Skip to content

This blog may be retired, but lives on!

January 3, 2012
This blog was created to track progress during the development process for a major release of in December of 2010. Since that time we’ve continued to make improvements to the site, accept feedback and suggestions on, and report significant changes on the homepage blog. While we no longer maintain this space, we welcome your comments and ideas any time on GetSatisfaction [link].
Thanks for your support of Idealist!

Getting into Your Head: Our Plans for User Research in 2011

March 21, 2011

Highlights from the Fishbowl retreat continue! If you missed our previous post about our development process, check it out.

One part of our process and general strategy is the focus on making data-driven decisions about web development and design.  By collecting many different types of data, we hope to have a better understanding of user behavior, and as a result, improve the site’s usability and ensure a greater relevance to our users.

Some of the research methods we’ll be employing more regularly this year are:
  • Focus Groups: a form of qualitative research in which a targeted group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, and attitudes toward a product.
  • Beta Testers: a group of representative users who complete tasks relevant to their real-life use of the site, and answer pointed questions about the usefulness of specific features.
  • A/B Testing: simultaneously displaying differing live versions of a page to different user segments in order to gather data comparing the control to a variable of layout, copy text, or other design elements.
  • Usability Testing: watching people use what has been (or will be) created to see if it works as intended and that tasks can be completed efficiently, accurately, and without frustration.
  • Inherent Value Testing: a usability testing technique that can measure how the site communicates the product’s inherent value to new users.
Other tools we’ll use to gather information:
  • Google Analytics to measure traffic, pageviews, etc
  • Internal Reporting Tool (TBD) to measure content, user behavior
  • Get Satisfaction – online forum for user questions, problems, and ideas.
  • Salesforce – a CRM that helps us organize and respond to user emails, and prioritize the most common questions and difficulties.
  • Pop-up surveys (a survey question integrated during or after a common flow)

If you’re interested in participating in any kind of user research, sign up here!

Social (Media) Anxiety: Make Idealist Work for Your Organization

March 15, 2011

If you use social networking sites to promote your organization, we have questions for you. Since we re-launched the site, we’ve been pretty quiet about some of the enhanced social features for orgs. We still want to learn more about how we can improve these features, and how orgs like yours can benefit from them.

Sign up to participate in our study!

It takes no more than two hours over the course of two weeks, and doesn’t require you to leave your home, office, or home office.

More Details

Who: You represent your organization online – whether your role involves HR, social media, outreach/communications, or programs.

What You’ll update your organization’s page on Idealist. Over the course of two weeks, we’ll send two short emails detailing some of the new features on the site, along with specific questions to get you thinking about the usefulness of those features.  We’ll ask that you respond with your feedback within about a week.

When: From March 21 – April 1, we estimate that it will take no more than two hours of your time.

Where: The comfort of your own computer!

WhyThe re-launch brought a more social, robust organization page. With your help, we’ll keep improving the features there, making it even easier for you to recruit the right candidates, find new champions for your causes, and keep up with other organizations’ progress.

Bonus: we hope it will be a chance for you to get familiar with the new site. You can make sure that your org page reflects the work you’re doing (and take this time to post information about an upcoming program, event, or volunteer opportunity, if you have one!).

Interested? Click here to sign up!

A Retreat into Our Development Process

March 14, 2011

The Fishbowl (’s web development team) + our Community Manager met for several days in Portland, Oregon to reflect on the past year, set goals for 2011, and generally sing our hearts out via Karaoke and Rock Band.

One of the sessions gave us a chance to reflect on our development process.  After coming out of a long period where our focus was re-building on a new platform, plus making improvements and expanding its functionalities, this retreat session allowed us to focus on shifting our process to accommodate a whole new style of working that uses short, iterative development cycles.

We drew on our own experiences, looked towards other development teams we admire, and made some revisions to our development process. Here are some highlights:

  • In order to accommodate new feature development while at the same time taking care of the regular maintenance a site like ours requires, we’re borrowing a two-team development cycle model from 37signals where teams alternate responsibility for maintenance work. This way everyone gets to do the fun stuff sometimes, while sharing the burden of the less fun, but still important, bug fixing and small improvements.
  • Inspired by Kiva’s Innovation Iteration, we’re incorporating our own “Fantastic Fifth” iteration to allow for developers to work on projects they’re excited about but that might not otherwise be prioritized. We expect this will benefit Idealist users in lots of ways we can’t yet imagine!
  • We’re moving to a new ticket tracking tool, Jira. And we’re taking this opportunity to re-define our workflow. We’ve created a lighter process, and identified a few of our problem areas where improved communication would help.
More still to come from inside the Fishbowl, including some of our user research strategies for the year!


Release Notes: March 7-11

March 11, 2011
We were pretty busy the last couple weeks taking advantage of the fact that our whole team was  in one place (a rare occurrence)! We spent the time reflecting on the past and planning for the rest of the year. I’ll be sharing more about that in two upcoming posts.  With all that, we were still able to get some work done on the website too!

Some small improvements based on feedback from you:

  • We extended the “Edit Search” box that appears near the top of the search results page, so that it’s easier to see more of your search terms.
  • We added a “Last Modified Date” to org pages.
  • We added Poster and Location information in RSS feeds, and also fixed some outstanding formatting issues.
  • We switched the tab order in the Inbox so that Notifications is the first (default) tab, and Messages is the second. We prioritized Notifications, since that’s where the majority of messages are right now.
We also fixed a bunch of bugs you helped us find:
  • You may have noticed that in Firefox the footer was wrapping and creating a second row. That has been resolved.
  • We’d been missing some success messages after certain actions (e.g. sending a message). They should all appear now!
  • We resolved an issue where sometimes duplicate admin requests were being sent.
  • We fixed a problem where users whose email addresses were unverified weren’t able to reset their password.

Stay tuned next week for some insights from our team retreat!

A meetup about database technology? Yes, please.

February 18, 2011

If you’re in Portland and into geeky stuff (like database technology), come check out Mike, Jason, and Dan talk about infrastructure. Topics will include: Xapian, RabbitMQ, and Redis!

Find out more about the event here:

When: Thursday, Feb 24 at 6pm

Urban Airship
334 NW 11th Ave
Portland, OR

Testing, testing: Help make Idealist more usable

February 14, 2011

[cross-posted from the Blog]

Want to help make Idealist better? We’d love for you to participate in our usability testing program!

What’s this all about?

There are lots of ways that we collect feedback from our users. One important one is to observe Idealist members “in the wild,” so to speak. Instead of asking your (undoubtedly valuable) opinion, we want to actually watch you use the site, and see what aspects of the site could be improved.

Sign up to participate here. We’ll be conducting in-person usability tests for those in the NYC area, and remote tests for people everywhere else (as long as you have access to a broadband internet connection and a telephone or computer microphone).


Photo via Alishba Zarmeen

What to expect

Whether you participate remotely or come visit us, you’ll sit down one-on-one with me (Hi! Nice to meet you.), so I can observe while you use basic features of the website and ask a few questions about your experience. Usability testing is the kind of test where you can’t get a wrong answer, so there’s no pressure on you, just the website.  The most challenging part for you? Probably remembering to think aloud as you use the site.

Who we’re looking for

Everyone! Seriously, whether you have very little experience using the web or are as tech savvy as they come, you’re welcome to participate. Also, we’ll be testing features for individuals and organizations, so we’re looking for people who use the site in different ways: you could be a job seeker, a potential volunteer, an HR professional, volunteer manager, or your organization’s social media expert, or really anyone else.

What’s next?

  • We conduct usability testing on an ongoing basis, so if you’re interested, sign up! We’ll ask you a few questions to get a sense of how you use the site, and then I’ll be in touch when it seems like you’re a good fit for an upcoming usability test.
  • Can’t participate in usability testing? You can still make your voice heard publicly on Get Satisfaction or by sending an email directly to our Community Support Team through the contact page.

Thank you!