Keep Your Utility Website Healthy and Fit

Grab your running shoes, jump rope, and water bottle—it’s time to get your website back into shape

Maintaining good health requires a balanced diet, regular exercise, and plenty of water. Your website is no different. It too needs upkeep to stay in tip-top shape. Neglecting to maintain your website is a recipe for a site that will become slow and inaccessible over time. So, let’s get off the metaphorical couch, get motivated, and get your utility website back on the road to better health!

It’s Time for a Health Assessment

Evaluating the status of your health might include a physical exam, blood analysis, and a fitness test. Similarly, assessing the state of your website’s health is an important first step in identifying areas for improvement. Just as a relatively healthy patient may need a few dietary adjustments, your site may only require a few key adjustments to return to its optimal performance. On the other hand, some websites require substantial changes, similar to a patient who needs a full lifestyle intervention to return to health.

Here are 4 key ways to assess the health of your website:

1. Check Loading Time

Can your website run the 400 meters with the fastest Olympians, or is it slow and plodding, struggling to finish the race? Website visitors value speed. Although you can’t control a visitor’s internet connection speed, you can take steps to make sure any slowdowns are not because of your website.

If your website is running slower than recommended, there are several ways to speed up loading times:

  • Compress high-resolution images that want to gobble up bandwidth
  • Stay away from Flash (most browsers don’t even support it anymore!)
  • Regularly maintain your website’s code
  • Ensure your site is accessible by eliminating text graphics
  • Avoid overly long videos on your homepage—10 to 15 seconds is more than enough

Ideally, your site should load in 3 to 5 seconds or less!

Being mindful of slow internet connections in their service territory was top-of-mind for Northeast Power in Wayne, Nebraska when they designed their new website. Ensuring that the new website loaded quickly on not only a desktop computers but also a mobile device with a slower connection speed enables their customers to complete their tasks with little effort and no hinderance while on the go.

2. Ensure Accessibility

Everyone deserves an opportunity to enjoy the web. The Powerful Web Team takes great pride in ensuring all our sites are accessible to all and comply with ADA requirements. Optimizing the state of your website’s accessibility health includes:

  • Use adjustable font sizes—some visitors may have impaired vision
  • Incorporate proper alt text to describe images for the visually impaired
  • Add labels to form fields for screen readers
  • Write descriptive text for hyperlinks
  • Ensure there is sufficient color contrast for ease of reading

3. Review Website Content

Your website is a powerful tool for keeping visitors informed on the latest happenings at your cooperative. Unfortunately, many utility organizations can neglect their website’s content, turning it into a time capsule from a time long since passed. Shed old, out of date information and focus on what will bring value to your visitors. This may include:

  • Spotlight stories, such as Mohave Electric Cooperative’s recent installment of solar panels to produce clean power
  • Keep your customers in the loop with monthly Manager’s Message
  • Post community events, like Umatilla Electric Cooperative’s upcoming Morrow County Harvest Festival
Mohave Electric Cooperative in Bullhead City, Arizona takes advantage of our content repurposing services to take their local pages from Currents magazine and repurpose them for their website. This provides an alternate way for their members to access key information with each story being highlighted on their homepage. An added bonus is the content complies with our STAR Standard, with each repurposed piece being searchable, translatable, accessible and responsive.

4. Check Website Design

Similar to keeping your website’s content up-to-date, maintaining the overall look and feel of a website is key to projecting an image of professionalism and polish. With the advent of smartphones and other devices, consumers are spending more time online than ever before. Maintaining a well-designed site sends an important message to your customers that you prioritize their online experience when doing business with you.

Columbia REA in Walla Walla, Washington took advantage of content visualization to empower members to gather information in an easy to follow format when it comes to establishing new membership.

Set Your Utility Website’s Fitness Goals

After you have assessed the health of your website, it’s time to make set some fitness goals! Whether it’s reorienting the focus of your website to prioritize search, repurposing print content for the web, or creating stunning layouts for otherwise boring blocks of text, The Powerful Web Team is here to get your website back on track.

Here are few of the many ways we’ve helped cooperatives get into tip-top shape:

Visualizing a Cooperative’s History

Hood River Electric & Internet Cooperative recently redesigned their website with special attention given to celebrating their 90-year history. By reimagining their content with a focus on visual design, we were able to create an engaging timeline of their founding in the 1930’s all the way up to the present day. Bold dates, infinitely scalable vector iconography, and colors in line with their branding bring to life what would otherwise have been an intimidating wall of text.

Hood River Electric & Internet Cooperative in Oregon chose to tell the history of their cooperative history through a timeline that guides their members through time in an intuitive way by feeding small pieces of information in bullet points and timeframes rather than large paragraphs.

Crafting a Sense of Time and Place

When Southern Indiana Power decided it was time to give their utility website a new look, they chose to add our popular illustrated and customizable footer option to bring their service territory to life. Covering both Spencer and Perry counties, our talented vector illustration artist brought this wooded, hilly region to life, with their popular amusement park in the foreground and the mighty Ohio River flowing against the backdrop of a hazy, setting sun. Their members undoubtedly recognize this as home, creating a strong sense of community and belonging.

Southern Indiana Power in Tell City, Indiana showcases a custom footer illustration on their website that subliminally connects their members with the community they serve.

Building Interactive Maps

Speaking of service territory, Oklahoma’s Electric Cooperatives’ award-winning website includes our interactive KML Map Integration. This is a great value-added option for members wondering about their service area and which board member represents their district. Supplemental data can be incorporated into these maps to make them as informative as you would like!

The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives statewide organization gathers GIS data from all of their distribution member cooperatives to display their service territories on a single map within their website.

Creating a Standout Homepage with Data Visualization

A big design trend of 2021 is the incorporation of a data visualization banner, which condenses key information about your company and its accomplishments into a cohesive and visually appealing image. Utility websites like Rio Grande Electric Cooperative have utilized this popular design choice to give visitors a snapshot of their cooperative, adding a stylish element to their homepage that would otherwise been a block of text.

Rio Grande Electric Cooperative in Texas has the largest service territory of any electric cooperative in the continental United States. Their home page displays a data visualization banner to tell the story of who they are by the numbers to educate site visitors without a wall of words.

Maintain the Health of Your Website Over Time

The health of your website is an ongoing process – it is never “done”, and gains can be lost if you don’t practice good upkeep and care. Just as a healthy diet and regular exercise are necessary to a lifetime of wellness, so is regular maintenance to the health of your cooperative or community-owned utility website. By using the latest web technologies and regularly refreshing both content and design, your site will remain relevant and useful to your customers or member-owners in the long term. The best way to keep your website in good shape is to form healthy habits:

  • Update your content monthly, weekly, or even daily if possible
  • Listen to customer feedback—what do they wish they could do on the site that they can’t right now?
  • Don’t get complacent—there are always ways to improve the site for your visitors
  • Ensure that your website is always optimized for accessibility and speed
  • Keep up with the latest design trends and add these to your site regularly

Remember the fitness rule “use it or lose it!” Your website, just like your health, requires attention and upkeep. Keep that in the forefront of your mind, and your website should maintain a clean bill of health for many years to come!