The Ultimate Guide to Website Redesign for Nonprofits
By Lisa Hirst Carnes | November 2020
Your website is your digital headquarters and the place where people go to find out all about your organization. Many websites fall short of their potential. As a nonprofit, it's important that you effectively communicate your mission clearly and professionally.
A strategic website redesign can help you communicate more effectively and reach a wider audience. In this guide, we'll be looking at some powerful steps to help you get better results from your website.
Why is Your Website Important?
Your website is one of your most important assets for reaching your audience and expanding your influence. It's both a tool for communication and a reflection of your entire organization. When people land on your site, they make a split-second judgment about you, whether they're fully conscious of it or not. In fact, CrazyEgg reports that you have 15 seconds at the most to capture someone’s attention.
A well-designed website has several functions.
- Explains your purpose. A nonprofit needs to clearly define its purpose. You want people to quickly gain an understanding of what you do and why it's important. Your website is a critical tool for communicating your role.
- Builds your brand. You want your design to look professional, attractive, and distinctive. A website's design is not only to impress visitors but to establish your brand. Elements such as your logo and the images, fonts, colors, and layouts on your site should be consistent with your overall brand identity. A website can help establish you as a thought leader that people turn to for news and information.
- It's your digital hub. Your website is the hub that connects all of your channels and platforms such as email, social media, live and virtual events, and even offline activities. That’s why it's so important that your website is well organized and provides clear navigation. You want users to be able to quickly find what they're looking for and to know how to contact you or get further information.
Why Redesign Your Website?
The simple answer to this question is that your website isn't as effective as you'd like it to be and you want to make improvements. It's helpful to drill down and identify the problem. You may be dealing with one or more of these issues:
Statista reports that mobile devices account for about half of all website traffic. This number is likely to increase in the coming years. Yet many websites are still not as mobile-friendly as they could be. If users find that they can't see or access all of your features, they'll get frustrated and leave. Some nonprofit organizations are responding to this trend by implementing a mobile-first strategy.
Mobile-friendliness is also an important SEO factor. Google announced mobile-first indexing in 2019. This means that Google favors mobile over desktop content when indexing. You can design a dedicated mobile website or use responsive design that's accessible to people using any device. Whichever approach you choose, your website must work well for your mobile audience.
If your website was built years ago, it may be outdated. Design, SEO, and UX (user experience) move quickly, and a few years is a long time in tech time. Your site could need an update in several areas.
- Your content needs updating. This is the simplest type of update but important nonetheless. If visitors land on a page with old content, they'll seek more contemporary sources of information. In addition to publishing new content, you may need to edit, update, or, in some cases, remove, old content.
- You have outdated design elements. Web design has changed a lot since the 1990s when the first websites appeared. Your site may not be from 1996, but it still may have dated elements such as very small fonts, bright backgrounds, or stock images. Most users who aren't into web design won't consciously note this, but they'll still sense that something is off. A redesign can bring your website into the second decade of the 21st century, where it belongs.
- You use flash animation. Many users can't access this type of content as they need the right version of Flash to play it. Apple mobile devices don't support it at all. It's widely considered a security risk as well.
The W3 Web Accessibility Initiative is an effort to make the internet more accessible to people with disabilities and other challenges. This includes users who are visually or hearing impaired. There are many ways to make your website more accessible, such as:
Make content accessible. Anchor text and links should be clearly identified. For example, if you're linking to a page with contact information, the anchor text should be "contact information," not "click here." If you use acronyms, also include the full spelling, as in SEO (search engine optimization).
Your site can be navigated without a mouse. Users should be able to navigate only using a keyboard as not everyone can use a mouse.
Use Alt Text for images. Adding this ensures that there's the text accompanying any images. This is useful for SEO as well as being helpful for visually impaired users.
Read our post about web accessibility in 2020 for a deeper dive.
Security and Compliance Issues
Security is a major concern when it comes to websites. Hackers can target you or your members and donors. If you sell anything on your site or accept donations, you have to safeguard personal and financial information. If you use WordPress, there are several good security plugins that help you keep your site safe. You need an updated SSL certificate for both security and SEO purposes. Some browsers now warn visitors if a site doesn't have the proper https configuration.
It's Time to Scale
An organization sometimes outgrows its website. You may have created a simple site that perfectly served your needs when you started. As you've grown, however, you may have lots more content, pages, features, and traffic than you did before. A redesign can take many forms. It's analogous to making changes to a home or any type of building. You have to decide whether to add an extension, build another floor, or tear down the whole structure and start from scratch. Here are some signs that your website isn't meeting your current needs.
Your site has grown significantly in a short time. You may be getting more traffic, or gotten overloaded with plugins, videos, images, and other files that consume lots of resources.
You notice performance or speed issues. Use tools such as Google's PageSpeed Insights to test your website on multiple devices.
You have security issues. As noted, security is essential for a nonprofit website. Sometimes this entails a website overhaul, such as switching from shared hosting to a dedicated server or VPS hosting. The latter is also good for speed and overall functionality.
Why Now is the Time for a Redesign
Raising awareness and funds for your nonprofit is more challenging than ever. Today, more and more organizations are relying on digital tools for fundraising. The 2018 Global Trends In Giving Report reveals some significant findings:
The majority of donors of all generations from Millennials to Gen-Xers, to Baby Boomers, prefer to donate online.
Social media has become an important tool for spreading the word about causes, organizations, and fundraising efforts.
Crowdfunding is another powerful tool for raising money.
Your website plays a key role in all of these factors. As we noted, it's your digital hub that connects to other channels. A website complements your social media efforts. Likewise, if you're doing a crowdfunding campaign, you can't rely on potential supporters to find you on the crowdfunding platform itself. You need a website to direct them there.
How to Plan Your Website Redesign
If you're ready to make some changes to your website, it's important to have a strategy in mind. Whether you handle the task in-house or outsource it, you should start with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
Evaluate your website. Look at your content, page-loading speed, mobile-friendliness, conversion rate, and any other factors that are relevant to you. Identify those areas that need improvement. Benchmark your data. An analysis of your data can inform you about where you need to make adjustments. Pay attention to important metrics such as monthly traffic, the sources of your traffic, leads, and conversions. Google Analytics is useful for this type of analysis.
Your Martech needs may have expanded. You may need to upgrade tools and services such as your CMS, web hosting, or email. You should also re-evaluate your fundraising platform and CRM to determine if they're sufficient for helping you grow.
Identify your budget. Unless you are going to do the work yourself or you have an existing team to handle it, you'll need to allocate a budget for your website redesign. This is a good time to do research and get an idea of what different agencies charge for a project of your scale.
Identify all stakeholders. Who is going to be involved in the project? Who will be impacted by it? You should touch base with everyone involved and ask for their input. Someone in another department may have a suggestion you didn't think of based on their unique experience. People in areas such as fundraising, IT, and social media all have their own needs and perspectives regarding a website.
Communicate in the right language. When speaking "web," you need to consider the jargon different stakeholders understand. For example, directors and board members see the big picture and care mainly about results. Staff involved in fundraising and public relations will care about specific website features that drive traffic and build membership.
Choosing the Right Web Design Agency
Most nonprofits will want to outsource web design to experts. Your staff likely doesn't have the time or expertise to redesign a website. When choosing an agency, it's important to find someone who is the right fit. This includes someone who has the right experience, a compatible communication style, and creates a redesign strategy that matches your goals. The following steps will help you identify the ideal partner.
Decide Who Will Involved in Selecting
As noted, you should consult with all stakeholders. You also need to decide who has a say in the final decision. This group should include a person or team who will be involved with the daily operation of the website.
Browse and Research
Before you even contact any agencies, take some time to look over their websites and portfolios. Look over some of their work. Another approach is to browse other nonprofits and seek out websites that impress you. You don't want a replica of someone else's site but you can get an idea of a designer's style by reviewing their completed projects. You want to find someone who's a good fit with your culture and who can help you accomplish your goals.
Interview Multiple Agencies
There are plenty of agencies eager to get your business. It's best to choose agencies with nonprofit experience. If an agency looks promising, send them an RFP. When they send you a proposal, make sure you understand all the terms. Ask them questions such as:
Do you offer a customized approach to web design? If you are looking to have an entirely new website built, ask if they build unique sites or work with templates. You want your site to be distinctive and not have a generic look.
What is your process? Ask them to define the steps they'll carry out when working on your site.
Who is the team? If possible, ask them who you will be working with on a day-to-day basis.
What exactly is included in the price you quoted?
What type of post-launch support do you provide?
Do you provide hosting services?
What security measures will you take to safeguard our website?
Make Your Website Redesign a Success
Redesigning your website can breathe new life into your nonprofit. You can communicate your message more clearly, have more user-friendly features, and get more members and donations. When redesigning your site, make sure you plan carefully and choose the right partner. Ideally, once your site is ready, you don't want to have to redesign it again for a long time.
ArcStone is a full-service digital agency that combines marketing, design, and technology to build and redesign websites. To learn more about our services, contact us.
Topics: Nonprofit Help
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