How to prepare for your charity website design project
It is natural to get excited about starting a new website project for your charity. However, your eagerness to get going should be tempered by sensible planning and preparation. This will ensure the entire process is cost-effective and that you don't end up regretting any decisions you make.
It is standard practice to draw up a website brief to present to your shortlisted web agency partners but even before that you should get together with your team and do some deep thinking and preparation work.
Here are some of the main questions you will need to ask yourselves:
Who are your audience?
Although it is obvious that your charity website needs to appeal to and work for its end user, it is very easy to get swayed by personal preferences.
Throughout this planning process, keep thinking about optimising your audience's experience. What are they likely to be doing when they interact with your website? What type of design will appeal to them? What content do they consume? Most importantly, what would you like them to do.
What are your charity's main objectives?
Most business websites focus on maximising sales and revenue but charities and non-profits tend to have multiple objectives to fulfil.
Choosing which objectives to prioritise is often challenging and can cause internal tension, but a set of clear achievable and measurable objectives is vital not only to plan a project, but to measure its success going forward.
How much can you spend on development?
Discussing budget can be a tricky area but if you don't put some sort of numbers on your website project, your web design agency won't know what level of product and service to aim at. Even if your budget is too low for an agency to work with, it is better to know this straight away than to waste time in meetings.
Website development can cost anywhere from nothing all the way up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. If your budget is too low, you might be best off using a website builder program although your options will be severely restricted. The higher your budget, the more flexibility you will have to add features and customise your design.
Your web designer won't expect you to have exact figures but a ballpark estimate will reduce the uncertainty and ultimately save everyone time.
What websites do you (and your audience) like?
Spend some time with other stakeholders looking at some of the websites that are out there. Although other charities, including direct competitors, will give you the most ideas, it is also worth looking at corporate and personal websites. You may come across a useful feature or design element that no other charities have thought to include.
Don't forget to keep your audience front of mind. What kind of websites do they prefer to visit? What might get them to engage with yours? Ask us about our Stakeholder Planning Workshop if you'd like a proven methodology to consult with stakeholders.
What functions and features are essential?
There are all sorts of amazing features that could be incorporated into your new website, especially if you go for something bespoke. However, including too many of them may stretch your budget and provide limited value.
Although your web agency will be able to give you the finer details, it is very helpful if you provide them with a list of must-have features. For example, you might need an e-commerce function to handle merchandise sales or a video hosting platform if you are providing a lot of video content.
How will you add/edit content?
Whatever type of website you go for, you will almost certainly have some sort of content management system (CMS) so that you can add content and manage features yourself. You should think about how much admin access you will need and whether there will be multiple users with varying levels of permission.
Make sure that whatever solution is proposed, you will have full ownership of the site should you choose to change providers.
You might also want to consider who will be creating content and whether it is worth investing in additional services. This brings us nicely on to our final section.
What ongoing services might you need?
The most successful web design projects don't end with the creation of a website. A great website is merely the launchpad from which a charity can co-ordinate multiple effective digital marketing campaigns while maintaining a strong online presence.
With that in mind, it makes sense to take a long-term view of your web project, including ongoing technical support and digital marketing. Many agencies will offer a range of these services.
Your next steps
After you have thought through all of the above, you will be in more of a position to start looking for website partners and writing a formal web project brief. For more advice on planning, building and promoting a charity website, Eyes Down have written a free eBook.