Adventures in Virtual Service Planning: Connecting Users with Goodwill's Mission

Digital technology is capable of forming the way around, through or over barriers that people have to employment. From job search engines to assistive technology, there are technological solutions to many of the problems used to deter or keep people from work.
With this in mind, Goodwill’s organizations are turning to virtual service models and tools to fulfill their mission. Using the right digital tools in the right ways to meet the right objectives for the right people is crucial. Goodwill Industries International (GII)’s experience in redesigning and redeveloping the virtual job services platform GoodProspects¼ revealed a number of important lessons that I will share in hopes that they help you in your own planning efforts.
GoodProspects Homepage

The GoodProspects homepage

  1. We are our own best (subject matter) experts.

When developing content, we are our own best subject matter experts. One thing my team discovered when developing virtual mission services tools is that we have deep institutional knowledge about our organization’s mission.  Just about everybody who helped us develop content had a direct connection to Goodwill. Local staff and virtual volunteers contributed articles in their area of expertise, and GII’s mission advancement team gave crucial guidance. Even our contractors were former Goodwill employees! Because of that, our content speaks with Goodwill’s authority; it’s trustworthy and accurate, and we know it can assist people in need.

Behind-the-scenes of a recent strategy session

  1. Information is everything.

For GoodProspects, we dove deep into the user data we already had and combined that with web analytics of the original website to create a picture of the people who registered for it. We also used additional insights from the recently launched to understand the wider demographic profile and technology uses of that audience. Finally, we never stopped testing. Usability work conducted during the very beginning of the redesign gave us great insights into how people were using the old site and informed our next steps; page layouts and resources were wireframed and put through user testing before being finalized.

Getting reacquainted with our website’s audience and determining next steps for new users

  1. Learning is understanding.

Your data tells stories. Among the numbers are details about what happened when, how successfully it happened, who liked it or not, and more. The problem is that inaccurate data will tell a bad story, or too much incorrect data will cloud your insights, which impacts how you apply lessons learned in the future. You may find it helpful to conduct some data hygiene just to simplify the information you already have available, but also think about the mechanisms and processes you’re using to gather data. Is it the right data for what you’re trying to learn? What are the best ways to measure, and against what?
Analyzing clean data should show past and current trends, which will inform steps toward future work. As an example, we are currently optimizing our email newsletter by using A/B tests of messages to see which approaches resonate best and applying those lessons from week to week; the results so far are more opens, more clicks to the website and more engagement with our users.
Mailchimp capture

A screenshot from one of our test campaigns.

  1. Partners can be immensely helpful.

The extensive options that fall under virtual services can be complicated and expensive as well as strategically challenging. This is where partners—private companies, industry groups, government agencies, consultants, etc.—can make the difference. Their technical expertise, outsiders’ view of the big picture and, often, financial resources can help turn vision into reality. GoodProspects as we now know it is firmly based in Goodwill, but it was accomplished through direct financial and pro bono support from Accenture’s team of consultants and developers that exceeded GII’s capabilities at that time.
We hoped the new GoodProspects would be able to take “the Goodwill experience” to more people than ever before, using technology solutions to reach people who might otherwise not be reached or who might not make Goodwill their choice for services, and the results so far have been very encouraging. Of course, it’s true that no website is ever really complete. Content strategies must always be based on and adapt to the data that comes from the users. Are they getting what they need? Are they even the right users? Getting to know them, what they want and how they behave will go a long way toward designing the virtual services that can meet your mission objectives.