Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Soapbox Site Launch: Studying our Presidents

Picture 2Just in time to celebrate the birth of some our most famous U.S. presidents, PICnet launched a new Soapbox website for the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC). CSPC was looking to improve their site architecture so their constituents and followers could more easily locate the valuable publications the organization produces. They also wanted to sharpen up their outdated image.  Through their new Soapbox site, they can even receive online donations through PayPal!

Emily Shaftel was my point-of-contact at CSPC and she was an amazing coordinator for their side.  I always received a quick turnaround, clear and detailed questions and she was very technically savvy with an eye for pushing the website to its limits.  She actually departed CSPC on the day of the launch to go and volunteer for a year in Thailand! Emily definitely made an impact before her departure.

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Stellar support, simplified systems

Recently, we helped migrate a newly designed Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to the Soapbox platform, after they were seeing diminishing service and support from their old system. The organization wanted an option to have support 24 hours a day and to build a relationship with their platform provider.

And boy, did we build a relationship! As project manager, I spoke with Ladd Everitt from CSGV almost every day – as their PR/media person, he had a great personal investment in the website, and he was very involved with the decision-making and details from the start of the project.

We originally were going  to use the eblast system Vertical Response, tied into the Salesforce CRM to manage CSGV’s contacts.  However, upon understanding the small staff they had and the technical literacy which these two systems required, I decided to look into Network for Good’s My Emma Email Now! This turned out to be both a simpler and more affordable solution for the client. Now CSGV has petitions, contact forms and surveys running through the form creation on Email Now, and they are also able to send out well-designed html email blasts through this very simple and easy to use system. I also want to give a quick shout out to Kate Purcell, the designer of the site.

The relationship PICnet built with Ladd for this site was great for overall communications and for the momentum of the project.  He was a great example of a smooth client-vendor partnership – always delivering on time and was available at all hours during the holidays for launch.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy. Learn more here.


Supporting Schools through Soapbox

NYCCharter_screenshotWe recently helped The New York City Charter School Center launch a new Soapbox website in partnership with design firm Big Duck. The organization helps new charter schools get started, supports existing schools,  builds community support, and trains new leaders so that highly effective services can flourish.

The new site is informative and engaging, with aggressive integration through Democracy In Action for events, campaigns, and eNewsletter sign-up and templates. It also includes liberal use of WuFoo custom forms for robust online grant and fellowship applications.

One final cool feature is a Google Map integration displaying more than 100 charter schools in New York that links to more details and content within the site and to the individual schools’ websites.

Learn more about the New York City Charter School Center.


Free Webinar: What Should a Website Cost?

Are you thinking about revamping your website but not sure where to start? Are you working with a web developer but wonder if you’re paying too much? With all the tools and strategies available, it’s hard to know where to start and what to expect.

Attend this free webinar on Thursday where Allen Gunn, Executive Director of Aspiration (one of our partners!), will share valuable information about:

  • The steps you should follow when framing and managing web projects to streamline the process and minimize cost.
  • What you can expect to pay for different types of websites, from basic “brochure-ware” to higher-end web applications.
  • The different types of website technologies.

This will be a basic-to-intermediate level overview of the website development process and ideal for decision makers, board members involved in the process, and accidental techies.

The webinar is this Thursday, the 17th, at 11am PST. You can join here.


Worthy Wage: a worthy cause deserving a worthy website

ccw_thumbSince 1978, the Center for the Childcare Workforce (CCW) has served as the leading national organization in the call for improving childcare jobs. A program of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), CCW’s mission is to improve the quality of child care by upgrading the compensation, working conditions and training opportunities for child care teachers and family child care providers.

Every year on May 1st, CCW and AFT promote recognition of Worthy Wage Day by organizing a variety of activities to recognize and honor the dedication of early childhood educators and staff and to draw attention to their low wages and minimal benefits. This national day of awareness is just one of the many lasting effects of the Worthy Wage Campaign that CCW organized from 1991-1999.

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Advancing CORE Group online so they can advance health worldwide

CoreGroup_screenshotIn the midst of the health care reform debate in our own country, there are still many global health crises out there waiting to be fixed. At PICnet, we work with many clients who strive towards improving global health through prevention, partnerships and awareness. One organization who fits this bill that we recently were honored to help is CORE Group, a non-profit that partners with more than 50 other health-oriented organizations to share knowledge and help advance the community health approach around the world.

CORE Group’s website was in need of a visual upgrade, more functionality, and cleaner navigation and usability. PICnet created a new design for the site – phase 1 of the project. As the site is mostly informational, there isn’t too much interactive or dynamic functionality at this time. But in phase 2, PICnet will help punch up the site with donation processing and some other cool features to give the organization a real upgrade online.

We’re really pleased with how the project is going so far, and it’s been a pleasure to work with CORE Group. They do some awesome work collaborating and sharing information for non-profits working in health care in developing countries – so we’re glad to be able to help them achieve this goal in a more effective way online. Thanks to everyone involved in getting this project off the ground! We look forward to completing the next phase.

Learn more about CORE Group and its mission.


Digital Storytelling and Community Outreach

I attended my first Community Technology and Digital Opportunity Meetup in San Francisco on July 20th and left feeling inspired about the potential of using digital media to express the realities, triumphs and work of my clients.

The purpose of this meetup is to share the work of various nonprofits around the Bay Area who provide technology access and programming to the local community through either computer labs or innovative digital literacy curricula. The week’s topic “Bayview Hunter’s Point Center for Art and Technology and Digital Storytelling!” was hosted by the titled organization, BAYCAT, and also featured a presentation by Jen Nowicki from Creative Narrations.

Jen first defined what digital storytelling is: it’s a vignette told in the first person and made up of personal images and text in a video format. Her organization helps nonprofits and education institutions empower their constituents’ voices by training them to develop their own digital story. From what I saw, their process is focused, impacting and cathartic for many of the individuals they serve. They teach the elements of how to tell a story and move their students through four stages of developing their work: Preparation, Production, Publishing and Promotion. The final stage is important to the recognition and ownership of the work, and helps ensure that the community hears the story. For resources on how to create your own digital story, you can go to Stories for Change.

Here is one of the highlighted videos: Boston YWCA:

BAYCAT is an organization that educates the underserved communities of Bayview and Hunter’s Point on various media production techniques, and then employs some of their graduates to fulfill corporate and other nonprofit media needs. This cycle from student to professional creates an incredible incentive for the students and their families to continue supporting their talents. Many of the production pieces serve as public service messages to the student’s community, so they become change agents against drugs and violence.

Here is a very creative and funny one done by a teenager:

I would love to see some of my clients start to utilize these resources. I know that the web development process is quite an undertaking in itself, but starting to incorporate video to tell stories would be a great 6 month follow up to keep web content fresh. It would also be a great case for strategic partnerships among nonprofits.


PICnet ally, Free Range Studios, hits front page of NY Times

At PICnet, we like working with the best of the non-profit technology community, from CRM providers to graphic designers.  So when our friends strike gold, we’re ecstatic.

This morning, our PICnet DC neighbors, Free Range Studios, received front-page coverage from the New York Times on their video “Story of Stuff“, an acclaimed production with inspiration and direction from Annie Leonard.

From the NY Times’ lead:

The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.

Which is one reason “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.

Congratulations to the Free Range Studios team on this terrific achievement!  Happy hour celebration in DC this week?


What Walmart Teaches Us About CSS

In the tech world, maybe money doesn’t buy power — at least, it can’t buy good CSS practices. Or so it would seem, at least, after today’s fabulously botched launch of Walmart’s new online video store.

See what we mean? Visit this site in Internet Explorer:

Now, do the same thing in Firefox. And in case the web site has been changed by the time you read this post, here’s what the site looked like in Firefox browsers at 6:30 tonight:

No, you’re not dreaming. It’s really that bad.

This is a CSS issue, and it will probably be fixed in a few hours. But it still goes to show you that no matter how many high-faultin’ movie studios you partner with, none of it matters if you don’t get the right company to develop your web site.

Update at 6am PDT on 2/8/07: If you dare to visit the site using a browser other than Internet Explorer, you get this fun message: “Unsupported Browser…We’re sorry…Our website requires the browser Internet Explorer version 6 or higher. It appears that you are using Firefox, Safari, or another browser that Wal-Mart Video Downloads doesn’t currently support. Click here to get Internet Explorer for free from Microsoft.”


Site architecture 2.0, making site mapping fun

Bubbl.usDuring the Web development process, one of the most important phases of work is the information architecture. In laymen’s terms, the outline of the site. Of course, this phase doesn’t get the glory of the more glamorous work, like design mockups and development iterations.

One reason why this phase is often lower on organization’s radars is that it’s just not that much fun. It seems, however, that we might have a contender that could make this process a lot more, well, bubbly. is a new Web based mind-mapping tool that we think might have some traction in the Web development world. The goal is to make it easy to develop bubble-like outlines of systems, with an easy to use interface. The system is still a little buggy, but it’s just in beta, as is everything else these days. Lots of Flash makes me worry a little bit about its extendability (would like it if you could export these mind-maps into text documents).

Example using

Definitely worth a look.