LIKE houses, whose wiring has never been updated, businesses are increasingly finding their original websites are no longer fit for purpose – and ignoring the problem will only make it worse, as a leading digital expert explains….
As owners of old buildings often discover to their cost, there are only so many times an electrician can add a junction box or extend a cable before the circuits become overloaded and, repair work, expensive.
Many older businesses are now experiencing similar problems with their websites.
Even those which were state-of-the-art when they were first created are now struggling to cope with the demands placed on them by users, by staff and, ironically, by the digital age.
Very often businesses, which have perhaps expanded or diversified over the years have reflected this on their websites purely by adding another web page or link.
However, as the main selling tool in an increasingly commercial marketplace, websites need to do more to attract, engage and service users – in short they need to ‘sell’ the company.
Worryingly, too, while most householders ensure wiring alterations are made by a qualified electrician, many businesses adopt a scattergun approach when handing out responsibility for the website.
“Very often we’ll find there’s someone in marketing, someone in IT and possibly even the MD, each having an input or assuming ownership,” said digital expert Michael Armstrong.
“And, while that level of stakeholder engagement is great, it can leave the user – the undergraduate looking for a course, for example - very confused and frustrated.”
In the past five years, Michael, Director at Newcastle-based Roundhouse Digital, has helped businesses across the UK build and maintain their digital presence through websites, digital marketing and internal governance.
The company is now a leading provider of digital services to a variety of sectors, with longstanding clients, ranging from universities and HEIs across the UK, to leading international shipping insurance company, Newcastle-based North.
“The website gives them a platform to engage with all users and stakeholders while also staying true to their company ethos,” said Michael.
“The key to building a site that does what they need it to do, that will expand in line with them and that they can manage, lies in the research we do before we even begin to start constructing the site.
“In the first instance we look at, or in most cases shape, their digital strategy, not just in terms of a website, but also platforms like social media, on-line prospectuses, on-line learning, email branding and even corporate messaging screens within their building..
“Then it’s about governance and workflow; identifying who within the organisation will be managing the site and who will be creating content for it.
“We carry out detailed analytics to identify which pages of an existing site are most and least visited and this can be very helpful in defining the content structure of the new site.
“Very often, streamlining the site generates savings both in time and money as staff can be more usefully and profitably deployed elsewhere.”
Having established the site’s requirements and outline structure, content is the next issue. “Very often websites become dumping grounds for copy,” said Michael.
“Our job is to help the organisations decide what content they want to keep and to put systems in place to ensure that any copy posted is accurate and well written.
“But most importantly, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the users. What information might they need to access? What sort of device will they be accessing it from – even the same user will have different priorities when viewing a website on mobile device – we need to consider every user journey and how can we make it easy for them.”
And, having investigated a business’ digital requirements, aspirations, challenges and opportunities – what happens then?
“Then?” said Michael. “Then, we build the website.”