Posts by Elise Hoffberg

A few changes to the site


Photo via A. Zarmeen

You may have noticed some differences to today, especially if you logged in to your account. Here’s a rundown of some of the updates that will make your experience on Idealist easier:

  • We’ve added quick links in the header (at the top of the page under our logo) to search for jobs, organizations, people, internships, and other listings.
  • Your account menu has moved to the upper right-hand corner of the page, where you’ll always have quick access to your bookmarks, saved searches, profile, and preferences.
  • Your saved searches are now more accessible too! Just hover over the arrow on the green Search button and you’ll see a list of your saved searches. Want to turn your saved searches into Email Alerts? Simply hover over your name in the upper-right hand corner and click on “My Searches.”
  • If you administer an organization (or two or three), you’ll notice that you have quicker access to your org’s page, notifications, preferences, and invoices.  Hint: it’s right next to your name in the upper right-hand corner.

Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions.


Representing your org on Idealist? Help us help you!

UPDATE, Tuesday 3.22. Thank you all so much! We have enough people for this particular study and are closing the survey. You can sign up for regular usability testing here (we’ll love you for it!):

Do you use social networking sites to promote your organization? If so, we have questions for you.

Sign up to participate in a quick online focus group!

It takes no more than two hours over the course of two weeks, and doesn’t require you to leave your home, office, or home office. You’ll help us to understand how we can make the site a better place for organizations like yours.

More Details


Photo by bgottsab (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Who: You represent your organization online – whether your role involves HR, social media, outreach/communications, or programs.

What: Over the course of two weeks, we’ll send two short emails explaining some of the new features on the site, along with specific questions to get you thinking about the usefulness of those features.  You’ll update your organization’s page on Idealist, and we’ll ask that you respond with your feedback within about a week.

When: At most, two hours of your time over the next two weeks.

Where: The comfort of your own computer!

Why: The re-launch brought a more social, robust organization page. With your help, we’ll keep improving the features there, making it even easier for you to recruit the right candidates, find new champions for your causes, and keep up with other organizations’ progress.

Bonus: By taking an hour or so to get familiar with the new site, you can make sure that your org page reflects the work you’re doing, and use this time to post information about any upcoming programs, events, or volunteer opportunities you may have.

Interested? Click here to sign up!

Cross-posted from the Development Blog.

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Testing, testing: Help make Idealist more usable

Want to help make Idealist better? We’d love for you to participate in our usability testing program!

What’s this all about?

There are lots of ways that we collect feedback from our users. One important one is to observe Idealist members “in the wild,” so to speak. Instead of asking your (undoubtedly valuable) opinion, we want to actually watch you use the site, and see what aspects of the site could be improved.

Sign up to participate here. We’ll be conducting in-person usability tests for those in the NYC area, and remote tests for people everywhere else (as long as you have access to a broadband internet connection and a telephone or computer microphone).


Photo via Alishba Zarmeen

What to expect

Whether you participate remotely or come visit us, you’ll sit down one-on-one with me (Hi! Nice to meet you.), so I can observe while you use basic features of the website and ask a few questions about your experience. Usability testing is the kind of test where you can’t get a wrong answer, so there’s no pressure on you, just the website.  The most challenging part for you? Probably remembering to think aloud as you use the site.

Who we’re looking for

Everyone! Seriously, whether you have very little experience using the web or are as tech savvy as they come, you’re welcome to participate. Also, we’ll be testing features for individuals and organizations, so we’re looking for people who use the site in different ways: you could be a job seeker, a potential volunteer, an HR professional, volunteer manager, or your organization’s social media expert, or really anyone else.

What’s next?

  • We conduct usability testing on an ongoing basis, so if you’re interested, sign up! We’ll ask you a few questions to get a sense of how you use the site, and then I’ll be in touch when it seems like you’re a good fit for an upcoming usability test.
  • Can’t participate in usability testing? You can still make your voice heard publicly on Get Satisfaction or by sending an email directly to our Community Support Team through the contact page.

Thank you!

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Advanced Search: Tips for Job Seekers


Find the perfect job by targeting your search. (Photo by Flickr user

Since we re-launched a month ago, we’ve made several improvements to the search functions based on your feedback. In the short video tutorial below, we show an example of a job seeker using the latest version of our Advanced Search, which now includes a way to refine your search based on the Area of Focus and Job Function.  The video also offers tips on searching in general, whether it’s for an organization, a volunteer opportunity, an event, or any other content on Idealist.  We have more improvements on the way, so please keep checking the blog for updates.

If the video doesn’t load, try accessing it directly from here:

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Recent changes to our search function

Thank you all for your feedback.  There’s nothing like getting more than 100,000 pairs of eyes on a new website to help us organize our development priorities.

In the three days since we went live, we’ve received lots of emails, blog comments, and tweets, primarily regarding our search function. We’re listening! A few things we want to share: first, a summary of the things we hear you saying; second, what we’ve done about that so far; and lastly, what the new search can do that the old search couldn’t.


From Flickr user Christine Schmidt

What we hear you saying (and what our development team is prioritizing right now):

  • Search needs to be faster.
  • Location is arguably the most important criterion in a search, and it needs to be easier to find a city, and other cities near it.
  • Jobs should be sorted by newest first.
  • After clicking on a listing, it should be one click back to the original search results.
  • Some of you miss the old “categories” we had on the search pages.

What we’ve done about this since we launched:

  • Made it faster: We’ve improved performance and we have a few more fixes coming soon that will make the entire site even faster.
  • Advanced search: We added an advanced search page, where you can quickly enter a  location, select the type of content you’re looking for, and get help for including and excluding keywords. (We’re still working on it, but we wanted to share what we have as soon as possible.)
  • Proximity search: Fixed! Once you have selected a city, you’ll see options to search within 10, 20, and 40 miles of that city.
  • Newest first:  We’ve fixed a glitch that didn’t allow you to organize search results by posted date, and we made it the default sort order.
  • Back to results: When you click on a listing, you’ll see a blue banner at the top with the option “Back to results” which will send you right back to where you left off.  Added bonus: if you’re interested in many of the listings on the page, don’t waste time going back to the search results each time; just advance through all the listings of your search by clicking “Next” or “Previous.”
Listing Browser
We’re still hard at work this week on a few more improvements based on your feedback.

What’s the deal with the new search, anyway? (If it ain’t broke, why fix it?)

Search filters

We made a conscious decision to update our search feature to a faceted style – those are the filters you see on the left side of your search results now.  Facets, combined with a good search engine, can show you ways to search that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of (like a job’s salary range or a volunteer opportunity’s time commitment) while simultaneously giving you an idea of how many results will be available.

We also found that the advanced search forms we had in the old site sometimes caused people to narrow their results too much and, consequently, find fewer results.

Another challenge was trying to categorize all the organizations and jobs into a finite list of areas or categories, which didn’t account for an evolving job market and sector, nor always apply to every single organization.  This new structure allows organizations to self-identify more accurately, and we are in progress on solutions to help individuals find them regardless of the particular word choice.  For example, we can mine our database and find patterns, make smart suggestions based on that data, and ultimately produce much better results than we ever could with the categories.

Other fun things you can do now that you couldn’t before: save a search, and bookmark, share, and recommend listings.

Thanks again for the feedback. This has always been a community-driven site, and we appreciate your commitment and your patience.

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Our 10 favorite things about the new Idealist

Our re-launch brings with it tons of improvements. Here are some staff favorites:


Join us: fill out your profile and connect with your community!

1. Enriched User Profile & Connections. Idealist has always been a community of people who want to make a better world. Now we are giving you more space to share who you are and what keeps you up at night, so that you can connect with people like you. 

2. Everyone Can Post! Until now, only organizations could post listings, but we know that individuals can have a powerful impact too. Sometimes the beginnings of an idea or a loose collective of people working together are the ones most in need of resources and visibility.  Now everyone can post listings: recruit volunteers, post a description of a program you run, or invite people to an event.

3. Improved Search. Finding the right opportunity in the right place that fits with your interests, skills, and availability is never easy. Now you can refine the search results right on the same page with keywords and filters (like a job’s salary range or a volunteer opportunity’s time commitment).

Refine the search results in the right column using the filters on the left.

4. Bookmarks. One of our most commonly requested features was a way to save your favorite listings. Now, you can bookmark the jobs you’ve applied to, the organization pages that interest you, or events you’re interested in attending. Wherever you are on the site, you’ll have one click access to all your bookmarked listings.

5. Save Your Searches. When you’re searching for jobs or volunteer opportunities, you often run the same search again and again. Save time with easy access to your frequently used searches, and get them emailed to you as alerts if you want.

Name your searches for easy reference!

6. Sharing & Recommending. When you see something you like on Idealist, you can share it with all your connections or privately recommend it to a specific person.

Idealist, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace...

7. Info Centers. We’ve consolidated and edited our resource centers to bring you the most pertinent and up-to-date information about all the topics that can help you move from intention to action. Check out our new and improved resources for volunteering, nonprofit careers, and nonprofit organizations.

Find links to these at the bottom of every page.

8. Org-to-org Connections. We’re often asked, “How do I know if an organization is legitimate?” Now you can make more informed decisions about your involvement. In addition to seeing individuals connected to an organization, you can also see its relationships to other organizations, including funders, local partners, and affiliates.

9. Baking from Scratch. Idealist was originally built in 1995. When it comes to coding and improving a website, there are tools and tricks available now that we simply couldn’t take advantage of on our 15-year-old platform. So we started fresh, and we’ll be able to adapt more quickly from here on out.

10. Design. We cleaned it all up, aiming to make the user experience more intuitive and consistent, and more accessible to users with disabilities.

Have fun exploring, and if you have questions or ideas, please let us know.


Sneak Peek of the New!

Here at Idealist we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to bring you a brand new version of the website. We’re not officially relaunching for another couple of weeks, but we just couldn’t wait to let you take a look!

Check out this sneak preview of the new version of You’ll get to see three new page designs:

  • the enriched personal profile
  • our new and more powerful search
  • the more dynamic organization page

Idealist has always been a community of people who want to make a better world. By making improvements to the website’s design and usability, and adding social features that make it easier for this community to connect with each other, we get even closer to achieving our mission of connecting people, organizations, and resources and helping people turn their good intentions into action — online and offline.

To see even more of what’s to come, visit our development blog, and leave us comments about the new look!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]