How to Plan a Stellar Campaign Website

word cloud on an iPad (so, web design, website, internet)

Over the past week, my fellow team members and I were tasked with sketching out a plan for a campaign microsite aimed at young people and their parents. We began the process  in a fairly standard way: closely considering the organization’s detailed strategic communications plan to make sure our thinking was aligned with their business goals and communication objectives. That provided some important constraints, but we still had an immense amount of creative freedom. We needed a process that would instill structure and discipline while not hampering our creative thinking. We found it with these four steps:

Drawing on the Expertise of Otherscloud of words or tags related to web or website design on a  digital tablet with a cup of coffee

A good microsite requires contributions from a diverse set of skilled professionals, principally graphic designers, computer programmers and copy writers. We involved them all in the process early and often. Their input prevented us from making rookie mistakes, or overlooking an important perspective or consideration. For example, our digital designer provided some great insight into implementing “responsive” design, which is critical for us since we want a site that will work seamlessly from a desktop computer to a mobile device. It’s important to plan for these elements upfront, rather than tack them on at the end and hope they work out.

Finding Inspiration in Bold Work

It’s not news to anyone that the Internet is a fast-evolving medium. Practices change quickly, and most of the time for the better. We did research to find examples of cutting-edge and just plain-and-simple good work.  We looked at the Webby Awards online archive of previous winners. It led us to a campaign site called “Live Tobacco-Free Austin” that had some very cool interactive features and playful artwork that stimulated our thinking.

We also considered the big national campaigns that were underway, such as the American Petroleum Institute’s “Choose Energy” microsite, which is a great example of a streamlined navigation, simple but modern design, and a clear message narrative that pulls in readers. First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” microsite provided some valuable ideas on how we might engage a younger audience and the Common Core Standards Initiative was a good example of how to understand what matters most to your audience and to address it head on.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

With any creative pursuit, the temptation to include every brilliant idea you come across is ever present.  When finally putting pen to paper and mapping out the various content categories and layout, navigation structure, and interactive features, we exercised restraint and only included the creative ideas that really made sense for our client and their objectives. We referenced the strategic plan frequently to make sure we remained on target throughout the creative process.

Employing an Editor’s Eagle Eye

Mapping out a website is a lot like editing a piece of writing. The final step of editing and refining takes it from a standard piece of work to something that is polished and professional and compelling to experience. Each of us on the team took time to review our work and make incremental improvements to it. We shared it with people outside our immediate team to get a fresh perspective. Together, it improved our work product without slowing our productivity.

We still have more work to do, translating our blueprint into a completed site. But we’ve laid a good foundation to build on, and that’s an important start to completing a great piece of work.

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