Website as museum, website as collage.

4531479255_18f1bc08e5As you know, I love doing website assessments for small businesses. (Have you had yours?) Often, when I look at a website that has been around for a few years, it has either turned into a museum or a collage.

What do I mean? Ever heard of the Tenement Museum in Lower Manhattan? It didn’t start out as a museum. It actually was an apartment building until it was shuttered up and left dormant for 50 years. It was made into a museum because it hadn’t been touched in so many years that when it was opened decades later, it was still a perfect representation of how people lived in the lower east side at the turn of the century.

Many websites remind me of the Tenement Museum. Because business owners are too busy, too scared of their website interface, or simply don’t consider it important enough, they don’t touch their website after they launch it. Their websites become a perfect museum of what their business was like when the site launched. The side doesn’t reflect the changes that the business has undergone since the launch day.

On the other hand, other sites are just the opposite. They turn into collages. Those websites have undergone all sorts of changes since their launch. Perhaps the company has launched a new program, joined a society, or created a huge event. The business owner (rightly) wants to tout all of this new activity, but she doesn’t have a plan on how all of the changes she makes work together. So, she sticks badges, promo boxes, and graphics on her site without thinking of how the new items work with one another or with the existing site. The site ends up looking a bit like a fourth-grade collage, with scores of elements on the page arguing for visual prominence. The noisier it gets, the noisier new additions need to be to get any attention.

So, how do you avoid becoming a museum or a collage?

  • Know your Content Management System – Knowledge is power! If you don’t want your website to turn into a museum, you need to understand how to make updates.
  • Don’t be scared – Ok, bluntly, one of the main things that happens with websites is people get scared they will “break the website” and don’t update it. Make sure you learn how to use your content management system and then update it regularly. The more regularly you update it, the more comfortable you will be in making sure you don’t become a museum.
  • Think ahead – The collage factor can be mitigated by thinking ahead. Do you want the ability to run special promotions? What about your navigation? How might it change? Make sure you are building this planning into your website.
  • Schedule yourself a regular time to review your website – Even if you think it is up-do-date, you might be surprised at what has changed when you actually take a look.  It’s easy to forget things like switching from gmail to a domain-specific email address or the addition of a new line of business.
  • Blogging? – If you have a blog, you are going to need to update it more than once a month or else it will look stale.

Bottom line: Don’t cheat yourself online!

If you don’t want to look cheap, don’t be cheap!


photo credit: DSC03863 via photopin (license)