A congressional website is one of the best ways for a member of Congress to provide constituents with resources and information. Since your site offers many people their first impression of their elected official, it has to be up to date, accessible, and easy to navigate. At Fireside, we’re familiar with the most common concerns regarding look, feel, and functionality. With these considerations in mind, we’ve outlined the eight most important things to consider when contemplating a design (or redesign) of your website.
- What do you want your website to communicate?
- Is your website optimized for tracking?
- Who will be looking at your website?
- Is your website mobile-friendly?
- Is your website easy to update?
- What is your strategy for content creation?
- How will visitors convert?
- Do you need a custom site or is a template enough?
1. What do you want your website to communicate?
It’s important to consider what you want your website to communicate, what content is most important to the people visiting your site, and which demographics are most likely to be accessing your site for information. Initial impressions are crucial, and your website is often the first place constituents turn for information from their representative. Your constituents won’t expect your site to be the ultimate resource for every topic, but it’s helpful to direct them to reliable sources if they want to learn more.
If your office hasn’t updated its site in the last few years, it might not be sending the message you want to convey. There may also be new issues to address. For example:
- Are you highlighting news outlets and social media accounts that show how your office engages with the outside world?
- Are you hosting more constituent events online?
- Are there other digital programs that need space on your site beyond the traditional pages?
Members have different needs based on their individual districts, but these questions can help you start thinking about what form your website should take.
2. Is your website optimized for tracking?
Tracking your website’s traffic enables you to understand who is visiting. With a site that’s optimized for tracking and analytics, you can tell where your visitors are located and how they’re engaging with your site. This includes information such as how they get to your site, what pages they visit, and how much time they spend on each page — information that’s useful for knowing what content is resonating with constituents and where you should spend more marketing dollars. Fireside links your website to Google Analytics, giving you a clear snapshot of how visitors find and use your site.
3. Who will be looking at your website?
Determining visitor demographics is a critical but often overlooked step in planning a website. This information helps you know what content to spotlight and through what channels. It can also help you determine if you need to put resources into attracting other types of constituents who are overlooking your website.
Beyond linking your website to Google Analytics, you can also analyze form submissions for a qualitative view of the most engaged constituents on your website. Depending on your audience and how it is segmented, you may want to build different pathways for conversion or information gathering.
4. Is your website mobile-friendly?
More than half of internet users view websites using tablets and smartphones. If your website isn’t designed to be viewed on a mobile device, it can be difficult for constituents to see and access the information they need.
Designing a responsive website that automatically adjusts to different devices and resizes for optimal viewing is the best way to ensure everyone can access your content.
5. Is your website easy to update?
News happens quickly, so you need the ability to update content on the fly, with just a few clicks.
With Fireside, each webpage is editable within our content manager, allowing you to easily add text, embed images and videos, and make other changes. You can also create an events, news, or blog page where you can post live updates, press releases, videos, and newsletters for constituents to access.
6. What is your strategy for content creation?
Timely news items such as press releases, op-eds, and articles featuring the representative are key to creating an informative, memorable digital presence. Additionally, the content on your website must be easy to locate. Visitors will quickly disengage if they can’t easily find what they’re looking for.
After posting something new on your website, spread the word by sharing it on your social media platforms. With a Fireside-designed site, you can do this by simply selecting the share icon to the left of the article’s name. This lets you share a news item via our newsletter platform or to any of your linked social media accounts. Curating easy-to-access content will help build rapport and increase engagement with your constituents.
7. How will visitors convert?
A congressional website should do more than just disseminate information; it should also create experiences for constituents related to what they care about. These experiences provide avenues for gathering information about your constituents. Because let’s face it: A contact page by itself won’t cut it for driving conversions on your website.
Creating different conversion points can be complicated, which is why Fireside has pre-built forms with default fields that members typically want or need on their websites. These include:
- Art Competition Voting Form
- Request for Help with a Federal Agency (Casework)
- Congressional Commendation Request
- Event Request
- Internship Application
- Meeting Request
- Presidential Greeting Request
- Service Academy Application
- Tour Request
- Art Competition Info Request
- Contact Form
- Newsletter Subscribe Form
- Unsubscribe Form
You can decide which forms you want to activate and where you would like the forms to be submitted. To add a form not on this list or one with different fields than the default, just ask our web team to build you a custom form.
8. Do you need a custom site or is a template enough?
When designing your website, you can choose between creating a custom site or using a template. If you’re interested in a custom website, the sky’s the limit on how it can look and function. The custom option gives you more creative flexibility and the opportunity to have a bigger hand in the design process. If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option with a shorter timeline, using a template may be a better route.
Once you’ve answered all these questions, you should be in a good place to start sourcing website vendors and exploring options for design. Ensuring that you have an easy-to-navigate site is key to an effective online presence. Make sure your website is optimized, so constituents can easily browse and find the information they need.
Fireside designs websites to fit the needs of any member of Congress, congressional caucus, or committee. Work one on one with a skilled designer to create a custom website or digital logo, or choose a template and have your website up and running in no time. Contact us to see why more than 150 members and committees rely on Fireside for web services.