If you want to know how to make your union website better, ask your members. And if you really, really want it to be better, use the most powerful Web 2.0 tools to do so.
Probably the majority of UK trade union websites were put together by web designers based on ideas coming from senior union officials. In some cases, members may have been asked formally or informally, to comment on the results. In many uses, this is pretty obviously not the case – just look at the websites to see what I mean.
Imagine if you could get all the members of your union into a room (or a stadium) and could bring up the website on a giant screen. Picture members being able to point to specific features, to bits of the page and chunks of text that could be improved, or where things should be taken out or added.
We now have free tools to do this online. One of them is Diigo which allows for the creation of groups to collectively edit and comment upon a website. Diigo allows for much more than this – think of it as a social bookmarking site like Digg, but on steroids.
Matt Noyes, who runs the Association for Union Democracy website in the USA, has used Diigo to conduct a collaborative assessment of the AUD website. I decided to have a look myself at Diigo from a useability perspective and found it to be a powerful tool that unions could use.
I signed up for a free account at the Diigo site, confirmed by email, and installed the Diigo toolbar in my web browser – all of this taking about a minute. Once the toolbar is installed, I can go to any website and in a second highlight text and add my comment to it. Those comments could be made viewable only by yourself, or to the general public, or to members of a Diigo group. Groups are what make Diigo a useful tool for unions that want member feedback on their sites.
Matt has set up an invitation-only group on Diigo to review the AUD website. Obviously million-member unions would want to consider following a similar route, so that small teams of members can add their own comments and review each others.
Of couse there are other ways of getting user feedback, including providing a form to submit feedback or using online polls. But tools like Diigo are more flexible and more powerful. They’re also more fun.