A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Fall Internship at The Brick Factory

We are looking for an intern to join our team for the Fall. The job description is below as well as instructions for how to apply. We’d love to hear from you!

Fall Internship at Brick Factory

The Brick Factory plans and executes world-class digital campaigns for non-profits, trade associations, advocacy groups and brands. We believe in simple solutions, setting clear goals and objectives, and providing great service to our clients. We believe a good website or campaign is never done and the launch of a website is the beginning, not the end.

The Brick Factory intern will be responsible for supporting our Strategists in conception, implementation and analysis of many digital initiatives. This includes website, social media, email, mobile and other digital marketing efforts that support new business and client programs. This position calls for an individual with strong communication skills, analytic skills and creative thinking ability. This position requires a highly resourceful individual who can think on their feet and can focus under pressure.

What you can expect from this internship:

  • To Work: Do not be fooled, you will be put to work. Researching, creating, outlining, and executing strategic plans to the highest ability will be your average Monday.
  • To Grow: The Brick Factory has high expectations of all interns and believes that in order for you to get the most of your time here, meeting and exceeding mutually defined goals is of top priority.
  • To Compete: A fall internship at the Brick Factory will provide you will the skills and experience necessary to compete in the fast-paced, ever-changing digital technology industry.

What we expect from you:

  • You’re a fun person to be around.
  • You have a passion for work in the digital industry and are excited to explore the digital-sphere
  • You’re a problem solver. You would rather figure out the best solution than be told how to do it.
  • You’re organized. You can manage multiple projects at once and are dedicated to hitting deadlines.
  • You have some experience with HTML, marketing and sales research, and analytics tools.

What you can expect from us:

  • A great work environment, with plenty of opportunity to learn
  • A metro accessible office in downtown Washington, DC
  • Compensation during the extent of your internship
  • A fun team of enthusiastic and talented people

The Details:

Dates September 2013 through December 2013 (can be flexible for the right candidate)
25 hours a week in the office

Sound interesting? Take a look around our website, blog, Facebook and Twitter. If you think we’d be a good fit please send a resume and cover letter to jobs@thebrickfactory.com. The deadline to apply is August 27th.

Conversation Through a Browser: Tips for Humanizing Websites

Imagine a conversation with an old friend over a cup of coffee. You lean back in an over-stuffed leather chair as you casually discuss politics, the news and recount all the exciting things you’ve done since you were last able to talk. Its natural, your conversation isn’t forced and you even though its been months since you last talked your conversation just flows. Your friend understands the subtleties in your tone and picks up on your humor, anger and joy as your conversations jumps among different topics. It feels great catching up and you wonder why you don’t meet up more often.

Now imagine you’re in the same old coffee shop in the same comfortable chair. This time your friend has been replaced with an odd-looking stranger. Being the nice, outgoing person you are you attempt to start a conversation. “Hello, how are you?” you ask. No response. They must not have heard you so you reach down into your wealth of conversation topics and pull out old reliable – the weather. “Great weather we’re having, isn’t it?” The stranger blinks a few times but says nothing. Your normally charming demeanor is slowly turning into annoyance. Why won’t this jerk respond? In one last futile attempt you dig up your most charming smile and say: “I just love the coffee here, don’t you?”. The stranger yawns. Feeling oddly uncomfortable, you pack up your things and walk out of the coffee shop annoyed, but mostly confused.

At first glance, these situations seem very, very different but lets take a closer look. You’re in the same coffee shop drinking the same coffee. You’re sitting comfortably on the same broken-in leather. Same amount of people. Same charming you, trying to have a pleasant conversation. In actuality the only real difference is the response from your friend compared to the lack of response from the stranger.

At this point you’re probably thinking that this has nothing to do with websites but in a way it does. My argument is that a website should be like a great conversation. As we make decisions about information structure, design, and content we should think of it in the context of the give and take of talking to an old friend. Every website has elements that a visitor is required to interact with. Whether it be the site navigation, a contact page with a form to submit inquiries, or even something a simple as a link. All these elements make up the conversation a site has with its visitors.

So lets analyze a few real world examples, shall we? Let’s start with some examples that would constitute bad web conversation etiquette. Note that for sake of avoiding insult we’ll talk in generalities about common mistakes:

The Bad: Errors when submitting forms, difficult signup processes and making it difficult to get in touch

When someone gets to the point that they are going to reach out to you via a contact form, sign up for your email list, or create an account you typically want to capitalize. These are the engaged, interested visitors you want on your site. If your account creation form spits out an error when trying to sign up, your email list is hard to join, and your contact form is nonexistent you can expect to lose these folks right off the bat. Avoid common pitfalls like asking for extraneous information about a user on signup, making it difficult to get it touch and ask questions, and nondescript form errors. Consider how your visitors would like to interact and cater the experience to them – don’t make them cater to you.

The Bad: No custom 404 error page, broken links and blatant errors

These are some of the more frustrating errors on the web. Sending a visitor to your site to the default ‘This page cannot be found’ 404 error is about as worthless as you can get. Granted, 404 errors are bound to happen but its worth the time to implement a custom 404 page that at least shows in the context of your site. For a good example check out our client Panthera’s 404 page.

The Bad: Poorly organized navigation, buried information and a weak SEO strategy

Many an organization is victim to this. Too many nav points, information burried ten clicks into the site, and unclear wording are all common contributors to a bad experience. My best advice here (for most organizations) is to approach your site structure from the perspective of a visitor with no previous knowledge of your organization. Think of the types of information that would be relevant and what types of actions they would want to take. Trust me, it will go a long way.

Now for a few examples of sites that get it right. We’ll use some real examples here as everyone deserves a pat on the back now and then:

The Good: Formly’s Form Building Process

Formly is a tool to build mobile friendly forms and collect information. I stumbled across this application a few weeks ago and I have to say, I am very impressed with the simplicity and their approach. Take for example their form builder. The introductory copy is great and their step by step walkthrough upon adding your first form field is fantastic. This is one of the better examples I’ve found of an easy-to-use, human focused product.

The Good: GoSquared’s Login Screen

Here at the Brick Factory we love the little details that go into sites and GoSquared obviously does too. Their login page is a masterpiece and shows amazing attention to detail. Things like bringing in a personal image and suggesting fixes for mistyped emails go a long ways in making an experience great. Check out their blog post for some additional details.

The Good: MailChimp’s Chimp

MailChimp has accomplished what Clippy the paper clip could only dream of. The MailChimp mascot is not only fun and lighthearted but also provides useful tips and information regarding your account and emails. This is one of the best examples of giving your site personality and a voice around. As you use their tool, its enjoyable and easy which is reflected perfectly in their visuals and tone.

Have any additional good or bad examples? Let us know in the comments!

5 Common Mistakes Nonprofits Make When Redesigning a Website

Here at The Brick Factory we work with a variety of nonprofits, trade associations and advocacy groups. While each organization has their own unique set of challenges to undertake, its clear there are some recurring hurdles that we jump through on many of our projects.

We put together a quick list of five issues that seem to pop up pretty frequently:

1. Building for your internal organization

For most nonprofits their website is a tool for the public to interact with the organization. While this comes natural for some, it can be a huge problem for others. One of the largest struggles we face on a day to day basis is to work with clients to transform the intricacies and detail of an organization into information the general public can digest and understand. Its very easy to get locked into making a site that is a reflection of an organization’s internal structure. It comes natural, thats how most of an organizations staff probably perceives what they do. The trick is that the majority of the public probably isn’t looking for information on how your organization is broken up into different departments that handle x, y, and z – they’re trying to understand in broader strokes what you do and why they should care.

My advice would be to approach the redesign with your supporters in mind. What do they want to know about you? How would they want to interact with your organization? Taking a step back and approaching it from an external role can really improve your site design and strategy.

2. Locking into a proprietary content management system (CMS)

I know – surprise, surprise an open source digital agency touting Drupal and WordPress as content management systems. Well, there is a reason we chose to work on these two platforms – their flexible, cost efficient and well documented. With a proprietary CMS you run the risk of development constraints, higher cost, and significantly fewer support options. Not happy with your digital agency? Tough luck finding someone else that can or will work with a complicated custom CMS. Want to change to another platform? You’ll likely need to pony up a bit more cash to make it happen smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good proprietary content management systems out there, just make to fully research all the options out there before committing to one.

3. No established web program goals

I can’t tell you how many times organizations have come to us without any established goals for their website. Seems simple right – collect email addresses, interact on social media, solicit donations, wash, rinse, repeat. Well its not quite that simple and it doesn’t happen with a snap of a finger or with the launch of a shiny, new website. It takes work, planning and time. Sorry to break it to you, you’re not going to raise millions of dollars online overnight, you’re not going to have a massive email list just by having a newsletter signup form. Don’t believe anyone who will tell you anything different, there isn’t a magic bullet for success on the internet (well, except pictures of cute animals).

Web strategy is like baseball, good teams know that you can’t come up to the plate and swing for the fences every at bat. Too often you’ll strike out and look silly. You need the singles, doubles, and triples to win games. While not as flashy, they’ll produce results just the same. Then, when the time is right, we try and hit one out of the park.

4. Too many cooks in the kitchen

This is a tough one. Internally, its hard to decide who has a voice and who doesn’t – we feel your pain. Unfortunately, if those tough decisions aren’t made upfront the rest of the process can be ten times more painful. There is nothing more draining to a site planning process than when mass approval is needed. A tear comes to my eye when I receive the dreaded ‘I’ll circulate this to my team’ email. We get it – its important to get feedback, just not on every single decision.

I think the best approach is to leave the details and as much of the planning as possible up to a small group. That small group should be chosen to best represent the rest of your organization and should have the full trust of your staff to make the right choices. Otherwise everyone will need their say and everyone will want to be the exception in what should be a fluid, overall web presence for your organization.

5. Not budgeting for continued maintenance and improvements

Websites are very easy to build and forget – unfortunately, thats a recipe for failure. Often its difficult to find the staff and financial resources to maintain your web presence. My advice would be to make it a priority and it will pay off. Settling for redesigning a website every few years and not touching anything in between will come back to bite you every time.

We see the launch of a new website as really the start of a project so we start the discussion of ongoing site maintenance at the beginning of every project. Don’t make the mistake of letting your website stagnate and become a brochure. The time and effort that you budget upfront will go a long way in making sure you will be successful in the long run.

Have some difficulties in redesigning your organization’s site that aren’t on the list? Let us know in the comments.

Three Easy Steps: A Quick Look at Social Media Fundamentals

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting on a ‘Fail Fair’ panel about social media. My time was fairly limited so I decided to keep my presentation short and sweet – focusing on the three most essential fundamentals of social media:

  1. Don’t break guitars
  2. Don’t eat at McDonalds
  3. Don’t say dumb things

Admittedly, these aren’t the most commonly referred to fundamentals of social media. If I were to say any of these in a client meeting there would likely be blank stares and the possibility of me being asked to leave the room. I stand by them nonetheless.

So lets break this down a bit more, shall we:

Don’t break guitars

Watch this video but – quick disclaimer – the song will be stuck in your head for days.

Don’t eat at McDonald’s

Our friends at McDonald’s decided to get cute with hashtags on Twitter. Here’s an example from their #MeetTheFarmers and #McDStories campaigns:

McDonald's Tweet

You can probably see where this one is going… and the response:

Tweet Response

Don’t say dumb things

Just stop… seriously stop. Please.

In conclusion…

  1. Don’t break guitars – or listen and own up for mistakes. The right decision could have been made many times in the case of United. It never was. 12 million views – I’m sure someone out there much smarter than myself can calculate the cost of that negative PR.
  2. Don’t eat at McDonalds – or be ready for the good and the bad. Not everyone agrees with you, that’s life. Get over it and be ready with a counterpoint. If you’re not you probably should rethink your strategy a bit.
  3. Don’t say dumb things – hopefully this one makes sense.

Hope you enjoyed the not-so-standard look at Social Media Fundamentals. If you have any tips or social media failures to learn from please let us know in the comments.

5 Great Social Fundraising Platforms

Social fundraising is on the rise and these 5 sites are a great place to get your feet wet:

crowdrise1. Crowdrise

About: “Crowdrise is about giving back, raising tons of money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it. Crowdrise is way more fun than anything else aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’”

Pricing: Free accounts with no monthly charge and 5% + $2.50 transaction fee

stayclassy2. Stay Classy

About: “StayClassy is an on-demand social fundraising solution for Nonprofit organizations. Our web-based platform allows Nonprofits to receive online donations, organize fundraising events & campaigns, manage donors across social media, and access our real-time reporting and analytics engine. ”

Pricing: Freemium accounts have no monthly charge and 4% + $0.99 per donation ticket

firstgiving3. First Giving

About: “We partner with nonprofit organizations to allow them to plan, execute, and measure successful online fundraising campaigns. For individual fundraisers, we aim to make the process simple, effective, and even fun! Above all, we want nonprofit and fundraisers alike to meet and exceed their goals of raising money for important causes, building awareness, and expanding the world of giving.”

Pricing: No monthly charge, 5% First Giving fee and 2.5% transaction fee

razoo4. Razoo

About: “Razoo is a movement of people who want to make generosity a part of everyday life. Generosity is win-win. Not only does it make the world a better place, it also makes us happy and fulfilled – especially when we give to the people and causes we care about most.”

Pricing: No monthly fees and a flat 2.9% charge per transaction


5. Causes

About: “Causes is the world’s largest platform for activism and philanthropy. We empower individuals to create grassroots communities called “causes” that take action on behalf of a specific issue or nonprofit organization. Since our founding in 2007, Causes has brought together”

Pricing: No monthly fees and a flat 4.75% charge per transaction through Network for Good