Making Sense of Your Online Content

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on May 15, 2012

in website

If you have ever visited a website that is not well-organized; does not answer the basic questions of who, what, where, when, why and how; is confusing to navigate and in general just not helpful-you are experiencing a website that does not have what is called a “content strategy.”

In the beginning many websites started out small and just provided basic information. But once people saw the advantage of putting content on the web, they sometimes did just that without rhyme or reason. It seemed that anything that had been printed went on the website whether it served a purpose or not. And in some cases, it just stayed there. While some of this information really was worthwhile, it was not organized, prioritized or posted in a way that inquirers could find it.

A truly effective website or web presence needs a big picture content master plan that supports the goals of the owners or stakeholders as well as the needs of the users. Once we know the goals or the purposes of our website—we need to determine

  • what content is needed to achieve them
  • how will it be presented
  • what resources (people in particular) are needed to generate, shape, deliver and maintain this content and
  • who will make the final and ongoing content decisions.

In reading this, you realize that creating a website is much more than finding someone in the organization or membership who can “make us a website” or “re-design our website.” Before we get to the design phase of the site—we need to do our content homework and it needs to be done as collaboratively as possible.

Today, let’s talk about the role of the owners or the stakeholders. First, it is important to identify who these people are in your organization. Make a list of all of the leadership people who carry out the various aspects of your mission and who would have an investment in an effective website if it is to represent the whole organization (as opposed to one department or one area of ministry). Once the individuals are identified, we need to invite them (sometimes this takes convincing) to be part of the group that will shape the content of the website.

This group will need to meet several times (meetings need to be well-prepared and purposeful) to come to a shared understanding of the goals of the site and the answers to the questions above.  With this group on board and in sync, we have a much better chance of creating a website that makes sense. Without it, our chances are very bleak.

If you would like to learn more about content strategy, you may wish to read Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. You can find it in my bookstore.  Chapter 4: “Alignment” was my reference for this post and it addresses the topic of stakeholders in much greater detail than I could do here.

How successful have you been at getting your stakeholders on board for your website?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim McGovern May 15, 2012 at 6:06 am

Is it normal for visitors to read only 2 to 3 pages. That is our problem.

Is there any Church group that approves sites established by lay people . I am a Catholic but not associated with any parish or religious group. Believe many parishes won’t recommend our site for this reason. Any suggestions???? Thanks – Jim

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND May 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

Dear Jim,

Thanks for your questions.

I do not know what is “normal” for visitors. My experience is that most people (unless they are studying the website itself or trying to learn about an organization) visit a website looking for specific information. The fewer clicks it takes them to find it, the better. They don’t usually visit pages just to visit them.

I do not know of any Church group that “approves” Catholic sites, lay or otherwise. My guess is that parishes that do link to external sites-just link to “official” church sites or to sites of major Catholic organizations. They do not have the resources to evaluate and keep monitoring other sites.

How would other readers answer Jim?

Sr. Susan

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