How do you develop a strategic website?

My son’s preschool has decided it needs a new website. Parents and board members want an online presence that has more interaction, dynamic logins, and password-protected content. We have goals! Elementary and private schools have followed many paths to achieving their web presence including an all-parent volunteer web staff to hiring freelance web designers to $30/month services.

I wondered how these services differed from what a firm like Duo Consulting did to develop an organization’s website. So I interviewed Duo Consulting CEO and visionary, Michael Silverman. I quickly recognized that Duo’s web content strategies for businesses far outpace my preschool’s relatively static content needs. But what I also learned was that the goals of websites for many business models are often similar.


Its All About Content

What Michael told me is that websites that have a lot of changing content represent a breed of website.  These may be content publishers or transactional websites. But the universal feature is that they all experience a challenge sharing their copious information online. Professional service firms, like law and accounting firms, have a lot of intellectual property that they publish on their websites.  Universities, colleges and other higher education clients market themselves with their content.

Transactional websites, essentially online stores, receive considerable visibility in media coverage of the Internet. But helping organizations publish authoritative and informative content that helps them achieve their business objectives is a more challenging goal. Michael said one thing they’ve learned is that Search Engine Optimization and other traffic generation strategies is only a first step. You also need a highly usable and easily navigated site so that once visitors arrive at a site, they have a meaningful business experience.

Experience Managing Content Produces Client Dividends
With a focus on helping its client manage content, Duo has clients in multiple market including newspaper and magazines, professional services and non-profit organizations. Having experience with these industries permits Duo to more effectively scope a project when they’ve done one like it before. And they can bring best practices to the client for their particular type of business and online presence.
Having content management experience helped Duo to be chosen by the Christian Science Monitor to implement their Web-first strategy. The Christian Science Monitor intends to convert their content from a print-based periodical to a weekly web publication system. Duo has the experience with online periodicals to design and build the online interaction that they will need to be successful with this new direction for their content.

Wikis and Social Media Serve Non-Profit Organizations
Non-profits, especially those that do online fundraising, need an evolving strategic web presence to accomplish their business goals. According to Michael one of the trends Duo is seeing with non-profits and web content is a strong interest in using wikis. Volunteers collaborate using wikis when they’re on committees, they share files and communicate with the wiki. They’re also seeing much more uptake of social networking in a website’s strategy, adding functionality for websites so that people can easily form groups for discussion or common interests or other tasks. He mentioned Google Friend Connect which has been in private beta until now. It lets you add social features to your website, and indicates Google is ready to compete outright with Facebook.

When You’re Thinking About a Website Think About…
Michael said he’d like to leave people with two suggestions for strong web content – one is that a web site should have a “job description” just like any employee does. They ask people, what do you want your website to do, and how do you measure its success at doing those tasks? You may not want to set specific numbers to reach within a particular time frame, but you do want to see continual improvement.

Along those lines, he also says that you are never really done with a website. Do not expend all your energy and resources just towards a launch of a website – ensure that you can have the sustained power to see how it’s performing, then look at improvements along the way and milestones that you want to reach with your content.

2 Comments

  • December 18, 2008 - 8:13 am | Permalink

    Great advice. The difficult bit is getting potential clients to think about all of that.

    I do some (basic) website design in my spare time, largely brochureware websites of mainly static content for clients who have never had a website but want one so they are ‘on the internet’. Most of them don’t have any plans or ideas beyond that, and getting them to realise that they need to think about it can be a losing battle.

    I’ll be using some of these arguments in the future though. Great stuff.

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