The best websites have an obsessive single focus. They get out of the way and help users meet their goals. If users can’t do what they want, they go away, and you lose. If your users succeed, they win, and you win.
To know what your user’s site goals are, you have to get humble. You have to accept the proposition that you don’t know your users, or your members.
Don’t you know your members? Sure, you work with many of them every day. They call you; you call them. You know their kids’ names, their dog’s name, even where they vacation. But they aren’t your members. They’re your volunteer leaders, and they’re different. Their views of the organization and the website have been distorted by who they are, and what they do. (Same with you.)
Most likely, your site works well enough for your staff and your leaders, despite its flaws. But if you want to expand the appeal of your website (and hence your association), you have to get in the head of the non-committed, the non-leader, or the checkbook member. If you don’t, your new site will serve the same leaders in the same way. You will not make progress. Your site will look like an org chart, or the hobby horse of your most vocal volunteers.
Do the more of the same, get more of the same. Do something different, get something different.
How do you get in their heads? Research.
If you do it well, three things will happen.
- Some of your assumptions will be proven right. That’s OK. It means you at least have a clue.
- Some of your assumptions will be dead wrong. That’s OK. It means you’re human.
- You will be blown away by the unexpected. That’s great! What was once your blind spot is now visible. Now you can do something about it.
Ready to get started? This doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Next post: User-centered website research on a shoestring.
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