The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.
Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve the IMSA website. It was a quick effort as part of a growing organization. There was not a lot of planning or design as the future of IMSA was not clear as it was getting started. With that in mind, the time has some to do a site redo or refresh. Here are some of the questions and ideas that I was able to come up with to improve a website:
- A website is usually ineffective and becomes a challenge, unless the goals and objectives are clear.
- What are the objectives of the website?
- How will those objectives be measured?
- Who will be responsible for managing those objectives?
- How much support is available to maintain or develop content on the site?
- Does this site need to be viable before it will be updated either with more content or a full site refresh?
- For six months at a time
- The next year
- The next three years
The length of time between site refreshes will affect the design and layout of the site. If the site means to look good for the next three years before the next redesign and content addition, then anything that is “current events,” must be removed. On the other hand, if there is a commitment to create new content on a weekly or monthly basis, then the site can have a much fresher and more relevant look. These need to be determined upfront with executive level commitments to the question.
- What is a level of sophistication of the person managing the site?
- If there is somebody who will be able to continually evolve the look and feel of the site, it can be more complicated and interactive.
- If it will be managed by someone with minimal technical skills, it needs to be easy to update and manage.
- If it will be managed by someone with a design background, it can be more adventurous in the design structure.
- If it will be managed by one person but a team will be contributing and editing different pages or sections, there needs to be greater definition of standards. This will require more thought up front.
- Who is the audience of this site? There may be multiple audiences, but it needs to be clear who the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences are. Here are some suggestions of audiences for the site:
- The press looking to verify Illinois Main Street alliance.
- The existing membership of IMSA
- The leadership of IMSA
- Prospective members.
- Progressive individuals who may be business owners.
- Business owners who may be progressive.
- Other community orginizations looking to partner with IMSA
- Public to be persuaded by the ideas and experiences of the business owners of Illinois Main Street Alliance.
Not knowing the above core questions makes recommendations a challenge. But defining these higher level questions will allow us to set the proper strategy in moving forward. In the next post I will share some of the recommendations I came up with. These recommendations fall into some different areas:
- Create more content.
- Make content easier to re-purpose on other social media sites, and traditional forms (press releases).
- Make it clear what the next step should be for visitors to the site. Many site owners forget or don’t understand that everyone is following the WIIFM principle- What Is In It For Me? And often what is obvious to an insider is not clear to someone new to the organization. Make it as easy as possible for new visitors to get fully engaged. It is amazing how this often is done poorly online, when people in person can welcome new people so graciously. The challenge I attribute to one of introvert/extrovert mindsets.
- Allow for interactivity when possible. User Generated Content is the easiest way to share how vibrant a community is. This is so often lost on a static site, where the community is focused on doing rather then reporting like IMSA.
- Consider a CMS or Content Management System