Optimizing and Branding Your Website

The importance of optimizing and branding your website, adhering to best practices and marketing guidelines is hugely important in the overall web presence of your organization’s website. It is equally important to recognize that your website is an extension of your office, business card, an initial sales call, or contact with a prospective customer or investor. This is especially important if your organization is a trade or industry organization with multiple members that rely on your industry knowledge and expertise. Your members, prospective customers, and/or investors want to know that they can trust you, find value in the resources, tools, and services you offer. And frankly, if your website fails to deliver a strong message of all the things that you can do and have to offer, chances are that initial sales contact is just going to be that –contact with no results.

As one who is trusted to manage an organization’s website, not an easy task by no means, and often there are some misconception about what a website manager does. This is not going to focus on the key roles and responsibilities of a website manager; however, I will share some key guidelines that have worked for me, and hopefully will help web managers increase online brand awareness while helping your website ranking on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

#1 – if you have not already done so get a Google Analytics account, It’s free and extremely easy to use. You can set up multiple websites under one account, so if you’re like me who manages 40 websites, you can add each domain name and track its traffic. The reporting features is extremely robust and gives you access to key information like how web visitors find your sites, what site(s) they clicked-through from, and the account dashboard gives you a quick overviews of your account. Don’t forget to choose relevant keywords to use on your website content.

Website templates – if you have multiple websites, to ensure a unified web presence, official pages of your .org and all other smaller programs sites, your websites should appear to be visually related in order to help promote usability and to reinforce your core organization’s brand identity. You should create and insist all content managers adopt and use consistently the branded templates to provide online brand consistency. For example, national site might have a different layout and menu navigation versus affiliate or programs sites. The key is building a consistent and strong branding presence online same way the marketing department has built your printed collaterals.

With this in mind, all elements of the style such as color and font standards should be followed accordingly across your website. The following are additional website guidelines that specifically focus on font type, size, colors, images/logo usage, and accessibility standards.

Font type – establish and enforce the use of a standard, default font on your website and make sure everyone in the organization knows what the font is and where to download the fonts.

Font size – let’s face it, no one wants to squint his or her eyeballs out to read the content on a website. Same rule of thumb as the type, set up and enforce the use of a standard point size that allows for readability ease.

Font color – selecting and using random font colors that make absolutely no sense on a website is one of the worst things you can do to jeopardize the credibility of your website. You should only use excessive colors if oh, I don’t know you’re Crayola Crayon Maker, Kodak, or Sharp and are trying to make the point that your products comes in many color variations and sharpness. However, since you are not, stick with black; hyperlinked text is set to blue automatically thanks to HTML. (BTW, the new Sharp Quattron technology is top-notch – you should check it out). Fortunately, a cascade style sheet (CSS) has made content management so much easier, especially with font issues. Web developers can set the default settings on web platform).

Logos & Images: Images and logos are permitted on website, and should be use intuitively to help convey a message. In fact, images can help reduce the amount of text used on a page if used correctly. Don’t forget to educate your staff on standard logos / image pixel sizes, and this ranges from logos, banners, flash graphics to a simple register now icon. Indicating the proper size requirements will make sure logos and image usage on sites is consistent and used appropriately. Remember you want to convey a message not distract the user!

Accessibility standards – all web managers should be familiar with website accessibility standards 508 –if you don’t please visit Section 508. Let’s face it your website is visited by a wide array of web visitors, and to ensure users with vision impairment or disability are able to locate all the resources, tools, and services offered via your websites, following Website accessibility standards is imperative in meeting the needs of all users. Web managers and editors must be knowledgeable on accessibility standards and adhere to them always.

In addition to Section 508.gov, here are other resources online to help you familiarize and get accustomed to web accessibility standards. The web consortium is a great resource for guidelines.

As a web manager and editor for an industry-leading association, your constituency relies on your ability to help them make important decisions about their business practices and operations; decisions that could have huge financial impact on their bottom line, product, and customers. As a result, it is important that your website is properly optimized and managed accordingly to support your key branding strategies. Adhering to best practices and guidelines is hugely important in the overall web presence of your organization’s website, too. Bottom line is that your website is an extension of your office and should be presented in a well-organized, professional fashion are easy to find and with few distractions.

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