When should your association update its website? Every six months? Every five years? Only after it blows up?
Stephen Campbell, government affairs manager for Dialysis Patient Citizens that recently revamped their website, offers a thoughtful checklist of factors that organizations should consider before plunging into a revamp.
The Washington, D.C.-based DPC – a non-profit group dedicated to improving dialysis patients’ quality of life – develops awareness of dialysis issues, advocates for dialysis patients, promotes favorable public policy, and improves the partnership between patients and caregivers.
DPC partnered with Breakthrough Technologies for a website redesign when a combination of issues rendered their site a less-than-satisfying experience. While rich in valuable educational resources and tools for advocacy, the site needed better navigation, improved ease of usability, and a more exciting graphic design.
In addition, a hacker had placed code on their server that caused a recurring and disruptive distributed denial-of-service attack.
Since the launch of the new site this month, “We’ve had a lot of really great feedback. (Users) enjoy how much easier it is to use and how the design is much cleaner,” said Campbell. “People really like it. Especially since for so long we just had a shell up – basically just a series of images and text that we were using as a placeholder between when our last website crashed and this new one was launched.”
When assessing an organization’s need for a website revamp, Campbell has six basic and vital tips:
Serve your constituency. “When we looked at our old website we realized that it really wasn’t,” says Campbell. “It wasn’t very user friendly. There were a lot of disparate resources.”
Ironically, an advantage of their website crashing from a hacker attack was that “We were able to begin from ground zero, which really allowed us to focus on exactly what we want our constituents and users to see when they come to our website.”
Make your website look current. As part of their research, DBC explored a variety of organizational websites both in and outside the advocacy community, comparing their look and feel to DPC’s site.
“We just looked outdated,” Campbell says. He advises searching widely for the right look.
“We drew a lot of inspiration from the World Wildlife Fund website and even took some tools from the Sesame Street website. We were really looking everywhere for inspiration. And when you do that, you come up with a really current product like our new site.”
Build a user friendly back-end. DPC’s website platform wasn’t really achieving their purposes. Breakthrough’s rebuilding of the site on a Drupal platform “has made it much, much easier for us to publish content. It’s no longer such a specialized skill to get a newsletter article up or post a picture.”
Plan for social media integration. “Social media is really important to us,” admits Campbell. “We need to be engaged with our members from all sides. Adding the functionality of our Twitter feed right there on the website; Facebook and Twitter buttons in very clear view so that we can integrate the two together – these really helped us make progress on member engagement.”
Organize your website so it is easy to use. For any advocacy organization, “If a user comes to the website for a specific purpose, make it as easy as possible for that user to achieve their purpose,” says Campbell. On the new DPC website, clicking the “advocacy” tab connects visitors with the group’s policies and priorities, organized into clearly delineated subcategories that further reveal all the work on those issues accomplished by DPC.
Match your color scheme with your mission. Campbell notes that “On our old website the color scheme was very dark – lots of blacks and whites that gave it a very severe look, very serious, almost medical.
“We wanted to avoid that and move toward something much more warm and welcoming. That’s really a great, new feature of the website. And a lot of other organizations can do the same by asking themselves if their color scheme matches what they’re trying to do.”
Visit the new DPC website and see the powerful advocacy and rich resources this vital group offers.