This week I had a chance to lead a workshop at Be the Media! in Boston, a one-day mini-conference on communications skill-building and strategy organized by the Progressive Communicators Network. One of the workshops I led was How Effective Is Your Website?, and we spent most of the workshop looking at sites from conference participants and applying principles of web usability to them. Two pieces of small but key advice emerged:

First, to answer How Effective Is Your Website?

If the individuals you want to be in touch with on the Internet are visiting your website, and doing the thing that you want them to do, then it’s effective.

This means that if you don’t have an audience in mind, and an action (often called a “conversion”) in mind, you can’t judge the effectiveness of your website.

So, yes, sit down and write down each of your audiences. Do it now, even if you didn’t do it when planning your website.

Remember that a lot of human activity on the web is people either looking for the answer to a question (a question about your issue) or attempting to complete a task (buying tickets to your event, for example). So for each audience, craft a realistic list of the questions and tasks that your web visitors have.

Second, get a good stats package. The easiest tool available is still Google Analytics. You can get solid guidance on how to use it at Google for Nonprofits. (Most tutorials about Google Analytics are for commercial sites, which is not quite applicable to how we use analytics for social justice sites.)

When reviewing your analytics on an ongoing basis, you can take a look at the audience list and what they should be doing at your website (for example, are there a lot of single-page visits to your About page?) to see if your predictions about your visitor activity was accurate and use the analytics to guide your next decisions about your website.

Resources I recommend to people for further learning: