Planning and Developing Your Website's Content
The Technical Communication Team's web designers are pleased to offer the following general principles to clients and potential clients both within Reclamation and in other organizations. However, anyone planning a Bureau of Reclamation website also needs to be aware of the specific formatting and content requirements detailed on Reclamation's intranet site.
Your website can be an effective way to provide information and services to your customers and coworkers. But you need to plan carefully to make the best use of your electronic space. Here is an approach we recommend.
Step 1. Define purpose and audience
- What are your goals for your site? For your organization?
- Who is your audience? What are they looking for?
Your website has to tie into your organization's overall goals. List your goals and then determine which of these goals a website can help meet. Websites are good ways to communicate information—both to and from your customers. Websites help ensure that updated information is in one easy-to-reach location.
Step 2. Identify content
- When people come to your site, what do you want them to find?
- What information do you have available?
- What information do you need to develop?
Ask your staff and coworkers:
- What information do customers ask for most frequently? (Identify information customers can access on the internet rather than talking to employees.)
- What information do you need most often to do your job? (Identify information your staff can access quickly on an intranet rather than searching for it again and again.)
Use this information as content to identify what information you will post on an internet for public use and on an intranet for staff use. Next, look at your business practices to determine what services you can offer online:
- How do customers send information to you?
- Could they send that information online?
Step 3. Plan your strategy
Once you have a list of information that you want on the websites, determine the audiences, update frequency, and format:
|Information||Who develops it?||Who needs it?||What format?||How is it updated?|
|Resource management plans||Planners||Decisionmakers, planners, publics||MS Word||Each plan is updated every 5 years|
|Reimbursable agreements||Accounting||Managers, planners||Database||Weekly|
Use a table like the one above to help determine what information you need on your website. Ask managers about priorities, and determine what information will best meet those priorities. Is it more important to develop a dynamic database to show reimbursable agreements or to get all the resource management plans online first? It is usually a good idea to get the easy information up quickly (e.g., PDF files, easily converted documents). Ask for feedback from both customers and employees to determine whether you are going in the right direction.
Step 4. Plan your navigation
Categorize information on the internet site by looking through your customers' eyes.
- How do customers assimilate and use your information?
- Where will they expect to find what?
|Who will use the site?||What will they want from the site?||How will we provide this information?||Why do we want them to visit the site?||How will we fulfill our objectives?|
Categorize information on the intranet site by looking through your staff's eyes. Staff members are more familiar with your organization and terms, so categories may be different. For example, it may be more effective to organize the intranet site according to organization codes, while organizing the internet site according to services offered.
Use your categories to plan the site's layout. Keep the layout simple, and make sure information is easy to find.
Step 5. Get the initial site up
Many different kinds of software are available for putting up web pages. (Note, however, that only one such program is approved for use on Reclamation sites, as described in the Web Publishing Manual, Section 10.5, on Reclamation's intranet.) These programs can make it possible even for a relative newcomer to put together and launch a simple website within a few hours. But putting together an effective site requires knowing and using graphic and information design principles. That is the "added value" that one of our web design specialists can bring to your project.
Step 6. Update and maintain
Web sites are great places to go for updated information. However, you need to plan on and invest in updating to ensure that your website continues an active, useful life.
Look at how often your website material is updated, and determine how your website will be updated.
- Who will put the information online?
- How will you budget for updates?
On the average, for updating and revising the site's content, plus improving its presentation, you should allow 10% of the development time each month for the care and feeding of your site. If it took 100 hours to build it, then allow 10 hours per month to maintain it.
You may also want to add new features as customers and employees identify new needs for information and interaction.
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