When you start thinking about a new website, maybe there are things that you know you want or need: a map showing the location of your partners, an events calendar, a resource center or a Twitter feed, to name a few.
Those features, however, aren’t really a goal—they’re just a means to an end. For instance, you don’t need an events calendar. Really, what you need is to increase attendance to the events you organize. The events calendar is the way you have devised to achieve that.
Planning a website by throwing in feature ideas would be a bit like starting to cook by randomly choosing ingredients: “I like salmon, peas, chocolate, bananas, and I once saw a lovely recipe with kimchi that I’d like to try!”
It'd be better to start with something like “I want a savoury dish with lots of umami flavor and a comfort soup.”
Having clear goals is the foundation of a good project. It will make decisions easier, help achieve effective use of resources and enable future evaluation. If you just name the features and leave the goals implied, there is the risk to keep adding or changing features and get lost in the details.
As with any project, a web project may go off course if the goals aren’t clear. Going off course ends up being costly both in terms of money and effort.
You need to define clear goals and target audiences for your project. They will be the compass that guides the project forward and lets you know what is important —and what isn’t.
Thing is, there are many kinds of goals—performance, usability, communication, security. Having too long of a list will be confusing and hard to remember. You need to boil down your goals to a small list of top goals that are the actual motivation of your project.
Your top goals are the answer to the question: What would change in our organization, or around it, if this project is successful?
But wait! Don’t go to the extreme of setting goals such as “All humans will live with dignity and respect for their rights” or “We will all enjoy food security and see a bright future for the planet.” You may ultimately be aiming at something like that, but you won’t be able to evaluate such goals and never know if you moved closer to achieving them.
So focus on smaller goals that can be accomplished through communication efforts.
- Increase awareness of Forest Landscape Restoration and dispel misconceptions on the topic.
- Drive more people to our regional partners.
- Increase volunteer enrollment.
- Be perceived as experts in In-School Music programs.
- Spend less time sending out public policy resources to people who ask for them via email.
Notice that nothing in these goals implies the need for a website. You might as well be publishing books or speaking at events. Actually, if your big goals mention your website or its features, be suspicious of them. A website should be a tool, not a goal.
Once your project goal(s) are clear, it will be easier to assess how appropriate are the proposed features, design and content for your website.
Goals don’t exist in a vacuum. They're the effect you want to create on other people, your visitors. It's a good idea to picture your users, know who you're talking to.