MJR's slef-reflections

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Explaining web site improvements: what's important to you?

Fri, 18 Apr 2008 12:32:33 +0100

[Photo of Some Traffic]
Is this traffic or congestion?

This is one of those Friday Afternoon Projects - it's been put off all through a busy week because it's unpaid, I'm not completely sure how to approach it and now my arms hurt like hell from travel jabs which are making it hard to concentrate! So I'm going to float it on here...

I've been asked to brief a meeting next week about that group's current web site and its problems. I'm not linking it yet to avoid insulting/embarrassing them.

The site looks OK, but doesn't rank well on search engines and doesn't allow much member participation. I need to explain why that's a bad thing and how the site's technical choices have led to that. I'm not directly pitching for TTLLP to get any work (because I'm a member of that group, it might be a conflict of interest and we're pretty busy anyway - even our own site needs work on some of the points I'm going to mention), but I don't want to be unhappy if we're asked to implement my recommendations.

I've got a usual outline that I follow, but my presentation's time is limited, so I'd like to ask you: what about this is important and what isn't? If you give me useful feedback, I'll put you in the Acknowledgements with a backlink and I hope the briefing will be shared pretty widely over the next few months.

The current plan is to start with a basic explanation of how search engines rank pages, as far as we can tell, referring to PageRank Explained Correctly with Examples, by Ian Rogers as well as the shorter official summaries from the dominant search sites at Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

Then I go through a quick evaluation of the site against the basics of validation, accessibility and robot-friendliness, followed by a couple of SEO-style checks of its current rankings and inbound links.

Next is a bit different because I have access to some of their web access stats: I summarise what we know and suggest some other stats they've probably not considered and why they're useful, along the lines of Dave Briggs's measures of blog success.

Finally, I suggest ways to improve the site. The top tip will be to take control of the site hosting and stop using the cheap and cheerful donated server that makes all links except the front page point to another domain. I'll probably suggest a mix of free and open source software tools to power it. If they don't want to move it all yet, I'll suggest running a second site for member participation, using tools like Wordpress, NoseRub and so on.

What do you think? Plan for success, am I missing some tricks, or am I setting myself up for a lynching? Let me know with a comment or email, please.

Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

Comments On This Entry

Submitted at 1126 on 21 Apr by Mark Wyatt

From what you've written (and your thought process might be something else), I suspect you are starting from the wrong end of the question.

First, who are you presenting to?

There are some audiences for whom you are being 'too techie' about this. For those (and while they will primarily be self-important besuited types I don't want to get into whether tha is good or bad) the technical stuff can primarily be taken as read or, better, "here is the conclusion and I've brought along a pile of copies of whitepapers that support that conclusion" and now the important question of how can we get there...

For others (techies, people who don't trust you...), that approach will get pulled to pieces.

Okay, so now we know (now you know) 'who', we can ask 'and what kind of things do they want to hear' (and at what length and in what detail).

And then we can go on to how do we present to hit their hot buttons.

Of course, sometimes the answer is that there is such a spread of people with such a spread of attitudes that it is difficult. But usually, you can use time constraints to justify trimming your presentation, particularly if you have some handouts that coversome of the techie stuff. And, in that case, aim the presentation at the opinion formers and decision makers.

Submitted at 2356 on 21 Apr by MJ Ray

I'm not sure I was starting from the wrong end of the question, but I probably gave the question wrong-end first.

I'm presenting to the elected decision-makers, so the technical stuff is new to most of them, but some of it is necessary because they don't yet understand why their current hosting is failing.

Thanks for your comment - it explains the importance of keeping the set-up part of any presentation, the "what are we trying to achieve with this?" introduction.

Comments are moderated (damn spammers) but almost anything sensible gets approved (albeit eventually). If you give a web address, I'll link it. I won't publish your email address unless you ask me to, but I'll email you a link when the comment is posted, or the reason why it's not posted.

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