Day 51: Five Rules for Arts Organization Websites in 2016

Earlier today, I found this great article, 5 Rules for Arts Organization Websites. While everything she said still applies, it was written in 2012. Time for an update!

1) Newsletter sign-up

You DO have an email newsletter, right? The inbox is a powerful way to reach people. Make your newsletter sign-up box prominent on your site--you can use an overlay or you can put it in a couple key spots. Let your audience know what they're signing up for--are you emailing once a month or every week? What should they expect? Then, once you have a list, make sure not to abuse their trust in you. Give them really interesting content. These people are more committed to your organization than your average website visitor--reward them with backstage stories, specials, unique content and more.

2) Accessibility

It's time for everybody to put their big kid pants on and accept that website accessibility is important. Everyone should be able to experience your website. Period. That includes people who use screen readers and other assistive devices. If that doesn't convince you, try talking to someone who uses a screen reader and hear how awful websites can be. It's embarrassing. And if THAT doesn't convince you, because you don't care about other people, then consider the fact that it helps your SEO. Just do it already.

3) Security & Backups

Especially if you're on an open-source platform like WordPress or Drupal, you need to be aware of the security updates your site needs and take precautions to make sure they're performed in a timely manner. Open-source is just as secure as proprietary software (maybe more so!) but as more and more sites use these platforms, they become juicier targets.

While you're worrying about security, consider your backup policies and make sure they are solid. Try the 3-2-1 rule of backups: "3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite". In the case of catastrophic failure, horrible hackers or other dastardly deeds, a backup is the only thing between you and total loss of your online infrastructure. It matters.

4) Frequent updates

Your organization is doing stuff, right? I don't care if the updates come in the form of event listings, or blog posts, or both. But if you are an active organization, your website should be actively updated on a regular basis. Remember: This is a way of communicating. It works a lot better if you give it something to say.

5) Google Analytics & Google Search Console

Google Analytics and Google Search Console will show you a lot about who is using your website and why. Develop a plan for using those tools (trust me, using Google Analytics without a plan is the best way to spend 3 hours with nothing to show for it) and then follow your plan. Set up goals and figure out how well your website is performing. If you have budget for a big a/b testing firm, go for it! But all of us could use a little better data in our lives and these tools are free and useful for organizations of any size.

What do you think is critical to have on an arts organization website?

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