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4 website misconceptions to avoid

Your organisation’s website is one of the most effective and important digital engagement tools you have at your disposal. It acts as the main gateway to your organisation’s information and resources, and is often the first point of contact for the citizens you serve. In my role here at Granicus, I hear a lot from many government organisations on lessons learned when it comes to leveraging a website to connect with their audience.

Here are a few common misconceptions we’ve heard about from everybody from IT professionals to communications directors and what you should avoid when building your government website:

1. The “If you build it, they will come” mentality

A new website isn’t the end of the initiative – it’s just the beginning. Before investing in a new website or revamping your old website, be sure that citizens will find your online content accessible and valuable. More importantly, ensure that you will be able to promote your website content to the public and grow the number of visitors effectively. Too often, organisations may invest a considerable sum in a website, only to find that residents remain unaware of the opportunities and benefits available online. A successful launch of a website or a website overhaul must be accompanied by a communications campaign – using email, text messaging or and other relevant marketing outreach tactics – so that citizens can really use your website and benefit from easy access to public information online.

2. Overloading visitors with content straightaway

In an effort to present each and every bit of information, some webpages strive to do too much. For example, in addition to the top-tasks information (for example, rubbish and recycling collections, library renewals, and payments for a local authority), a home page can also be cluttered with twitter feeds, weather reports, and other non-essential information. These extra elements can be useful, but make sure they aren’t crowding or obscuring your home page’s most important offerings.

Determine why citizens are visiting your site and then identify what information they need. Non-essential information can be located on different pages. Additionally, having too much content on your home page will make navigation difficult for visitors who are viewing your site on a smartphone or tablet.

3. Making websites too “flashy”

We’ve all seen these websites before. Perhaps there’s a long introduction video playing at the top that can’t be skipped while the front page is filled with pictures and social media posts. These flashy elements can help draw attention and create the feeling of a modern website, but they don’t necessarily help citizens easily find the information that they need. Be sure to balance aesthetic needs with basic information your constituents are looking for. By using surveys and website metrics, you can determine the most sought after information on your website and place it in an easily-found bar, tab or website rotator.

4. Ignoring the competition and taking audiences for granted

In today’s digital world, you are competing for your audience’s attention and, increasingly, their trust of information sources. The average website visitor spends around 15 seconds on an individual webpage before leaving the page or closing the window. Sometimes that means they quickly found what they were looking for and off they hopped, but other times that means your website didn’t provide what they were looking for and your content strategy or navigation may need some attention.

Creating and sharing content just for the sake of it isn’t enough. Make sure your website has meaningful, useful content that will strengthen the relationship between your organisation and the community it serves. Looking at your analytics to determine the most visited webpages can give you great insight into where people are coming from, which pages are most popular, and where your audience spends the most time. Focusing on content for these pages can give your audience what they want, and can capture their attention for longer.

By adhering to good website design and content practices with a focus on relevance and a “less is more” approach, your organisation can create a strong bond with its audience and deliver the information and services citizens need. Your audience will rely on your website as the place to go for helpful information.

To learn more about building effective websites, and the strategy behind them, please check out details on Granicus’ Digital Services Suite.