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Editorial partnership banner. It reads 'An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Substrakt'. The text is in light blue apart from 'Substrakt' which is replaced by the organisations brand logo.

In the fast-changing world of digital, people love to forecast. But rather than focus on the future, Katie Moffat thinks you should look at what you already have to squeeze the best from your most important digital asset: your website. 

People in an office on computers and laptops. The office is surrounded by artworks placed on the walls. There is a large window in the background.

It’s impossible to wave a magic wand and fix all the problems, or to suddenly find the budget to build a new site, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements. To help work out where to start, here are five questions organisations need to ask along, with advice about finding answers and acting on the insights.

1. How effective is our website?

Over time, it’s easy for a website to become like a house. You might give the front door a lick of paint, make some small updates to the interior, all the while ignoring that you have rising damp, or a leak in the cellar. 

To ensure your website is fully functioning, you need to regularly review your analytics. They will tell you what is happening and whether there are obvious areas for attention. For example, you can check if your users are seeing 404 (error) pages and set up a report to tell you which links send traffic to those pages. That would pinpoint any page that no longer exist and which might need redirecting to a live one. 

If you sell tickets via your website, then it’s also vital to keep an eye on conversion data. If you notice an unexpected drop off from week to week or a significant difference between the conversion rate on mobile compared to desktop, it could indicate a site problem.

Remember, 2023 is the year Google Analytics is going to stop processing new data in Universal Analytics and switch to Google Analytics 4 - on 1st July. So if you’ve not yet set up GA4 tracking you should do that as soon as possible.

2. What do our users want to do?

Sometimes the layout of the website and its content is developed from an internal perspective not a user-centred one. When you’ve worked somewhere for a while - or when you’re passionate about your area of focus, it’s all too easy to become blinkered which can result in confusing navigation or odd section names that are only comprehensible to those within the organisation. 

You may not be able to redo your website from scratch, but it’s relatively straightforward to do light touch research with users to check their motivations and expectations about the site. The easiest way to do this is via a pop-up survey on the site itself. Keep it as simple as possible with focused questions. 

Alternatively, you might run some qualitative focus groups, which can you understand how your current website affects audiences’ perceptions of your organisation. And finally, usability testing will help you understand whether specific paths and user journeys are intuitive or confusing. If you’ve not done it before, it may be useful to write a series of user stories so your wider team is clear about why people are visiting the site and how well you serve that user.

3. How accessible is our website?

Your website needs to work for all users, including those with access needs. Ensuring compliance with web accessibility standards is not a tick box exercise. It takes commitment and focus. It’s also an ongoing piece of work as any updates you make - including new content - can have accessibility implications. Accessibility overlays are sometimes used as a quick fix but generally these are to be avoided.

There are free tools to evaluate your conformance to standards but interpreting the technical areas can be tricky. If possible, we recommend you seek help from a third-party accessibility expert.

4. Is our site optimised to bring in revenue?

For most arts and culture organisations, the website is a revenue critical tool. Clients can see upwards of 80% of ticket transactions happening via the website. And when you add memberships, donations and online shopping, the opportunities are significant. 

Sadly, not all ticket-buying journeys are straightforward, and some organisations lack the necessary tools to easily promote memberships and other items on their website. A good first step is to conduct an audit to understand where there may be opportunities to improve. 

A simple way to do this is to review websites for similar organisations looking at how they promote products like membership, how they prompt for donations, and how easy it is to buy a ticket and add extras to the basket. You can then start to think about putting together a business case to fund any future changes.  

5. How does our website fit into our sustainability planning?

Quite rightly in 2023, sustainability is on everyone’s agenda. But the notion of a ‘green’ website can be oversimplified in terms of green hosting or carbon offsetting. There are many factors that have an impact on how energy efficient your website is, a lot of them relating to the way the site is built and the technical infrastructure that supports it. 

If you’re not sure where to begin, talk to your web developers. There may be elements that can be tweaked and improved now and others you can add to the to do list. 

Katie Moffat is Director of Sector Strategy at Substrakt.

This article is part of a series contributed by Substrakt exploring the many ways in which arts and cultural organisations can embrace the world of digital.

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