Updates to Text Messaging and Video Tools Keep the Toolkit Fresh

Featured image: arrows pointing forward

Maintenance might not be flashy, but it’s important. We understand that ensuring the Election Toolkit is a helpful resource means keeping it up to date.

That’s especially a challenge with some of our off-the-shelf tools, which take commonly available technologies and then add instructions and guidelines for applying them to civic engagement tasks. When those core platforms change, the instructions have to change, too.

That’s why we’ve recently updated 2 of our communication tools. But we didn’t just bring the tools up to date; we made them better.

Text Messaging Tool: easier to follow

The Text Messaging Tool provides a quick, inexpensive way to send information to a big group of people all at once.

In early spring, we saw some website changes made by Call-Em-All, the SMS platform behind the tool. This meant we’d have to update the screenshots and navigation instructions. That was simple, but we didn’t stop there.

While we were updating the instructions, we also saw ways to make them clearer. We streamlined them, cutting the number of sections from 9 to 7. It’s now easier to follow the steps, and people who have used the tool before can more quickly skip steps that they completed the first time around.

We also added new screenshots to illustrate steps in the process. Even though the purpose of the tool is to send text messages to phones, the original instructions didn’t show what those messages look like. So, we included phone screenshots to show how the messages appear to recipients.

Phone screenshot shows a user has subscribed to text messages and has gotten a text reminder about when to open and close the polls

New screenshot demonstrates how the Text Messaging Tool works

Finally, we inserted new links to help users follow the instructions. Instead of just saying to “go to your MySummary page,” now we provide a link. Again, this helps people who have used the tool before and may be skimming or skipping steps.

Video 101: easier to be accessible

Video 101: How to Create Videos helps election officials begin to produce short voter education videos using YouTube.

Recently, we needed to update the tool’s instructions for a great reason: YouTube is making it easier than ever to add captions to videos.

Captions make videos more accessible to everyone, whether it’s somebody with a hearing disability, somebody who speaks English as a second language, or somebody in a noisy office or coffee shop who doesn’t want to reach for their headphones.

Youtube video with caption reading Hello and welcome to our quick video tutorial

YouTube is making it easier than ever to add captions

The original instructions encouraged users to manually transcribe the videos — essentially creating captions one word at a time. Unsurprisingly, that’s time consuming.

Now, YouTube creates automatic captions and, even more importantly, you can now easily edit them to correct transcription errors. It’s a huge time savings, and we understand that the simpler it is to make materials accessible, the more likely people are to do it.

So, we changed the instructions to show users how to edit YouTube’s automatic captions. The results are going to benefit the videos’ producers as well as their viewers.


As the Toolkit moves forward, we’ll be keeping maintenance in mind, helping to make sure the tools and their instructions continue to meet the needs of election officials.