Imagine the anticipation you feel when you attend a conference thinking it will be full of great speakers and networking opportunities only to be disappointed when you get there and find the sessions were only so-so or the venue was underwhelming. If the overall experience was just meh, you likely wouldn't recommend the conference to your peers or bother coming back. That disconnect between what you expected and what you experienced is similar to what your audiences may feel when they visit your website.
If it’s been a few years since your last redesign, your website may be languishing - suffering from neglect or in a state of stagnation. That could have unintentional consequences for your audiences. A languishing website isn’t necessarily broken. People can still use it to find information and complete some tasks. While no one may be complaining too loudly about the site, it’s not exactly engaging or helping advance your business goals.
With a languishing website, the purpose and goals may seem fuzzy. There may be a general feeling that there is potential to do more with the site, but there isn’t consensus on what “more” means - more content, more integrations, more interaction? Meanwhile, you see your competitors’ sites continue to evolve making your site seem ‘meh’ in comparison.
Signs of a languishing website:
- Content glut - demand for content is high and resources are strained as your team reacts to inbound requests and continuously pumps out new content
- Neglect - examples of outdated content, broken links, and poor accessibility can be easily found on the site
- Meaningless metrics - the reports you get on site analytics provide data, but lack insight or strategic recommendations
A languishing website is in some ways worse than a broken site. If there is a major technology fail or a security breach, leadership is likely to make the solution a priority. In contrast, a languishing site lacks a sense of urgency. The harm is a slow and steady decline in site quality that impacts audiences’ perceptions of your organization.
Based on traffic volume, your website is the part of your organization that people experience the most. A languishing website sends a signal to your audiences that you don’t care much about that experience. New audiences are more likely to bounce if they have a poor initial experience. If the site isn’t welcoming or it’s difficult to navigate, they will quickly exit and are not likely to give you a second chance. Repeat audiences may have more affinity for your brand, but over time, they too will question your value if their experience falls below expectations.
Help your website thrive
Moving from a languishing to a thriving website can be done all at once with a site redesign, or over time as you progress towards a better Mission Experience. The most important thing is to set a North Star for your website. This should be a strategic vision for the site set by leadership. Once you have the direction set, you can take measured steps towards that vision. It may take some time to move in that direction, but establishing some quick wins is a great way to build momentum and break out of a state of languishing.