The new year is a great time to evaluate the state of your website and figure out how to make it better. But we all know that plenty of resolutions don’t get the followup they need. So instead of a New Year’s website resolution, pick one or two of these tasks and get started right now!
Since the goal is to get you moving forward on a concrete task, you don’t even need to read this whole post! Just pick the task that sounds the most interesting or useful and get to work!
Do a Content Audit
A content audit is the process of reviewing your entire site and assessing each piece of content individually to make sure it still serves your site visitors. It’s common to combine a content audit with a website redesign, but I think they work better separately. More-frequent content audits mean future website redesigns go more smoothly and your website will be consistently higher-quality for your visitors!
Whether it’s in a custom spreadsheet you set up or with a plugin like Content Audit, this is one of the best tasks you can do on your site.
Here’s how to do it:
- Go through your site’s Pages one by one.
- For each page, mark or list it as a meaningful status you can act on. I like to use the statuses Good, Minor Revisions, Major Revisions, Archive, and Merge with…. Then I’ll make a short note for each page about what should change.
- If more than one person writes content for the site, also assign the Page to the person who will work on any revisions.
Once you’ve gone through the entire site, you will have learned a lot about the state of your site. Schedule the time to work on these pages throughout January and finish before February.
If this sounds like too much, use your Jetpack Statistics or Google Analytics to identify your top 5, 10, or 20 pages. Then follow the steps above for that more limited set of pages.
Similarly, if you’ve managed to audit your whole site but aren’t sure where to start, let the site visitor stats determine which small part of the revision process to start on. Improving one high-traffic page is much more valuable that improving multiple low-traffic ones.
Clean Up Your Plugins & Themes
This one’s a little bit faster than the content audit.
While there’s no such thing as too many plugins, you never want to have plugins or themes that you’re not using installed on your site. These can slow down your site, clutter the admin, leave open a security hole, or force you to make unnecessary updates.
First, go to the Plugins page of the admin, and review each one. Do you know what it’s used for? Do you still need it? You may need to do a bit of research and contact your web developer or other staff, but figure out which plugins you don’t need and remove them from the site.
Once done, you’ll get a good reminder of how your site works and you’ll probably get some ideas for future projects (see below!).
[Fun fact: I just did this for NonprofitWP.org. With a bit of work to tweak a few things with my theme, I removed three plugins!]
For themes, you really only need the theme your site is using. Delete all other themes from the Appearance > Themes screen in the admin. That’s it! 🙂
EXCEPTION: Child Themes
If your site is built using a “child theme”, then you’ll need two themes on your site, the active child theme and it’s parent theme. You can tell if you have a child theme by opening up your active theme details in Appearance > Themes and then looking for this:
If you see that notice, delete all themes except the active [child] theme and its parent theme.
Streamline Your Forms
Do you want more people to fill in forms on your site? Do you want to get better information from them? Streamlining your forms will probably lead to both outcomes over time!
If you’re using one of our recommended WordPress forms plugins, you’ll be able to easily improve the forms used to collect information from visitors.
Here’s what to do for each form:
- Review your 5 most recent submissions and ask yourself these questions:
- What questions don’t receive enough or accurate information?
- Do certain optional fields get consistently skipped?
- Most important: Can I tell someone how I use every piece of information I collect?
- What questions don’t receive enough or accurate information?
- Once you’re more familiar with the reality of your form submissions, do the following for the form:
- Make as few fields required as possible. These are the fields you couldn’t do without. An easy example: The email field for an email newsletter form. It won’t work without it!
- Remove as many optional fields as possible. For example: Do you really need that person’s ZIP code?
- Remove as many options from checkboxes, radio buttons, and select menus as possible.
- Clarify each field name and, if needed, description. If you’re not getting good data, you’re probably mis-labeling your field or not being specific enough. Consider providing an example answer or sentence starter for free-form questions.
- Rearrange form fields to increase commitment to finishing. For example: If working on a donation form, have people select their donation amount first. This builds momentum and gets questions that require active thinking out of the way earlier, letting users finish a form more or less on autopilot.
A streamlined form will be less-confusing for visitors and faster to fill out. That will increase the likelihood of people filling out your form and of you getting good data when they do!
Establish a Relationship with a Consultant
Even if you didn’t use a consultant to build your site, it’s good to know who you’ll turn to when—not if—you face a website emergency or project outside your own technical abilities. A few phone calls, a visit to a meetup, or a strategic referral from a colleague is usually all it takes.
Once you’ve found someone willing to work with you, find a way to bring them on board with a small project. Maybe that’s signing up for their annual maintenance plan, doing a small project together (see below!), or having them performing a site audit with strategic recommendations for future improvements.
When your donation form or email newsletter signup form isn’t working, you don’t want to panic and working with the first person you can find. (“Well our Development Director’s nephew is great with an iPad!”)
Even if you have a consultant already, you need to make sure they’ll make time to help you when you need it most. Take a moment to get back in touch and thank them for their support.
Put in a bit of time and money now, and you will feel immense relief at the moment you need it most!
Do a Small Project
Too often, website work is an all-or-nothing endeavor for organizations. You get your budget together, you sink a huge amount of effort into planning, and then you make one big push to get the new site live.
But if your site is a year old or more, I bet there’s a pain point you’ve identified or a “Phase II” project that’s yet to happen. If we’re being honest, there was probably something not quite right immediately after launch too.
Take some time to think about one incremental improvement to your site that will make it better. A smart project here and there can extend the life of your site and make it more useful to your visitors.
With the year starting, plan now for a great new addition to your site and figure out what it will take—time-, budget-, and planning-wise—to get it up and running.
Make a Blogging Content Calendar for the Year
Content calendars are a great may to make sure your blog stays updated all year. They’re usually built around major events, donation drives, programmatic campaigns, and unscheduled important news as it arises. (If you don’t have many obvious events, maybe you work in some blogging seasons too!)
There are lots of great templates out there, or you can get fancy and use a plugin like Edit Flow to manage it right in your WordPress dashboard. Find a good format for you—I think it’s hard to beat a good spreadsheet!—and get to planning!
- Start by making a list of key events and dates you’ll need to post on and leading up to.
- Then make a list of less time-sensitive topics you can blog about to fill in the gaps. One easy idea: Do a fun social media roundup with the best posts about your cause from you and your supporters!
- Finally, get these all down into a spreadsheet with due dates, staff writing assignments, and any other notes you’ll need to start writing immediately when a blog post deadline looms.
Now you’re ready to blog up a storm in 2017! 📝🌩☺
Content calendars help you think ahead leading to better-written posts and an easier time getting usable web content from your colleagues!
Remember Why You Picked WordPress. Incremental Changes to Your Website Are Good!
The whole point of using WordPress is to allow you and fellow staff members or volunteers to easily update your website. If you’ve already done the work to get a site up, take full advantage of that flexibility and control! This month, focus on a single task like the ones suggested here and just get it done. You should feel good about giving your visitors a better experience and simultaneously supporting your organization’s work more.
I always tell my clients that websites are never done. They’re more like a garden that needs tending. So put your digital green thumb to use, and make your site even better to support your organization and achieve your mission!
Looking for More
Let me know what task you chose and how it went!