Does Your Web Page Need Attention?

Do you know how many “pages” make up miOttawa.org or how many pdf files we house on our website? It’s a rough estimate, but we have over 1,800 pages plus over 8,700 pdf files. The upside: we have a lot of information on our website. The downside: we have a lot of information on our website.

In our most recent citizen survey (2016), 78% of residents who had visited miOttawa.org gave it a positive rating. This is a passing grade, but it leaves nearly one-quarter of our website visitors unsatisfied with our electronic information or services. How can we work together to eliminate this friction and improve our website? Here are some tips that we can all employ:

Update It
When a customer visits our website today and sees a sentence such as, “The training will continue through 2015,” our credibility is instantly diminished. Do you know the process for updating your department’s web page content? Typically, each department designates one person to send content updates to our contractor, Webtecs. Do you know who manages content for your department? If you do not, discuss it at your next staff meeting. Sometimes the person who was designated to watch the content moves on and the task is never reassigned. Other times, the day to day operations take priority over updating the website. Now is a chance to regroup and switch the assignments if needed.

Pdf vs. Page Text
Every time a user has to “click” the chances of that user retrieving the information you intend to communicate goes down. Unless you are providing a form to complete, offer the information in both text on the web page and a pdf of the flyer that you masterfully created.

Click vs. Scroll
The popularity of mobile devices and tablets has converted many of our customers into creatures who scroll. Half of our website visitors access miOttawa.org from their mobile devices. (Apple devices edged Android devices on miOttawa.org by 5.72% in December, if you are keeping score.) In the past, web design placed a high importance on the information “above the fold” or on the screen you see when you land on a web page. While this is still important, we have embraced scrolling. Scroll with it. Just be sure to keep luring customers down the page with good design.

Product Information First
While your 2016 annual report, organization’s history or the note from the director is nice, consider why your website visitors come to miOttawa.org. (NOTE: Your director is most certainly AMAZING!) Are your visitors online for services, to enroll in training, to learn about an event, to get contact information, to find the answer to a question or to do something else?  If your customer becomes frustrated trying to find the course registration information they are looking for, they could simply leave miOttawa.org. Take a moment to find someone with no or limited information about your department or program and ask them, “Does this make sense?” If you are the content manager, feel free to ask Webtecs for advice when sending your content to them. They can likely suggest empathetic site architecture to improve the user experience. Learn more about User Experience at https://www.usability.gov/

Proofread. Then proofread again.
You have read your copy a dozen times. If possible, request a trusted colleague to look it over. Once it is published online, take one more look. Simply the change in font or formatting can uncover a covert typo, lurking among the letters waiting to attack your professionalism and humiliate you.

Avoid Acronyms and Jargon
While it may be impossible to completely remove jargon, make an effort to mix common, lay terms or past terminology in your content. Remember that the website is a primary portal for the public, not your professional peers.

Consider Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Passive sentences are not always the best way to phrase your thoughts. Passive voice is often awkward, vague, wordy and more difficult to understand. Make your writing clear and concise. Replace passive sentences with active sentences when possible. Here is a great resource from Purdue University.

This is just a sample of ideas we can use to improve miOttawa.org. What are some other things you see on websites that you feel should be included or avoided?  Do you have a favorite government website? Why? Share in the comments.

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