advocate ideasfor a better world

Our Stance

The internet is starting to change how nonprofits, foundations and advocacy organizations work. The web is extending reach, creating workflows and efficiencies to increase capacity, and expanding impact through leadership through communication with stakeholders, funders and the community alike. Byte has been on the forefront of helping reduce the digital divide for nonprofits and social change groups by creating professional websites, databases and applications.

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A Digital Age

With the digital age is upon us, the internet has long left the phase of simply being an online brochure. Yet, a great many nonprofits are using it simply as a static messaging platform, and usually messages of long ago. Why? We hear a variety of issues: ignorance, price fears, a worry about a communication mouth to feed, lack of tech skill, lack of staff time, etc. We believe the biggest reason is that internet is mostly generically average or bad, and leaves us all with a lack of imagination. It's really hard to imagine a website that matters in a sea of banal mediocrity. 

Fortunately, we've been building the good parts of the internet for years. We bring energy to a project, make sure stakeholders can be heard, make a nonprofit's mission tangible on a site, and develop buy in. We make the internet better by bringing the full weight of an organization's meaning and spirit to its new website. Our mission is to make the web a better place.

From grasstops to grassroots, from policy advocacy to block-by-block organizing, the internet is changing how nonprofits find and enact systemic solutions and social change. Using the internet effectively will change an organization for the better, help it to be smarter and more agile. To attract better talent and funding. To give a funder or reporter depth and context to a story. Or to sway a lawmaker to see the need and become a champion advocate. 

What can the internet do for a nonprofit? 

  • Tell better stories about those in need and those reached by the organization
  • Fuel advocates with case studies, facts and figures on outcomes
  • Raise the level of professionalism
  • Implement data-driven solutions that work online and in-office
  • Create and maintain data to be used inside and outside the nonprofit
  • Attract and motivate a better workforce
  • Give reporters, bloggers and social influencers program, campaign and background info
  • Sway lawmakers and administrators
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Experience

Byte has been building the internet for twenty years, building websites, interactives, databases and applications, and a full-fledged professional content management system before Wordpress and Drupal even existed.

We’ve helped nonprofits and advocacy groups understand and use content and data in their online presence, and helped define engagement metrics and analytics to understand how people understand and consume that content and data.

Byte is a digital studio with deep roots in open data, as a founding member in Milwaukee’s Open Data Initiative. We’ve lobbied local and state legislators for access to more government data, created public tools utilizing that data, and helped organizations host and publish their own data in open formats. We’ve also been consumers of open data and licensing, including the reparsing of The Walters Art Museum’s TEI manuscript data, described in a [case study below]. We’ve also created a myriad of user-based closed data systems that help nonprofits be more effective and reach more people in their mission, including a literacy database for Wisconsin Literacy described in a [case study below].

Between our long term partnerships and a deeper view of data, information architecture and user engagement, we’ve created a culture of continuous learning, pushing boundaries and creating data-rich, next-generation interfaces. We’ve focused on iteration over perfection on delivery, allowing us and our clients to fine-tune toward perfection over time. As an agency, we’re involved in conferences internationally and alliances locally, attending Code4Lib, Eyeo and KIKK, and speaking at conferences about website best practices.

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Solving Content Dilemmas

One of the hardest parts of creating a website as a nonprofit is deciding on the content and message. Because a site is written for people, we start projects with a full content strategy to learn what content should actually be written, and to define both short- and long-term content goals.

We start a content strategy with discovering the different types of visitors a site will have defining site "audiences". Each audience will have needs -- a client may need to know the bus line, location, hours, services and a staff list, while a funder may care about 990s and annual reports, outcome metrics and stories, and leadership staff. We call these “use cases”, and we create a long-tail list of every persona’s use cases. We're not talking about nameless "users", we're talking about the exact people with whom a nonprofit endeavors to connect. Starting a project with real people in mind helps the entire process be about people. 

The content strategy continues to develop with the organization’s goals for each audience type, other necessary content and the campaigns that the organization wants to promote. We then add any data points coming in or broadcasting from the website, and any external APIs or other content sources. We also do some analysis of comparative, competitive and best-in-class organizations, and fold those finding into a living content strategy.

While the content strategy becomes the source for all the site map, design and build phases, it’s also a really good way to make content creation much easier, including a system for writing priorities and a complete list of all the pages that will exist on the site when going live, or held for later release. That way content creation will be happening concurrently to the site’s design and build phases, allowing for a site to be released much sooner.

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Let’s talk giving!

There’s a lot more to online donations beyond the ubiquitous ‘donate now’ button. Consider the internet a medium to:

  • Garner more donations by easy, immediate and shareable asks
  • Create cross-platform donation themes like Giving Tuesday, Day of Giving, etc.
  • Offer easy, sustained, monthly giving programs
  • Offer membership and sustained membership levels
  • Give workplace and other group-giving options
  • Promote capital and endowment campaigns
  • Offer other giving programs like car donation, bequests, etc.
  • Experiment with crowd-based fundraising
  • Connect giving platform via CRMs and donation vendors like BlackBaud, Salsa and Donorperfect
  • Use CRM or donation vendors to promote campaigns via email

 

Giving more than money

While financial donations are important, advocates and supporters can help in a variety of ways. Helping people see the way that best suits them helps an organization by extending the reach of traditional giving campaigns:

  • Make easy to share donation on social media
  • Make easy to share campaigns on social media
  • Offer membership and sustained membership levels
  • Offer volunteer opportunities
  • Invite people to share events
  • Invite people to contact their representatives
  • Give a wider range of ways to get involved
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How much does brand matter for a nonprofit?

Historically nonprofits used to have communication and collateral seem like it was done cheaply to avoid a seeming high admin-to-program ratio.

That ideal translated to making collateral and websites that worked but didn’t seem smart and didn't set the organization apart. Now that good design isn't unreasonably expensive, having a mediocre design works against a nonprofit. It’s common these days to see funders and capacity coaches talk about the professionalization of nonprofits, and nonprofits themselves realizing good design is more persuasive, more usable, and positions the nonprofit as more sustainable.

We see a nonprofit’s brand as absolutely vital, and our job is to help distill and then expand on that brand in a digital space. A brand is much more than a logo, it’s the fonts, pictures, design, messaging and tone wrapped into one cohesive voice with which the nonprofit speaks. And online, it will include buttons, navigations, buckets and other interactive elements that need to speak with the same voice.

If there isn’t already a cohesive brand, we will work with to develop one, and work with their designer to ensure a continuity across other collateral. A strong, more cohesive brand is an investment that will pay off in a variety of ways and ensure the nonprofit will be seen in the best light, be it in print, in an annual report, in board and fundraising presentations and on the web.

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Nonprofit and social change offerings

  • Giving and Donation systems
  • Event calendars and registration
  • Blog and themed blogs
  • User account management systems
  • Service signup and application systems
  • Room reservations
  • Donor walls
  • Online and on-site emergency messaging, announcements
  • Kiosks and interactive touchscreens

 

Relationships > Transactional

Most web design firms are transactional, and see a website as a commodity and are finished when the site is published. Byte is relationship-driven and often works with a client for many years and iterations of site and applications. How does that play out?

  • We ask more questions
  • We challenge the status quo
  • We set up metrics and study how visitors respond
  • We affect incremental changes and updates based on metrics
  • We check in and ask how things are going
  • We often do redesigns and upgrades over the years
  • We are always learning from our clients

And how would this be better for a nonprofit

  • We invest into our nonprofit client’s successes
  • We care about long term strategy, see its effects
  • We write more maintainable and extensible code
  • We get smarter from years of working with nonprofits
  • We can compare metrics and successes between nonprofit clients
  • We see our value in how successful our clients are overall
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A Mission-based Digital Partner

Technology has given nonprofits and social change organizations a new set of tools to increase capacity, impact and communication to stakeholders and the public. We are never finished learning, and always trying new ideas, technologies and paths.

We start every project by digging deep and understanding all we can about a nonprofit including audiences, services, mission and stakeholders. We ask questions few other web developers would ask, and give recommendations based on short- and long-term goals. While many web designers are good at just doing what a client asks, we're much better at helping to find meaning and direction and powering the sails of change. We challenge how communication works and rethink how the story can be told. We do visioning sessions with our clients, and we back up findings with research and comparative explorations and user experience processes.

For us, brand plays a vital role in how people understand and interact with any organization today, and it’s much more than just a logo, font & color palette. A brand is the organization’s voice, and it’s important that that voice translates to the digital realm just as well as it does to print.

We believe in power of analytics and an iterative process. From small updates to full site redesigns, websites are meant to grow and evolve over time. We don’t want this evolution to be arbitrary -- we want to learn, iterate and learn again whenever possible. That’s why we work often iteratively on our clients’ websites, using analytics to tell us about the users’ trek through the site, and what they’re missing along the way.

Most importantly, as a boutique firm rooted in relationships, we are fully invested in a nonprofit's success in all ways success is measured.

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We couldn’t have found a better partner in this process than Byte, the stunning results speak for themselves.

- Stephen DeLeers, Board President

Byte came to know our institutions well and delivered wonderfully on websites that capture the magic of each place. They were unfailingly responsive to our input, and led us through steps with which we needed help.

Byte was an excellent partner in this process, not only in the quality they consistently delivered, but also in creating innovative ways for web users to experience our museums.

- Stephen DeLeers, Board President