Do these complaints about your website sound familiar? If so, you're not alone. I've been designing and building websites for nearly 20 years. While design trends and web publishing technologies have come and gone, the complaints about websites haven't changed all that much.
If, despite myriad redesigns and launches, you are hearing the same complaints over and over – from your audience or people inside your organization – it is time to try something different.
I'm writing this in January, but you could consider the next calendar year, the next 12 months, or the next fiscal year as the year you finally fix the problems your website has.
If your resolution is to fix your website, following these four guidelines will put you on your way to achieving your goal.
Focus on who you serve
Your website is not for you, it's for the people you seek to serve by having a business in the first place. That means focusing first on understanding their needs. How can you help them?
In other words, don't be a narcissist. So many websites only talk about the organization that built it. Is that really what your brand principles are?
Just the other day, I read something that suggested you count the number of times you use "we" and "you" in your writing. If you use "we" more than "you," you have it backwards.
NO: Learn more about our initiatives
YES: Discover your power
If you were the visitor, which would you be more inclined to read?
Set goals based on business KPIs
The goal is the goal. Page views are not the goal. --Michael Powers
Your organization's website is a manifestation of your business. It is integral to your operations and fulfilling your mission. That means it needs to be aligned with your business goals.
Instead of setting and measuring goals based on vanity metrics like visits, time on site, and bounce rate, set measurable goals based on what the website should do for your business. Maybe that includes:
- Increase number of customer referrals by 25%
- Reduce number of calls to customer service by 10%
- Increase one-time online donations by 50%
- Reduce time spent on updating content by 33%
With measurable goals like these, you will know if the website is working or not.
Hire a partner
Think of the people you hire to help you as partners, not vendors; consultants, not contractors. The difference is huge if you think about it. A partner and consultant will be in your corner, guiding you to find the best solutions and achieving good outcomes. Your success is their success.
On the other hand, a vendor will sell you their product and a contractor will do exactly what you tell them to do. And sometimes, that is exactly what you need. But more often than not, when it comes to your website, you don't know what you need. In that case, hiring a digital professional that seeks to help you define and solve problems in a way that makes the most sense for your situation is what you really need.
Of course, hiring a partner takes more work on your part. Instead of issuing RFPs to any takers, you have to articulate your problems, research what type of help you need, identify potential partners, and evaluate them. And then you have to cultivate the relationship. But it will be worthwhile when you have a flexible, extensible, scalable website that helps your organization fulfill its mission and makes you look like a superstar.
Whether you're doing a full redesign or iterative improvements, you must budget at least as much money and time for discovery and planning and content as you do for interface design and development.
In a discovery phase you define the problems and goals and get people aligned around your audience. Be prepared for some surprises. But do not sweep them under the rug. You cannot fix something if you do not know why it isn't working properly.
Then use the planning phase to design solutions to the problems you uncovered. Are you starting to see why you need time (and budget if you're hiring someone to help) for these up-front phases?
Then there is the content. If you have worked on websites before, you know that content is always more work than expected. And it is the most important thing about your website. Content, aka information, is what people come to your website for. Do not skimp or underestimate how much work is needed to get it right. And yes, it should come before the visual design and build of your site. When you do content first, you know what you're designing and building to support.
You might be used to having up to two-thirds of your web budget allotted to design and build, but remember, you're doing things differently now to get different results. You won't be sorry you shifted more of your budget and time to the beginning of the process (note I said shifted, not added). It shakes out in the end. After 10 years of doing web design this way, I can assure you that doing it will save you time and money in the long run.
Ready to get started? Not sure where to start? Book a time to chat or send us a note about what you're thinking. We have worked with people and organizations at all stages of digital maturity and want to help you too.