DirectoryInternetBlog Details for "The Content Coach by QScend"

The Content Coach by QScend

The Content Coach by QScend
tips and advice for municipal web content managers and others.

Articles

Good Sites Imply: Can I Help?
2008-05-20 06:00:00
It seems that life goes by faster every day. For people experiencing a recording-setting speedometer readings daily, the time they have to do each task seems to be ever shrinking. So consider this...in a blog post at Contented, a fellow content coach tells of going to visit a friend in a hospital that was in the midst of renovations. As a hospital employee approached, Rachel Alpine knew to ask that employee for help in finding her friend's room. She doesn't remember if the employee actually asked if she needed assistance, but that employee's demeanor implied the offer of help. Alpine translated that story into a brief recommendation regarding site content. "Old-style local government sites want to tell us every conceivable fact about our cities, whether we like it or not. New-style sites have figured it out. They imply, ?Can I help?? " she writes. Think about that. If your web banner, for instance, is welcoming or reads welcome, is it necessary to have the first paragraph on your...
More About: Sites , Good
A Point About Content
2008-05-19 06:00:00
Sheila Campbell is trying to get government agencies to focus on usability and developing user-centered websites. As co-chair of the Web Managers Advisory Council, team leader of USA.gov and Web Best Practices at the General Services Administration, and leader of Web Manager University, which last year trained about 3,500 students from more than 75 federal agencies and 25 state and local agencies, Campbell is on a mission. According to Government Computing News, Campbell is focused on, "reducing clutter and focusing on the user priorities," at USA.gov. As wikis, blogs, and other new Web tools are becoming more mainstream, they also are helping put a "human face of government," said a recent GCN story. Campbell wants government Webmasters to learn from the trend. "If blogs are so popular because they?re written in plain language, maybe we should look at writing the regular Web site in plain language,? she told GCN. Local municipal content managers need to mull that statement over a f...
More About: Content , Point
Content is King
2008-04-25 06:00:00
I'm on a bit of David Merriman Scott kick lately. I've been reading his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Although strictly about marketing for organizations trying to sell product, there is plenty of content to get one thinking about how to apply what he is stating to other entities, such as municipalities. So here's my latest discovery. Said Merriman Scott: "An effective online content strategy, artfully executed, drives action. Organizations that us online content well have a clearly defined goal...and deploy a strategy that directly contributes to reaching that goal." One of your goals in running your municipal website is to make information readily available to your citizens, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more information you place there, the more open you will appear to be. The more people will find what they need. That translates this way...fewer walk-in distractions and phone calls in the office, from both fellow employees and your municipality's citizens...
More About: Content , King
A Continuing Discussion: RSS Feeds vs. Newsletters
2008-04-21 06:00:00
I have a friend who visits a number of blogs and websites daily to check in, see if there are new posts, and to comment on those posts. She does what she does the way she does because that's what she likes to do. And she enjoys the relationships built and the reciprocity of the owners of the sites she visits. Now, as efficient as this person is, she could be more so. And she wouldn't necessarily lose out on any of the interaction that she has come to like. She could use RSS feeds and make her life a little easier. QContent, through its content feeds feature, generates RSS feeds. When the information posted to a website is in RSS format, it can be accessed via a RSS-aware browser or a news- or feedreader (see related posts). These tools check the feeds for a users and report back new information. Writes David Merriman Scott in The New Rules of Marketing & PR: "Having the information come to me is just so much easier than in the days when I had to go looking for it myself. RSS a...
More About: Discussion , Newsletters
Keep Evaluating Usability
2008-04-14 06:00:00
Website usability is a concept that is related to all of a site's visitors, not just those who need the assistance of screen readers. Usability is the dressed up term for how user friendly a site is and allows for measurability. How usable is your website to your citizens? Do you even know? Or have you heard some complaints or whisperings about how your visitors can't find what they are looking for? Website administrators and content managers need to always be thinking about usability. Just as the content of a website is always a work in progress, so is the usability. While some usability issues can be huge, and best implemented when a redesign of a website occurs, some adjustments can be smaller or more subtle. The latter can be implemented all the time. If you're curious as to how usable your site is, invite a random sampling of users to come in for a test. Outline some tasks that you would like them to complete., Sit with them as they do the tasks and note the following: 1) Su...
Content is Not Just Words
2008-04-07 06:00:00
In The New Rules of Marketing & PR, in discussing the development of a marketing website, David Merriman Scott writes that "...smart marketers make use of non-text content--including photos, audio feeds, video clips, cartoons, charts and graphs--to inform and entertain site visitors." Municipal Web administrators and content managers should look at themselves as marketers, to an extent, playing an important role in how the public perceives their local government and their local government through its website. While many places tend to use stock images, it's the images of real people that your visitors relate to, whether in photos or in video snippets. As a content manager, you can post all sorts of wonderful text and documents, but if that information is too blocked together, without any images or artwork inserted as breathers amid the text, your information may get lost. Photos and images can be powerful when placed right and used correctly. To comment on this post, or view Th...
More About: Words , Content
Use Social Media as Part of Your Web Initiative
2008-04-02 06:00:00
American City and County and Government Technology magazines are keeping local government officials thinking about what has become known as the Internet's social media. It's also sometimes known as Web 2.0. Social media is basically online technologies that allow and enable people to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other. That means sharing information through video, blogs, and business and networking sites. Some of those include YouTube, Blogger, FaceBook, MySpace, and Linked In. (By the way, if you're a QScend customer, be sure to sign up for our Linked in network.) Individual politicians and local governments, as well, are starting to take advantage of all of these types of sites to disseminate information, to start public conversation and gather feedback, to broadcast meetings, and to highlight accomplishments. These outlets are especially worthwhile for items that are not considered newsworthy by local media. The beauty of all of those sites...
More About: Media , Part , Initiative
Polish Your Photography Skills
2008-03-26 05:00:00
I can't remember the last time I took a photograph with a 35mm film camera. Nowadays, we have three digital cameras in our house and our expensive film camera sits safely tucked away on a closet shelf. Perhaps one of the biggest success stories of the digital age is photography-the blending of cameras and computers, says an article on the Government Technology magazine website. That is, of course, correct. Every place I go to do training for QScend, when the section on images comes up, I always ask about who has a digital camera. If those in the class don't have one in their departments at work, they have one at home. When we discuss using images on a website, I always stress that the images need to be sharp, crisp, clear, and bright. I don't say "in focus" much because nearly all the digital cameras that the average photographer owns are autofocus. But that's what I mean. Even with autofocus cameras, we can take blurry photos because it's a little too dark where we are trying ...
More About: Photography , Skills , Polish
Web Policies 101: Privacy
2008-03-07 05:00:00
Questions about privacy policies have come up a few times in the last couple of months.Developing a privacy policy is a complicated procedure. No privacy policy exists that should be copied as is and implemented. While some standard, basic language may be suitable and usable, each privacy policy needs to be tailored exactly to the way each municipality or organization does business and treats information.With regard to our products, QScend Technologies does not collect data or mine data related to visitors on the various websites that it hosts, with the exception of IP addresses collected during visitor searches. We do not release this data in any way to any one.In the course of doing business, QScend customers may use our products to collect personal information, email addresses, and IP addresses of some visitors to their websites. That data is stored in web databases hosted by QScend Technologies. We do not use or share that information with anyone.If you're a QScend customer and...
More About: Privacy , Policies
RSS 101: Promoting Your Feeds
2008-02-26 05:00:00
Now that you know what an RSS feed is and what it can be used for, let's look at promoting your feed. For the QScend corporate feeds, I have used FeedBurner to enhance distribution of our information. Those of you new to RSS feeds may find the information and how-to instructions below helpful. Those of you very new to RSS feeds may wish to ask your site's webmaster for assistance. What is FeedBurner? FeedBurner is the leading provider of media distribution and audience engagement services for blogs and RSS feeds. It's tools help bloggers, podcasters, and commercial publishers promote, and deliver content on the Web. Why use FeedBurner to promote your QContent generated feed? Technically speaking, RSS is based on XML or Atom technology. Most feed subscribers, don't care about that; they simply want fresh content. FeedBurner helps you publish to make any feed format readable on any subscriber tool. Through FeedBurner, you can provide subscribers with a tool to help them easily ...
More About: Promoting
RSS 101: A Quick Feed Tutorial
2008-02-22 06:00:00
With the addition of content feeds and automatically generated RSS feeds in QContent, our content managers are growing more and more curious about how RSS feeds work, in general. The following Q & A should provide a number of answers.What are content feeds?Feed s are a way for web content managers to distribute their content to more people than just visitors to their websites. Feeds permit subscription to regular updates, delivered automatically via a web portal, news reader, or in some cases good old email. These are often called RSS feeds.Who uses RSS feeds?RSS feeds are available from the biggest names on the Internet, such as USATODAY.com, BBC News Headlines, Google, Yahoo, CNN, Time Magazine, CBS Sports, and many more. In addition, thousands of companies and organizations, bloggers, podcasters and videobloggers publish feeds to keep themselves connected to customers, fans, readers, admirers, and critics.What is the benefit of RSS feeds?RSS (Really Simple Syndication) not onl...
More About: Tutorial , Quick
Your Writing: Past Tense vs. Passive Voice
2008-01-21 06:00:00
You may have heard Web experts talk of how writing for the Web is different than writing for print. Why? Reading from a printed page is easier on the eyes than reading from the computer screen. Writers can afford to be more detailed, more flowery, more extravagant wordsmiths. Generally, when readers sit down with a book, they are settling in for a while. They want to enjoy what's in front of them and be entertained. That's not to say that Web readers don't want the same things. However, they want them briefly and quickly. When staring at a Web page, readers don't take in every word. They scan, they look for highlights, they search for exactly what they want. If they find it, they stay. If not, they're gone. One way to help keep your web writing short is to mind your writing style, specifically when writing in the past tense. Be sure not to write in the passive voice. For example, the past tense of telling someone that you've eaten a nice dinner is, "I enjoyed dinner." That sam...
More About: Writing , Voice , Past , Passive
Hit-and-Run Text: Short is Good
2008-01-18 06:00:00
When writing for your websites, it's important to be aware of how your visitors read. They stop by and quickly scan your pages for information. If they find what they need, they stay. If not, they are gone. As a content manager writing for the Web, you need to always be conscience of how your text will work. Short is good. Shorter is better. Shortest is best. In Writing for the Web (Geeks' Edition) (Self-Counsel Writing), Crawford Killian explains that it's important to always look for ways to cut verbiage. "Your hit and run text is all that most of your readers will bother with. Only the really dedicated people will actually look at your archived text and perhaps download it for careful reading. Therefore, your hit and run text should be as brief as possible so it delivers its message clearly and quickly." To get to the hit an run text of a document, set an arbitrary word limit, says Killian, such as 75. Deliberately write long. Then keep cutting until you get to down to 55 or 6...
More About: Text , Good
Practical Usage: Job Opportunities
2008-01-09 06:00:00
In the December 2007 issue of Government Technology, there's a little chart in the "spectrum" section that highlights what attracts new employees to state government. Among the things people like most are: Benefits (89.1%) Location (65.2 %) Workplace Flexibility (47.8%) Career Opportunities /Challenging Work (23.9%) While these numbers focus on reasons people seek jobs in certain state governments, there's no reason why, if you're an HR person, you can't translate these topic ideas to your local government website. So let's consider if you're using QContent to manage your web section effectively. Consider these questions: 1. Is your benefit information available online? 2. Do you highlight what's good about where you are? 3. Are there things that your municipality offers employees in terms of workplace flexibility? 4. Do you post your job openings? 5. Do you use an efficient way to post job openings? 6. Do you offer a newsletter for new posting updates, or an RSS feed...
More About: Usage
Online Payments Offer Aspect of E-Government Interaction
2008-01-07 06:00:00
The Nielson/Net Ratings state that nearly 75 percent of U.S. households, or more than 204 million people, have Internet access. That offers municipalities a tremendous audience for their e-government initiatives. Granted, each town, city or county targets a small percentage of those citizens. Nevertheless, the potential is there for positive interaction via the World Wide Web between governments and citizens. One such way that local governments are getting more active online is through electronic payment methods. Allowing citizens to pay their taxes, water and sewer bills, renewal fees for license plates, registration fees for dog tags, penalties for parking violations offers 24/7 convenience for many in today's fast-paced, always-on-the-go society. As Jonathan Stoops writes in the December 2007 issue of American City and County magazine, local governments and agencies are now viewing electronic payments as a way "to increase receivables, strengthen collections, provide an alternat...
More About: Government , Online , Offer , Interaction , Interact
Where Are We Going?
2007-12-31 06:00:00
In a Dec. 10, 2007 column in Government Computer News, Brand Niemann offered reflections on the future of government computing. The bottom line was that Niemann "sees the future of government computing as a place where knowledge is shared." Of course, that's what we're all striving for now-we present information on our websites in order to make it available (share it) to our citizens. We post maps, minutes, agendas, budgets and much more. But according to Niemann's article, that is just the tip of the iceberg here in Web 2.0 days. "In the next 25 years," writes Niemann, "today's popular social networking sites will seem primitive, and we will be well into Web 3.0, connecting knowledge, and Web 4.0, connecting intelligence." Niemann says that "government will evolve from a vertical hierarchy into a horizontal service system in which government employees find their own work the same way forward-looking companies are telling their employees to do now." "Government employees are beg...
What Can a Content Management System Do For You?
2007-12-17 06:00:00
When we consider what maintenance is, in terms of our houses, it?s upkeep and support. It?s property value. We're passionate about our homes and we want them to always look their best and be highly valued. Stephen Covey says that "maintenance is the way we manufacture passion. Although it's often forgotten, maintenance is the continuation of [the...passion] that began the relationship in the first place." In other words, by performing maintenance, we trigger the passion we need to stay of top of things. Consider this with regard to a website. For a site to be successful, it must be maintained. Web content managers and administrators must make the effort to keep making their citizens happy by continuing to provide what those citizens want. This gives them reasons to return. Being in charge of overseeing content or an entire website, means having a job that is never done. Maintenance is important and ongoing for several reasons: 1) The Web changes. Information changes. Websites must...
More About: System , Management , Content , Content Management System
The Passion of Maintenance
2007-12-13 06:00:00
When we consider what maintenance is, in terms of our houses, it?s upkeep and support. It?s property value. We're passionate about our homes and we want them to always look their best and be highly valued. Stephen Covey says that "maintenance is the way we manufacture passion. Although it's often forgotten, maintenance is the continuation of [the...passion] that began the relationship in the first place." In other words, by performing maintenance, we trigger the passion we need to stay of top of things. Consider this with regard to a website. For a site to be successful, it must be maintained. Web content managers and administrators must make the effort to keep making their citizens happy by continuing to provide what those citizens want. This gives them reasons to return. Being in charge of overseeing content or an entire website, means having a job that is never done. Maintenance is important and ongoing for several reasons: 1) The Web changes. Information changes. Websites must...
More About: Passion , The Passion
Reach the People
2007-12-11 06:00:00
How does government reach people who are less concerned about their own affairs than Brad Pitt's love life?" asks Chad Vander Veen, Technology and Politics Editor for Government Technology. In his column, the last mile in the November 2007 issue, Vander Veen wonders how to make people care about government, noting that in 2004, 55 million Americans who were registered to vote, didn't. Those 55 million, balks Vander Veen, still write personal checks in the grocery line rather than use their debit cards, or drive 45 miles per hour in the fast lane. "E-government's purpose is to get people online instead of inline," writes Vander Veen, noting that he feels sorry for the public servants who are seemingly fighting a losing battle to get their constituents fired up about politics and government. In his lament, he offers no solution as to how to get citizens to the Internet. Marketing and public relations folks know how. It's a bit more involved than Ray Kinsella's "If you build it, t...
More About: People , Reach , The People
Where is Your E-Government Initiative?
2007-12-09 06:00:00
Darrell West, in "Digital Government : Technology and Public Sector Performance" notes early in the book that there are four stages that distinguish where government agencies are in the formation of their e-government initiatives. 1) The Billboard Stage - Sites in this category are static display mechanisms. Officials post information for viewing, but they give citizens little chance to interact with their government. There is no two-way communication. 2) The Partial Delivery Stage - In this step above the billboard stage, government officials allow citizens to access, sort and search informational databases. Some services make their way online, but the approach is sporadic and limited. 3) The Portal Stage - Here, governments offer considerable conveniences to their citizens, improving their ability to find information and order services. It is here where egovernment websites become dynamic and interactive. 4) Interactive Democracy Stage - The Portal Stage comes close to this, but do...
More About: Initiative
Is Your Site Accessible and Searchable?
2007-12-05 06:00:00
Google is developing an new product - Accessible Search - which is designed to produce search results that are more easily usable to the those with impaired vision. It's all a part of what Google says its mission is-to make the Internet as universally accessible as possible. While regular Google search helps you find a set of documents that is most relevant to your task, Accessible Search finds the most accessible pages for your search criteria. What does Google look for? Simplicity. It searches the HTML markup found on a web page and favors pages that "degrade gracefully." That means pages with fewer visual distractions and pages that look OK with the images turned off. Google's Accessible Search also takes into consideration how much visual imagery a page carries and whether or not its primary purpose is immediately viable with keyboard navigation. According to Google, some recommendations to make your pages accessible are "keeping Web pages easy to read, avoiding visual clutter...
More About: Site
Does Readability Contribute to Citizencentric Websites?
2007-12-03 06:00:00
If the aim of your e-government website is to reach as many people within your municipality as possible, then readability should be considered as you are striving to provide a citizencentric website. According to Darrell West in "Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance," readability is important. Writes West: "Website readability is a measure of the accessibility of government sites. Citizens need websites that are legible at a level they can comprehend. According to national statistics, about half of the American population reads at the eighth-grade level or lower. If government websites are written at too high a level, then it is difficult for a wide range of citizens to comprehend online material." And if they can't comprehend what they are reading, they won't come back. To comment on this post, or view The Content Coach's blog, click here. Written by Ed Dzitko, Director of Training & Education  
More About: Websites , Contribute
How Important is it to be Citizencentric?
2007-11-28 06:00:00
After Monday's post, I bet some of you have been doing a little extra thinking on whether your sites are citizencentric? How important is it, you're probably wondering. Well, ask yourself this...how important is good customer service to me? I can bet it ranks pretty high. It does for me, and you can bet it does for many, many others, too. Consider this from the research and consulting firm ECOTEC. In its think paper entitled, "Is Citizen-centric the same as Customer-centric?," the authors write that being sensitive to customer needs can lead to: Higher levels of customer service and satisfaction, which can be further broken down into considerations of flexibility, multi-channel delivery, personalization or targetisation, response times, compliant resolution, and information management. Developing increased trust and confidence in government. Increased participation in the democratic process and in developing more customer-centric, innovative public services. By making governm...
Is Your Website Citizencentric?
2007-11-26 06:00:00
The most important element of a good online presence is good content. Your website should be rich in relevant, current content that meets the needs of your different users - residents, businesses, and visitors, for example. After content, arguably, comes presentation. You should present your site in way that makes it easy for your visitors to find exactly what they need. Because users are always just one click, so to speak, away from leaving your site, creating a citizencentric web presence gives them more of a reason to stay. By providing a personalized user experience (see examples, paragraph 1), you help your audiences use the site the way they perceive it, the way they think it should be arranged. In designing or redesigning your website, you want to stay away from creating a site that conveys information the way that you and your content managers want to convey it. Many times, the internal municipal (read "corporate") structure is not the best way to present all your rich conte...
More About: Website
Content Management Teambuilding
2007-11-19 06:00:00
The content managers of a website should work as a team, just as they do in other aspects of their jobs. Some of the best municipal websites are as good as they are because the content contributors often get together to talk about what's going on with the site on which they are working. If you are an website administrator, you might want to think about these questions: Are there chances for synergy among your content managers? Is collaboration encouraged? Does common material get shared by departments through links? If there are similar content pages, is each updated simultaneously to avoid conflicting information? Does the opportunity exist for the sharing visitor reactions to challenge assumptions and develop skills? If your site is new and your people are still getting used to working with their content management system, have a meeting once every two weeks. Then move it to once a month. Discuss what people are doing. Find out what they are having difficulty with. Talk t...
More About: Management , Content , Teambuilding
Guidelines for Type
2007-11-15 06:00:00
Jakob Neilson and Hoa Langer, in their book, Prioritizing Web Usability, state the top four guidelines for type: 1) Use common fonts sized at or above 10 points. 2) Avoid busy backgrounds. 3) Use black text on white backgrounds. 4) Keep moving, all-caps, and graphical texts to a minimum. With those in mind, here is the Content Coach's And Remember List: 1) There is a size differential among fonts. For instance, 10 point Times New Roman is smaller than 10 point Arial, which is more compact than 10-point Verdana, which is more round than 10-point Trebuchet. 2) Why avoid busy backgounds? Busy backgrounds have a variety of colors in them. If you choose to use a clack text, for instance, some letters of your will get lost in the darker areas of your background. 3) Moving text and graphical text are not easily read by text readers for the visually impaired. You should always use plain text. 4) Whatever styles and backgrounds you choose, you're trying to communicate with people. If ...
More About: Type , Guidelines
What is Web Accessibility?
2007-11-13 06:00:00
According to Wikipedia, "web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. "For example, when a site is coded with semantically meaningful HTML, with textual equivalents provided for images and with links named meaningfully, this helps blind users using text-to-speech software and/or text-to-Braille hardware." In other words, to make the most of your website for all people, you have to make it usable for all. And that means adding textual equivalents, eliminating animated graphics (not Flash), and using pleasing backgrounds and text colors, among other things. The Town of Enfield, Conn., was recently certified to be in compliance with the Accessibility Policy for Connecticut State Government Web Sites, Version 4.0. To comment on this post, or view The Content Coach's blog, click here... Written by E...
Danbury Proves 311 Call Centers Don't Have to Cost a Lot of Money
2007-11-09 06:00:00
Danbury, Connecticut, needed a solution for its citizen service requests. Here's why.Citizens with an issue would often call or e-mail more than one department or staff member to get that issue resolved. If contact with the City didn?t produce an immediate response or resolution, citizens would call or e-mail again, contacting the Mayor?s office or contacting a staff person they knew, whether or not that staff person was able to handle their issue.The result was a duplication of effort as the multiple phone calls, voice-mail messages and e-mails were passed to others and as more than one staff member sought to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Often, a citizen would receive more than one reply, sometimes with different solutions or answers to the same issue. That would spawn another round of contact.In other cases, citizens anxious to find correct information, impatient for a resolution, or unsure of who to call, were calling 911.So what did Danbury do? The City opened a 31...
More About: Money , Cost , Call , Prove
Are You Stylin? If Not, You Should Be
2007-11-06 06:00:00
Many times, companies and municipalities work with a designer to create a website. They get their colors just right, and their banners, and their photos. But then it comes time to add content. And often, content contributors post new information with little regard for the font style, the font color, the font size, the color of the table and cell backgrounds. Sometimes the same content contributes spell things differently, use different or incorrect acronyms, and even use time indicators (a.m., noon, p.m., midnight) differently. All that results in a mish-mash of looks, and general sloppiness. Visitors see something different as they navigate from one page to another. There is a lack of consistency and a lack of professionalism. That's why its best when creating or redesigning a website to consider a style guide, a small booklet that advises content managers on what the font styles are, on what colors are allowed as background in tables, how to spell key names and how to be accurate...
Onsite or offsite? That is the Blogging Question
2007-11-03 06:00:00
While the public sector certainly is different from the municipal sector, there was an interesting survey that we discovered a couple of weeks ago done by public relations agency Porter Novelli and Cymfony and Russell Research. The goal was to get a sense of the resources, processes, personnel and management that corporations devote to their blogging strategies.Here are some of the findings we found interesting, and that may translate for a public official considering blogging: Nearly 66 percent of companies started taking part in blogging because they felt the need to participate and be involved in the medium. Between 33 to 50 percent of companies large and small operate more than one blog, and almost unanimously, the person who's name is on the blog has written the posts. The majority of companies involved in contributing in the blogosphere also monitor other blogs to see an eye on their market. Corporate blogs target customers, potential customers, and the media. Blogs offer f...
More About: Question , Blogging
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