“It is hard to overstate how antiquated AHC Media’s previous website was,” wrote Lee Landenberger, continuing education & editorial director for AHC Media. “Launched in 2006, the site was mainly a shopping cart for customers to buy products from.”
In addition, access to editorial content was limited, and visitors using mobile devices saw only a fraction of the site on their screens. “The site was expensive and unwieldy to maintain for AHC Media staff and a considerable frustration for customers to use,” Landenberg added.
The 2016 first-place SIPAward winner for Best New or Relaunched Website, AHC Media found their site-groove last year and has the numbers to prove it. From July 2014 to July 2015, page views and users visiting the site increased fivefold. The sessions initiated during this period increased 400%. And revenue from customers on the site significantly increased.
AHC Media is a medical education company with publishing and continuing education for doctors, nurses and healthcare administrators dominating its core business. Interestingly, another medical organization, the American Chiropractic Association, underwent a similar identity crisis. Their website was also out-of-date and had largely become a dumping ground for any and all content.
Associations Now recently reported on a talk by Diane McMahon, CAE, senior consultant at designDATA, at a technology conference where she detailed the six-step process they used for overhauling their website. Here are the highlights, also looking at what AHC Media did.
Step 1: Do a deep dive. To determine its audience and what ACA wanted from its website, the organization turned to Google Analytics, and the data told an interesting story. The most visited page, for example, was an explainer on chiropractic, suggesting the site was more of an authoritative resource than a membership tool as ACA staff previously thought.
Step 2: Study website trends and best practices. ACA analyzed the look, feel, and functionality of other websites both in and outside its space and, based on the research, decided to make its new site responsive and incorporate a scrolling design.
Step 3: Understand member needs. ACA developed personas, or representations of typical website users. To develop personas, ask questions such as: Who is this person? What is their age? What is their capability with technology? Similarly, AHC Media knows that their audience needs easy access to everything the company offers. So instead of three different sites and log-ins, the new site has a unified log-in so that customers can access the content management system, new learning management system, and new e-commerce component.
Step 4: Framestorm. This is a process of framing a problem to brainstorm a solution. Throw sticky notes on a wall, encourage all staff members to bring their ideas to the table—basically break the problem down to build it back up, McMahon says, one problem at a time. AHC Media knew that their old site was not being responsive to the various platforms. The new site’s responsive design allows customers to find what they need no matter what device they’re on.
Step 5: Develop a content strategy. After discovering only 10% of its 5,000 web pages were getting significant page views, ACA took a quality-over-quantity approach and focused on the top 500 pages.
AHC Media took a similar hard look at content. Where previously there was only a newsletter pdf for subscribers, now any visitor can access content on the front page and throughout the three tabs that reflect their core audience. A continuous flow of editorial content, much of it free, is now available throughout the new site.
Step 6: Establish workflow processes. “It is easy to be excited about a new website, but it takes discipline to keep the vision alive and consistent as time marches forward,” McMahon says. She recommends making website roles clear to staff and using the workflow management tools available in most content management systems. AHC Media’s new website has a far better search function. Customers, once frustrated by searches that yielded unsatisfying results, can now search by publication, content type, date range and more.
Step 7: Collect revenue. The new AHC Media site provides immediate access to purchases. Previously, a customer would order, then the next morning the order was processed into a different system, and then it was shipped.