With the vast array of social media sites and technological innovations changing daily, people are getting used to having up-to-date, useful information at their fingertips. Even non-techies are getting comfortable throwing around terms like “user interface” when commenting on how they experience a website. How’s an organization supposed to keep up?
Even if you don’t have a vast array of web geniuses on staff to keep your website constantly refreshed, there are a few basic things you can do to keep your website useful for your event participants.
Make sure your design reflects your current ad campaign and other presences. If someone navigates from your Facebook page to your website, clicks from a banner ad or types your URL from their phone after seeing a poster, will they recognize it, or will they do a double take, wondering if they’re in the right place? This doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch rebuilding the site every year. Just making sure your home page image, headline and color scheme match your latest campaign will go a long way toward providing consistency.
Create a space just for participants. Once someone’s registered for your event, they don’t need to see the same kind of information as someone who’s visiting your site for the first time. Let a log-in transform your website navigation and you’ll not only get more information about who is visiting your website and when, you’ll be able to create a customized experience for the participant, giving them the content they need to know — no more, no less.
That being said, don’t make participants jump through too many hoops to get the information and materials they need. Make logging in simple, with their password simple to retrieve, and provide a log-in link with every email communication with autologin capability.
Keep your content current. Your website is a living, breathing thing. It’s not a book you publish once and then forget about. You need to be vigilant about your content and whether it’s relevant.
- Create a content calendar, but remain open to change. A content calendar is simply a roadmap of what webpages need updating and when. Your event has a season — there will be a time of year when you are more focused on recruitment, and a time of year when you are more focused on participant support and fundraising — so make sure your web content reflects that, and provides the information that people are most likely to be looking for at that time.
- Make a note of everywhere on your website that has time-sensitive content. Put it on your calendar for when that needs to change. Every time you put a date on a webpage, put that page on a list. Does your registration fee or registration process change on a certain date? Do you have informational meetings or packet pick-up dates scheduled? Is this information on your website and up to date?
- If you don’t have all of the details yet, it’s ok to say “coming soon” or “stay tuned for more info” and even better if you can give an approximate ETA, “check back in November for details.” Then make a list of every webpage that has that kind of placeholder language on it so you don’t forget to go back and update it later. Last year, I visited the website for an event-that-shall-not-be-named just a few days before the event and found “coming soon” language on a page that was supposed to list directions and parking details. I found that information elsewhere on the site — so the details were obviously set — but they had neglected to update the information everywhere they had promised it.
- Keep an offline map of your map of your website, so you don’t lose track of what it’s made of. Search engines can find old pages of your website, so unpublish them as they become out of date. This includes any PDFs or other files you may link to from our website. You don’t want the first or second thing someone finds when they search for your organization to be outdated information.
It’s time to think about responsive design, if you haven’t already. This one does require a bit of techie knowledge, but it’s a worthwhile investment to make sure that your website is navigable on tablets and mobile devices, in addition to a standard computer screen.
The basic theme here is to view your website from a participant’s perspective. Is it clear? Is it current? Is it correct? If you and your website users can answer “yes” to all three questions, then you have a site that’s working for your organization, your event and your participants.