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It can be frightening to be told “Make the website better” by your boss. You know it can be better, and customers complain that “It feels like a maze.” You know you’re being compared to Facebook and Amazon and making it better seems like a great idea. But, where do you even begin?

#1 Agree on What Good Means

It is impossible to improve something if you don’t first agree what good means. 

What is the basis for measuring that you have made the website better? Don't start changing things until you have a clear answer to the question "What does good mean?"

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In most organizations we work with, the website isn’t owned or controlled by a single person. Instead, dozens of different people across the organization are involved in creating content and putting it on the web. Every one of these people has a different idea of what good means. Frequently these answers are in tension. If you do not surface these tensions, you end up with a maze. 

Imagine we are responsible for making an online news website 'better'. One group in our organization wants to focus on local news. Another wants to focus on national and international news. They each have reasons for why their focus is important. 

The struggle and tension is real. 

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If we want a good site that holds together over time, we need to surface these tensions and agree on how to balance it.

We need to know what “good” means, not just to one person, but to the entire organization.

The secret, create a performance continuum. 

A performance continuum surfaces competing interests and provides a powerful way to talk about what good means.

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In the example above, one side of the continuum is local news and the other side is national and international news. Both are important, but having a clear, agreed-upon sense of where to strike the balance supports all future decisions. Without this understanding, we are shooting in the dark.

Gather the stakeholders in a room and ask them individually to indicate where they think the website is today on each continuum question. This establishes the baseline. Second ask the stakeholders to indicate where they think the website should be tomorrow on each continuum question.

Everyone votes once.  There is no right or wrong answer. 

The objective is to have the stakeholders surface the tensions and have real conversations as to where they want to be in the future. 

In our example, the blue boxes represent votes by the stakeholders regarding where they see the current state of their website. The green boxes are votes on where they would like to see the website move to. The arrow represents the movement toward a “better” website.

For any website, there are many sources of tension that need to be balanced. So develop multiple performance continuums (we typically identify 10-20). Have stakeholders vote on each one. Once you know where you are going you can actually make intelligent choices to improve the website. 

Here are a few example continuums we have encounter with clients:

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Yours will almost certainly be different.

To sum up:
1. Discover your continuum questions.
2. Survey your stakeholders to see where they land.
3. Discuss the results with all the stakeholders and develop a consensus.

Want to learn more techniques to improve your website? Download our paper today!


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