Thinking about the organization you work at, what is the thing that most thoroughly represents what it is all about? Your business or non-profit is made up of a unique story, a unique way of going about the world, and a unique intention for the future—so where can outsiders get the best picture possible?
I believe it’s your website. It’s where the character behind your brand and the intentionality of your content come together, distilled into a single experience. It’s who your company is, paired with how it speaks, and the process with which it operates.
Because of that, it can be hard to have a good website without clarity in the organization behind it. If there is no deliberate attempt to establish the process, it will be sorely missing from the website. If the brand is unclear and inconsistent, the iconography and photos won’t match. If the company doesn’t know how to clearly and concisely describe what they do, the content will be bloated and unreadable.
The web design process has a way of revealing these issues. Sometimes it’s during the development that you realize that there are major gaps in the organization—when you get to that services page and realize you have no documentation of your process, or images that represent what you do. And sometimes you don’t get to see the holes in the company until all of the disparate components of the site come together and lack any cohesion.
Often the result is just a lesser website. One that doesn’t communicate to the visitor or incite action as successfully as it could. I think it’s all too common to see a breakdown in one or more of the components that make a site achieve its goals. And I think you’ve probably experienced them too; those sites that may look nice but communicate very little. Or the ones that say a lot without giving any clear expectations of what it would be like to work together.
A good web design process can reveal those disconnects along the way and then hopefully pivot where needed to make sure that the organization gets clear within itself. But it’s not always an option to suddenly make a detour mid project.
So what can we do?
It starts with a deeper look at the organization itself before the project kicks off. When we sit down to talk about a new website, I want to make sure that someone has intentionally dug into the complexity of the organization and made decisions about its hierarchy, process, and communication. If not, we can give some extra space for it.
It may mean taking a much bigger step of deep brand development—getting clear on how the brand positions itself in the market, who its audience is, and the messaging that best speaks to them. This type of work not only helps in external communication to those outside the company, but gives it an internal sense of self that allows everyone inside to speak the same language.
And once that project has started, use this whole idea as a metric for giving feedback—does the website truly reflect my unique organization? Are we intentional about everything that we do in a way that allows the site to properly set expectations to its visitors? So often there seems to be a disconnect between the business itself and its website. But during development, you have the power to step back and look at both, ensuring that there is purpose behind both.
There’s a more cohesive world out there. One where people can set out every day with the clarity around their work so that they are freed up to expand their thinking and solve new problems. A world where customers can interact with organizations in a way that consistently meets their expectations. Putting value into the connection between your company and its website puts value into the company itself. And together they can lift up all who interact with it.