There’s an often-used analogy that building a new website is like building a house. Your foundation is the content, everything else just makes it look pretty. You need to have a solid foundation before you can build your house. You can’t just slap a coat of paint (in the form of a new design) on a house and expect it to stay habitable. This analogy works but it rather suggests that once the house is built, that’s pretty much all the work you need to do aside from changing the odd lightbulb.
I prefer to think of a website as a garden (bear with me).
You’ve got to see what’s there before you start
You wouldn’t just jump feet first into gardening, attacking plants with abandon and slapping down paving stones willy-nilly. First, you’ve got to see what you’re working with. What’s in the garden already? What needs to go? What needs to stay? What do you pull out, cut back, replant? Do you have the right tools?
It’s the same with a website. Before you think about renovating or rebuilding your website, you need to know what you’re working with. You need to take the time to carry out a full audit with clear criteria on what content fits into your content strategy. Do you really need that page of links to pdfs? What kind of content are your visitors really looking for? Do you have 17 pages when one would do? If it doesn’t tell the story you want it to – get rid of it.
Weeding once isn’t going to stop weeds growing back
Weeds – the bane of every gardener’s life. You pull them out once, you think you’ve got the roots, and yet, a couple of weeks later, there they are again.
If a website has been around for a long time, there are bound to be weeds. There will be content there that has been around since time immemorial because no one has ever questioned it. A website revamp is the perfect opportunity to rethink your content and question everything. Don’t be fooled, though – once the initial content audit is done, that’s not the end of the work. Your website should be regularly weeded to make sure those pesky dandelions don’t come back.
There’s always something to be done
Never ask a gardener when they’ll be happy with their garden or when it’ll be finished. They won’t be and it won’t be (and based on personal experience with my parents, they’ll give you a long list of what needs to be done and since you asked, why don’t you put your wellies on and help?)
Jobs might be little ones like weeding (see above) trimming back plants, repotting or replanting. They may be bigger jobs like building a path, a shed, a pergola. A gardener will always have a plan for how they want to develop their garden.
Every website should have a long term plan. It may be that you’re taking a staged approach to your new website. You have a launch date and know what you want to have done by then… but then what? Updating little and often (if possible) is the best way to keep your website growing and avoid your website becoming an online filing cabinet.
It takes time to get the garden looking as you want it
A garden matures over time. It may be that you’ve spent all spring preening and pruning but that doesn’t mean that by the summer it’ll be worthy of the National Trust. It may be two or three years before you see the fruits of your labour (literally if you’ve planted an apple tree or two!)
Your website will also take time – it will take real commitment and long hours of work. Your website should be something your organisation can grow into.
However, tell your story well through your website and you will flourish!
Would you like some advice on where to start with your website? We can offer you a no-strings-attached website audit to give you some ideas. Why not get in touch and let’s have a chat?
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.