Beginning this week, a cross section of PRSA members is being given the opportunity to preview and evaluate the “BETA” version of our new Web site. If you are among those members, we’ve created a short survey to collect your feedback. Please keep in mind, however, that it is a BETA site; while the core design and functionality have been well established, there remains much work to be done, so stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead.
For everyone involved, the process of redesigning and updating PRSA’s Web site has been a bit like remodeling a home. The more deeply we looked, the more practical it became to tear down and rebuild.
At the project’s outset, we established four goals for the new site, all focused on better serving our members. First, we looked to create a more easily navigated site, so you can locate information more quickly and easily. Second, we sought to create a fresh, modern design that also could better incorporate social media, such as blogs and podcasts. Third, we wanted the ability to deliver highly targeted content driven by your industry, organizational setting, areas of expertise and topics of interest. Finally, it was important to provide greater visibility, flexibility and support for PRSA’s local Chapters — the heart of our community.
Also early in the process, we examined best practices in Web site design, surveyed the sites of organizations similar in size and scope to PRSA and solicited advice from members and external experts. Preliminary design concepts were unveiled at our National Assembly last October, and posted to MemberNet to garner further member feedback. The designs were overwhelmingly well-received.
Entering this year, the deeper and more detailed work took place. This was a matter of not only integrating the new page designs, but of rationalizing the entire site structure — developing new rules, logic and code to streamline and integrate functions that previously had been scattered across the site.
To make information more easily retrievable, we created an entirely new taxonomy — or classification system — for our content. And to improve search results, we incorporated Google search technology and consulted SEO experts (some of the same folks who lead PRSA courses) to incorporate keywords that would optimize search functionality for both site-specific and Internet-based searches.
As our 110 Chapters have varying technical wants, needs and platforms, we quickly learned that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for establishing their presence on the National site. As a result, we offered them options, based on the expressed desires of Chapter leaders.
Chapters, as a group, will be prominently featured on our new home page. A bit deeper in the site, each Chapter will have its own page, which it can customize with its own artwork, boilerplate information, RSS feeds and news updates.
For smaller Chapters, these pages may constitute their entire Web presence, paid for and supported by National. Larger Chapters will be offered a set of templates early next year based on our new design, which will enable them to host their own sites while avoiding external development costs. Of course, Chapters may opt to maintain their existing sites, in which case they still will benefit from having far greater exposure via the National site.
We are extremely excited about this great new public “face” of PRSA, and we hope that you will share in our enthusiasm when the Web site is formally unveiled later this fall. After settling into the new design, we’re confident that the new site will become a larger and more important part of your professional life and online world than ever before.
William M. Murray, CAE, is PRSA’s president and chief operating officer.