A card sorting exercise is the one of the simplest approaches to creating your website’s navigation or information architecture – especially if there is a participant pool at your fingertips. Card sorting is a method to consider if there are a large number of topic areas, if the information is very specific to a user group, or if there are special needs of the user group.


Card sorting exercises follow three basic steps.

  1. The participant is provided website topic areas are written on index cards.
  2. The participant determines the major categories for the website.
  3. The participant categorizes secondary information that is provided into the main categories they established.

An option to consider is that participants can be offered a pre-determined set of cards for secondary information, but participants could create their own major category names. This option allows for a little more flexibility and could reveal terms or language that was not considered by the web design team.


Image credit:  Ivo Gomes

Image credit: Ivo Gomes

Some things to keep in mind while facilitating a card sort.

  • Participants can change the organization at any time.
  • As the exercise is carried out, you may want to suggest a limit for the major categories.
  • It’s important that the participants align with your primary audience group to ensure they have a strong understanding of the website content.
  • Card sorting can be done in person 1 on 1 or there are online options that are free and paid services.
  • If performing the exercise in person, encourage the participant to talk as they organize cards so their thought process can be noted.



The World Health Organization reports that more than 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Clearly, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website is accessible for the visually impaired.


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides many recommendations about making websites accessible for people with visually disabilities as well as other disabilities and it’s a good idea to become familiar with their recommendations if you have a part in developing websites. At a high level, the W3C follows four main principles related to accessibility that state:

Image Credit: Stanford

Image Credit: Stanford

  • Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • User interface components and navigation must be operable
  • Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable
  • Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies

A current project I am working on challenges me because the primary users of the website are people with visual and physical disabilities. Throughout the development process, we have ensured accessibility at a minimum level by

  • Using alternative text on graphics and other non-text based elements
  • Selecting color combinations that have clear contrast
  • Providing a tool that will read the text information aloud without additional assistive technologies
  • Delivering non-text interactive elements in an alternate format

Did you know you can navigate an entire website using just keystrokes? The website will be tested in this way to ensure that users can navigate the site with just a keyboard.  Also, a popular screen reading software, JAWS, is being used throughout the development process to guarantee a pleasant user experience on the website for those with visual impairments.


I have to admit, this project has challenged me on many levels, but specifically to consider how all website development projects I touch can be accessible for everyone.


A LinkedIn company page should be an essential part of your company’s overall social media marketing strategy. Your LinkedIn company page can help you get the word out about your company, find leads, and recruit qualified employees.

I recently read a HubSpot Ebook on LinkedIn’s new company pages, titled “A Step-by-Step Guide to LinkedIn’s New Company Pages.” The Ebook highlighted a quote from a LinkedIn Product Manager, stating that the new company page “means a more powerful way to build relationships with your target audience on LinkedIn.” I highly recommend reading this Ebook but if you don’t have time, here are my top 6 take-aways:

  1. You can increase your company reach simply by having your employees create LinkedIn profiles and listing your company as their employer. Their connections can then research your company to learn more about it.
  2. LinkedIn company pages allow you to inform your audience about your purpose, and drive traffic to your website.
  3. LinkedIn company pages allow your customers to recommend your products. This is very important because customers often read online reviews or get recommendations before purchasing a product.
  4. LinkedIn’s new interface allows you to post a cover photo that reflects your company’s brand, thus creating a consistent look across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, company website, etc.)
  5. You can target the audience for your LinkedIn company page’s updates based on Company Size, Industry, Function, Seniority, and Geography in order to better attract prospects for a given post.
  6.  You can easily use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool by posting open positions on your company page.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of LinkedIn? Don’t miss my previous post on “Maximizing the Impact of Your LinkedIn Profile.”


In a previous post I spoke about defining your audience when designing for print collateral or websites. Expanding on the topic of defining audience for websites, I’m going to explain why and how you can create personas to assist website development.

I know what you’re thinking… when are we going to actually design the website? Slow down, these are important planning steps in the process of developing a website. If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you possibly create a successful website? The extra step, of developing personas, will surely enhance your groundwork during the planning phase. While it’s not mandatory, it can be a helpful addition to the planning phase.

Think of personas as characters you imagine surfing your pages. They are representations or profiles of your primary and secondary audience groups. Developing personas makes you step back and think about Johnny or Suzie’s needs for the purpose of their visit to your website. I know you may not want to admit it, but it’s very easy to only think about what you may want to experience on the website, but let’s be honest, you’re a little too close to it, right? If you can direct the needs and behaviors back to Johnny and Suzie, you will have greater success.

First start by determining which audience category of website visitor the character or persona represents. For example, your website may serve a small business owner, a new customer, a stay-at home mom, a college student.  Then you’ll need to get these basics on paper to describe your persona.

  1. Name. That’s right. In your planning meetings you’ll want to refer to these characters by name. It’s helpful to make the conversation and reference to the personas more natural. But, I have to admit, it’s also fun being creative and selecting names that seem real.
  2. Motivation. Decide why that audience group wants to visit your site. Once you have that in mind, get on paper the information this character is going to seek out. Is it your contact information, services you provide, registering for events, informational blog posts? Knowing what information they seek will help you to prioritize content.
  3. Behavior. This is your opportunity to get on paper the expected behaviors your user will perform while using the site. Behaviors assists with bridging the gap of the motivations with how they will make use of the content on the site A simple way to think through this is to imagine a motivation like learning more about your services and explain how they will get to your website, navigate pages, content they may come across, what their experience will be as they browse.

To make your personas feel more real, try adding the following:

  1. Photo. Besides being a creative outlet when developing these, it’s easier to absorb the needs and scenarios you’ll be referring to if you can visualize the persona.
  2. Demographic Information. Age, sex, race, occupation, employer are the basics to consider including.
  3. Technological know-how. If a user is not computer literate, you will have to consider their needs differently than those users who can whiz along in your site and find what they need in just one or two clicks.
  4. Quotation. This would be an addition to the “needs” section.  You may be able to record a quote from a true user, but if not put yourself in their shoes for a minute. What would they say, in their own words, that they need from your website?


According to the Associated Press (AP) Style Book, copyright is defined as “the right of an author to control the reproduction and use of any creative expression…” That includes “literary, graphic, photographic, audiovisual, electronic, and musical works.”

It’s so easy to go to Google Images, type in keywords, and find tons of relevant, images, graphics, and media. Even though a certain piece of media is on Google, does not mean that you can use it for your business. Take for example, images.  Images are often considered intellectual property, and using them without permission or proper citation can be considered theft of creative property. It all comes down to the copyright licensing applied to the image of interest. In order to avoid copyright infringement, do some research on the image, and see what level of copyright protection and licensing has been applied to it. Here are some things to consider:

What will you use the image for?

If you are using the image on your company’s blog, website, or marketing materials, you are most likely using it for commercial purposes. Most images specify if they can be used for commercial purposes, and under what other circumstances they can be used. One image website I recommend that clearly details the circumstances under which you can use its images is stock.XCHNG. One of the great features of this site is that you can create an account and can email other users when you are unsure about the usage guidelines on their images.

Do you have to attribute the image to the author?

Another speculation that you’ll often come across is “Attribution.” Attribution is a level of copyright licensing that allows you to use and alter images, but requires you to credit the image to the original author. A few websites that I use for images that require attribution are: Flickr Creative Commons, and  Free Digital Photos. The good thing about Flickr Creative Commons is that you can search images based on the level of licensing that is applied to them.

Can you clearly verify the copyright licensing and conditions under which the image can be used?

Do not assume that if an image does not bear a copyright symbol (shown below), or a watermark, that you are free to use it as you wish. Most times, images with copyright licenses do not have these symbols or watermarks. If you can’t verify the image copyright licensing for a given image, be on the safe side and don’t use it. Another alternative would be to purchase stock imagery from websites like istockphoto. This will ensure that you compensated the author to use their work, and you aren’t infringing copyrights.

Image credit: renjith krishnan


There have been a number of blog posts discussing the features of TU in the Community, as well as some of the projects that are listed in the database. But have you ever wondered about how the website was created and launched?

When I first started in my position, one of my tasks was to edit and expand a white paper about TU in the Community, that was started by my colleague, Lindsey Meyer. This paper explained how TU in the Community was conceived and how it is used.

Below, you can click on the picture to read the finished version of the white paper and learn about:

  • The history of TU in the Community;
  • The features of the website;
  • The management of the website; and
  • The future of TU in the Community.

This white paper was a great way for me to learn more about TU in the Community and its many uses. I think that users of the website, as well as other institutions looking to launch or revamp their own outreach websites, will also find the paper helpful.

If you have any questions about TU in the Community that have not been answered here, please contact me at 410-704-2678 or I would be more than happy to chat with you about the website and searchable database and how it can be of use to you!