We live in an age where we are constantly on go and it is more and more difficult to separate our ongoing work with things that go “BEEP!” in the middle of the night. While we know the value of taking digital vacations and setting healthy boundaries for all of our techy tools, some of us are more reluctant when it comes to looking at our own websites on a day to day basis. We say, “Dang it, that button doesn’t work—again…”, “Why is this so hard to navigate?”, or “I know it works, but this just doesn’t feel like the real us.” If any of those ring true for you, it might be a time to ask yourself (and possibly, your organization) the below questions for a mindful reflection about your website.
1.) What are your current communication goals?
Just like a house needs the framework to support itself, your communication goals will be that structure your website will build upon. Ask yourself, what is on emerging and on the horizon? What is sunsetting and what are you letting go of?
2.) How might the site nest within that strategy?
A really good website that serves its community is one that is wrapped or “nested” in the organization’s communications strategy. That’s when websites become purposeful and not just an adornment.
3.) Who are your users? What do they want/need from your website?
Your users are your community and stakeholders. Make a list of who they are. Create that distinction between what you want this website to do and how people use your website day in and day out.
4.) Empathizing with users, what have they said about the site? How does that contrast relate to what your organization sees as your responsibilities to them?
A really successful website serves your community more than it serves a singular role. And to uncover this, ultimately we need empathy. Sit down with your community, ask with them for feedback, and listen—all of it is valuable information.
5.) What do you find yourself being able to do on another site that you wish you could do on your site?
In our process, we typically ask folks to keep a journal and jot down what you like in other websites so we can emulate them. Story 2 Tip: If there is a function that you want that another site does really well, take note of that site! Having this list at-hand will help the website team you choose to work with in their building process.
6.) What sites do you like and not like?
What brings you delight? What doesn’t? Is there a reason? (Knowing what you don’t like can be helpful in moving in a direction you DO like.) Create a list of these sites including similar industries. Better yet, ask your coworkers and colleagues too!
7.) Do you have Google Analytics installed on your website?
Your first step toward website accessibility is knowing who you serve according to data, and Google Analytics does just that. It helps web designers like us know who is visiting your website, their digital footprints, and general website behavior information. It can also tell us the strengths and weaknesses of the website so we can actually do something about it. Sort of like a Myers-Briggs meets volunteer sign-in sheet situation.
8.) What is working and not working about the site?
Take a moment and write down what’s working. What’s not working? Take a moment to have a conversation with your community, what are they saying? Story 2 Tip: For fast and direct feedback, you can place a survey on your website for your community.
9.) What’s your current capacity to work and care for the site? How much capacity will you have in the future?
It takes a lot to build a website and with that, it’s like tending to a garden. You might’ve planted all of the saplings but you still have to water and harvest on a regular basis to receive the virtual fruits of your labor. That’s why it’s vital to be honest with your organization on how much capacity you have because it will set an important constraint in shaping the solution you all choose for your website.
10.) With that what are the internal needs for the site? Both for administrative users and integrations with other digital services.
Most of the non-profits we work with use a number of digital services and it’s important you identify what those services are so they can be seamlessly handed over to the next generation of internal staff or users. Knowing these services can also let web design teams know which services will play well with one another or are incompatible.
Now that you’ve voyaged on your own website determination journey, it’s time to take the next steps! Reach out to folks in your surrounding community, get those aha’s from your feedback, and start generating website inspiration.