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.
Having any of those features, however, isn’t really a goal: it’s just a means to an end. You don’t need an events calendar, what you need is to increase attendance to the events you organize —for example—, and the events calendar is the way you have devised to achieve that.
Planning a website by throwing feature ideas together would be a bit like starting to cook by choosing ingredients at random: “I like salmon, peas, chocolate, bananas, and I once saw a lovely recipe with kimchi that I’d like to try!”.
It would be best to start with something like “I want a savoury dish with lots of umami flavor and a comforting broth”.
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 will stray if the goals aren’t clear. Straying ends up being costly both in terms of money and effort.
You need to define clear goals and audiences for your project, and they will be the compass that guides the project forward and let you know what is important —and what isn’t.
The thing here is that there are many kinds of goals: performance, usability, communication, security. Having a list of goals that is too long will be confusing and hard to remember. We need to boil the goals down to a small list of top goals that are the actual motivation of the project.
Your top goals are the answer to the question: What would change in our organization, or around it, if this project is successful?
Now, wait! don’t go all the way to “All humans would live with dignity and respect for their rights; we would all enjoy food security and and see a bright future for the planet” or something that far. Although we’re aiming at something like that, we won’t be able to evaluate such goals and will never know if we moved towards them.
So let’s go to a lower level, smaller shifts; things that can be achieved with communication. Examples:
- More people would understand Forest Landscape Restoration and be free of misconceptions.
- More people would reach out to our regional partners.
- More volunteers would enroll in our courses.
- We would be perceived as experts in Music in Schools programs.
- We would spend less time sending policy resources that people ask for via email.
You may notice that there isn’t anything in these goals that implies that there will be a website. We 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; the website will be a tool, not a goal.
Once the goal(s) of the project are clear, it will be easier to evaluate the pertinence of the proposed features, design and content.
Goals don’t exist in a vacuum. They are things you want to happen with other people: your visitors. It will be a good idea to picture them, know who we will be talking to.