Web Sites: It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

Apr 30

I’ve spent much of my career advising on Web site design and content strategy. Essentially, I serve as the translator between the content lead at the organization and the Web site developer.

I’ve really enjoyed this role. I love finding creative solutions to help organizations get the dynamic and innovative features they are looking for within their budget. How does their often non-technical vision for a technical platform become actualized? And on the other side, I can help the technical experts understand why a new way to navigate or feature certain content may obscure key messages.

My first official Web project was in 2004—helping the organization I worked for conceive of and implement a better strategy to communicate research findings to the public and press.  That first project helped me understand that, since the birth of World Wide Web, media is in a constant state of change and progress.

Email had just arrived on the scene during my sophomore or junior year of college (and you had to go to the library to check it!), I bought myself my first cell phone with my first pay check at my first job, and it was two years into that first job when we got on AOL Instant messenger (and AOL email) as a company platform. I’m not kidding when I say the first week we were all panicked by the constant dinging and “You’ve Got Mail!” resounding throughout the office.

Now, we have Twitter, Facebook, and apps (check out my colleague Lauren Littleton’s post about Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine) to convey information instantly through social networks.

In a world where a Tweet can cause trading companies to dump shares in a matter of seconds, Web sites can’t compete with being the source for breaking information. They need to provide context, tell a richer story. They need to do more than tell the story—they need to take readers on a journey through a series of customized stories.

Screenshot of The New York Times Web site redesign.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

For example, The New York Times is redesigning their Web site to “encourage app behavior of moving through articles, rather than back to the home page.” Is The New York Times Web site going to get the information out into cyberspace first? Probably not. Their social media platforms (or those of their competitors) will. But their plan is that when social media leads you to their site, you’ll stick around, learn more, explore more, and then share more—through on your own social media channels. Even though you hear it first on Twitter, you’ll go to The New York Times Web site for their trusted, reliable brand experience.

Read this article by tech blog Mashable, Inside the ‘New York Times’ Redesign. You may have already seen some of these features emerging (sometimes sporadically) on sites you work on or frequent. What do you think of their redesign? Of responsive design? Of more white space? Larger images? The diminished traditional navigation bars? You can also experience the preview yourself and sign up to request access to the prototype through The New York Times.

Further, what have been your challenges and successes in encouraging clients to change the way they view media—for example, by mimicking “app behavior,” diversifying media, or re-envisioning their Web site as more than just a repository?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 2:45 pm and is filed under Best Practices, Media, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Web Sites: It’s a Journey, Not a Destination”

  1. Maureen Finan says:

    Karen…great post…your questions are provocative…can’t help but wonder what is next….will websites become just “archives” for the information we receive instantly via social media / apps?

    Maureen

  2. Karen Melnyk-Vutrano says:

    Hi Maureen. Thank you for your comment! I guess time will tell–it will be interesting to see things evolve. Although from your perspective & experience, do you see potential for Web sites to evolve and balance social media (in more than an “archiving” capacity)? Social media certainly has it’s limitations and pitfalls…