Reviewing your website: a model for professional organisations

This post is the first of a mini-series on website review and assessment.

Anthony Haynes writes: Every organisation of any stature requires some form of web presence. In the case of a membership organisations, awarding bodies, and learning providers, this entails having, as a foundation, a website. After all, such bodies typically need to serve a variety of stakeholders (often abroad as well as at home), store and make accessible much information, and present an authoritative face to the world.

Because the core market for the services we provide at FJWTS consists precisely of such organisations, we spend much time visiting their websites. What we find when we do is a variety, in terms not only of content and design but also of quality.

This experience has put me in mind of a model that I developed, some years ago, for reviewing websites. Over the years I have applied it to various markets – for example, higher education institutions, oil and alternative energy companies, and publishing houses.

Website review model

The model is designed to be quick and easy to use and to be entirely non-techie. By ‘non-techie’ I mean that non-techies (myself included) can apply the model and find the outcomes easy to understand and of practical benefit. The aim of the model to support conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of websites and how to develop them further.

Originally the model, which is very simple, comprised three criteria, which I will introduce in a moment.

At one point I added a fourth, namely adaptability: how well did a website perform on various types of platform (desktop, laptop, tablet, and smart phone). That was at a time when the latter two were markedly less common that the first two: one would find sites that worked well on, say, a desktop but not a phone. These days, tablets and phones are so much part of our consciousness (and the need to cater for them so much part of software) that I find there’s rarely a need for such a criterion.

That takes us back to three criteria. They are:

1.     Stakeholder management

2.     Navigability

3.     Design

Subsequent posts in the series will explore these in more detail. Here, though, I will just characterise each one briefly.

The criteria in brief

A stakeholder may be defined as any party that has (significant) influence on, or is influenced by, a certain organisation. As Andrew L. Friedman and Samantha Miles explain in their lucid introduction to the subject, Stakeholders: theory and practice (OUP, 2006) there’s a variety of ways of categorising stakeholders.

For the types of organisation in focus here, I suggest the following:

1.          Members: current and prospective members

2.          Employees: current and prospective

3.          Communities: local communities; and communities of practice in the field(s) in which an organisation is active; and the public more widely

4.          Media, including social media and influencers

5.          Government and policymakers

6.          Owners and investors (where applicable)

7.          Suppliers

8.          The environment

By navigability I refer to the ease with which various type of content can be accessed. How much decision-making is required of the user/ How much clicking or scrolling?

By design I refer to the visual layout of the site, in which I include such phenomena as shape, line, colour, and imagery.

Subsequent posts

As I say, I’ll provide fuller characterisations of each of these (especially design). I’ll also provide examples of the model in action by applying it to various current websites. In addition, we’ll publish a practical resource, in PowerPoint™ form, to help other users conduct site reviews.

Next up: Websites and stakeholder management