Day 3 is done and was a great way to wrap up a long week. I got to see sessions presented by people I’ve known for years, ended up in breakout groups with people I’d ridden on the train to Portland with for past conferences, and made new connections with nonprofit staff and technology consultants all working with purpose to try to make the world a better place in our different ways.
Thanks to everyone who read one or all of these field note posts. I write them for myself, but I’m thrilled that other people find them valuable.
If you have any questions about a session I attended, post a comment or @ me and I’ll do my best to provide more details.
“All Things WordPress” Community Conversation
There weren’t many sessions scheduled for this penultimate community conversation slot, so I decided we needed a third WordPress group! We had a great conversation with an active core of 6 people or so and ended up touching on a tightly related constellation of things:
- Slow websites
- Using “page builder” tools like Divi and Elementor have a reputation for slowing down sites which is tough because of how powerful and user-friendly they are for DIY websites
- Changing hosts can often be the best way to speed up a site
- Using Google Lighthouse (part of Chrome or Edge developer tools) is a good way to see what’s wrong
- Page Builders and the Block Editor
- Not many attendees besides me were familiar with the block editor and I don’t think any others used it.
- There were questions around what it’s good for and how it compares to page builders.
- I shared the issue of “theme lock-in” and the fact that using the Block Editor can be advantageous for large sites to facilitate future migrations. Page builders make it very hard to move content out of their system into a different one (including the block editor).
As an aside, I learned from one attendee that Salsa Labs was acquired by EveryAction midway through 2021.
Workshop: Planning Your Website Home Page (Wireframing)
Presented by Cindy Leonard
I’ve known Cindy for years as they were the first community volunteer for the NTEN WordPress forum. I was happy to drop into their session and see how they’re thinking about home pages and compare it to my own advice.
This is great info about home pages. I’d add the caveat that you can never assume people will visit your home page or even visit it at all. So it’s a critically important page, but you can’t rely on it for all visitors.
This was an unfortunately useful session for me since my homepage… leaves something to be desired. So I did some prioritization and sketching and someday, I’ll make my home page better. (But you know what they say about the cobbler’s children…)
Workshop: Creating Inclusive Presentations That Center Audiences
Presented by Keighty Ward and Melanie Sampson
When getting started, the presenters pointed out a recurring theme from this conference that I hadn’t put my finger on: Working to be inclusive/equitable/accessible/etc. is an ongoing process that is never done.
They asked us to share what made your own past classes really great:
- Passionate and caring teachers
- High standards (that was mine)
- Hands-on (many people said this)
- Taking students seriously
- Be relevant and only include the information that’s necessary right now (avoid too much background)
- Center the community and seek to meet their needs and not what you want to give them
- Value lived experience and expertise of learners
Next was the concept of “universal design,” making the information as accessible as possible before even considering specific accommodations for folks. This is a tricky concept because we each have unique needs, but universal design can still be a useful thing to strive for.
I was unfamiliar with the concept of “cultural humility” and “cultural safety”. This slide did a great job explaining it.
Cultural humility means going beyond be aware of or trying to incorporate other cultures, but instead:
- A commitment to lifelong learning
- exercising self-reflection and critique
- being comfortable with not knowing
- recognizing the dynamics of power and privilege
See CulturallyConnected.ca for more about this.
Tips for Inclusive Presentations
Make sure people know what to expect
- Where is the bathroom?
- When will there be breaks?
- Will you be expected to participate?
Have a clear purpose and call to action
- Clearly articulate the purpose of the prsentation
- Make it clear how the content connects to the attendees and how to implement it in their lives
Great point alert! Topics are not a purpose. Presenting information is only useful if it connects and impacts the person learning.
Use plain language
- Make sure people can understand information
- Genuinely communicate vs. “information dumping”
Break it down further
- “Scaffolding” – Making sure that people have the right background knowledge and things are broken down correctly
- Example: Does one slide with lots of bullet points deserve to be multiple slides (one per bullet?)
Make content visually accessible
- Adequate contrast
- Large fonts (and clear fonts)
- Make materials work with screen readers
- Use alternative text
Offer different ways to engage or express ideas
- Offer multiples ways if you can
- In Zoom, you have chat, breakout rooms, polls, talking, and third-party tools like Jamboard and Mentimeter
- Build in reflection time
Checking for Understanding
- Don’t just ask if people understand. They will say that they do.
- Get feedback (and then use your survey results to make improvements!)
- Use “problem-posing” (new to me!). Ask people how they will apply information to their lives. Will that work for them?
- Ask participants to explain what they’re learning or what they will do next to confirm understanding.
They ended on a great quote:
“CRM Integration” community conversations
CRM’s the attendees were using:
- Action Network
- Little Green Light
Leah, who suggested this topic quickly helped clarify that there are one-way and two-way integrations. Which you have (and the direction of one-way integrations) will often make a big difference about how you approach an integration.
Nonprofits often find themselves in a tough situation where their specific needs lead them to two different products that don’t talk to each other.
I shared a few plugins and services that help connect WordPress with Salesforce including Zapier and Object Sync for Salesforce. Importantly, displaying CRM data on a website doesn’t always mean syncing data to WordPress. That can be a really good solution for many use cases, but other times a third-party embeddable tool or custom code that directly queries and displays CRM data is a better solution.
An interesting suggestion for people who need to do basic data work with Salesforce:
- Use Zapier to get data from Salesforce to Airtable
- Use Airtable’s built-in Salesforce integration to update Salesforce records
Interactive Data Visualization and Storytelling on the Web
Presented by Donna Thach
Early warning from Donna: Just because we can make data interactive doesn’t mean we should! It’s important to understand when and when not to use it.
Benefits of interactive data visualizations:
- Start by considering audience and data
- Audience considerations
- How likely are they to explore the data? Example: Busy business executives want to be told what the data says, not explore it. Program managers are more likely to want to dig deeply.
- What is your objective? Explanatory vs. exploratory
- Note: A static chart or charts can also be exploratory.
- These can also be combined. Start with an “executive summary” graphic with key finding(s) and then allow people to dig deeper into the data.
- Data Considerations
- How complex is the data?
- How often does the data change? Could be a challenge for static charts, though there are ways to dynamically generate static charts.
Key point: Once you start adding interactivity, there are a lot of new considerations and requirements. So if you can meet your needs with a static chart, there are lots of benefits to sticking with that.
Tips for effective interactive data visualizations
Tell people where to look. (Don’t make them find Waldo!)
- Set the stage for a compelling story or context
- Don’t rely on interactivity to reveal key insights. You can use labels/annotations to highlight a key point or finding. Don’t assume that a user will click or hover over an interactive element. The New York Times found that only 15% of visitors interacted with their interactive graphics.
- Use a chart title to explain what the chart shows
- Consider and design for multiple screens
- You’ll need layouts to adapt for small screens
- Hover doesn’t exist on mobile phones
- Design for accessibility
- Choose colors that work well for colorblind people (use blue and orange rather than red and green)
- Write alternative text for every graphic. What if the chart is frequently changing? Describe chart type and what the data describes along with general trends/conclusions.
- Pick easy to use controls (radio buttons, checkboxes, select elements) rather than more complicated ones (sliders/range controls, autocomplete fields)
- Bonus: Learn the principles of data visualizations (color, chart types, etc.) and not just the tools
- Datawrapper – Designed originally for journalists. Very good for explanatory charts.
- Tableau – Can’t use free version for private data. Offer free nonprofit licenses for small organizations.
- Google Data Studio – Easier to use than Tableau but not as powerful. Integrates with other Google tools really well.
- Flourish – Also originally for journalists. Very good for combining explanatory and exploratory visualizations with its slideshow features.
Someone else in the comments also mentioned Infogram.
Keynote Conversation with Saeed Jones
Saeed is a poet and author. I’m pretty sure I heard him on the radio a few months ago and loved it, so I was pretty excited to hear him again.
As he put it, Saeed sees his work and art as “putting language to the ineffable.”
- “Poetry uses repetition quite artfully and in an illumniating beautiful way.”
- “In our daily lives—take gun violence and mass shooting for example—the current human condition is the repetition of horrific violence.”
Two good tweets from NTC friends:
On memes (interesting take):
- An effective meme can be like good poem, speaking to the ineffable—a shared spark of recognition.
- But with things that are high stakes, memes can’t be all we do and all we say.
On building other worlds in the metaverse:
- Optimistic: Opportunity to explore gender performance. Every straight man needs to know what it’s like to walk down the street in a female-presenting body.
- Pessimistic: The metaverse is getting built by technologists who have caused a tremendous amount of harm. Why are we trusting them to build a new future when they can’t even deal with something like misinformation right now? (And they’re better at dealing with misinformation in English than other languages. Yikes!)
- Because we refuse to be honest about the patriarchy, white supremacy, and ableism, we are just going to keep re-creating that with our technology.
And that’s a wrap! It’s been quite a week for me. I’m back from parental leave—we have a one-month-old this week!, I’m digging myself out of a pile of emails, and I have a huge project due in a month. But NTC is always worth it.