Nov 18

Your website: The virtual face of your company

First, let me start by saying ‘Hello!’ As Sabo PR’s newest team member, I am delighted to join a great company with a fantastic culture, proven record of excellent work and doing things the right way. My background is in the higher education, sports and non-profit settings and I look forward to using my previous knowledge in those areas to continue the great work SPR does and to learn much more.

As I begin this new chapter in my professional career, I am reminded of one of the great things about working in the PR field: it is a far cry from monotony. It’s not just press releases and social media posts—each day offers variety and the ability to put on different hats at a moment’s notice.

This also can make it difficult when someone outside PR asks what you do because in many ways, we do it all! What I find interesting about my fellow communications collogues is while they all possess a variety of skills, everyone has a certain knack that is special to them. For me that’s websites.

Whether it is redesigning, implementing new features or simple updates there is something about using a content management system, CMS, that I enjoy. Having a clean, user-friendly and updated website is important these days. With social media a driving force for a company’s marketing and communications structure, a quality website is equally important as it feeds those platforms. Websites are subjective, there is no one great way to design and maintain them. Which makes this area even more appealing to me because of the continued innovation and new concepts available.

Your website is the virtual face of your organization, so make sure it’s a smiling one. I wanted to share a few simple and easy thoughts from my experiences working with web development and how you may be able to implement them into your current site and keep them in mind when redesigning or switching to a new CMS.

ADA Compliance

The Americans with Disabilities Act is not new; it’s been around since 1990, but is becoming more of a hot topic in web design, especially in government agencies and education.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, that includes the Internet.  ADA web compliance is extensive and usually confusing, depending on your level of expertise. They also come in varying levels (A, AA, AAA), like baseball, where A is weaker and AAA is stronger. Websites in general rarely meet AAA standards, which are so thorough, but any progress you can make is beneficial for those with disabilities, as roughly 38% of Americans with disabilities surf the web.

Luckily, there are guidelines from the ADA you can follow. This one is specific to state and local governments, but applies universally in many areas.

Here are a few tips to get started:

Navigation

Try navigating through your website without a mouse or touchpad. Use the Tab key and see if you can still navigate through your website, pushing the Enter button instead of clicking with a mouse. If any areas of information on your site are being skipped, you will want to make note of that.

Alternate text

Alternative text, also known as alt text or an alt tag, is descriptive text that is linked to an image and explains the image with a person’s screen reader for those with visual impairments. Usually, alt text does not have to be long, especially for photos. A good rule of thumb when creating alt text is to ask yourself, “If I couldn’t see this picture, how would I describe it?” The ADA uses an example of a photo of a mayor on a city’s website with an alt tag “Photograph of Mayor Jane Smith.”

Things can get more complicated if you use infographics, because you need to be able to provide the same information in the alt tag as in the graphic. Either bite the bullet and write it out or find a way to incorporate the same information into plain text on the page.

Closed captioning

Adding closed captioning to your videos helps those who are deaf or hard of hearing understand your message. This can be a daunting task, especially the longer a video is, but there are ways to do this on your own.

If you upload videos to YouTube, it can automatically generate closed captioning for you. Keep in mind, while it depends mostly on clarity of the audio, auto-generating captions are not 100% accurate. However, you can go back and edit the text and re-upload the corrected file. You can read more about it here.

If you are willing to pay, there are also companies that will caption all your videos for you. Sabo PR can lend a hand in this area.

Design

In my opinion, the biggest struggle when it comes to ADA compliance is balancing a great look and design of your site while maintaining accessibility. The most common snags come with the aforementioned photos, graphics and videos. Chip away at these and other areas of your site and don’t try to do it all at once. Once you get into a habit putting on your ADA hat when uploading new content, it will be a smoother integration.

ADA compliance on your website can be overwhelming, but most CMS platforms have these basic functions. If your current CMS does not, you may want to consider switching when you’re able. My advice is to fix any major issues first, then get into a habit of following guidelines when uploading new content.

URL Redirect

This is an easy and helpful tool that can make a certain area of your website easier to market. This feature allows you to take a lengthy URL and condense it to simpler terms.

Example:

Nonprofit.org/how-to-help/get-involved/make-a-donation/

to

Nonprofit.org/donate

Not only is this easier for people remember, but also easier when designing marketing pieces.

Redirect does not delete or alter URLs, but rather links the new, shortened URL to your original, longer URL. In the example above if someone were to type Nonprofit.org/donate in their URL, it will take them to the Nonprofit.org/how-to-help/get-involved/make-a-donation/ page. You are telling the CMS that any time someone types in Nonprofit.org/donate, it should take them to Nonprofit.org/how-to-help/get-involved/make-a-donation/.

Show Some Personality

Almost all websites have an ‘About Us’ related page but often it is very formal. Everyone has a story to tell and it can go a long way to humanize your story. Don’t be afraid to show some personality, tell people what you stand for and your “why.” Go beyond telling what the organization is; tell us about the people behind it. Most of us do not think of companies as people, but they are what make the company and spark public interest. Your audience and employees will appreciate it, and it is a great way to get people on board with your mission.

Update, Update, Update

Sounds obvious, right? But out-of-date information on your website can quickly deter your audience from returning in the future if it remains a constant issue. Plan ahead, create a calendar and set reminders. Not the most influential advice, but one that bears repeating.

Don’t Slack on Quality Art

I know is almost 2020 and your cell phone is nearing the quality of a professional camera, but there is still a difference in using cell phone photos as opposed to a professional photographer, especially when editing. If you can swing it, have a photographer come in and get the photos you need. Have a graphic designer create a clean, high-resolution logo. People will notice quality art, or lack thereof, and will cast judgment for better or worse because of it. It can go a long way in your branding and often are one-time or seldom-needed expenses.

While these are not the end all be all and there is a ton of information out there, I hope these tips will get you started on ways to enhance your website.

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