Learning Website Lingo on the Fly

Posted by Joshua Jenkins On June - 5 - 2014
Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Working on a website redesign or refresh can become easily overwhelming, especially if you don’t consider yourself well-versed in the lingo, countless acronyms, and big concepts that get tossed around throughout the process.

Learning a few of these more “techy” concepts, how they function, and why they are important will make navigating through the design and development process a lot easier.

Here’s a rundown of some important concepts to grasp:

Information Architecture

When you are setting out to redesign your website, the concept of information architecture is paramount and one to consider in the early stages. The Information Architecture (IA) structures your website’s content in the way you’d like the user to experience it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Design Process: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted by Elizabeth Van Fleet On June - 5 - 2014
Elizabeth Van Fleet

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Stop. Before you start thinking about the pretty wrapping paper you’re going to use for this awesome new website you’re about to give your audience, make sure you’ve done your research, organization, and started working with staff on content.

Why do you have to do that first?

Because to get good design you have to answer the hard questions; you have to know WHO you’re designing it for and WHAT message you want your design to send to your audience.

As Manager of Publications and Communication at Americans for the Arts, part of my job is to manage the design process for many of our printed and online materials. I work with a variety of vendors on a regular basis, and I was part of the team that decided on the design direction for our new website. Read the rest of this entry »

Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

The time has come. You’ve done your research to find out your audiences, figured out how to create great content to meet their needs, and you’ve convinced your organization’s staff and leadership that it’s time to build a new website.

Now it’s time to involve your staff in the process – since they are the issue experts that should work with you to create or revise your website’s content. At Americans for the Arts, though everyone on staff has an interest in the success of the website, only some of the people on our 70-person staff are what we call “content creators” – the ones who write the content. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Documents You Need for a Successful Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

We’ve already talked about how important it is to do your due diligence when taking on a website redesign – figuring out your audiences, securing buy-in from your leadership, selecting good partners and vendors, the importance of quality content for your website – and we’ll be diving in deeper later in this blog salon about working with staff to create and revise quality content.

As you continue to bring together all these great resources, it will be helpful to compile them in a format that will be useful to your team and your vendors. During our website redesign, we ended up creating a number of documents that helped us fully scrutinize and contemplate all of our options. No stone was left unturned, which helped our stakeholders feel more comfortable with some of the drastic changes we were suggesting. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Pick the Best Partners for Your Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Now that you’ve decided that you need a new website, figured out your audiences, and garnered support from your leadership and staff, you should be ready to select a team of professionals to help you with the website overhaul process. There are very few organizations who can completely handle a web redesign in-house, so it’s important to have great partners who can help you through this project.

At Americans for the Arts, our Marketing, Communications and Technology Department includes a Vice President, a 5-person Marketing and Communications team, a 3-person Web team, and a 5-person Database and internal IT team. Though our entire 70-person staff played part in this project (as we detail later in this blog salon!), our Web team and VP were primary, working with our external vendors and with a good deal of content help from Marketing and Communications. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Buy-In for Your Website Redesign

Posted by Kimberly Hedges On June - 3 - 2014

Kimberly Hedges

Most projects start with the need to address a deficit, and redesigning a website is no exception.

Your current website may not be serving your visitor’s needs, the content might read like a brochure or look dated, the layout of the site may make it hard to find the best content you have to offer, or maybe the design looks like it was built back when we still used DOS. (Well, maybe not that bad, but you know the feeling.) There is just no denying that your website could be doing more.

When addressing a known deficit, you would think that getting buy-in and support for your project to address that deficit would be a breeze. (Everyone agrees on the problem, so everyone should agree on the solution, right?)

However, big deficits come with big needs. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Ways to Improve The Website You Already Have

Posted by Joshua Jenkins On June - 3 - 2014
Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Who doesn’t love a good list?

I’m Joshua Jenkins, Americans for the Arts’ Website Coordinator, here to drop some hints and tips on website improvement. I started at Americans for the Arts in the summer of 2013, and played a large role in the final push toward the website launch in December.

In a perfect world, you’d snap your fingers and a shiny, new website would appear live on the internet. However, as you’ve read already and will continue to read during this blog salon, there are a lot of important resources you need on-hand when redesigning your website.

Sometimes, a complete website redesign may not be in your organization’s budget, or you may have recently redesigned your website and can’t commit to a full design update just yet. Good news: these circumstances don’t have to stifle your ability to improve your users’ experiences while visiting your organization’s website.

Take a look at these simple, effective best practices that you can implement to offer your users the best experience – whether you’re fixing the site you have, or just starting the redesign process. Read the rest of this entry »

Content is King

Posted by Caitlin Holland On June - 3 - 2014
Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

As Bill Gates famously said in 1996 at the dawn of the internet revolution, “content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Almost two decades later, his predication rings true. Winning websites have quality content that is compelling enough to grab and hold readers’ attention.

As the Communications & Content Manager for Americans for the Arts, my role is to do just that – I identify, create, and distribute valuable messaging and stories from each of our programs to attract, acquire, and engage Americans for the Arts’ constituents.

Content improvement is a constant job – as soon as you make it through one section of the website, it’s time to tackle the next. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for creating quality website content – or the sometimes-more-difficult process of working with others to create quality web content – but here are some tips and general rules that worked well for our staff. Read the rest of this entry »

The First 3 Steps to Your New Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 2 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

So, you’ve figured out that you need a new website, eh?

Whether you came to that conclusion on your own, or with the help of our quiz, you’ve now realized that it’s time to give your website a little TLC.

But, where do you start? Do you call a vendor immediately? Do you start on a new design? Do you just delete everything you dislike as fast as you can, in the hopes that no one notices?

And what if you have yet to find the all-important funding in your budget for the aforementioned TLC?

Well, I have good news: the first few things you should do when you’re ready to overhaul your website are absolutely free. They take some time, but they’re important and they’re free

1. Take a look at your stats.

Hopefully you already have Google Analytics set up on your website. (If you don’t, get on that ASAP! There are great tutorials online, and once you install the tracking code, you can view reports within 24 hours.) Read the rest of this entry »

How to Build a Winning Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 2 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Welcome to the “How to Build a Winning Website” blog salon – the first blog salon written entirely by Americans for the Arts staff!

I’m Danielle Williams, the Website & New Media Manager at Americans for the Arts.

You may not know this, but Americans for the Arts has quite a few websites. Aside from our “main website” (AmericansfortheArts.org), we also manage:

This week we’re talking about AmericansForTheArts.org – which re-launched “in beta” this past December. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon On April - 24 - 2014
Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Maura Koehler-Hanlon

The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Lindsay So

Lindsay So

There were times when I would mention that I was starting a new job with the City of Philadelphia and the most frequent response was a remark about the “Good Government Job”—somewhere I could stay for a long time with the implication that I could never be fired. Sure, this comment might have been a joke but even so, I hadn’t really thought of it that way. Sure, having health benefits for the first time would be a major plus for me, an arts manager early in my career, but what motivated me most was the opportunity to learn about and directly impact the arts and culture community of a major city. Citywide programs, grant making, creative development opportunities, policy changes—I pictured myself having a hand in making Philadelphia a city where artists could thrive and residents could enjoy a diverse range of arts and culture experiences. I now believe this difference in perspective is generational: my peers in City Hall share my ambition and passion to affect change and make an impact with our work. Read the rest of this entry »

Take the Lead: Musing of a Professional Development Junkie

Posted by Whitney Roux On April - 16 - 2014
Whitney Roux

Whitney Roux

Professional development takes many forms, from hands-on workshops to panel discussions. Important opportunities for leadership and building relationships with mentors provide a robust calendar of growth options. An Emerging Leader’s plan for success needs to explore how to best combine education tracks to improve at their current job while simultaneously growing into their dream career.

As a Steering Committee member of the Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego (RALSD), I work with my committee to develop programs that fit the needs of emerging leaders in arts and culture. We build workshops, facility tours, and discussions around issues that affect our arts community, meanwhile crossing departmental bridges with networking events and social gatherings. But personally, I have found that the best professional development happens when you get your hands dirty. Read the rest of this entry »

Whole Educators: A New Model for Teacher Professional Development

Posted by Molly Uline-Olmstead On April - 16 - 2014
Molly Uline-Olmstread

Molly Uline-Olmstread

Museums go with schools like peanut butter goes with jelly. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship built on a variety of interactions including field trips, distance learning, traveling artifact programs, and teacher professional development. While I have worked with all of these programs in the past, I have been living in the teacher professional development neighborhood of the museum world since 2009. I work with K-16 teachers and other museum educators on projects meant to support and enhance teaching in the humanities through my job with the Creative Learning Factory at the Ohio Historical Society (the Factory).

Lately in conversations with teachers and museum colleagues, we have been talking less about content and more about learning. We have been asking the question, “How do we make learning an inextricable part of life?” Educators in formal and informal learning environments are bombarded with resources, regulations, and tremendous responsibilities. We struggle to find balance and time for exploration and reflection amid testing, lesson planning, and classroom management. Peter D. John articulates this frustration well in his 2006 article about non-traditional lesson planning, “The model of planning and teaching represented in this minimalist conception develops as follows: aim > input > task > feedback > evaluation. It reflects an approach to teaching and learning wherein reflection and exploration are at worst luxuries, not to be afforded, and at best minor spin-offs, to be accommodated.”  As cultural organizations, we are in that unique “third space,” which allows us to facilitate those crucial habits-of-mind that lead to life-long learning. I think of this as looking at the “whole educator” in the same way the education field has championed the “whole child.” Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

Raymond Tymas Jones

When University of Utah College of Fine Arts students asked for tools and resources to prepare them for the transition into the workforce, Dr. Liz Leckie, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, listened.

The students’ request resonated with Dr. Leckie given that it reflected what the collective voice of more than 100,000 arts graduates from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project  (SNAAP) was saying, which is that in addition to mastering their craft, art students want more time spent on career and post-graduate advising.

And, earlier this month, the students got exactly that. By hiring and empowering student staffers, Dr. Leckie created a team that envisioned and executed the highly-anticipated first annual ArtsForce conference, a two-day, student-driven event including an array of workshops, panels, networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by the esteemed associate director of Vanderbilt University’s The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, Steven J. Tepper, PhD. Read the rest of this entry »