Today’s guest post reminds us not to forget about our websites in the age of social media. ~Kristina
Guest Post by Elizabeth Brigham
While it seems passé to talk about the importance of our websites – haven’t we been talking about this for 20 years? – they are the foundation of everything we do to engage our communities online. As marketers and communicators, we easily get caught up in the latest shiny thing and often neglect our websites. No matter how many channels we adopt, all roads lead back to our websites, our digital homes, and they really should be our first priority because we own them and all the data that passes through them.
Your (digital) home is where your heart is
When members of our communities come to our sites, the first thing we want them to understand is our mission and what we’re trying to communicate to them. What issues are we working to solve? How are we achieving our goals? What impact are we making? We want this introduction to be inviting, neat and to the point. Does this house look inviting enough for me to want to enter and start a relationship with the people there?
I’ve been a part of hundreds of site design and development projects in my career and often we get hung up on the colors and fonts, rather than thinking critically about the “guest” experience. Our goal is to develop a relationship with all guests and move them up the ladder of engagement; we should build our site to map to that ambition, visualizing our site before starting any design/development to see where any initial gaps may lie.
A gathering place for your community
In our homes, each room has a specific function; pages on our sites should have the same focus. Before designing any web pages, we need to think about who the audience is for the page, what the desired action is for that page – donate? Sign up? Learn more? – and what our reaction will be once they take that action. If someone donates, what message will be shown on the page after they click submit? Will they receive an automated email from us thanking them and providing them a receipt for tax purposes? These details can be critical for providing an exceptional guest experience and keeping people engaged on our sites. Moreover, we also need to think about how guests will experience the site mobile and a range of screen sizes. According to the most recent M+R Benchmarks study, 13% of all online donations in 2015 came from mobile. This trend will only continue to increase significantly.
Don’t forget the utilities
We can design the prettiest websites that we think provide great stories and experiences, but if we don’t have the proper backend infrastructure in place, it’s all for naught. Backend infrastructure sounds scary, but it’s really about keeping the lights on in our digital house. We can’t afford to have our donation pages go down on #GivingTuesday, for example. A solid backend infrastructure (e.g. using a cloud-based platform to power donations, events, etc.), will ensure we can be flexible and scale our sites’ technical capacity to withstand bursts of traffic.
A home you’ll never outgrow
When my husband and I bought our first home, we wanted to ensure that it would grow with us as our family did. Similarly, when building the infrastructure to our websites, we should select a cloud-based, scalable infrastructure that can evolve as we develop as an organization. More tools today offer that flexibility through access to APIs – like The Groundwork or Salesforce; no longer do we have to accept a rigid framework for building an events page, for example. Now we can use only the services we actually need.
If you’re thinking about building your site from scratch or just redecorating, make sure you’re developing a strategy for your digital home as a whole – the rooms, the foundation, the utilities. Putting your guests first in designing the site with a solid infrastructure will lead to deeper and longer-term relationships in your home, stories that resonate more fully with your audience, and ultimately will help you drive more impact.
Elizabeth Brigham leads marketing and communications at Timshel. She is passionate about leading a movement to transform marketing away from seeing people as transactions (opens, likes, shares) and instead engaging with them as humans. Marketing for Elizabeth is building relationships with people, and having some fun and great conversations along the way.