I recently sat down with Stacey Gutman, director of OPEN Forum, to talk about the radical changes the site has undergone. We discussed what the redesign means for you, as a user, and how you can apply similar changes to your own website.
The OPEN Forum team is consistently trying to improve the site's content and community and realized that both needs could be met by creating a better user experience, Gutman explained. To continue to evolve as a leading platform for growing businesses, the website needed a fresh, new look And since she and the team looked to develop OPEN Forum into a daily destination for small business owners, they knew accessibility and searchability was key.
As the breadth of what OPEN Forum offers grows, it was important to find the right balance between providing content to the reader and showcasing new features. As they continue to search for that balance, expect the site to be in constant beta—always improving and constantly evolving.
In an effort to ensure the upgrades to OPEN Forum were as good as possible, the team solicited feedback from its readers—that’s you—and made the changes accordingly.
When you look at the revamped site you’ll see the following key changes:
1. The homepage is completely redesigned.
2. More weight is given to what the community is doing and saying.
3. More showcasing of popular articles.
4. Improved follow and share tools throughout the entire site.
5. Hidden content now can bubble up to the featured story section.
OPEN Forum provides professional and applicable information to small business owners each time they visit the site. Think of OPEN Forum as a special diet of insight for growing businesses, Stacy said.
As you think of improving your own website, here is what you can learn from the redesign:
1. Website design is not all about technology. Know where you are and where you want to be as a business, and then build accordingly.
2. Don’t just trust your gut instinct. Ask your audience what improvements they want to see.
3. It’s easy to put a lot of content online—make sure that you find ways to highlight work that might otherwise be buried.
4. Don’t think of your website as being finished. Consider it an evolution and be open to constant changes.
5. Think of your website as the publishing arm of your business. Instead of trying to sell to customers, provide them with useful information.
6. Invest in your website. If you skimp on it, users wil tell the difference.