Nothing Hootville does is more complex than creating new websites. (See our latest collection at the end of this article.) It touches upon every aspect of an organisation, requires contributions and cooperation from every department, involves a thousand decisions by inexperts about specific, complex webby issues.
Everyone has an opinion but few people start with a clear criteria about what they want – though they know what they hate. Good outcomes are far from guaranteed.
No wonder a recent post in HubSpot blog stated that one third of 152 in-house marketers were disatisfied with their brand spanking new websites. Gosh. Websites are too expensive, too important and too resource-intensive for 33% of us to be left with a hangover.
Poster Mark Volpe provides a few ways to avoid disapointment. We’ll throw in these of our own.
1. Treat your website as an employee. Like a human employee, websites should have functions to fulfill such as taking booking and payments, promoting volunteering, automatically taking new memberships, steering email enquiries to the appropriate department, media liasion centre and so on. Suddenly your new site should be measured against much more specific criteria. Most sites don’t go far beyond providing lots of words. (More on this on Brett’s upcoming article for the Fundraising Institute of Australia magazine.)
2. Don’t consult any more broadly than required by law. It’s not politically correct but we are dead against more than two or three people throwing their two cent pieces in the spoiled broth, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. Honestly; how many people in your organisation advise your accountant or lawyer? There are too many decisions to make (starting with choice of content management system) to explain the selection criteria to inexperts who are generally more concerned with aesthetics than functionalities. We’d like to see the CEO and senior marketing and communications people involved. That’s about it.
3. Use third party providers. Your developer or ISP provides a free eNewsletter function that can be a part of your new site. Great. Even greater; it’s free! Well guess what kids; it’s free for a reason: it’s bollocks. Same can go for online donation technology, publication display, polls, embedded videos, membership systems, online stores, ticket booking systems and so on. Your developer should knowingly help you browse through the options but should also listen to your opinions. Companies that specialise in providing a specific function (say MailChimp and its eNewsletter system) generally create superior products which are more regularly updated. Your website might intergrate four or five applications (or functions) provided by third parties. (Are you getting a sense of how many decisions you have to make, how many issues you have to come to grips with and why you want a small decision-making team?)
4. Don’t trust your developer. Imagine you are building your home. Would you simply say to the builder: “Build us whatever you usually build.”? Of course not. Anyone who has ever engaged a tradesman knows that unless you specify every detail you will get what suits the tradesman.
Sure the best tradies will guide you through each decision. (Of course when they do, we get impatient and complain at the size of the bill.)
Most times though, you’ll get the easiest, most profitable range of options for the tradie. Web developers are no different plus usually come to your project from a technical perspective – not a marketing perspective, a communications perspective or a PR perspective.
The best outcomes come from being an informed client, willing to research, listen, evaluate and communicate.
Recent sites we’ve built:
For a regional family violence alliance.
For a community health service.
For another community health service.
For an RTO and VET provider.
For the age services sector.
For a little side business we run.
This is the sort of stuff we talk about in Online Savvy 101.