Tuesday, 24 September 2013 07:00
Your non-profit started with a dream, a heap of passion, and, most likely, very limited resources. When it launched, you knew your organization needed a website, but having no budget to allocate to your site, you identified an eager volunteer with some web experience to help you design and launch your first site.
A few years later, your organization is in full stride, affecting change in the world, constantly bringing new awareness to the issues and people you serve, and discovering a steady stream of finances from donors. Your organization is doing what you dreamed it would, but your website is very little changed from that initial site created by that initial volunteer. The images on your site are out-of-date. It doesn't have some features you really need like online donations or a blog. Some of the content probably hasn't been updated in far too long. Even if you mustered up the courage to try to tackle these issues yourself, you have little to no idea of how to make changes on the site.
It's time for a new website.
So, you're ready to give your website a much-needed facelift. You're excited about the possibilities and can already imagine the feedback from donors and volunteers as they set their eyes on your beautiful and functional new site. But where do you begin? There are a multitude of options to consider from site structure to design-style to what features are really important. You want this change to matter, to be effective, and you want to make sure you're devoting your limited resources to the best new site possible. From our experience building websites for non-profits over the past 7 years, we've put together a few tips to consider when considering a redesign of your website. They will give you a starting point and launching pad with which to approach your redesign with confidence.
Here's some things to consider when planning to redesign your non-profit website:
1.) Clearly define the goals for your new website
The first question that should be asked when planning a re-design of your non-profit website is, "What do we want our new site to do for for us?". Far too often, websites are built primarily focused on visual design and orgnizational information. What results is an online brochure for your non-profit. While this can be a great starting point, your website can (and should) do so much more for your organization. Make specific (and measurable) goals for your new website. Should it attract new donors? Should it increase your donations by allowing new ways for your donors to participate? Will it generate new leads for volunteers, partners, and/or donors? Will it provide resources to the community you serve? Establishing the specific goals for your site will help shape the design and development of your new site. Start your re-design here and make a list of the top 3-5 goals for your new site. Number them accordingly to priority.
2.) Determine an appropriate budget to devote to the project
A quality and professional website for your organization will be an expense. It's one that your organization will need to plan and budget for. But all websites don't cost the same - and even if they did, you don't want the same website as everyone else. To be effective, your organization deserves a website that is uniquely crafted to fit it's organizational and brand goals. When working with a web design company, the project cost is directly related to the amount of hours of work your project will require. he depth of the pre-design process, the number of features in your site, and the number of revisions to your design all contribute to the final cost of the project. Each web design company is different in how they approach a project and thus the quoting of the project. To avoid disappointment and to streamline your re-design, determine a budget range that your organization can afford to devote to your re-design project. As you get quotes from a few companies, don't be afraid to start the conversation with your budget number. You should be able to tell which companies will try to take advantage of your budget and which ones will work with you to create a website that is customized to fit your needs within your budget.
3.) Determine your primary audience(s)
Whether you use the term "marketing" within your organization or not, your website is a marketing tool. It's most likely the first place people interested in your organization will go in search of answers about who you are, what you do, and your credibility as an organization. Any marketing effort should start by identifying who the intended audience is. It's no different with your website. You should try to identify who comes to your current site and which groups of people, who aren't currently visiting your website, you would like to engage with your new website. Should your website target the community and inidividuals you serve? Should it focus on your donors? Should it focus on potential donors? Identifying your target audience for your new site will have a profound effect on everything from the design chosen to the navigation structure to the included features. Narrow down a list of the top 3 audiences who will visit your new site and spend a few moments trying to put yourself in their shoes. What would they expect from your new site? What features would benefit them? What sort of look and feel would best fit their expectations?
4.) Think long-term
As you launched your first website, likely, the singular goal was to "get somethign online". Little or no thought was on crafting a website that would last and be relevant for years. This time around, focus on the next 5 years. If possible, build your new site using a Content Management System, such as Wordpress or Joomla. A CMS platform will allow for regular updates to keep your site secure and up-to-date. Additional features are available from 3rd party vendors and can usually easily and quickly be "plugged-in" to your system. Since these platforms use templating systems, you are free to change and update the visual design of the site as often as you'd like without a complete website overhaul. A new design template can be created and easily added to your system. And perhaps the best feature of all is that these systems are built to make updating the textual content of your website's pages in-house simple and intuitive. Even if you don't plan on updating your site yourself now, you may have a volunteer or staff member in the future who can handle these updates with ease. Try to build a website that will last and that is able to grow as your organization grows.
5.) Commit to the continual development of your website
While we're talking about building your new website for the long-term, it's also important that your organization commits the continual growth and development of your site. The slogan "Set it and forget it" is not a good strategy for your organization's website. Visitors to your site will appreciate regular news, updates on your work, and insights from organizational leadership. You don't need to overhaul your site to keep people interested, but simple news updates, blogs, and event listings will reinforce to your visitors that your site is of continual value. If you don't have someone in your organization who can be responsible for the updating and development of your site, many web design companies offer a mangement service for your site. At MethodLab, we work with our clients to determine the best ways to keep their site updated and relevant and offer a site management service to help them meet these goals. However you choose to keep your site updated and current, make sure to schedule some regular time to devote to your website. Even an hour or two a month can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your website.
Tackling a re-design is a good deal of work. In many cases, it's a more substantial project that getting your initial non-profit website online was. But it doesn't have to be an unpleasant or difficult task. In fact, redesigning your organization website should breathe new life in your website as it communicates the development of your organization and reminds your donors and those you serve of the passion and excitement that gave birth to your organization in the first place. As you approach your new website, the possibilities are endless, but the 5 tips above can help you focus your redesign before you jump in. They will help to make the process quicker, easier, and often, less expensive as you are able to start the conversation with a web design company having already answered many of their inital questions.
At MethodLab, we specialize in designing and developing websites for non-profits. Over the past 7 years, we've built websites for non-profits of all types and have helped them better tell their stories through the web. Along with web design & development, we also offer website management and video production services specifically tailored for the unique needs of non-profits. We'd love to work with you on your non-profit's website design project and will build a custom web solution to fit your needs and your budget.
To discuss your project or to get a custom quote, please contact us or call us at 602.904.6540.
Published in Web