Autism Society of America’s Marguerite Kirst Colston on Web Site Design
For each of the estimated 60 families today who will have a child diagnosed as autistic—and who may walk out of the physician’s office with only a resource folder to accompany their overwhelming shock, relief, sorrow and questions about what to do next—nonprofit organizations such as the Autism Society of America are working to provide answers.
An increase in media coverage since the February 2007 Center for Disease Control autism report, which revealed the prevalence of autism is now one in 150 children, resulted in a rash of related blogs, personal Web pages and Yahoo! Groups. For the Autism Society of America, providing the basics was no longer enough to satisfy current members’ and potential constituents’ information needs.
In redesigning its Web site, the nonprofit’s goal was not only to provide accurate information, but also to create a community where all people connected to autism can share real-life stories. Developed based on six personas derived from a user analysis, the society hopes the redesign will provide a more holistic view of life with autism.
Working with Austin, Texas-based Internet software provider Convio, the society based its content map on the way each persona searches the site to improve visitor usability, enhance search rankings and boost conversions. The initial result was a ten percent increase on the day of the launch. Here, the society’s communications director, Marguerite Kirst Colston, describes the Web site redesign process.
Target Marketing: What technical, structural or search challenges did you set out to remedy with the site redesign?
Marguerite Kirst Colston: With the old Web site we got a sixfold increase in unique visitors on four major media days in 2007, but those hits were not converting. For the redesign, we focused on creating a more searchable site using a design that would help constituents identify with us. We have a tremendous amount of great information, but people had a hard time finding it. Once they came to our site, we wanted them to stay with us and find a home, with improved search capabilities and a new layout; our new Web design schema reflects that.