How to Build an Effective Information Website

Information Focused Websites

There are some websites that exist for the sole purpose of sharing information.  This type of site has its own set of do’s and don’ts.  Let’s take a look at what our primary objectives should be and how to best communicate information to the public.

Clarity

For an informational website to be effective, it’s intended purpose needs to be clear from the beginning.  If a website visitor has to look around to find what they are looking for, or to determine what your site is about, you have lost.  The home page needs to be simple, providing a clear message that states it’s purpose.  Let’s use the IRS website as an example:

From the first glance, you see photographs next to clickable areas that immediately leads visitors to information.  These topics represent the most frequent reasons people visit the site.  At a second glance, you will notice that high contrast colors separate groups of information that are labeled in a way that is clear and concise.  This site achieves its purpose well.

 

Navigation

A clear and simple navigation system is extremely important on an informational site.  There should be a few tabs, usually around 5, that describe categories of information.  If there are too many choices, visitors may become frustrated and disregard your site in favor of another source.  Keeping it simple is key to your website’s success.

Relationships

If you are providing information about a topic, it is likely that you intend to become a thought-leader, or highly-respected resource for the industry.  Achieving this objective takes a lot of effort.  You need to provide updated information about topics that interest your visitors very frequently.  You could include a news section to keep readers updated on national and international reports, a forum to promote conversations about your topic, a blog to provide your organization’s opinon on hot topics, or a monthly newsletter for subscribers.  The key is to keep them coming back for more.

Call to Action

Depending on the purpose of your organization and your site, you may desire some kind of action from your reader.  At the very least, most sites provide a way to give feedback or make comments about postings and share the information through social media.  If the topic is part of an ongoing public debate, such as healthcare reform, you may choose to put some focus on the opinionated postings of your visitors.  You could use this emotional energy to solicit donations or recruit volunteers.  If your information website is part of an association or membership organization, you will want to talk about the benefits of membership and repeatedly ask visitors to become members.

Longevity

If your intention in building an information-focused website includes becoming an authority in your field, you need to think about where you will be five and ten years down the road.  Most organizations begin with a bare bones agenda but their capabilities expand significantly over time.  Once you have successfully established a network of website visitors, it would be better to tweak an existing website rather than starting over again.  Familiar is good.

In essence, an informational website needs to be clear and to the point; no visitor should question its purpose.  The navigation should represent distinct categories that relate to the most frequent requests for information.  And, to be sure that your site reaches the status of authority, it is essential to provide a multitude of resources that engage with the public through interaction and social media sharing.

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