Imagine this. You know your website isn’t as strong as it could be. It’s outdated. You cringe when people say they found you online.
So, you decide to update it, maybe working with an agency or your in-house team. If you’re lucky, this is a fairly smooth process. But whether or not you’re one of the lucky ones, you spend many hours on your new website.
If you’re working with many stakeholders, this increases the stress, whether you outsource development or not.
You work with your stakeholders seeking approval, clarifying feedback, debating navigation, and untangling many more decisions. Maybe you even find yourself grumbling, “All I wanted was a better website. What did I sign up for?!”
But in the end, you do get a shiny, beautiful new website. If you’re like most of us, you promote it and make sure everyone on your team gets recognition. Maybe everyone updates their email signature promoting the new website for good measure.
This is where things start to get dangerous for your amazing new website.
You probably already know that websites are living tools that evolve over time. And that’s great. It means your shiny new website won’t likely get as outdated as the last one did (hey, it happens to most organizations, but now you’ve learned from that).
However, if you have a lot of stakeholders and content that changes a lot, you will soon be fielding requests to update the website.
Sometimes, these requests will be easy to accomplish and pose no danger to your strategy. These are good days, enjoy them.
Occasionally, you will get requests from your stakeholders that you think will harm your website. Maybe the changes people want actually reflect a rift or a turf, instead of what’s really good for your organization’s image.
You’ll need a way to protect your web content and architecture from these issues (no organization is perfect and the people making these requests undoubtedly have good intentions).
Write guiding principles for your website.
At the end of a major website redevelopment, I recently worked with a client to draft guiding principles for their website. These are universal truths, agreed upon by the leadership, about the website and its goals. I wrote them so they transcend everything but the highest-level strategy and will stand the test of time.
For example, one is “It is our responsibility to show our audience why what we’re saying matters.”
I believe this so much I’m going to repeat it.
It is our responsibility to show our audience why what we’re saying matters.
It doesn’t get much clearer than this. And this guiding principle saves you from having to worry about offending a stakeholder by implying that they’re not a good writer (even if it’s true).
There’s a layer of objectivity that can help you work together with this person to revise the content without compromising quality. You’re not pushing back because they wrote a bad suggestion, you’re asking a critical question everyone agreed was important.
If you can get stakeholder buy-in on the guiding principles of the website, they’ll be more likely to respond positively when you use them to evaluate or push back on revision requests. And it’s a natural learning experience for people who think websites act more like digital brochures than brand experiences.
This is a valuable exercise at any point in the website project. If put at the start of the project, it can help teach people digital strategy and shape your goals for the new site, though it may be hard for some people to understand early on.
Later in the project, these well-crafted statements can make the light bulb go on for people who are fighting a good user experience (though they don’t know that’s what they’re doing). The downside with this timing is by the time the light bulb goes on, people have pushed through less than ideal decisions.
If you want to work with a writer who can educate your team and give you guiding principles for your completed website, I can’t wait to speak with you. (314) 896-0001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.