The communications foundation and engine for marketing efforts. An essential consumer/member/stakeholder touchpoint. A major organizational investment. A key embodiment of a brand. A transactional powerhouse for sales and services. An organization’s website is all this and more, providing myriad good reasons to optimize its ROI through astute strategy and planning.
And yet… otherwise strategic and effective organizations sometimes make fundamental and costly mistakes in implementing and managing their sites… such as the blunders below that you can prevent—with a little foresight and the help of a great website partner.
Mistake #1: Redesign now—rebrand later
Urgent technical updates or a major marketing initiative may drive implementation of a new site as the organization is rebranding.
Sometimes leaders hope a simple reskinning will sync the site to the new brand. But a rebrand may change who the site addresses, how it’s organized, and the voice and key messaging it puts forth. Relying on a visual refresh can be akin to hoping a coat of paint will address the after-effects of re-leveling a home foundation.
Aside from potential audience confusion/identity whiplash, there are downstream impacts for sub-brands, which may fall in line with a new site, only to then implement (or rebel against) a new brand. At best, your internal team and site vendors will likely invest duplicative, costly effort to realign the site with a new brand.
Mistake #2: Tailor an external site to internal priorities
Sites are sometimes arranged by internal organizational structure rather than user needs—frustrating visitors who neither know nor care about the org chart.
Some organizations use external websites to preserve information for internal use—when it has no audience value… such as decades of news and publication archives or valuable real estate dedicated to working group operations and history.
Internal politics can become a content driver: if department A has three pages of content, Department B needs five, and Division G wants a microsite. Never mind what the user wants or needs.
Another audience frustrater: information heavily shrouded in industry or organizational jargon… from undefined terms with very specific meanings to referring to every strategy, tool, or system as a "solution."
Mistake #3: Build your own labyrinth
Organizations struggling with poor user design or limited search capabilities may resort to posting everything everywhere—or linking to everything from everywhere. Results include clutter, confusion, and often conflicting or obsolete versions—compounding rather than resolving user frustration.
Mistake #4: Consider your site self-maintaining
Organizations are understandably distressed to see a great new site devolve over a couple of years or months. Sometimes a pivotal site coordinator or manager leaves. There may not be documented roles and processes. Too often, there’s no recognition that a website is an ongoing project that needs management, staffing, policy, and rules—what’s known as site governance.
A dose of sanity: website governance
Governance establishes specific roles, responsibilities—and, most important—authorities for maintaining a site (and its underlying technology and associated functionality). It includes standards, processes, and schedules for reviews and updates; and policies that guide or dictate structure, navigation/UX, content focus, branding, SEO, compliance issues, and security.
Without a solid governance plan and team, it can be hard to push back against ill-considered or damaging website decisions. And it can be correspondingly easy for site content, user experience, and website value to erode. It’s smart to develop and put a governance plan in place before you launch a new or revamped site. To do that, it’s helpful to work with an external partner whose unbiased perspective and experience across site development, implementation, and governance can help you avoid pitfalls in optimizing and maintaining your site’s ROI.