Working in the progressive non-profit space, our clients often need to make big change on a small budget. They know a top quality website is important, but custom design and development can be a big investment. Sometimes they will say things like “you build a lot of websites, don’t you have some ready-made templates we can use?” It’s a good question to ask, so we thought we should lay out a few considerations to help you decide what is the best fit for your website project. Custom NationBuilder websites The Pros You can provide direct input into the design of your site, based on what you know about your target audience (after all, you know them best!). A professional design and development team can help create a user experience tailored to your specific campaign objectives. As part of a custom build, it is easier to include third-party integrations and other custom functionality you won’t get in a ready-made template. For example, social media streams, shop integrations, advanced page tracking analytics, member-only content, and resource pages. You’ll have access to an agency team that can provide more involved support and strategic advice on getting the most out of your website. This is of course a major asset when it comes to optimising your workflows and supporter engagement in NationBuilder. The cons It takes longer. Our standard project life-cycle, for example, can be up to 14 weeks for a full website design and development project (although that can be considerably shorter or longer, depending on the size, complexity and urgency of the project). It requires more financial investment. Custom website design and development is likely to cost at least six to ten times more than purchasing a ready-made theme. NationBuilder theme templates The Pros It is cheaper. In the NationBuilder theme marketplace, for example, you can currently find ready-made themes ranging from USD 200-700 (with varying levels of functionality and support for different page templates). It is faster. Once you purchase a theme, you can start the content upload process and have your new site up and running in days (if not hours!) You still have all the basics you need to run a campaign. The cons Your site won’t be unique. Your site will still look great, but it won’t necessarily be the perfect match for your brand, target audience and campaign objectives. You won’t be able to add customisations, change page layouts or reorder content. In summary If you are looking for a unique user experience tailored to your objectives, or otherwise need to create custom workflows for your NationBuilder site, then it is probably worth making the investment and engaging a professional to design and develop a custom website. If, on the other hand, you want to launch a campaign quickly and cheaply, and only need the nuts and bolts of NationBuilder, then a ready-made theme could be for you.
Campaigners all understand the importance of high quality data, especially when it comes to engaging supporters online and contacting them en masse. Recently we've spent some time creating a few tools to help organisations improve their data quality and minimise email bounce rates. Our aim is always to automate processes where possible, and to make new tools available across the board so all our progressive clients can benefit from each advance and improvement. With that in mind we've added a special email auto-correct tool, which is live in all the themes we create from day one. Email auto-correction in action When your supporter types in their email address with an accidental typo in the domain name they will be prompted with a suggested correction. For example, "email@example.com" will lead to a prompt suggesting "firstname.lastname@example.org". The supporter can then simply click the link included in the prompt to instantly update the email field with the suggested correction. You can see a screenshot of that feature in action on an example site below: As an added bonus, the tool will offer up suggestions for second and top-level domains too. For example, when a supporter types in "email@example.com" they will be prompted with a suggested correction to "hotmail.com". If only the second-level domain is misspelled, it will be corrected independently of the top-level domain (so "firstname.lastname@example.org" can be easily corrected to "email@example.com"). We implement this feature across all pages to ensure it goes live in every form, including petitions, donations and event RSVPs. Our clients have found it invaluable for preventing errors in signup information across their sites, and in reducing email bounces when sending blasts to supporters. Get in touch if you'd like a hand adding this solution to your site!
At Code Nation we have been nerding out over one of NationBuilder’s latest updates - Bootstrap 4 support for all new custom website themes! What is Bootstrap 4 and why should we care? Bootstrap is a super popular, completely free, front-end framework for faster and easier web development. We use it for all of our NationBuilder work, as it lets us create mobile-first, responsive websites for our favourite progressive campaigners. Since 2018, we’ve been using Bootstrap 4 in our very own base theme created to take advantage of the modern layouts and superior responsiveness provided in the latest version of the framework. That’s why we’re excited to hear NationBuilder has now made Bootstrap 4 the default for all new custom website themes. Over time this will help simplify the development process for NationBuilder partners like us and, more importantly, deliver improved website quality to customers. Nice one NationBuilder team! To help celebrate this latest release, we’ll soon be adding our very first offering to the NationBuilder theme marketplace. It’ll be a comprehensive, campaign-focused theme with support for ALL NationBuilder page templates - built entirely on Bootstrap 4 :)
Throughout 2018, the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance fought to make sure new foreign donation laws being debated in the Australian Federal Parliament did not impose undue restrictions on our vibrant civil society. The Hands Off Our Charities Alliance - a network of environment, health, international development, youth, religious and service organisations - campaigned through direct lobbying, organising submissions to parliament, holding events, making phone calls and conducting media briefings. Code Nation was honoured to build the campaign website for the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance, and we were doubly excited to see their campaign result in a massive victory. As a result of the hard work of the Alliance and other concerned groups the bill was heavily amended to protect Australian civil society and the valuable role it plays in our democracy.
After decades as a Liberal Party stronghold, the seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has fallen to an independent. We are all familiar with the post-mortem: voters were angry about losing Malcolm, the Liberal Party had a horror week leading up to the by-election and Dr Kerryn Phelps was a formidable challenger. And then there are the policy issues, first and foremost of which was climate change. As voters simultaneously digested the dire implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report while watching the coalition go into complete fingers-in-ears, head-in-sand, denial mode, momentum continued to build behind a message for climate action. Organisations like the Australian Conservation Foundation, #StopAdani and GetUp! were out and about in Wentworth to build on, galvanise and direct that momentum and make sure that as an issue, climate change had an impact on the ballot box. And it did. Climate change was the number one issue of the by-election, with 78% of voters saying climate change influenced their vote! (Source: Australia Institute, based on Wentworth exit polls). An important factor in the success of these movements is how adept they have become at leveraging new technology. Wentworth was no different. Effective social media use amplified on-the-ground voter engagement and protest action, and helped to keep up the momentum for change. Indeed, when people think of Wentworth, you can bet many will think of images of Dave Sharma being bailed up by #StopAdani. Credit: ABC News But the online media strategy only tells one side of the story. The organisational power of digital tools tells the other. There was an army of volunteers out door-knocking, making phone calls and talking to voters at election booths. During the Wentworth election campaign, GetUp! alone mobilised 613 volunteers, who made 91,000 phone calls and handed out 60,000 how-to-vote cards. Working with so many volunteers across so many different actions is inspiring. And complicated. It is important to make sure resources are allocated strategically so you don’t waste the time and money of volunteers, organisers and donors. You also need to ensure all of that passion, commitment and goodwill – cornerstones of a good grassroots campaign – achieve maximum impact at the ballot box. That’s why campaigners such as GetUp! make use of custom digital tools to get organised. They use them for anything from recruiting volunteers for calling parties and coordinating events, to connecting with the right people at the right time. One specific example of a digital solution GetUp! used for the Wentworth campaign is Election Centre. We built the first iteration of this platform with them back at the 2016 federal election to help people sign up to volunteer at polling booths. We wheeled it out for the 2016 federal election and the Longman and Mayo by-elections, to great effect. The earlier version of Election Centre (called Booth Hub) at work in the 2016 federal election In 2018, we made some significant updates to Election Centre. We know that one of the most powerful interventions a campaigner can make is with voters at polling places. Recruiting volunteers to man (or woman) booths at polling places is one thing, but in the heat of an election campaign it is another thing entirely to quickly and effectively manage their efforts – which polling areas should we prioritise? Which polling places are over-resourced and which are in need of extra volunteers? How many? When? Who is in charge of coordinating them? The latest version of Election Centre - which GetUp! used for Wentworth - solves these problems. Volunteers sign up for an electorate and coordinators are able to then allocate them to appropriate booths according to: booth priority (on a tier system of 1-4); where people are needed and; the location of the volunteer. This provided GetUp! with the tools they needed to more easily visualise and organise (in real-time) their precious human resources for maximum strategic impact. On the day of the Wentworth by-election, for example, GetUp! used Election Centre to coordinate the work of 284 volunteers across 35 booths over a 10 hour period. Senior GetUp! organiser Emma McGarrity said the rethinking of and adjustments made to Election Centre allowed them to introduce an entirely new volunteer structure for Election Day, saving GetUp! thousands of hours in staff time. According to Emma, this was a huge leap forward that will radically transform GetUp’s ability to scale up their Election Day efforts. Election Centre is just one example of the powerful digital solutions campaigners can use to make their work more effective, to inspire and keep supporters, and to achieve the best possible results for important causes. Digital tools can be developed to do pretty much anything you can think of - from helping to billet out-of-town supporters attending a conference to making it easier to petition your local MP, in the right way and at the right time. At such a critical political juncture and as we build toward the next federal election, progressive advocates need to continue to make their voices heard. Having had the privilege of working with such campaigners for several years now, we are optimistic. We know they are passionate, hardworking, organised, and in tune with the general population. They are innovative and always looking for an edge. We can only expect them to become more and more creative in their application of technology to achieve that edge.