Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing (In Website Design, Content Is King)
Greg Nilsen over at If Jesus Had A Website has been running a rather humorous series on ineffective church web site design. His latest entry triggered a little bit of a rant from me because it hit too close to my own experience. (Not a rant against what he said, but one supporting it.) I do believe (as I posted in the comments there) that most organizations would probably do well with either two web sites, or at least two distinct portions of their web site.
The public face can be essentially brochureware, although it may be somewhat interactive. It should be attractive but not overbearing, and it should contain information for people who do not know about your organization. The private, or portal face should be clean (if not minimalistic) design, and if it has any marketing content at all, that should be geared towards repeat visits, not initial contact.
On either front, content should be fresh and relevant, well-written and accurate.
I came to the revelation about needing two different web sites when marketing people took over the public website where I work. I'd also been working on a new concept of using blogs for documentation at around the same time (almost three years ago) and my thought shift was towards a priesthood of believers (just thought of it in those terms) where web content could be created by those who needed to create content, not just those who knew web design.
The tools have come a long way since then. I've talked a bit about Drupal in an earlier post. I also mentioned our use of Organic Groups in a different discussion at IJHAW. Tools like OG or the LDAP module are just a way to simplify group management so that the authors can be empowered.
There are a million concepts of Web 2.0 out there. I guess my niche is all about making useful web sites for everyday people who can use the web to convey thoughts and information, but shouldn't have to be encumbered by the underlying mechanics of the web.
Sure, this approach sucks for the fledgling web designers who want to hold on to their FrontPage98 installation and think every paragraph should have a different color and font, but sorry, you've missed the point. Keep the main thing the main thing. Content is king.