If your organization is considering taking on a new website project, you probably already know there are opportunities to engage your audiences beyond an online brochure. You may already have a list of features you’d like to implement. In today’s world, online competition across industries is fierce. For this reason, we should think beyond what content to include in a new website. We need to think in terms of approach:
How can a long-term mindset better align an organization’s mission with its digital objectives? What are the most critical strategic elements needed for launch? In a world saturated with calls to action, how do we drive user engagement?
Here are 3 key approaches to take your new website to the next level:
Your website should constantly evolve.
Redesigning and launching a new website is no small feat. If done well, it requires the input of a broad set of stakeholders both inside and outside of the organization who can speak to the creative and functional needs of the site. That’s a lot of hopes and dreams for one website to live up to.
Oftentimes organizations see their website as a once-every-5-year-investment. It’s a significant one-time undertaking that typically comes on the heels of a new strategic planning process or rebranding effort. After remaining unchanged for so long, the wish list of features required to enable the new organizational strategy is long – and expensive.
Instead of seeing your online presence as a once in a while investment, consider it an evolving tool. With an initial upfront investment to build a strong technical foundation supported by great creative work, you can lay the groundwork for an iterative approach to add more heft and functionality to the site over time. This agile approach often surfaces unrealized needs and exposes assumed “must haves” as not too important. In the end, you’ll develop a backlog or wish list of objectives that can serve as a product roadmap for future investment.
With a vision for the future of the website, you’ll be able to observe how users interact with the site overtime, allowing you to revise your priorities for the evolution of the site. Having planned to commit organizational resources to ongoing work, you’ll be better positioned to realize all the hopes and dreams of stakeholders over time instead of putting unnecessary pressure on the budget and/or timeline of the initial redesign and development.
Your website should tell a good story.
Of course, the concept of a user journey is nothing new. Good design imagines where the audience is coming from, what motivates them, how they’ll experience a website, and how they will be changed by their interaction. A commitment to human-centered design is table stakes.
But there is a bigger goal beyond visually appealing design. We don’t just want to delight our audience – we want to transform them in ways big and small. Desired user behavior varies significantly from “sign up” to “join us” to “change your lifestyle”. Whether teaching them something new, introducing them to a new practice, inviting them to serve, or equipping them to change the world, good design alone isn’t enough.
People aren’t changed or inspired easily. Stories, however, offer us a way of disrupting how someone sees the world. Though storytelling, we can create empathy, shift paradigms, and motivate people to do good. Here are some great storytelling worksheets from Winning the Story Wars to help unearth your story.
Digital tools are a unique platform for storytelling. The possibilities are seemingly endless. New mediums that transcend words and images give us tools to make the user journey immersive. We don’t just tell stories so much as we immerse people in them. As you work to develop your online presence, know that the bar has been set high and users may soon forget a site that looks like all the others.
Your website should do more than inform.
Our founder Jonah Sachs recently wrote about the next rung on the ladder of engagement – education. In the information age, knowledge is cheap. There are any number of ways for people to learn about the things they are interested in. From climate change to human rights to financial inclusion, a quick search online will surface far more information than we need.
But people aren’t usually looking for information.
If anything, people are worn out by all of the information that’s out there. Instead, they want to do something with what they know – and the organizations who can inform and activate users offer unique value.
Consider Global Footprint Network (GFN).They are a global leader in educating people about ecological impact. In an effort to equip people with more than just the facts and figures about humans’ impact on the planet, they built an immersive ecological footprint calculator. The experience it creates for users enables individuals to explore how their own lifestyle impacts our world. In GFN’s view, this experience – this journey – goes beyond education and awareness. It starts to introduce tangible ways for people to take action to reduce their impact on the environment.
The future of social change is not information, but activation. It’s an educational experience that informs our actions, not just our minds, thereby equipping us to live our lives differently.
To plan an upcoming digital project, we should think beyond enhancing a current website and adding a bucket of features. We should think about where the organization needs to be in five or ten years, and build a long-term roadmap to get there. Of course, you should include the things you want and need, but be aware that what activates users today may be different than what activates users a year from now. Start with the essentials. Tell a good story and activate audiences in ways that support primary business objectives. Do it without sacrificing the ability to evolve your digital strategy.