7 essential components of a first-rate website

7 essential components of a first-rate website

Whether you’re launching a new project or just making sure your organization is keeping up with the changing times, you need to have a web site — you might as well make sure it’s doing its job well. As the internet and mobile systems evolve, it can be challenging to stay on top of best practices. Below are the seven most important features of a good web site — some are small tweaks that can likely be done within your existing web management tool; others may require a more intense overhaul.


1. Mobile compatibility

Almost one-third of all web content is now viewed on mobile devices like cell phones and tablets, and over half of the time spent online is via mobile devices…and those numbers are only expected to rise. If you haven’t already, it’s a crucial time to ask the basic question: Does your web site work on mobile? Can visitors access the menus, read the type, and see the content clearly? Are pages lightweight enough that images load quickly and web elements resize dynamically? On a more foundational level, make sure to go through and streamline content with an eye towards small screens — web visitors don’t have the patience or screen capacity for long, dense blocks of text, so avoid those wherever possible.

2. Social sharing

With tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and other social networks (including email!) claiming more and more of our daily screen time, it’s vital that your fans can share your content easily and that your content is designed to post cleanly to social media sites. Social networking sites are a large and growing percentage of traffic to web sites — make it easy for fans of your work to tell their friends about you!

3. Good content

As with anything else, the key to a good outcome is having a good product. If the content on your web site is boring, wonky and overly technical, confusing, or outdated, visitors will simply look elsewhere. To make sure users stay on your site when they find it, and keep coming back for more in the future, the content itself must be current, interesting, well-written, and compelling. There is simply no substitute for good content.

This is a bad web site.

4. Good design

First impressions matter. Putting your carefully crafted content into a format that reflects the professionalism, playful spirit, inspiring vision, or dependability of your organization is a key component of how you will be perceived. Visitors will quickly discount information in a format that makes it look dated or untrustworthy — even if the information itself is current and relevant to their interests — and they won’t waste their time on a site that makes it difficult to read or access the information they’re looking for.

5. Clean structure

So you’ve punched up your copy to make it compelling and easy to understand and invested in clean, contemporary design…but can site visitors find what they’re looking for? All web design should be founded upon a simple and inviting user experience, enabling visitors to easily locate information and engage with your organization. Consistency and usability are the guiding principles for any design process. Overly-complicated menus, conflicting or absent hierarchies, and lack of underlying structure will show through when visitors actually engage with your site. Frustrating someone who wants to join your cause or contribute to your campaign is bad business.

6. SEO

Search Engine Optimization — don’t let the acronym scare you away from what is a critically important feature of any successful web site. Google (and other search engines) account for anywhere from a 1/4 to 2/3 of traffic to most web sites, and over 90% of clicks are on the first page of Google search results. So how to make sure your web site is showing up on that first page of links? You web site might host exactly the product, service, or opportunity someone is looking for…but if you aren’t using SEO best practices, how will anyone be able to find you?

7. Analytics

How are people finding out about your site? Which pages are they spending the most time on? What is the most frequently visited page? Understanding what your site’s visitors actually do — which is definitely not always what you’d expect them to do — is an important part of the web development process. A good web site is one that is constantly being refined to take advantage of insights gleaned from web analytics and testing. Everything from making sure you’re using the most effective color for a donate button to optimizing the amount of text on an informational page can be tweaked, tested, analyzed, and tweaked again to make your web presence more effective for your organization and more helpful to your fans.


7 Tips for Major League Social Media Outreach

7 Tips for Major League Social Media Outreach

social media networks

Every social media network ever (subject to change without notice). Via Wikimedia.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn,  Google+, Vine…the list goes on, and more are added every day. Social media platforms give organizations and campaigns an unprecedented ability to engage directly with the people you’re trying to reach, provide your audience a chance to connect directly with you, and allow your fans to help spread your message directly to their networks. An effective social media presence is not just a simple matter of logging in once in a blue moon and sharing a couple of posts from other outlets. To make it work, you need to be investing thoughtfully in the following practices:

1. Prioritize

Don’t try to be everywhere at once! Unless you have a bottomless well of staff time and creativity to draw from, you need to prioritize. Better to be on just a couple of networks and doing it well than to be spreading yourself too thin trying to be everywhere at once. And where your you should focus is going to vary quite a bit from organization to organization — if you have access to a source of rich visuals, it’s probably going to be Instagram or Pinterest; if you have a clever staffer who can be given some free reign, they might want to be on Instagram; if you are trying to educate about a complicated topic, perhaps a Reddit AMA might be worth exploring. There are dozens of social media networks appealing to all sorts of audiences, from broad to more niche and specialty. Define your audience and the style of interaction that will suit you best and focus your efforts there.

2. Produce Good Content

Constant information bombardment, access, and overload are an inescapable feature of today’s wired world. To have any chance of breaking through the noise requires content that the audience decides is worth engaging with. It must be thoughtful, emotionally rich, self-referential (i.e., relevant to THEM, the audience, not YOU, the content publisher), funny, timely, interesting, shocking, and/or make people feel like part of a movement.

3. Be Consistent

Social media campaigns are too often treated as an afterthought, something that can be done on a catch-as-catch-can basis. To be effective, however, a social media campaign needs to have strategic vision, a sense of consistency of voice, and a sense of consistency with timing – the audience needs to know what to expect from the campaign, and the more that expectation is of good, timely content, the more interaction with the campaign will result.

4. Interact

The social web is not a one-way street, a simple one-to-many form of communication; it needs to be treated as truly interactive. An effective campaign cannot simply publish a stream of good content and walk away – there needs to be a sense of true interaction with the audience – answering questions, responding with genuine care, having a distinct voice/personality…in other words, there needs to be a really person at work, not merely a ghost in the machine.

5. Engage

A strategy that engages your audience – one that makes them feel like they are doing something – is key to bringing new supporters on board. A good social media campaign should regularly integrate asks of all shapes an sizes – polls, posts, questions, surveys, petitions, events, etc.

6. Be willing to pay

The social landscape – especially with respect to Facebook’s algorithms (e.g., how it is Facebook decides what to display in a user’s feed) – is shifting rapidly, but one thing is clear: Facebook (the largest and most trafficked social network to date) is more and more moving to a “pay to play” policy. Page managers can not expect content – even good content – to make it into users’ news feeds without ongoing investment in Facebook’s ad ecosystem. The good news is, the ads are relatively inexpensive, highly targetable, and generally quite effective. Other social networks – notably Twitter and Instagram – are making ads more affordable and integrated into users’ feeds, as well.

7. Analyze and iterate

Understanding what is – and isn’t – working for any audience is a key to a successfully executed social media campaign. Regular analysis of posts, progress toward goals, and high and low performing actions needs to be undertaken to refine the plan and inform the tactics of the campaign on a regular basis.

Need help lighting a fire under your social media presence? Contact OnSight today to talk about how we can help you develop a social media roadmap for your organization, campaign, and business.

Must-Have Mobile Sites

Scads of small type. Truncated graphics. Unusable forms. Browser-crashing incompatibility.

mobile examples

On the right, a site not optimized for mobile — tiny, cut-off text, pics that have to be zoomed-in to see, and tiny, cluttered menu. On the right, clear navigation, mobile-friendly text, and clear calls to action.

There are people looking for you — wanting to learn more, wanting to volunteer or even donate to you campaign or cause. And more and more (maybe even up to 50% of the time) they’re using their mobile phones to do it.

Not sure if your web site is mobile-compatible? Don’t feel too terribly bad — turns out some of the major political campaigns are behind the curve, too.

From Politico:

A POLITICO analysis of mobile sites for about 40 competitive House and Senate races found that a majority were plagued with missed opportunities for campaigns trying to find volunteers, donors and voters. The no-nos range from clunky pages that frequently crashed or weren’t formatted properly to content that was just too tiny to read.

Another big problem often discouraged by some political consultants: multiple pages of navigation before a potential donor can hit the send button with their all-important credit card numbers.

Political operatives from both parties say they recognize mobile’s tantalizing possibilities. Still, many campaigns are cutting corners on the mobile front — ignoring pleas for fewer tabs or larger font sizes — even if the potential payoff could mean more votes or thousands of dollars in additional donations. They’re reluctant to shift limited budget dollars away from traditional TV ads, especially for innovations that have a short shelf life limited to this election season.

To digital campaign strategists, seeing the shortcomings on the mobile front makes little sense considering how Americans have come to obsessively use their phones as their primary source not just for daily communication but also for entertainment.

Read full article.

Most users don’t want to read lots of text online at all, and even less so on mobile. And most campaigns can’t spring for the coding and development for a full mobile site, custom forms, and the tools required for credit card processing.

That said, if people are looking for you on their phones — and they are — there’s no excuse for making sure they can find you.

The priorities:

1. Using web analytics, determine what portion of your audience is accessing your site via mobile.

2. Are there particular times of week or year when mobile usage spikes?

3. Is there particular content that mobile users access more than desktop users?

4. Can your donation form be simplified or otherwise optimized for mobile?

5. Homepage should always be legible in mobile!

All this information inform the urgency and priorities for building out mobile compatibility.

After tackling the minimum, you can further refine your mobile site with custom content for mobile pages (shorter, more tightly-drafted content and photos), custom graphics and features to more closely mimic your desktop-viewable web site, other bells and whistles to integrate with social and other mobile-friendly tools.

cover image from Flickr user /marcoarment

Colorful Colorado

Congratulations to all who participated in the recently-wrapped Ride The Rockies! This seven-day, 471-mile cycling tour took riders to through blizzards, rainstorms, but most of all, a stunning cross-section of colorful Colorado.

For the second year running (or, riding) OnSight Public Affairs was on hand to handle social media, take photos and work with participating bloggers.

Here are a few highlights from the week:

For more photos and updates, be sure to check out the Peak Pedaler blog, RTR Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Stay tuned for updates on next year, the 30th anniversary tour!

Rolling Down the River

Colorado River Ducky is riding the pulse flow on the Colorado River.

The Colorado River hasn’t reached the Gulf of California for generations, but for the first time in years, that may change. Right now, a “pulse flow” — a one-time release of water from a reservoir — is making its way down the Colorado River.

In order to inform people of this endeavor, we’ve worked with water conservation organizations to create the Colorado River Ducky, an interactive avatar that follows the path of the pulse flow and posts updates on social media and online. The social media effort – consisting primarily of a Facebook page, Twitter account and micro site –  is bringing attention to this historical process. Creating a narrative “story” of the pulse flow’s history and effects through the eyes of the Ducky is making the Pulse Flow relatable, fun, interesting, and engaging for coalition participants and the public alike.

The Colorado River Ducky web site is highlighting some of the major landmarks in the pulse flow project, and the Twitter and Facebook page are active, and already seeing tons of interaction, including two mentions from the Bureau of Reclamation (@usbr), and dozens of RTs in the first week alone, including from the 10,309-follower @GobiernoBC account.

 Colorado River Ducky Photobombs the Pulse Flow

River Ducky Photobomb Colorado River Ducky
Colorado River Ducky Colorado River Ducky

Tweeting the Lingo

Rarely have I heard of a social media network — one of those things designed to increase connection and community — described as baffling or intimidating as much as Twitter is. Twitter itself is a great tool, for both listening and for reaching out and sharing messages and interacting, but it does have its own lingo and its own codes, which can put folks off on first sight.

With only 140 characters per tweet, real estate is at a premium on Twitter. Out of necessity, it has developed its own set of codes and shorthand to make room for the important bits. The good news is that those codes — once you learn them — are providing useful information, like “here’s where I heard this from” or “please share this with others!” or “hey, this is part of a conversation you may only being seeing part of, check the rest out!”

With that in mind — and every assurance that not only is Twitter really worth exploring, but that what can seem overwhelming at first glance is really easy to learn — here’s a glossary of common Twitter lingo to help ease the journey:

@: The @ sign is used to call out usernames in Tweets, like this: “Hello @Twitter!” People will use your @username to mention you in Tweets and to send you messages.

FOLLOW: Subscribing to someone’s stream of Tweets is called “following.” To start following someone, click the Follow button next to their name, and you’ll see their Tweets as soon as they post something new. You don’t have to ask permission to follow someone. Anyone on Twitter can follow or unfollow anyone else at any time.

@HANDLE: A user’s “Twitter handle” is the username the user has selected and the accompanying URL, as in: twitter.com/username. It is represented by the @ then name, e.g. the @handle for Twitter Media is @TwitterMedia.

HASHTAG: A hashtag is any word or phrase with the # symbol immediately in front of it. This symbol turns the word into a link that makes it easier to find and follow a conversation about that topic.

MT: Similar to RT (Retweet), an abbreviation for “Modified Tweet.” Placed before the retweeted text when users manually retweet a message with modifications, for example shortening a Tweet.

You can pass along someone’s Tweet by clicking the retweet icon. Retweeting is a lot like forwarding an email — you’ll send along someone else’s Tweet to all of your followers. It can be abbreviated with a “RT” when a user manually retweets a message instead of using the retweet button.

There’s lots more here.