate. Change., and speak on the importance of website usability for not-for-profit organisations.
What is TechSoup NZ?
TechSoup NZ helps not-for-profits come to grips with technology through events, education and resources. It also administers the charity donation programmes for many well-known technology companies.
Yes, I was in the right place!
I was interested and relieved to hear Anne Gawen, TechSoup NZ's CEO, report that 'Improve website' was the top priority for not-for-profits in New Zealand and Australia in their latest research on technology trends in the sector.
Government voucher system for service funding highlights the importance of a user-centric approach
Sue Vardon, TechSoup NZ's Chairperson, explained that the move towards a voucher system for government services (eg, disability services) in Australia and New Zealand - where 'clients' receive funding to 'buy' support from the service providers of their choice - will mean that not for profits will have to update their systems to accomodate more regular reporting and take a more user-centric approach to their services to stay viable. She highlighted that senior management needs to understand this and their organisation's websites need to reflect it.
Helping senior management understand the issues
So how do you educate management and boards on the importance of user-friendly websites? I recommend experiential workshops where staff (including management) put themselves in the shoes of their visitors and do a 'live' usability review of their own website. In the question and answer session after my presentation one canny attendee recommended staff promoted this sort of training to their senior managers as 'professional development' to make it more appealing :)
Another key theme of the conference for me was to make use of the 'cloud'. Brenda Smith from Generosity New Zealand described her experience of the organisation's hardware failing just after they'd migrated their data to the cloud. A lucky escape!
Keynote speaker Paul Spain (Gorilla Technology) reassured those who may be worried about security issues that they are being worked out by big technology companies like Google and Facebook who have a lot more to lose from security problems.
I realised that for a small business like my own it's not hard to move to the cloud. I already use Squarespace for my website, Dropbox for files, Gmail for email, Slack for collaboration and Trello for productivity. I don't need to buy and maintain my own physical servers.
That said, for some reason I'm still averse to putting my personal data in the cloud and that's why there are still hundreds of photos and videos on my smart phone that I haven't had time to sort through and transfer to my external hard drive. Sound familiar?