We’re building a website right now for a global organization that holds events every few years. In between the events, they don’t want to keep up with events, accept registrations, sell merchandise, or really put much energy into their website. But they definitely want to look good when people drop by. When their events come up, they need a strong online presence to encourage participation in the event. Their website essentially needs to be different at different times. We’re building them a 4-D website — time is the fourth dimension, and we’re building that in.
I’m writing this during coronavirus quarantine, and it seems to me that a lot of us really need a 4-D website now.
- You’re selling by delivery and curbside, and you want everyone to know how your system works. But you also want your website to entice people to come into the physical location in June or whenever you are able to reopen.
- You want to maintain your connection with your current patients and to add new patients, but right now you’re seeing patients by TeleVisit or car-side screening. You want your website to do its important job of patient education and marketing, and also to make sure everyone follows the rules.
- Your e-commerce website is taking off. You want to feature the home fitness products that are flying off the shelves right now, but you also want to make sure your calendar is full when your physical location reopens… and keep those online orders coming, too.
How can you make sure your website works for these unusual times, and for the new normal, whenever that happens?
Build everything, but don’t show everything
We’ll be building a basic storefront for the new website, but we won’t activate WooCommerce until the organization is ready to stock some merchandise. We’ve built pages for Sponsors and Upcoming Events, but we won’t publish them till they’re needed.
Equally, be sure to have your current limited menu readily accessible… but maybe also show your normal menu with clear information so people won’t be frustrated if they try to order from it.
If you have a skeleton crew, this might be the time to remove the team page from the menu.
Think about clear information. If a page would be confusing, you should not show it.
Keep up with changes
We’ve seen lots of changes in clinics’ hours. You may also be experiencing changes and uncertainty. Hair salons in many states were shut down last month with an end date of May 4th, and there have been rumors that they would re-open on April 27th. On the other hand, there have also been announcements that salons will not open on May 4th, either. The first local salon I checked had no information at their website. I was able to click through “Book now” for four steps of the process before seeing an announcement that “Online booking is disabled.”
It would be better to announce, “We will be closed till April 27” and then replace the announcement with, “We do not have a firm opening date.” A waiting list could make sense, too. It may feel uncomfortable to change information repeatedly, but up to date information is best.
Many local businesses, from child care to physical therapists to food markets, have made no changes to their websites. They are probably losing out on sales, and they are definitely not nurturing their relationships with customers.
Your clients know that things are a little confusing right now. They’re seeing that in their daily lives. Do your best to keep your information current.
Make it easy to change things
Wr get that a lot of businesses and professionals do not have a webmaster, they don’t have the tech skills to keep their websites up to date, and they don’t know how to add or change things at their websites.
This might be the perfect time to fix that. Many of us are investing in our online presence now, since that’s the best way to communicate with our communities. Chances are, the quarantine has changed consumers’ habits for good. If you didn’t have a functional website before, you probably see that you need one now.
Tell your web team what you want to be able to change in future. Ask for a 4-D website.