Yesterday’s installment, inspired by an article from Louis Rosenfeld @ smashingmagazine.com, focused on a “fix it once and for all” problem that plagues far too many orchestras. It defined the problem and began presenting solutions; today’s post will dive into additional details on how you can diagnose your condition and what you can do with that info to begin making improvements.
Diagnose Your Web Health
As mentioned in Rosenfeld’s article, one of the most difficult steps in the process isn’t so much diagnosing the trouble as it is approaching the process from the proper frame of reference.
Most website owners don’t know how to diagnose the problems of a large complex website. It’s just not something they were ever taught to do. So, they’re put in the unfortunate, uncomfortable position of operating like country doctors who’ve suddenly been tasked to save their patients from a virulent new pandemic. It is their responsibility, but they’re simply unprepared.
For the vast majority of orchestras, you can begin the process of figuring out where you are and what you need by focusing on the amount of control you have over each of the following segments:
This is the part of your website that visitors experience and since most orchestra managers spend more time looking at and working with this interface, this is where they feel most comfortable and tend to begin the process. There’s nothing wrong with this approach but it shouldn’t be your primary focus as they are often the easiest to adjust. Elements to consider include:
- Graphic Design: colors, fonts, styles, images, etc.
- Performance: site speed, page loading, optimization, etc.
This is where content is created and edited; which includes everything from static material like the “About Us ” pages to more dynamic information such as concert event info and press releases. Compared to the frontend, this segment actually has far more impact on whether or not you have a system that can produce the sort of control and user experience you’re looking for.
At the same time, this is where things can begin to feel a bit more alien; especially if you haven’t had much experience with a well designed Content Management System and instead are forced to work with raw HTML code. Elements to consider include:
- Content Management Interface: user interface controls for creating and editing page content (copy, images, multimedia, and hyperlinks) as well as uploading and managing media.
- Event Management: user interface controls for creating and editing event content (copy, images, multimedia, and hyperlinks) creating event index pages, and incorporating respective box office and ticket purchase info (click-throughs, etc.).
- Site Design Controls: ability to create and edit navigation menus, widgetized content, page layouts, graphic design elements, typography, slider styles, etc.
For all but the largest budget organizations, you can expect to have some degree of integration between your website (frontend and backend) and one or more providers; which, in turn, have their own user interfaces. For example, it is quite common for orchestras to link out to a third party box office platform that processes ticket transactions.
In essence, these items can generate separate websites but they need to integrate with your primary website (frontend and backend) as much as possible so the end user experience is as seamless as possible. Typical integrated elements include:
- Box Office Solutions: this includes transaction processing which can be limited to ticket purchases or as robust as to handle all payment based transactions (subscriptions, donations, merchandise, etc.).
- Customer Relationship Management Tools: these platforms typically focus on integrating fundraising and marketing efforts between departments from a single, shared patron database.
- Email Marketing Tools: it is increasingly common for orchestras to use third party providers such as Vertical Response, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, etc.
Note: In the rapidly changing word of technology providers, it is increasingly common to see individual vendors offering solutions that combine one or more of the above elements into a single solution.
Tomorrow’s installment will walk you through the diagnosis process using the criteria from above (don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think). From there, we’ll examine your options and get you on the path toward breaking the cycle of redesign insanity!