If your chamber of commerce or business association moved to a new location, you'd probably let your members know, right? You'd send them some emails - maybe even send some "snail mail." You might even hang a sign on your old office letting visitors know that you've moved to a new location.
So, when you change your website, do you let your members know about all the changes?
Most chambers of commerce and business assocations launch new websites by telling members in their print newsletters and via email. Sometimes, they'll even hold events to "train" members on the new features. I've seen some organizations record webinars or screen casts detailing how members can use the new website, too.
These are all great ideas - and you should consider using all of them. But they only reach a certain percentage of the visitors to your website. Don't forget to include a mention of the changes on the website itself!
Recently, MSNBC.COM made a change to the navigation and layout of their website. The old site had a navigation menu down the left-hand side of the page. The new layout has horizontal navigation across the top of the page.
Instead of hoping their site visitors could figure this out for themselves, MSNBC.COM included instructions where the old navigation was and direct visitors to the new navigation. Right there where the old navigation was, they included this text, "Where's my navigation? We've moved it to the top." They also included a link to tour the new design. (See image below, click for larger version).
I thought this was a great example of giving vistors to the site an update of the navigation change.
Remember, that even subtle changes to your website can confuse your site visitors. Give them all the tools they need to find the information the are looking for. Try to view your site like a member would. Or better yet, like someone from outside your community, who is looking for information about businesses in your community. Make your site as easy to use and navigate as you can. And remember to tell your visitors when you move content or navigation.
Note: There is also a much more technical side of telling site visitors (and search engines) about site changes, such as 301 redirects and other server setttings, but I'll save that for another post. :-)