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After twenty plus years in the association management industry working on countless projects that I loved, I now have a personal favorite. The recent redesign of a client website that seemed daunting at the outset brought together all of my favorite elements: the opportunity to work closely with staff, volunteers and an industry partner, and the chance to be creative and produce a website that provides value to our members and visitors every day. After a successful launch, I reflected on why this project meant so much to me and more importantly, what tips I could share to help my peers. Here are a few of the things that led to a stress-free “go live” date.

Map out a plan. Before you embark on the project, make sure you have a well thought out plan. The first step for us was to come up with a site map that laid out the overall vision for the new site. The site map resided on a large whiteboard in my office. Every category of information that was going on the site was included on the map. Even though you have your plan in place, be sure to stay flexible because I guarantee that not every detail will go exactly as planned.

Don’t be afraid to de-clutter. As we developed the site map, there were some hard decisions that needed to be made about what would be transferred over from the old site and what was no longer needed. When you deal with an organization of volunteers, sometimes it’s difficult to eliminate things that have a lot of emotion and hard work attached to them. That’s why I recommend making sure you don’t skip the next item.

Get buy-in from stakeholders along the way. Throughout the process, I reached out to the volunteer “owners” of the website’s different pieces to get their input. As staff, we made recommendations that would help site visitors get all of the information they needed without getting lost in a world of unnecessary clutter. We respected the hard work that was put into the old site and worked with stakeholders to streamline the new site.

The more eyes the better. This piece was key to a successful site. On the whiteboard were a list of categories and a place for staff initials to show, at a glance, the status of each piece. Was the copy written? Had the copy been reviewed by our staff point person? If there was volunteer involvement had that person seen the final product? Were there graphics included on the page? Was final copy sent to the designer? Had the related pages gone through final review? Was that piece ready to “go live?”

Hire a web designer who will act as a true partner. At AMPED, we’re very lucky to work with a designer who truly wants to be creative with us. He understands that we welcome his suggestions and we know we can depend on him to be on top of what’s up and coming in web design and function.

Launch day has come and gone and the new site is a success, but the work doesn’t stop there. We will continually look for ways to enhance the site and provide value to all of our visitors. I’d love to hear how you engage visitors on your organization’s site so that they keep returning!

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Newsweek

At the end of 2012, when Newsweek magazine ceased printing and moved all content online, some media observers declared print was “dead.” Predictions were that, within a decade, all content would be online, accessed by on-the-go readers using tablets and other smart devices.

Immediacy, accessibility, searchability, interactivity, embedded video – all available for free – give online media huge competitive advantages over traditional print. Early in the online vs. print debate, magazine and newspaper publishers questioned how they could hold onto paid subscribers if they gave away the content on their website. Publication websites were mostly placeholders, where past issues could be warehoused along with media kits and subscription information.

Now, more publications are making their websites their primary delivery method. The shift from traditional print to web forces publishers to rethink every aspect of their business. How can they continuously produce fresh content? Where will the revenue come from to support a staff of writers, editors, designers and salespeople? Can they afford to create two versions of the publication? How will they build in interactivity? Who will monitor and respond to readers’ comments? How will they use social media to extend their reach?

One of the magazines to which I contribute articles from our members made this transition in the past year. Now, instead of submitting a bimonthly column for the print magazine, we are posting a weekly blog written by our members. The editors then choose among the blog posts for the print edition, based on web traffic and knowledge of their print audience.

I believe the publishers that reinvent themselves as online content providers will be the ones that flourish in the future. They will examine traditional business models and develop new ways to attract readers and advertisers. They will provide a nonstop flow of information that it is timely and relevant. They will engage readers in conversations that add perspective to the content. Their websites will be multimedia, multidimensional vehicles for news, opinion, entertainment and connectivity.
Print isn’t dead, but I think it’s safe to say it’s on the endangered list. Start charging your smart devices.

 

Addendum: Shortly after I finished writing this blog, the new owners of Newsweek announced they would resume publishing a print version of the magazine in January or February. The New York Times reported that the magazine will focus on in-depth, global reporting and rely on subscribers rather than advertisers for revenue, which will result in higher subscription rates. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

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