Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let the games begins

Ever argue with a loved one for hours only to make up and not remember what you were fighting about? And all you know in the end was that it was needed? Well, that pretty much summed up day one.

Yup, a big build up with the occasional vibrant discourse; but by the time I walked away I was scratching my head to figure out what the hell just happened—welcome to our 3-hour website redesign kick-off session. And for some odd reason, this seemed to have worked.

I’ve always been a believer of exposing all the elephants in the room. And web redesign should be no different. It’s helpful to know what everyone’s holding before you move forward, and yes, sometimes things have to get worse before they better.

But then again this is a work environment and we do want to remain professional. Which of course we will…in the office, but the blog is a different story. There’s freedom to roam here, get down and dirty, and begin hashing out next steps in an environment that supports a bottom up, inside out approach to web redesign.

The meeting to kick-off our web session was somewhat ambitious and ambiguous, but we have to start somewhere. I started the meeting with a quick review of our competition.

In our world, we identified over 50 organizations as our ‘competitors;’ some were big and powerful while others were mostly small and scrappy. The list is too long to mention, but it gives you an idea of where we stand in the pile of river loving, green groups.

I realize there is more to a site than its homepage, but in attempt to define our homebase, here's what I found:

Static Homepage: Contains 25% of our competitors

  • List of items that requires low maintenance
  • The front page typically does not change
  • Cyber business card
Dynamic Homepages: Contains 70% of our competitors
  • Fresh content, updated regularly
  • Featured/spotlighted issues & campaigns that draw users in
Passive Imagery: Contains 20% of our competitors
  • Pretty photos that add no value to user experience (excluding headers)
  • May potentially distract from issues/mission (excluding headers)
Active Imagery: Contains nearly 50% of our competitors
  • Photos/images with a purpose
  • Directs users to issue/campaign
  • Engages constituents
Basically, for over three hours we reviewed websites. There wasn't a whole lot of depth to our conversation, just an understanding of what's out there, who's doing what, and what we liked. It was kind of like that late afternoon web search when you feel like the day is over, but it's just too early to you search, randomly.

The casual exchange was the start to a long journey in which 10 staff members, a design firm (and only design, still don’t have the coders yet), a web strategy guy, and a growing list of wants and needs from an organization hungry for their heightened place in the cyberworld.

No comments: