What You Should Know When You Know You Need a Makeover
A website makeover project involves changing, enhancing, and/or expanding several components of your website – from changing the “look and feel” and navigation structure to revamping or adding new content and functionality. There are a number of good reasons for an association to do a site makeover every 12 to 18 months:
- As your organization grows, so does the amount of content needed to be provided online. The current navigation structure and page organization of your website may not be setup to support the growth you are anticipating, or currently experiencing. You may also need to enhance the amount of marketing or “feature-oriented” content to generate excitement for your mission and programs.
- Your website should be on equal footing with the “look and feel” of your print materials. Your visual presence on the web should accurately reflect your organization’s image and mission.
- Demand for online registration, customizable searches, and online transactions increases every year. Your website should include the online tools and interactive features your visitors expect.
How do you accurately evaluate your site in these key areas to know when the time has come for a site makeover? There are a number of action items you can employ that will not only assist you in determining if a makeover is necessary, but will also help document the needs and determine the goals for a makeover.
Survey Your Current Site Visitors
Before taking any steps towards a site makeover, you need to evaluate the areas to be improved on your current site. The best resources for feedback are those individuals currently using your site. Create a survey on your website and promote it on your homepage for 3 - 4 weeks. Tailor your questions to address both site usability and the quality of the content:
- Do visitors find the information they were looking for? How easily was it found?
- What areas and/or pages do they most often visit?
- How frequently do they return to the site and what are their reasons for returning?
- Solicit their opinions concerning the layout and visual appearance of the website.
- Provide the opportunity to offer suggestions for content or functionality.
Use this information to identify the what is working well on your website and determine areas in need of improvement/enhancement in terms of navigation, content, appearance, and timeliness of the information presented.
Survey Your Key Stakeholders
In addition to surveying your general site visitors, you should create a more targeted survey for your members, donors, board members, volunteers and any other key audiences. These are the visitors who are most familiar with your association, will benefit most from the services you provide online, and are the best resource for providing an accurate reflection of how the content, and “look and feel” of your website represent your mission. Promote the survey through a targeted email campaign, requesting participation in order to improve the service of your website specifically for your stakeholders’ needs.
- Ask if they currently use “their” website; if so, identify specific areas of the site they use?
- If they do not visit your site often, ask why not?
- Ask what information and services they would like to see offered online that would increase the value of the website as a resource. For example:
- Are there documents they would like to have access to online?
- Which transactional based interactions with your organization would being a member more convenient (e.g., event registration, membership renewals, etc.)?
Use this information to identify ways you can better communicate with and serve your key stakeholders using your website as a valued member resource.
Investigate What Your Current Site Visitors Are Doing
There are two key ways to explore the behaviors of your current site visitors:
- Use a free website analysis tool like Google Analytics. These commonly include easy-to-read graphical displays that summarize the traffic to your website in graphs and bar charts. They show:
- What pages are most visited? This can help determine if important information is placed in a manner where it is easily found?
- Is there is a large difference between hits and unique visitors? This can give you a rough indication of repeat visitors. Are you attracting repeat visitors? If not, then it is important to consider adding a news area, listing of upcoming events, and/or refresh content more frequently to give visitors a reason to return.
- Do you have email links and/or online forms on your website? Do visitors use them? Are they used as intended? By evaluating this information, you can plan for new areas of content or decide if additional forms may be needed. For example, if you are receiving the same questions over and over, creating an FAQ section might become a key component of your site makeover.
Evaluate Your Offline Communications Strategies
- Do you have print collateral that uses your association colors, typestyles, logo, or other design elements and photography? Does your current site integrate these elements to convey a consistent and accurate visual impression of your organization? Use your offline collateral to shape and document a design strategy for your website redesign.
- Do you conduct campaigns and promotions that exclude your website? Can you indentify opportunities to tie these efforts to your website? For example, you could add forms, functionality (such as the ability to accept contributions, fees, or donations), or even content (such as volunteer or donor testimonials) to your website to support your efforts. Plan for this as you document your strategy for your site redesign.
- Do you or your staff spend time answering common questions or responding to requests by phone or mail? Could time demand on staff time be reduced by placing information that addresses these questions on your website in the form of FAQ’s and/or enhanced content areas?
- Do you or your staff spend time processing registrations, donations or other transactions manually? Could these processes be implemented on your website, saving valuable staff time, reducing administrative costs, and provide more flexibility to your members?
A website makeover is a big task so it’s important that your time and efforts are focused and fully address the needs of your site visitors. Researching those needs and evaluating your offline communications strategies are important factors in determining if a website makeover is warranted, and if so, assuring that yours will be successful.