The following is an unsolicited website review. Names were removed to protect the group's privacy.
Look at every comment from two perspectives: How can each change help current members (or customers)? How can each change attract new members (or customers)?
Other groups can apply these same tips to their websites.
Special offer for non-profit groups only: Contact me directly (see the information at the end of this article) for a FREE, no obligation website review. If you like the suggestions, feel free to have anyone you choose update your site.
A random glance through (blank’s) website (www.----.org) shows even infrequent visitors like me that it needs some major work.
Please consider these suggestions when you redesign your site. I will help you in any way I can.
Before You Start
Ask yourself several important questions before beginning a website update. These should include:
1. Who are you trying to serve? In other words, is the website strictly for people who are already members? Are you looking to attract casual cyclists to the group? Do you want new businesses to sponsor or host events? Is the site for the media or government officials?
2. Ask yourself this question early and often from the readers’ perspective: “What’s in it for me?” Another way to put it is, “Why should I spend my time reading this material. How does it benefit me?”
3. Profile your typical members and the people you want to attract. You want to know: how old are they? Where do they get their information? Where do they ride? How often are they on a bike? What activities do they enjoy on two wheels? How politically active are they? What causes do they support both with their wallets and their time?
4. Use the information above to create a plan for reaching and interacting with your user groups. Create different plans for different groups, if necessary. If one goal, for example, is to attract business sponsors, be able to show them benefits of sponsorship like more sales.
5. Outline your goals based on your plan. Consider the best ways to achieve your goals and reach your targeted groups. Consider going outside your organization and paying for skills your volunteers may lack.
Here’s an objective review of (blank)’s website. Comments are based on personal experience with the goal of helping you attract more people. It is not meant as a criticism of individuals but these comments, if taken to heart, will help you.
· The front page is boring. It needs a photo or two and a better overall design. Take a look at Artisteer (http://www.artisteer.com/) where you can preview sample designs and backgrounds.
· Consider a streamlined events calendar. Include times, dates locations and most importantly, a one sentence description aimed at casual visitors explaining why they should care about the event. Link that description to another page with photos and more details, such as a press release, volunteer sign-up sheet, a way to get more information about the specific event, a method of subscribing to your on-line newsletter, etc.
· Critical: make sure your top three projects are visible on a small laptop screen, even if they are not in proper date order. You want people to attend them, not miss them because readers didn’t scroll far enough down the page.
· Delete anything more than six months to one year old. No one is going to care about what happened in 2008, assuming the posted links still work. If you want to keep the old information handy, do it as an archive. Follow the calendar format above.
You might consider listing your pop-out links on the page as a drop down menu below the page heading. Other suggestions are:
· Update your content and remove old material. For example, one person is listed as Executive Director, a position now held by someone else. If that listing is wrong, it makes casual visitors wonder, “What else is incorrect?”
· Check your links. The meetings page, for example, does not work.
The front page is another snoozer. It needs a complete redesign. You’ve got a lot of content that could be more attractively organized. Other ideas include:
· Redo your Volunteer page. The newest item is dated July 20, 2003.
· Update your contact list. The last update was Dec. 4, 2007. Are these people still with the city or private group? Does the phone number and/or email address for each still work?
· Add data on the hazard incidents to indicate if the problem was fixed and when. Only list those items that are still a problem or were resolved in the last 4-6 weeks. You can archive older ones if you wish.
· The White Papers page is the same as your Advocacy page. Change one or both.
(Blank) conditions do not work. Consider links to sites such as Caltrans (http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi), which lists highway conditions. A local weather link would also help.
· The Community link is invalid.
· No link to your newsletter exists. You should have one here. Consider displaying the lead photo, headline and the first two or three paragraphs from your top current story. Also consider adding, a comment like, “To Read the Complete Issue, Join ” with a link for your membership application. In addition, have a place to insert your membership number so current members can download the newsletter as a PDF.
One section, other than being four years old—it begs the question, “Why is it still being promoted?”—is the most interesting page on your site. The photos are large and filled with action. The text is concise and explains what took place, though there are some minor typos. Consider using slightly smaller images (about two-thirds this size) and using a similar style on other pages.
Why is “News Articles” in this section instead of News? It does not make logical sense.
The news articles listing is too long and goes too far back. Set a time limit such as 6-12 months and archive the older stuff.
Instead of a link to “Benefits of Joining,” consider including a condensed version on your membership page. The less work readers have to do, the better they like it.
Your application procedure needs to be updated for online submission. If you can include a way to pay via PayPal, include it. PayPal’s fees are worth it if your membership increases.
You have this method for donations, but not memberships. You should update it to handle both.
Tip: Include a privacy statement indicating personal data will not be sold or distributed to anyone outside without the member’s written consent.
Consider distributing your newsletter via on-line only, with a slight extra charge for those who want a printed copy.
General Design Tips
These tips apply to the entire site.
· Consider a slightly colored background instead of bright white. A light color reduces screen glare, making your text easier to read.
· Select three or four web fonts (typefaces) and use them consistently throughout the document. Use one for all of your body text, another for major headlines and a third for captions.
· Look at using graphics beyond just photos. Charts, for example, are a great way of visually showing change over time. For example, a chart showing how your free bike lights cut the number of bicycle accidents would be very helpful.
Using some or all of these tips will help do a better job of serving its current members and recruiting new ones. Recruiting younger members should always be one of your top three tasks since public service groups face steep drops in membership.
Contact me with any questions or comments. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, by phone at my home office in Placerville at 530-621-9956 or on my cell at 805-729-1269, on Twitter @wordsbydavereyn, and on Facebook. You will also find some good communications and marketing tips at http://wordsbydavereyn.blogspot.com.