Back in the good old days of hard copy publishing life was simple. You wrote and designed a leaflet, spent three months going through a mere 13 or 14 rounds of amendments before it was signed off, sent it to print and moved on to the next job. Safe in the knowledge that you could forget all about the leaflet until it needed updating in a couple of years. Lovely.
So our web approach should be no different, right? Write the content, get it signed off, upload it and forget about it. Job done. You’ve also got the added of bonus of no print costs and unlimited space so you can put everything up there. Brilliant.
Except that obviously it’s not brilliant.
We have access to some amazing technology giving us innovative ways to communicate with our residents, but too often we think about them in traditional publishing terms. By doing this we’re limiting what we can do and making life harder for ourselves and, more importantly, our residents.
Over the last couple of years I’ve found myself saying the same key things.
- Publishing online is does not have an endpoint. Your website is a garden which needs regular tending and replanting to be really productive and attractive. Facebook and Twitter on the other hand are your pets (or possibly your kids). They are highly entertaining and everybody loves them, but they need constant feeding and attention. And occasionally they make a huge mess which has to be cleaned up. When using these tools you must think about how you will give them regular care.
- Our website is not a limitless bucket to be filled with anything and everything: digital communications should be targeted and focused. Although it’s tempting to put things on the website ‘just in case they’re needed’ we’re actually making it harder to load, harder to navigate and much harder to maintain.
- Iterate, iterate, iterate. We no longer have to spend months getting a final version and then printing it, we can now publish what we know right now and then add and amend as we know more, or as things change. There isn’t one finished version; there are many versions and updates. We have the ability to be much more agile and responsive and wonderfully fleet of foot.
- This iterative process allows us to develop and improve. It’s not saying that the first version is wrong, but recognising that we can use data and feedback to listen, learn and adapt.
We have the new tools; we now just to need to think about them in new ways.
Monmouthshire County Council has blogged about the same idea with some more detail about their process.