The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Moving Day: Is Your Association Website Content Ready for Its New Home?

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Wed, May 21, 2014


chairDrive down any street at this time of year and a brief glance at all the real estate signs tells us a new season is approaching. Moving season.

Everywhere you look, there are signs for open houses, homes for sale, apartments for rent and such.  Soon individuals and families across the country will pack up their belongs and move from a home they have outgrown into a new fabulous abode.

A good example is a friend who recently moved from Chicago to San Francisco. His old apartment in Chicago was in a classic 1940’s post-war row house with dark hardwood floors and hand crafted architectural details.  His dark wood furniture, well worn Oriental rugs and leather couch fit in perfectly in this classic environment.

However his new condo in San Francisco is a different story – brand new building, lots of stainless steel, light berber carpet, large floor to ceiling windows and a very modern feel. Of course he sees no issue with the old furniture as the couch still does it’s job as a comfortable  spot for watching Tigers baseball, the bookshelves hold the same books and DVDs, and the dinner table still accomodates dear friends for entertaining. And yet, his wife is nagging him to buy new furniture 

It’s the classic case of “our old furniture looks out of place in the new home” syndrome.

So what does this have to do with web design and web site management? It’s actually a question we deal with on almost every project.

Given the fact that association websites have thousands of pages and documents, one of the biggest aspects of a website redesign is moving all the content from the old to the new site.  However too often, associations plan for only this phase of the project and not how it will function in the new environment.

Much like how my friend’s wife wants new furniture, as soon as our clients see their old content in their shiny new site they wish they had brand new content.  However, while one may want to roll up the sleeves and rewrite every single page of the site, that isn’t practical… or cost effective.

So what can you do to prevent Ugly-Content-in-Shiny-New-Site-Syndrome?

  • Plan Ahead - First of all, creating new content takes time. Make sure your project timeline includes time to create new content or rewrite old pages.
  • Identify Top Pages – Not every page of your site needs to be rewritten. Take a close look at the top 15 to 20 pages of your site by either navigation or analytics and focus on those. Then build a plan to go back and clean-up other pages.
  • Make an Improvement Checklist – As you go through your new site, make a list of the key things you can do to improve the pages.  Maybe it’s just cutting the copy on a page to improve readability, breaking up the layout or adding a graphic. Know going in what you want to improve in each page.  (For a quick checklist checkout this blog post 5 Quick Tips to Improve Your Website.)
  • Institutionalize Enhancements – Go ahead and make a commitment that every time someone touches a page they update it? It’s like the old quote, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

The key is to remember that content is the ultimate driver of a website’s success.  And while a new design and navigation may be a reason to launch, poor content will not keep members (and non-members) coming back. 

So plan to update your content while your project is in progress so you have a plan for your future web content.


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Topics: web governance, web operations, content strategy

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