The 10 Commandments of Website Redesigns for Nonprofits

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | January 2021

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Overseeing a website redesign for your nonprofit organization can be complicated. There’s so much to consider. If you’re thinking about a website redesign project, you’re in luck!

We compiled our 10 Commandments specifically for nonprofit organizations, just like you.

These commandments may not be written in stone, but they are solid best practices when it comes to website redesign projects. 

Consider Thy Audience

It’s vital that your website resonates with your audience. This starts by having a clear picture of who your audience is and what their needs are. To get a handle on this, we suggest creating personas for your core audiences. Personas outline typical challenges, how your users engage with your brand, emotional triggers, what the desired outcome is, where they are in the buyer’s journey, as well as information about their digital habits and tendencies. 

Your personas will influence your website redesign project

For example, if you know your audience prefers to watch video content over reading white papers, you’ll want a design featuring video, front and center. If your personas still prefer to make their donate by mail, you’ll want to make it easy for them to do so. 

Read our blog post to learn more about personas. 

Know Your Goals

You’d be surprised at the number of times we’re met with a blank stare when we bring up website goals. As obvious as goals are, they can be overlooked. 

Consider what the desired outcome you’d like your users to take.

If your goals aren’t clear when you’re in the pre-planning stage, that’s okay. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your users. 

Given where they are once they reach your website (or specific web page) what call to action (CTA) makes the most sense and is helpful at that point in time?

To ensure we get clarity around this right away, we make sure to add calls-to-action (CTAs) in our wireframes. 

For some nonprofit organizations, their number one goal is to increase donations. If this is the case for your organization, it’s critical that your donation workflow is easy and eliminates any areas of friction. If the process is even remotely complicated, users won’t follow through. 

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Identify Thy Stakeholders

Nothing puts the brakes on a project like getting feedback from team members late in the game. At ArcStone, we have checkpoints at each important milestone. It’s critical that feedback is given during this time before we (or another web design agency) moves on to the next phase of the project. 

It’s best to determine stakeholders before the project begins. We also recommend team members who are intrinsically tied to goals of the project be involved. So, for example, if your main goal of your nonprofit’s website redesign is to build your volunteers, a team member who works with your volunteer community should be involved in the project. 

Nonprofit organizations are inherently collaborative people. That being said, it’s still important to make sure that there’s one person on your team who is accountable for the project and is the final decision maker.

Determine Your Roles

A successful website redesign team is comprised of a variety of people with different roles. On the agency side, your web team may consist of a project manager, strategist, designer, developer, marketer, and QA specialist, analyst, and technical specialist. Keep in mind that team members usually wear multiple hats. 

Similarly, nonprofit organizations will also need specific team members, filling unique roles. If you’re designated to write the website content, for example, you’ll need someone who is comfortable with writing content for the web. 

Honor Thy Check-in

When we kick-off a new redesign project, one of the first things we do is schedule weekly/bi-weekly check-ins. Check-ins are short meetings, where we cover what’s been done on the project, get feedback, ask questions, answer questions, and get to know each other. Scheduling a regular time for these meetings eliminates extra back-and-forth communication. Try not to cancel or reschedule check-ins, unless it is absolutely necessary.

Check-ins are vital because they set a rhythm and a cadence for your project. 

Thou Shall Choose a Solid CMS

The content management system (CMS) you choose makes a difference. 

In 2021, the top CMS platforms, according to TechRadar are WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Bynder, and Magnolia. Your website requirements can help guide your decision on what CMS to use. 

If you’re looking for a simple brochure website, Weebly might be a good choice but if you need advanced functionality with lots of 3rd party integrations, WordPress is a better decision. 

We decided to use WordPress as our CMS of choice several years ago. We landed on that decision because t’s open source, has a vibrant community committed to making it better, it’s easy to update from a client’s point of view, there are thousands of plugins that extend its functionality, and much more. 

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Don’t Put Off Thy Content

Everyone thinks the content part of a website redesign project will be easy. It’s not. It always takes longer than people anticipate. Start the content process early and establish a copywriting rhythm that works for your team. 

If your website is sixty pages, we recommend first compiling all of your page URLs in spreadsheet and then determining what needs to be done. Does the page need to be completely rewritten, does it need a light round of edits, or is it good as-is? The process is similar to cleaning out your closet - Marie Kondo style. 

Writing content for a website is a little like the chicken or the egg. It’s tough to write content without first seeing the design. Similarly, it’s challenging to create a design without know what content will be on the page. Conversations in the check-ins will help ensure the design and content are aligned. 

Collaborate with Thy Team

When we consider our most successful website redesign projects, there’s a common denominator, collaboration. Something special happens when people work together as a team. Be open to collaboration and take time to listen. It will most likely result in a better finished product. 

Honor Thy Milestones

At the start of your project, most web design agencies, (at least the good ones), will set a launch date and work backwards to set project milestones and timeline. 

Projects are “salamicized” so tasks are more manageable and not overwhelming. Regular check-ins will ensure that your nonprofit’s website redesign stays on track. Do your best to get things done on time. If you anticipate that you’ll have a problem getting something done on time, say something sooner rather than later. 

Keep in mind, if you’re late on a milestone, your entire project might be delayed. 

Thou Shall Update Thy Website

Once your nonprofit’s website launches, it’s not all over. Similar to a garden, your website will need to be care for and pages will need to be updated. Form a team that will be responsible for taking care of the website. If possible, get a support package from your website design agency to help tackle new priorities. 

If you’re considering a website redesign, contact us. We’re happy to share our planning resources with you.

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Topics: Design and Technology