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!
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
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.
- Prioritize your website looking great on all devices with a mobile first, responsive design approach
- Break up walls of text with a design that implements content visualization like Columbia Rural Electric Association did with their Start New Service page
- Know when to use saturated colors and when to avoid them
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!