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Great Websites are Not Information Dumping Grounds - 7/24/2012 -

A website purpose statement maintains focus, aligns with the organizationís mission statement, and helps defend against poor content choices.

By Cecilia Sepp

Does your website have a purpose statement? At the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting Pre-Conference titled "Escape the Bermuda Triangle: Navigating your Association's Web Strategy,Ē the session kicked off with a discussion about website purpose statements and how these support website strategy.

The general consensus of presenters Tobin Conley, senior consultant, technology management, DelCor Technology Solutions; Amy Hissrich, vice president, website initiatives, ASAE; Thad Lurie, chief information officer, director of strategic technology services, American Wind Energy Association; Cecilia Satovich, director of client solutions, Results Direct; and Dan Scheeler, director, website architecture, National Quality Forum was that the key to making great decisions about website-related content and design is to focus on the end-userís perspective.

The website is created and maintained for the user, not for those planning and managing the site internally, they pointed out. An effective approach to this is creating a purpose statement for your website.

A purpose statement maintains focus, should align with the organizationís mission statement, and helps defend against poor content choices. This is important, because too often an organizationís website becomes a dumping ground for information and old content. For example, many organizations post information from other communication vehicles rather than focusing on web-only content. A fresh approach to website content is to consider creating new content for the website instead of just reusing or repurposing existing content. This can drive new traffic to your site by offering something that users cannot get elsewhere in the organization.

So, a website purpose statement maintains clarity and reminds us that websites cannot be all things to all people. Questions to ask when writing a purpose statement include:

1. Who has authority to enforce the purpose statement? It cannot be ignored.

2. What are you trying to do with your website? What is your goal?

3. Are you serving the organization and its users?

The purpose statement should set and measure expectations. What are we really trying to accomplish?

In writing a proper purpose statement, be specific about the audiences, the resources offered, and the response or action desired. It can have a hierarchy of audiences or address market segments. The purpose statement can remain an internal document; it does not have to be public.

On the website, each page should have an audience, next action wanted, and a desired outcome (e.g., makes a purchase or registers for a conference), emphasized the presenters.

Accountability and Authority

Once the website purpose statement is established, itís important to determine who is ultimately responsible for the website design and content. Often, responsibility is not assigned to any individual or work group, so the website becomes a mishmash of information that doesnít necessarily serve a purpose.

First, ask yourself: Who are the decision-makers? Then, ask: Why are we choosing to do it this way? The decision-making process may need to be revised, as well as challenged with regard to "conventional wisdomĒ on why and how the web content and communication is being handled a certain way. In reviewing the "who, what, why, how, where, and when,Ē keep in mind that the site architecture should serve the member or the client. In other words: Donít use your organizational chart to design your website.

Using data and metrics supports data-driven decisions, which leads to asking good questions. Internal communication is vital to establishing and carrying out strong web strategy; the presenters highly recommended using the RACI Matrix: Responsible, Accountable, Consultative, Informed.

As the importance of web content and deliverance takes its rightful place among organizational strategy, some associations are naming managing editors for their websites. Sometimes, the old ways do work best.

Cecilia Sepp is vice president of Association Laboratory Inc. and a member of the Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering the Annual Meeting Pre-Conference for our members who were unable to attend. Donít miss Seppís full report on the pre-conference in the next issue of Signature magazine.


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