Really, What is a Website?

Greetings everyone,

I’m currently neck (maybe even head or more) deep in redesigning our parish website, and I have been wrestling with this point: With so much Social Media being so easily accessible to organizations, what is the point of a website?

You could call it

  • an information repository, but that is pretty boring (and with sites like Wikipedia…)
  • a welcome page, but that is only a small part of the capability (though a very important one)
  • a link holder, but that is very limited
  • an ‘official’ presence, but that is archaic with the resources available on media sites like Facebook and Twitter
    So what is the website good for?
    I propose that it is good for being a canvas to create your image.
image of a blank canvaas
   Almost every social media outlet allows you to link from your website. I’d say they encourage you to, and rightly so. But there is a cyclical nature to this link. Don’t send people out to your many Social Media outlets and not have them be invited back. Your site should paint an image of who you are as an organization, your goals and actions, and it should be visited often.
     There are a few consistent tools you can use to have this happen.
Involved Bloggers
    catholicmom.com has a hidden wonder to it that should be exploited for your classroom or organization. Contributors. People want updates, but they don’t want a nebulous organization sending them updates. Real time, involved members of your organization can be responsible for this information feed, and there is no reason you can’t leverage them. RSS feeds are at the core of this concept, and an understanding of xmls is central to using RSS appropriately (also useful for podcasting.)
    Involved ‘bloggers’ is the reason social media has taken off, just look at the concept of Facebook.
    A fancy landing page is great for your site, but keep in mind that if I’m going to spend any time on your page I want to be able to read it without it being an eyesore. Five colors and two accents is about the top limit of what you want, kuler is a good resource for this. Also make sure black and white aren’t colors on your page, but rather a close proximate (ivory for white and darkSlateGray for black.) For a great example of complex-simplicity I offer TED.com In the end you have to let your mission speak for you, and your design *show* that mission.
Show not Tell
    Don’t fall victim to the static information page, the design of your page should speak of your mission. How valuable is a mission statement if nothing on your page shows how you are completing that mission? How much do you need it to be explicit if your page illustrates your mission? The best idea is to take the parts of your mission and break them down into components for your page. Kiva.com is a great example of this mission taken out to the page. Each part of the page speaks of the overall goal, and the highlight of the page is very clearly centered in the design.
Hope this helps some of your rethink your page. The organizations making the best gains in the online game are out in front of this. Look for the pages that have the best visit rate, and see what they are doing.
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