Homepage real estate …or, Battle of the bulletin board

Posted on Apr 20, 2016 in Guest blog

bulletin boardMy office has a break room with the usual appointments: tables, chair, refrigerators, vending machines, microwave, Keurig, electric teakettle. And a bulletin board.

I was pleased to see the bulletin board because there’s always so many interesting things there. Some of us bring back menus from local restaurants, some others post current events, others bring in things like the card for the mobile bike repair shop on 18th Street.

I walked in one morning a few weeks ago and all of the menus and other papers had been removed. The only two signs on the bulletin board were duplicates: announcement of a meeting coming up this week. They were much larger than all the other materials, and one was right under the other.

I looked at it for a few moments and thought, “Here’s someone who thought his meeting was more important than anyone else’s material.”

So I took down the duplicate and put the other material back up.

What does that have to do with federal websites?

Well, it’s all a question of real estate. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a free for all.

Four rules of engagement for homepages:

  1. It’s not all about you. No matter how cool your program/event/award is, you don’t get to push everyone else out of the sandbox.
  2. Posting the same content twice doesn’t make it twice as effective. It just takes up space.
  3. Remove it from the homepage when it’s over or old news. Keep an eye on it. It’s like a garden; you have to prune sometimes.
  4. Check your analytics. Are you putting the most-requested material on the homepage so people can get to it faster? Check at least every quarter, although every month is better. You’ll probably have consistent rankings, but every so often something new will appear in your reports.

This happens to me all the time. I used to manage websites for an association with three kinds of training: regular in-person classes, grant-funded/free training, and webinars.

Of course, each group wanted each separate training on the homepage. They wanted the website to follow the organizational chart because to them that made the most sense.

But that didn’t make sense for our customers. And I ran the website to make sense for them.

I said no. I said it went under training because when customers called in–yes, we had a receptionist at the switchboard–they just asked for training. The training page described each kind of training and listed dates/locations.

Now I did add specific training to the homepage when it was timely. When it was over, I removed it.

Who are you running your website for? Does your homepage reflect your audience?

 

K. SpiveyAbout the author:  Katherine Spivey is co-chair of the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) and the General Service Administration’s Plain Language Launcher. She is also a plain language trainer, frequently featured on Digital Gov University.

This post was originally published on GovLoop.com.

 

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