by • 20 Sep, 2011 • TechnologyComments (2)15023

12 simple and free improvements to your website you can make tonight

Hard At Work
Photo by Luis Alberto on

Last year around this time I made a list of 28 32 simple and low-budget things you can do with new media for your cultural institution. And it worked… at least in the Netherlands. A flock of blue birds has landed on cultural websites, Foursquare checkins pay for most of my coffee and 2.0 initiatives are launched for things as exciting as needlework samplers. In short: the world has become a wonderful place.

However, going through literally 100s of cultural websites in the last days for our annual Month of History has clearly shown me we’re not there yet. On many websites, it’s more likely to accidentally hit a like button than find the opening hours.

So, a reprise. Again, this is not for the big boys out there with the stunning new media budgets and multi-person web teams. Here’s 12 things a volunteer with a shoestring budget and CMS access can do tonight to improve the visitor experience of the website of a cultural institution.

As always, feel free to add your recommendations.

  1. Make opening hours & entry prices accessible from every page
    A good spot is top right, next to “contact” and “about us”, and/or in the footer. And yes: opening hours & entry prices can fit on one page.
  2. Communicate when you’re open; make closed the exception
    Big font: We’re open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm. Smaller font: Except on public holidays. Even Google should not be able to find the string “the museum is closed…” on your website.
  3. First communicate when you are free, then normal price, then exceptions
    I’ve struggled through endless lists of different ticket types, only to find out at the bottom an institution was free anyway in the summer months. It’s a good thing to be free, so shout it out. Makes you feel welcoming to people.
  4. Make “become a member” the first payment option
    Sell your membership plan, especially when people are paying anyway. Members have free access, of course, so they might consider it a service (see 3).
  5. Every exposition/activity/event page should contain the five Ws
    Who is it for (children, grown-ups, etc.), what is it, when is it, where is it (in your institution, but where’s that again, I haven’t been in a while) and why should I come. Also, add price information and directions.
  6. From every list of activities, and every event, link to your calendar
    If I can’t make it this time, I might want to come next week. Often it’s so hard to find a list of lectures or debates on websites I have to leave and try Google.
  7. Every word you use with <1 million Google hits, explain what it means
    Your vocabulary is probably well known to you, but many others might not be entirely sure what you mean when you say “abjuration”. Explain these words or link to Wikipedia.
  8. Link back to home from your logo in the top left corner
  9. Use capital letters correctly
    I know capital letters make you look fresh and popular, especially in the MiDDlE of a word, but they don’t help readability. Unless your award-winning design agency tells you otherwise, use them only where forced upon you by grammar. This includes titles.
  10. Don’t be shy to use the line break
    I like three sentence paragraphs; they make scanning a page easier. Especially if your font is small, line breaks improve readability.
  11. Tell how often people can expect your newsletter and offer an archive
    Would you subscribe to a magazine without knowing how often to expect it? Also, newsletters are an invaluable source of information, even when they’re old.
  12. Get rid of every mention of “under construction”
    Every website is always under construction. Always. Instead of “under construction”, write “open every day” or “subscribe to our newsletter” or whatever.

There’s probably more, but if your website does the above, 1) you will not scare people away who’ve already decided to visit, 2) your content becomes more meaningful to strangers and 3) you avoid the occasional annoyance when a pro-user (for instance a blogger writing about your exposition) drops by. All in all, an evening well spent.

What other quick-wins can you think of?

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