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Recommit to Your Website

Ugh, right?

You’re exhausted at the thought of it. Yes, yes, you know it’s important. The prognosticators, the bloggers, your boss—they’re all adamant on this point: Your website is “your best salesperson,” it’s your “key communication channel.”

Yet to you, the employee who’s (partly) responsible for keeping the website humming, some days it’s an albatross around your neck. All those logins, all those cuts-and-pastes, all those random security update emails. You’ll complain about the complexity of your “sitemap” at the slightest provocation—or none at all. Your eyerolls are on a hair trigger.

Yes, your website is a friend and foe, a digital and irritatingly patient frenemy. It’s important. But it’s also a demanding behemoth that, sometimes, you want to push into a lake. Love, hate, power, despair. Your website giveth and taketh away.

​Yes, your website is a friend and foe, a digital and irritatingly patient frenemy

Which is why you need to double down and recommit to it.

Your Website Isn’t a Single Thing

My job is to help organizations figure out what they have to say—and then, later, how they might best say it in words (usually) on a website.

At a trio of desks behind me sit three designers—the aesthetically gifted who make websites sing. Next to them, a couple of information architects, who spend their weekdays drawing boxes on whiteboards, sketching and erasing, always balancing what users need with what organizations want. In the next office, project managers who tell us what to do, when, and why. Down the hall, a giant room of renaissance coders combine prodigious memories with a creativity that only their colleagues can truly recognize.

In other words, your website isn’t a single thing. It’s a choir. And as such, it needs regular attention, reconsideration, and reinvigoration.

Without Care, Websites Wither

The best analogy for the website is the American muscle car—a beast of mechanical potential that either roars or putters. Well maintained, the website can rev a thousand horsepower and cause onlookers to slow, stop, and stare. But like too many Chargers and Mustangs and Camaros of yore, websites are often refined to backyards or junkyards or—a worse fate—calm little weekend putters down to the corner store.

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How to Love Your Website Again

First, admit its influence.

Think of yourself: You’re a consumer of digital content, right? You scroll and swipe and (heaven forbid!) pinch and zoom. You visit websites. You read and view and view again. The web is worldwide, and now, so are you. So, too, are the thousands of people who surf to your homepage every month—looking for … something. They’re just versions of you—only you know the stuff they don’t yet know, and your website is your voice across the wire(les)s.

Second, make a list. Because what’s better than a list? Go nuts: Ignore what you think the limits of technology are and write down—actually write down—all the things you wish your website could do.

Picture your site as a superhero, with magical powers, who’s sitting across the table from one of your site visitors. What would the hero say? What would he do? What would your users ask him to do?

If you’re a nonprofit, your hero would use telekinesis to move donations from your user’s wallet to your general fund. If you’re a university, your hero would fill out an application in a single bound. And associations? Membership Man would double your Continuing Education enrollments in a flash!

Third, take the long view. The journey of a thousand return visitors begins with a single step, after all. Your website will be there, patient as a plum, long after your current CEO retires and your current interns become your future competition.

Like a garden or a mutual fund, a website’s payoff may be years in the making. But what’s the alternative? Letting it wither on the vine while your competitors continue to trend upward? No thanks.

And Do It Now

Your best employee, working 80/hour weeks, can’t influence the universe the way your website could—if only it was tended to, relentlessly and thoughtfully. But if you begin now, expanding and refining and updating and imagining, your site could become a hero all its own.

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