Here is the scenario … you just redesigned your website on a CMS Platform that is perfect for the needs of your organization. You are able to regularly take the pulse of your users and adapt the website to make any changes needed. Those incremental improvements allow you to keep up with new browsers and other technology trends. A few years down the road and your website still looks as fresh as the first day it launched? Yes, it can happen! There are four essential things you have to get right the first time around to attain this type of success in your site’s longevity.
1. The Right Content Management System A key feature in this puzzle is choosing the Content Management System that suits your needs.
Too big. What do you need the website to do? Are there any integration points? Complex functionality? Think about whether or not your CMS is too large for your needs. Just because you have a large organization doesn’t mean that your website technology needs to be complex and unwieldy. Your website needs to be secure, familiar,and most importantly it needs to meet your organization’s goals. It is crucial to see a demonstration of the CMS first, especially when using an open source CMS, such as Drupal. There are so many variations in Drupal systems and implementations, that it’s necessary to pare down the technology to specifically suit your needs.
Too small. Now on the other hand, it is just as important that your CMS has enough capabilities for your needs. There are CMS platforms out there that have thousands of customers using them, that seem perfect for small organizations, but they aren’t designed to grow along with the organization. You may want to look into the future, in this case. Will you want to integrate with an association management or customer relationship management system to streamline your user experience? Will you want to add a social component? Make sure you have room to grow and expand.
Just right. We suggest using a framework that is popular in development circles. One that is popular and well supported is key to future of your investment. W3Techs provides information about the usage of various types of technologies on the web.
2. Flexible User-Centric Design Here is the rule of a good design: If we can look at the website after the client has been actively using it for one year, and the site looks good (or better) than the day we launched it? Success! To get this type of design, you have to understand two things: your goals and the goals of your user. Assess these goals and modify your designs to fit these goals. Good design is more than just aesthetics. It takes talent and skill to come up with a design that is current and visually communicates with your online audience.
3. Well Thought-Out Information Architecture A site’s information architecture requires digging deep into audience needs and organizational goals. There times that an organization needs a facelift for their website. They want it to be easier to use. But the information architecture is what defines how the user moves throughout your website and where the content is placed. To successfully redesign a website without changing the information architecture is like asking for a new house, but simply putting up new siding. It’s a façade, and the fundamental flaws of the site still exist, but remain hidden.
4. A Killer Content Strategy Thinking through your content strategy involves asking the right questions in a very tactical way. We have a terrific webinar called “Content Strategy on a Shoestring Budget” that talks about how to do this for very little cost. However, it is important to put rules in place up–front. Ask yourself: “Who is updating the website?”, “How that happens?”, “What is the tone and voice that best represents your organization?” “What are the rules for engagement?” Document and distribute them!
Check out part two of this blog on Incremental Improvements!