What do you need to know about a dark website?

August 26 2014

What is a dark website? A dark website is a pre-built website designed for specific purpose. It is being used in times of crisis like an explosion, a chemical hazard, a disease outbreak or any other such calamities.

The dark website is already planned and developed before the crisis; but it is launched by the business, government or other agencies, only after the crisis triggers. Prior to the crisis, the website remains hidden, i.e. it cannot be seen or accessed by the public; meaning it remains in a dark state; hence, its name, “dark”.

Dark Websites

Do you need a dark website?

It’s not necessary for you to have a dark website actually. This is because only a few organizations or businesses require a dark website; those who have that level of scope of crisis extreme or big enough to warrant it.

So, if you own a simple chicken shop website, you probably don’t require a dark website.

Why not make use of corporate websites?

This is basically due to a few reasons as explained below.

The first reason is the response time. Businesses and other organizations need to take action immediately after a crisis triggers so that they can control the crisis effectively and rapidly; plus they want to act as a reliable and responsible voice to the public and media. Websites usually take days, weeks and even months to build and while there is a crisis out there to deal with, you hardly have minutes.

Secondly, corporate websites are unsuitable for this purpose. Apart from the issue of timeliness, corporate websites are developed for different purposes as compared to dark websites. Their basic aim is to promote the business and attract customers and investors. They are not designed to convey the message the freaked-out public wants or needs.

A dark website speaks out loud to the media and public that we are serious. A dark website clearly conveys the fact that dealing with the crisis is of supreme importance to the business or organization that has launched the dark website.

It literally speaks volumes.

The dark website is not required to replace the corporate website, but if it does, it is not required to open a new crisis with Google. It is recommended that you plan your potentially rapid transition and don’t turn off your main website. The easy way is to display a major link on your homepage and all the other web pages, including the social profile pages, linking to your dark website. Also, registering the dark website at its own URL is preferable so that the traffic can be diverted directly to it.

The vital ingredients

The nature of the website and its content form the vital ingredients of the dark website. See the list below:

  • Uniform, factual and timely content.

  • Crystal clear links to the authors/spokespersons of the content and message.

  • Feeds from (or to) social.

  • Have a feature to register for updates (Email or message)

At the time of crisis, the last thing an organization requires is the inability to own the message; similarly, it requires demonstrating its commitment to the problem.

Dark Website as an effective tool: Final Word

Today’s Internet-driven world moves information, especially the negative or controversial ones, at an extremely fast speed. In such a scenario, a dark website can prove to be one of the most critical tools in your toolbox which allows you to successfully manage a crisis.

A dark website is the best way to present yourself to your new and perturbed users. At this point in time, they really don’t care about your latest profit achievements and it is actually the last thing you would like to promote.

As such, when bad news or any emergency strikes an organization suddenly, its website is generally the first place the outside world looks up to for information. Because of the extreme time pressure involved in crisis management, there is almost no time to develop a new crisis website from the scratch. Instead, a pre-built dark website can be quickly switched on as and when needed in a crisis situation.

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