There really isn’t any nice way to say it. UTOPIA’s new website is about as bad as the old one. Updates are infrequent and hard to find. Some sections available on the old site have never materialized on the new site. And playing sound the minute the page loads violates Web Design 101. The new site is the same as the old site, just with a fresh coat of paint. I say this in an open forum not just to complain more loudly, but because I think UTOPIA could use suggestions from all of us. Here’s my list.
Get rid of the new website. Replace it with a real CMS like WordPress or Joomla. Custom themes for either rarely go over a grand and both systems are very easy to update. As a bonus, the built-in RSS functionality ensures that we stay up-to-date without having to go back and pick through the site a few times a month. That’s really irritating.
Update it frequently. Task someone with updating the site at least twice a month. More frequent is better, but I’m figuring you need to start with a low bar. An inactive website makes it look like you have an inactive organization. That doesn’t help the oft-repeated myth that UTOPIA is dead. Post anything. Press releases, maintenance announcements, success stories… it really doesn’t matter so long as it’s topical.
Purge the superlatives and marketing-speak. There’s stuff posted up there that’s either technically inaccurate or just plain loopy. Examples: “You also own your UTOPIA”, using “you’re” in place of “your”, “until the speed of light is surpassed”. It’s kind of sloppy and I’m sure that you can get a few guys in the office to cook up something a little better.
Be more open with data. Hiding data doesn’t help, it hinders. When the UTA, “Reason” Foundation, or any the other anti-UTOPIA entities speak up, we’re usually left with a bag of nothing in defense. Provo, for all of its failings, did a great job of providing regular and accurate data so that everyone (including myself) could measure the performance and offer up suggestions. On that note, I would strongly recommend getting it together on the service checking tool. It’s been well over a year since you started on it and plenty of other businesses have such features. The missing minutes from the board meetings are also a big black eye.
Get social. There’s no fan page on FaceBook and no Twitter account to proactively respond to complaints. This is 2009. Take the time to setup and use these tools. They may not reach the majority of your audience, but they make a world of difference in terms of image.
Have some suggestions of your own? Drop them in the comments section.