We have come a long was from the first pages built and shared on the internet. Remember when you had to type in “Click Here” to guide users to clicking on a link if they wanted to open and read a report? Now everyone knows what underlined text means on a website.
Design for the web continues to evolve, which means that eventually in the cycle of every organization there comes a time when the website needs to be revisited. Don’t worry! There are solutions!
You should first figure out what is and is not working on your current website, and not from the perspective of a dedicated agency director, who, for example, has an affinity for a terrible shade of green, or navigation ideas that are not in sync with your audience.
Here’s what you need to do. First draft some questions like the user experience exercise below. You’ll want to run a few tests to make sure that the tasks you want site visitors to accomplish can be completed quickly and intuitively.
1. Look around this page and tell me what you make of it? Just think out loud a little.
2. Who do you think owns this site?
3. Who is the target audience for this site?
4. What do you think you can do on this site?
5. What do you think is the purpose of this website?
6. How would you donate to this organization? (go through the steps on the site to see how long it takes; mark down the time)
7. Where would you go to read this organization’s latest content?
8. How would you find information about a particular staff member?
9. Where would you go to take action on a campaign or read a recent report?
10. How would you RSVP to an upcoming event?
11. What social media channels is this organization operating on? How do you know?
Then, invite three to six volunteers to be your testers. Lure them with cookies, gift cards, gratitude, or donuts—all of the above work. These volunteers, either non-website staff members or entirely external volunteers (your mom, your best friend, your uncle) will take the brief test of your site while you observe them.
As you run through the questions with your volunteers, you’ll begin to see what may not be working for current site users. On top of that you have data to show your agency director, helping her to see that people think the color green means you’re an environmental group, and that they didn’t know you had a Facebook page so they couldn’t RSVP for your annual Congressional reception. Tons of potential donors missed teachers singing karaoke to help purchase new books for students (they didn’t even know you had events or lobbied on education reform).
Armed with this information, you are ready to take the first step in redesigning your website, or you have learned that your website works really well for visitors and you have succeeded in your quest to communicate your mission online. Either way congrats, and let me know how you did!