HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The countdown has ended, the ball has dropped and the sound of the noisemakers is just a distant memory. Now the inevitable question “What will my new year’s resolution be?" comes to mind. We rack our brains trying to come up with something new and different – something that we didn’t already resolve to do in previous years. If you’re like me, chances are that you go back to some of those tried and true resolutions. Some of my personal favorites are “go to the gym every day” or “eat healthier.”

In coming up with ideas for this blog, I found myself going through this same process. What new and different resolutions for your website can we provide you with for 2014? The thing is, working primarily in higher education, we come across a lot of the same challenges time and time again. Sure, there are always new trends that we research and use as long as they make sense strategically for our clients. However, as we wrap up 2013, let’s take time to remind ourselves of these frequent challenges so that we can start fresh in 2014 and learn from past mistakes.

1. Start with your goals - And keep coming back to them.

Goals are the beacon for all decisions. Before you make any decisions regarding your website, you should develop and gain consensus from all of your key stakeholders on a set of goals. It doesn’t stop there. These goals will guide you through the rest of the website design and development project. As questions come up or people challenge decisions being made, refer back to these goals. Since they were already approved by all your stakeholders, it will be much easier to make a case for the decisions and overall direction of the website.

2. Always keep your users in mind.

Your website is only successful if it serves the needs of your users. Because of this, when you create your website, put yourself in their shoes. What are they looking for? What terminology do they use? Your information architecture (IA) should be organized in a manner that is intuitive to your audience(s) so that they can easily find what they need. This is one of the many reasons why we’re such big fans of user testing. We can do the research, put together the strategy and create IA or designs, but the true test is to put the page schematics or designs in front of our audience and see if it works for them.

3. Remember that content is (still) king.

Your content is ultimately what drives traffic to your website. Your website can be beautiful and easy to navigate, but if there’s nothing worth reading, no one will take the time to look at it. Make content the star of your website by ensuring it offers value to your audience, is engaging and easy-to-digest and is search engine friendly so people can find it easily.

4. Implement and enforce a governance plan.

All of your hard work has finally paid off. You have a shiny new website and you’re getting a great response. But your work doesn’t stop there. Your website is a living and ever-evolving thing, and with that comes the responsibility of keeping it updated. This is where governance comes in. Website governance is your institution’s system of people, processes and policies to maintain and manage your website over time. It’s a big undertaking but once your plan is in place and fully implemented and enforced, it will help ensure your website continues to serve its audience with relevant content well into the future.

These are just a few suggestions based on the trends we’ve been seeing. What New Year’s resolutions have you set for your institution's website? We’d love to hear from you about your plans for 2014.

Happy New Year from VisionPoint!