In the past few weeks, I have noticed some real challenges for those that are self-publishing using various services, below are 4 recommendations to consider as visitors are connecting to the spaces and content you’ve built.
Promote consistently and provide value: In the movie Field of Dreams they say “build it and they will come”, but it’s really not that easy. It’s true you can register with search engines, people might also stumble upon your content, but don’t be afraid to reach out and point people in the right direction. Print your tag www.xyz.com on your business card, handouts, list it in your profile, add it to your text and email signature. Leverage the tools you have that you use to communicate as a standard TAG. When you have new posts or updates to share, leverage your social networking sites to highlight changes and updates for those that follow you in your Professional Learning Network. Consider your message and if you believe it will provide value to your followers and those you network with share and highlight your work.
Home page portal: If you are an individual who takes advantage of the many services that are out there, you know how confusing it can become telling people where to find you. For example an individual with a home page might have a wiki, blog, facebook page, twitter page, a linked-in profile, and the list literally goes on and on. Consider a single home page “portal” that allows individuals to access a single page and gain access to the varied online content that you may have built or be a part of. I recently set up one on http://flavors.me — my address: http://flavors.me/k_thompson You can also set up a simple domain pointed to a specific page as well.
Clean Navigation: Visitors should be able to navigate intuitively at your site, reach “live links” and if redirected to a new site it should make sense as to why they were sent away. I clicked through to a website I received via twitter, and was genuinely interested in the topic only to be horribly disappointed. The website links that were provided in the article appeared to have been written by the author, however when I clicked through they led me to a new website. There was no explanation of the website I was visiting, or why. After I clicked two areas, I gave up and closed the window. Just this evening I was looking through a website with many articles, that are typically great, 2/5 were dead links. I gave up and closed the window. Before you get too ingrained in designing a site, take some time and map it out, I recommend using an online mapping tool; this will help you design intuitive connections for your visitors. If you send a visitor to another site, consider having the link open in a new window so they don’t loose you as they explore more spaces.
Clear/Concise Design: Visitors should understand what your website space is all about in 15 – 25 seconds. They should understand the mission, be able to predict where to find content and be able to navigate through the depths of information you have to offer. A colleague of mine always says to me, “oh it’s on my website”, and I have to say I hated going to “find it”, “it” always led to a follow up phone call. I have found this to be particularly an issue in the design of a lot of wiki services, and services that provide a “shell” for organizations to input their information (aka sophisticated wikis). My suggestion is review your site with novice-beginner users, ask them some critical questions, watch their body language and take note of their questions as they search for your information. Also, pay attention to your web analytics, are there pages no one is reaching or leaving from? Paying attention to and eliciting critical feedback is key in ensuring that visitors engage in your site, and that they share and revisit your content.