I read a great post by Gerry McGovern, who made the point that companies are more than happy to spend $200,000 every three years on a massive website redesign and put no money into redevelopment in the ensuing years. They were reinventing the wheel every three years and then letting the wheel go flat in between times. In short, he recommended that companies would be better off to spend $50,000 a year for three years.
He is right. But he is also in the minority, sadly.
Web site maintenance is a key part of a successful web strategy. In my workshops on web writing, I often asked the question of participants ‘ how often do you update your website?’ I sometimes ask them ‘ how often you go through your website taking down old material?’ The answer, sadly, is ‘when I can find time’.
Web site maintenance is not about web servers. Maintaining a website is not about minimising downtime so people can access information around the clock. It is about ensuring that whenever they access information they are getting the best information possible. That usually means giving them content that provide to answer the questions, to help them to achieve their goals or to assist them to easily contact and connect with your organisation.
Website maintenance is about content. It’s about maintaining what you have and ensuring it ALWAYS hits the mark – not just in the afterglow of a relaunch.
Part of any website responsibility is to ensure that you are regularly adding good information, replacing old information or archiving redundant information. Does your organisation have a plan to deal with this?
Because many organisations struggle with this concept, I will be releasing shortly an eBook on how to effectively maintain your website, to schedule in time to continuously improve your web content. Watch this space.
In the meantime, do you proactively manage or maintain your website or does the website manage you?
In a recent series of web writing workshops for schools, the question was asked – how often should we update our web site?
Updating your web site is critical to its success. You can have the prettiest, funkiest, coolest web site that your designer can deliver, but if you get a reputation that it’s out of date, people just stop visiting. They don’t cut you some slack and keep visiting in the hope it’s up to date – they just don’t bother.
So how often should you update your site to ensure people keep coming?
For schools, the answer is quite simple – you need to update your web site at least as often as you publish a school newsletter.
Companies or government can use a similar formula. If you publish a quarterly newsletter, then your web site needs to be updated at least four times a year (and be updated we mean an overhaul and review of your content).
If you publish information on a monthly basis to supporters (if you’re a non-profit), then you need to update your web site content at least once a month.
So how does that flow into social media? Shouldn’t you be in the social media space daily? Hourly? Minute by minute? Not necessarily.
When it comes to social media, the formula we like to use is to divide the timeframes you are updating your web site by four. If you, as an organisation, are updating your web site once a month – and you are in the social media space – then you need to be posting/tweeting/contributing at least once a week. For a quarterly web site update, it means at least once a month.
Notice the words ‘at least’. One of the things about social media is that it requires ongoing commitment. Less than that can be seen as a negative. You need to be regular – not every day – but at least in keeping with the information flow from your business.
Yes. Why not?
Intranets are fascinating business tools. The responsibility to design them often falls to IT teams as a way of delivering information to staff in the quickest way possible.
What I find most fascinating is the relationship between the three groups who are responsible for communicating best with staff – Marketing/Communications, Human Resources and IT.
These relationships are often quite tense with various teams marking their virtual territory and vying for custody of the intranet. Most times we end up not being strategists on these projects – we’re more like the Family Court.
Most intranet projects we’ve worked on are weighted too far in one of those directions … and this is what you end up with.
Marketing/comms intranets: are very warm and fuzzy, with lots of rah-rah and cheerleading. Information is primarily sales-focussed. Very glossy.
Human resources intranets: are very process-focussed. They have lots of policies and procedures in place.
IT intranets: are built using cool tools. Often very hard to understand or find anything.
The best intranets are built using a combination of all three. In an ideal world, there are no custody battles over who ‘owns’ the intranet, but instead there is an easy path to a RANGE of information.
In our workshops, we often talk about the differences in what staff and an organisation think are the most important parts of their intranet. They both start with the letter ‘P’.
Every organisation we’ve dealt with in developing an intranet says the most important thing is ‘POLICIES’ (with PROCEDURES running a close second – also a P word – how cool …)
Every staff group we’ve dealt with says the most important thing is ‘PHONE NUMBERS’ (with PEOPLE running a close second (also both P words – this must be karma …)
When building an intranet, your organisation should build it like an internet – identifying your staff as an audience and then delivering what they need from you.
One of the things that many organisations fall into the trap of when they write their own web site is to start with the phrase ‘Welcome to our web site’.
While we appreciate the intent and sentiment that is meant, that can often lead an organisation to view their web site as somehow separate to the organisation itself, rather than as most of their web site visitors feel – an extension of their business.
Your web site – to most people – is your organisation. When they come to your web site, either directly or indirectly, and they read about what you are doing and why you are doing it, they don’t feel like they are on your web site. They feel like they are engaging with your company. They feel like they are looking at what you do. They feel like they are conversing with you.
Customers don’t make the differentiation between an organisation and its web site. When they go onto the web site of the National Australia Bank, they feel like they are talking to the bank.
We coach many web writers to remove the words ‘Welcome to our web site’ from their vocabulary. In the same way that you would never write a front cover for a sales brochure with the words ‘Welcome to our sales brochure’.
People know it’s a web site. They’re on the web.
What should you write instead? Where a company wants to welcome people to their spac eon the web, we often write ‘welcome to our company or organisation’ or, better still, make a statement that makes them feel welcome. That reaches out to them. That embraces them. That works far, far better.
… is not WHAT to say, but WHY say it.
I just ran a corporate workshop for a government client and they told me that their Departmental management tended to view successful communication in this way: ‘we published it’. The whole strategy seemed to be about publishing rather than communicating.
When it comes to the web, there is so much you can say. Some companies take this approach – their web site is full of information about every little detail about their product, their service, their history, their company, their CEO, their board, their cleaning staff …
But a great web site – and particularly an effective one – is one that asks the question WHY this information is on the web site in the first place. The best question you can ask as a writer is WHY ARE WE SAYING THIS AT ALL? A simple question like this will help you write good quality, engaging material for your audience.