Microsite Design and Development: Best Practices

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With the recent launch of FEX’s No Small Change targeted giving Microsite, we’ve given kicking around many thoughts (and late nights!) to designing and developing effective and action-oriented microsites.

“Microsite”? Sounds cute!

Microsites are 1-3 page sites that often focus on a specific goal or campaign. They are often time-sensitive and highlight a critical initiative or upcoming decision or campaign that requires immediate action. Many times, microsites will serve as a kind of sidecar to an organization’s main web platform–by offering a peripherally branded yet unique identity which generates excitement and action around your cause, event, or project.

We’ve developed a list of Best Practices for Designing and Developing Microsites. Without further ado, here it is:

  1. KISS. Keep it Simple. Limit yourself to a maximum of four pages. Your main website can do the heavy lifting in this regard. Make your microsite to the point and immediately actionable.
  2. Consider a unique URL. A new, catchy URL generates a better branding and SEO opportunity and establishes your microsite as a legitimate, semi-independent venture, rather than yet another blog entry or new page on your existing site. Your cause is important enough to warrant its own site!
  3. Link back to your organizations homepage, and make clear the bigger picture!  Users may well find your site through a search engine or social network and may not be aware of the parent organization – make sure you entice them to learn more about your larger efforts.
  4. Contact & Donate. Always have a Contact Form and a Donate or Contribute button. Enough said.
  5. Engage and direct: Quickly introduce your cause–why should the user care? And then follow up this interest with quick and simple ways to act.
  6. Be bold and differentiate your microsite from your main page. This is your chance to break out of the box a bit and really show off! Add a sense of vitality and urgency through bold use of color and typography.
  7. Identify different ways for participation or helping your cause. How can your users help? Even if they can’t afford to give, encourage them to tell others, sign up for your mailing list, or call their local representatives.
  8. Get Social. Tap into the power of Twitter and Facebook without replicating them! Encourage your supporters to spread the word about your initiative to their own networks and immediately find new audiences.
  9. Build the site with a Content Management System. Why use a CMS to build a 3 page site? These platforms have gotten so good there’s really no reason not to build with them. Want a non technical staffer to update your statistics or post an urgent message? Get it done immediately with a CMS. (For more about Content Management Systems, see our Explanatory Resource.)
  10. Prioritize your content. We know you have a wealth of content. Pages of research, hundreds of amazing photos. But sometimes the reality is that your users will give your site only a few seconds before deciding whether to close their window or keep reading. Choose your best and most succinct content and let your users have it–then immediately encourage action.

To sum up, creating a microsite can be a powerful and effective companion to your main organizational web presence. Be bold, keep it simple, and encourage easy and various forms of participation. Interested in setting up your own microsite or talking more about your next web initiative? Contact Us! We’d love to hear from you.

photo by Bourdaire on Wikimedia Commons

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