On a journey to Website Wonderland
I’ll be honest with you: at the British Parking Association, we haven’t got anywhere near the end of our development journey for our website. So that you’re not expecting bangs, whistles and answers to all the key questions around how you can reach the wonderland of web, I just wanted to be clear from the get-go that we still have lots to do.
Now that’s off my chest, I’ll get on with explaining what I do know about website development and management: it’s incredibly important! That may come as no surprise to you, but it needs to be said, nonetheless.
The release is only the start of the journey
It seems to be a common misconception that once you’ve launched your new website, there’s no need to do too much more to it, for the foreseeable future at least. Wrong! And just because your website is starting to be a bit unwieldy and lacks usability does not mean you need to discard it in favour of an expensive new shiny platform. What you do need to do – and this applies to new and older websites – is spend time with it, to ensure it always looks loved and cared for.
5 basic principles for your journey
None of the above seems very technical and that’s because it isn’t. I truly believe there are some basic principles to web management that will keep your site looking svelte. First though, ask yourself:
- After visiting your website, is it necessary to use Wikipedia to understand anything about your organisation?
- Does anyone love, treasure and care for your website (in other words, does someone own it)?
- Would your parents/grandparents know how to move around your site in order to get the information they were after?
- Is there a trail of biscuits leading visitors to the next exciting page?
- Do your visitors leave your site feeling an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and contentment – or at least, informed and not the least frustrated?
It’s probably best to take a step back and ask yourself if your organisation has a clear purpose, mission, identity or reason for existence. I’m sure it does, but it’s worth asking the question because the vision can become a bit blurred over time, as the organisation grows, develops and adapts. Your website may be suffering from not keeping up with those changes, therefore it no longer accurately reflects your organisation’s purpose.
As your shop window to the world – visible to everyone, everywhere, all the time – it’s critical that you’re proud of what it says about you. If you get it wrong, which is so easily done, it can convey a message that lacks clarity, and is outdated and inconsistent. The result will be that your website is under-utilised and will underperform as the powerful marketing tool that it is intended to be.
Make sure somebody owns it
So how can you rectify that? Ownership is so important. With clearly identified roles for website management and agreed responsibilities for content creation, you will set yourself up to have the best chance of success in ensuring your digital presence reflects your professionalism.
You know the saying – tidy site map, tidy mind. Keeping things simple, clear and consistent, with language that is jargon-free and a style that reinforces your brand and identity will all make a significant contribution to user satisfaction.
Planned and well-considered architecture with structured content and good design will help with your site’s accessibility, supporting the adage Don’t Make Me Think, coined by Steve Krug in his book of the same name. We all do it: give a website about 30 seconds – or three clicks – and if we haven’t found what we’re looking for, we’re off! Don’t be victim to this.
Take your team on the journey with you
One of the most important elements of any enhancement work is to get buy-in. Instil a feeling in your team, whether they’re digital natives or not, that they are the curators of the content, the knowledge and the information that is being presented on your website. They should feel like they can rely on their shop window being easy to understand, up to date and have fantastic usability, so that they can ultimately become your website advocates.
William Shakespeare was once asked, ‘how is your next play coming along’. His reply: ‘it’s nearly finished, I’ve just got to write it now’.
At the BPA, we’ve been doing a lot of talking, so now the fun begins as we start to get on with the job. I hope these words have offered you a little help on your journeys to Website Wonderland. It’s just left for me to wish you a bon voyage!
Topic: Membership websites