Leaders guide to managing a website

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This page is intended for leaders who are thinking about having a website to publicise their ministry. Many leaders are thinking about this and most times the leader needs to delegate the process due to not having the technical and artistic skills needed. That is not a problem but unless the leader has a firm grasp on the leadership and communications issues at stake they cant make good decisions.

Pre-Reading

It is good to have some technical knowledge of websites and communications theory before embarking on a website. Here is some essential pre-reading for this page:

  • Websites - an overview of different types of website technology. It will help you choose the right tool.
  • EuroCom Communication Package - A website is only a part of a strategy. In fact it might not be what you want! This page helps you plan a broader strategy.
  • Push and Pull Communications - Different methods of communicating. A website is a "Pull" method. You are hoping lots of people will "Pull" on your information. That is not guaranteed! You will need to drive visitors to your site in variety of ways. Active advertising helps. Perhaps a special page on Facebook might be appropriate (as of writing 10% of all internet use is on Facebook) and that might be enough to reach those you are interested in. Research carefully where your audience is!
  • Viral events. When something goes Viral (an explosion of interest in an item) which can happen with Twitter and Facebook and other social networks when something touches a common "now" feeling. Viral events are nice but not easy to create without a consistent presence on the social networks. Getting lucky helps but also knowing what the "temperature" of your community is.


Trinity of Requirements

Managing a good website requires:

  1. Technical skills (Programing and Server skills)
  2. Artistic skills (Art and Writing)
  3. Management skills (Leadership and Strategy)

It should be noted that rarely does one person have all the skills. Also it is likely that the website will be a team effort anyway.

WARNING: It is very rare for a person with Technical Skills to have the Artistic skills!!! Very many web designers appear to be colour blind or at least REALLY like puce on blue as a combination of colours.

There are dangers in a site being too Technical or too Artistic:

  • Bottle necks - changes or major updates require a specialist (internal or external). When the specialist is not available the changes can't be made or the site stalls or remains unupdated for a long time.
  • Sites driven on Technical or Artistic merit might not actually meet the goals the leader sets for them (ie. communicate to people useful information).
  • Sites based on special technologies that require special viewers or plugins for people to view them have a danger of excluding some people who can not or will not use the special viewers. (This author will not use Internet Explorer only sites and often has trouble with cutting edge flash sites.)


Knowing What You Want

Perhaps the hardest thing to get right is to have a clear goal in what you want to acheive with a website. Advancements in social networking and mobile internet have changed the way people interact with websites. Thus it is really important to know what you want and what will work in order to properly engage with those you want to reach. Also it is equally important to know what you don't wish to do!

For example what is the purpose of having a website? Is it to be an electronic version of a brochure or flyer? Do you want to make it like a regular newsletter with people coming back regularly to read news updates? Do you want to foster a community around a project or idea? These three possibilities should radically change the approach you take in the website project.

Beware that many people will suggest the newest thing which actually might not work at all if you want something as a simple as a brochure. Equally a brochure simply might not be the right thing for reaching a different target age group and you might need to consider a video based website instead of a word and picture driven one.

  • Who is my target audience? If target audience is too broad (say 6 to 60) why not try two or three different websites to achieve the same goal.
  • Communicating useful information to people. Consider the hows: text, pictures, video, animations etc.
  • Interacting with people and forming a community (say providing help and support, answering common questions).
  • Providing useful resources for people.
  • Helping a community help itself.


Some other considerations

  • Make sure you know what you want. Really. Don't start until you have done this. You may want to run several experiments first to see what is working.
  • Goals - make clear goals. You will need to evaluate the effectiveness of your website against them later!
  • Keep it professional - remember you are communicating to the general public.
  • Make sure it follows YWAM.org guidelines - we are a YWAM family! Let's align ourselves together and act like one!

Make it So!

  • Make a process so that you can ensure these things end up on the website:
    • Make sure you are communicating with crystal clarity who YWAM is and what YWAM is doing.
    • Make sure the website is clear in capturing the most important things we are sacrificing our lives for. It must explain what you do.
    • Make sure you have a way of measuring whether the site will have achieved its goals. (Specific hits on certain pages, emails, applications etc over a specific time period.)
  • Write a brief.
  • Evaluate.


Management of the Website

  • Frequently review the site statistics and look and feel. Seek feedback.
  • Make sure all back-end server hosting/domains paid for and to date
  • Install security updates of your website technology ASAP to avoid beeing hacked.
  • Document all the server details and domain details and site details so others can easily take on the management of the site.
  • Consider, implement and test a plan for backup and data recovery in place.
  • Ensure you have staff in place with the right skills to maintain the site.
  • Making sure it has fresh and good new content.
  • If you are using flash or video content - make sure you have the source code not just the final movies - you will not be able to modify the content without the source!!!
  • Keep asking the question: Does it do what you want?


Consider the Options

  • keep it simple.
  • keep it updated.


Work at it

  • Evaluate it. See Evaluate your YWAM website.
  • Keep the content flowing.
  • Keep training people to work on it.
  • Keep inviting feedback.
  • Change it every 3 years or so...


Advice

  • As a multi-cultural mission communicating internally and externally we need to be aware that others may find accessing our website difficult: if it is not in their native language or they have a low bandwidth/limited connection to the internet. See Mind The Gap for more.
  • Multilingual websites: remember to always communicate in the native tongues of your target audience. English in addition is very helpful. Note multi-lingual websites are hard work but worthwhile.
  • Minimum number of Clicks: the more clicks a user takes to get to the information they want the less likely they are to persevere to get there! If your contact info requires a chain of 7 pages to get to many people will never get this vital info! Consider also where you put your DTS or Staff opportunities or news if you want visitors to read it!
  • Good Meta information and submission to websites helps people find you. The more accurate and relevant meta-information you have the better rank you will get in search engines, and the more likely visitors searching for what you offer will find you.
  • Non-book generation. Only 15% of young people are readers - the other 85% can read but prefer image based information (MTV Generation) However, when they want information they want it quickly. (MTV Generation invented Wikipedia after all). Older people like reading more and can find Image intensive websites confusing and off-putting.