Books Are For The Ages; Websites Are For The Moment. Is Yours Updated?
By Thomas J. Roach
It is apparent that not every aggregate company realizes the importance of websites. For many of us, “looks aren’t everything” describes our attitude toward websites. Regular customers and business associates know who we are and know our reputations, and we might think they understand if we don’t have time to develop, update and repair our digital footprints.
It is a mistake to think that websites are peripheral to our businesses. For many people, websites are the first and last things they will know about us. Web surfing is replacing networking. As we move deeper into the 21st century, more and more old contacts will fall away and be replaced by new contacts that we make through digital online projections like websites, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook.
The website is like your car, the suit you are wearing, the front of your building, it is what people see first. If it doesn’t make a favorable impression, it may be all they will see. Search engines tempt us to skip looking deeper, because they make it so much easier to just keep looking.
If your organization doesn’t have a website, it should. Companies too small to hire someone with the expertise to manage a website can hire a consultant to create and maintain one. If that seems too expensive, then someone can be hired to develop a website with basic information that doesn’t have to be changed regularly. The site can refer web surfers to an office phone number. When phone calls from web users make it apparent the web is a vital channel of communication for your business, then you will have incentive to upgrade the website.
Of course, it is most desirable to have timely information. Companies that appreciate the need for a website post announcements and update institutional data as soon as it becomes available or changes.
Books are for the ages; websites are for the moment. What is worse than no website is a website with outdated information. This is like not washing your car, wearing a leisure suit past 1975, or still having holiday lights around your windows in April.
So, while timely information is good, untimely information is worse than no information at all. If you do not have the capacity to update your site regularly, then only post institutional information that is unlikely to change.
Most websites now have layers of information that can be accessed by clicking links. Sometimes links go bad, and sometimes the pages they are linked to are removed, but the link is left intact. This means visitors to your site click links that transport them to nowhere.
What is an interesting plot element for Star Trek, is frustrating and annoying for web surfers. It is easier to go to another company’s website than to try to figure out how to get what you need from a company that doesn’t know that their website is screwed up.
Check the links on the website, or run link checker software. Broken links not only annoy users, they can reduce your search engine ranking. Link checker software crawls your system and alerts you to broken links.
Built for Speed
Seconds seem like hours online. Websites could be evaluated monthly for site speed. Special software can identify problems that slow down navigation through your site.
If you have a website that is well managed and includes timely information, then it should be backed up weekly and stored off site.
Whether you are the webmaster or the CEO, test the functionality of your site periodically. Fill out contact forms or click the email tab. Then test your competition’s website, and ask yourself who you would want as a business associate.
Looks aren’t everything; unless you are online.
Thomas J. Roach, Ph.D., has 30 years experience in communication as a journalist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Calumet since 1987, and is the author of “An Interviewing Rhetoric.” He can be reached at [email protected].