I had an interesting conversation with a representative of an eco organization. When the conversation got around to the organization’s website, the response was: “It sucks.” It wasn’t my evaluation. It was the worker’s blunt assessment. “Why did it suck?” I asked. Well, responsibility for upkeep of the website fell to another person in the organization, I was told. The inference was: that person probably wasn’t too concerned that the website “sucked.”

That’s too bad. Obviously others within the organization believe it does “suck.”

It’s hard to fathom that in today’s web 2.0 world, a website can still be relegated to Priority No. 178 on an organization or business’s list. But we all know, from simply surfing the web, that this indeed still exists. Whether it’s the result of an IT person being spread too thin and not having enough time to focus on a website, or too many people having their fingers in the site that nothing cohesive ever develops, it needs to be solved.

Too often, we allow employees within our own organizations to quietly grumble about the status of a website. This shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. These employees get the bigger picture: Your website is what frequently creates a first impression of your organization. Are you slick and professional? Are you amateurish? Are you little league? Never mind the reality that your organization or business is professional in person. Concentrate on the impression your website is creating.

If you haven’t done an audit on your website since, well, HTML first became fashionable, then it’s time to take a closer look:

What are competing or similar organizations doing? Being a copycat isn’t the goal. But staying modern is. Examine websites of similar organizations. The world wide web is an amazing place of inspiration for design ideas. Get out there and explore it. There may be no simpler way to see for yourself that your organization or business has fallen way behind.

Do the 15-Second Web Perception Test. Want to make a point quickly? I recommend the 15-Second Website Perception Test. Let your eye wander around the home page for 15 seconds, and every time you feel the slightest urge or curiousity to click on an element on the page, score one point for each urge. Then give the home page a simple score out of 5. Add up both scores. If you reach a score of 10 or more, you’re looking at a site that captures your attention. Now, do the same for your organization’s website. When you’re finished, compare your website score with the competition’s score. This is a rudimentary method, but have multiple people take the test and see the results. Why allow just 15 seconds to let your eye wander? Web surfers are notoriously impatient. You either grab ’em or lose ’em within 15 seconds.

Do an impromptu web perception test in your office. Spend a week casually walking around your office and popping the question: “Hey, Jill, what’s the first word that comes to mind when you look at our website?” If you start to gather a lot of “it sucks” then you know you have a perception problem. Remember, employees aren’t saying it sucks because they’re negative employees. They’re saying it, most likely, because they care and want an online presence that makes them proud, not embarrassed.

Are you having trouble hiring people? This aspect is often overlooked. But make no mistake, your website can create a lasting impression on job seekers. There are two things a job seeker does when he/she sees a job opening advertised for your organization. No. 1: He/she reads the job ad. No. 2: He/she visits your website. Your website is the first window into your organization. If it looks like a mess, what impression might that leave? Small outfit? Little money? Quality less important? An unsavvy, non-forward thinking organization? You bet, all harsh assessments. And it doesn’t matter if they are all wrong. Remember, it’s about perception.

Is your website updated regularly? Never think of your website as a billboard that gets glued in place and never changes until it’s taken down. People communicate via the web. They share information via the web. They interact with the web. If your website is failing to do any one of these three key elements, you have a billboard. What do people do when they see a billboard? Usually view it once, and keep on going. That’s exactly what will happen when they see your website. With a simple click, they’ll move on because you have nothing substantive.

Is your website building relationships? If your website is forever static, you have a significant problem: There is no value for a visitor to return. You have essentially built no relationship to turn that visitor into a loyal web customer. Remember, a web customer is similar to an in-store customer. It may take several visits before they buy. But eventually, with the right stuff, you’ll make a sale. If there’s never anything new, then why return. We’ve seen it all before.

Turn procrastination into implementation. There are a zillion reasons why a website is allowed to fester as an eyesore. The IT guy is too busy. It’s not a priority within the organization right now. Nobody is willing to take charge. We have nobody on staff who can do it. Yadda yadda yadda. Dump them all in the recycle bin. Today, Content Management Systems (CMS) for the web mean anyone can easily administer a website with no knowledge of HTML or coding. What is a CMS? It’s basically an idiot-proof approach to easily add text and images to a pre-created web footprint. The investment to have a CMS designed for your organization is minimal, when compared to the value perception you are losing every day with a weak presence. Hire a professional designer to create your new web footprint today.

Here’s to hoping your website doesn’t “suck.”