First Impressions Count; Yes, I’m Talking About Websites (Part 1)

When you look at a new website, it’s similar to meeting someone for the first time. First impressions count, right, even if you can overcome them with a lot of work later? But with so many websites competing for readers’ attention, it’s a lot harder to get that chance for a second impression.

What reaction do you want your readers to have: a smirk, eyes rolling, or yes, it could be eyes widening in delight? A website is the public face of your organization, and while you’ll never see visitors making those faces, you and your organization will feel the effects of them.

A website shows an organization’s brand, its personality, who it is to their customers or supporters. Some websites shout loudly but don’t have much to say, but I tend to think far too many websites whisper quietly, and get lost in the conversation online.

All websites, regardless of how well they work, should be updated regularly. Not just the front-facing content, or design, but also you (or someone on staff) should be always looking after the backend.

I’m not sure why I haven’t written this post before. I’ve managed an organization’s website (including a redesign) and I’ve been part of a much larger website redesign. I’m also currently in the process of rewriting all the content for another website (yes, I do mean all). I’ve also designed a couple of websites in Dreamweaver (way back then) and of course, now, I have this blog that I maintain. But perhaps it’s because it is such a huge series of posts to tackle.

And I had thought most people knew what to do when it came to a website. But I’ve been taking what I’ve learned for granted. And realizing that it is not that easy when you don’t do it all the time. I’ve run into number of people lately that I think would benefit from this series.

I was also somewhat prodded by Roshani Kothari to write a post about website strategy when I co-hosted a recent NetSquared DC event with her. The audience gave feedback to a nonprofit on its website. This is kind of what is coming out of that suggestion. Thank you, Roshani. And thank you also to the the NetSquared members that were around that night offering invaluable advice.

Also, feel free to reach out to me if you need help with your website. For the first ten people reading this post, email me with the subject line “Heather’s website strategy series,” and I’ll take a look at your website and let you know what I think.

Strategy

Strategy is broad, and it can be a bit abstract. But I’m going to break it down for you. A strategy is a plan. It’s a plan that lets you determine how you’re going to reach your goal (whether that’s maintaining your website, updating it or redesigning it completely).

I always think it’s best to start with a strategy, but I understand some nonprofits or small businesses just don’t have the time. If that’s the case, I’d first say you shouldn’t move ahead until you do have the time and resources, or, at the very least, have a simple direction you’re heading in. If you can’t carry it out, you’ve got to prioritize some items that you think you can manage. I might write another post on some of those items at the end of this series.

I’ve also found that people often spend way too much time on the strategy portion (so by the time changes are made, they are already outdated!). So try not to let that happen to you as well, which is hard, when you are working with a large website in a large organization.

But let’s break it down here. Part of what website strategy is is making sure the public face of your organization represents and shows off your mission. Content, functionality, and design should all be part of that discussion.

Then there’s the nitty gritty detailed part that follows the strategy (that is adapted when needed). It could include things such as: audience, personas, design, user experience, information architecture, taxonomy, content strategy, migration, cms, audit, traffic, seo, and more.

All pieces are vitally important, but it helps to get a clear strategy to start with. One that remains clear throughout.

Stay tuned for part two, where we start to go into more of the nitty gritty.

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