Rebuilding a website is a huge decision for any organization, especially a nonprofit. Whether you’re completely rebranding or trying to expand your website’s outreach, you’ll have to pick the right website solution for your organization’s specific needs.
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach, there are a few essential best practices any nonprofit can use to revamp its website. We’ll look at the basics of a website overhaul, including:
- Website elements to evaluate
- Developing a strategy for your website rebuild
- Custom-build vs. website templates
Whether your updates are as small as a navigation menu tweak or as large as switching your CMS from Drupal to WordPress, you’ll need to thoroughly evaluate your website to decide what changes need to be made. As you determine your website’s goals and areas of improvement, you’ll prepare a redesign plan that keeps your audience in mind. Let’s begin.
Website elements to evaluate
Although your nonprofit’s website is likely informational, compelling visual elements can encourage visitor engagement. For example, current web design trends, such as expressive typography and custom illustrations, can draw in visitors and urge them to interact with your site content.
Observe these aspects of your website as you audit your nonprofit’s online presence:
- Branding: Is your nonprofit’s branding prominent throughout the website, incorporating your logo and color scheme throughout?
- Visuals: Is the graphic design consistent throughout your website? Look for consistent and captivating visual imagery and identify places that don’t have visual elements but could include them.
- Navigation: Is your website easy to navigate, with a menu that is clear to follow and includes your most important pages?
- Home page: Does your site’s home page feature important information about your nonprofit?
- Content: Does your website’s content serve its purpose? For example, if your website aims to inform users about your mission, does your content provide all the necessary information and resources?
- Conversion opportunities: Does your site encourage users to take action through contact forms, donation portals, or volunteer opportunities?
Evaluate each detail of your website in light of users’ needs and the website’s purpose. Then, determine which areas need improvement.
Developing a strategy for your website rebuild
The top nonprofit websites utilize similar design strategies to attract supporters, such as clear infographics and engaging calls to action. After determining the current state of your site, compare each design element to your overall goals.
For example, if your nonprofit provides food to people experiencing homelessness in your community, it’s important to keep your website’s volunteer opportunity details and registration forms updated. Consider how content updates and accessibility can align website elements with your nonprofit’s mission:
Is the content on your website recent and relevant? No matter your nonprofit’s unique mission, it’s important that your website’s content is relevant to its goals and kept up-to-date.
Conduct regular website maintenance to ensure information is still accurate and relevant. For example, you may revise COVID-19 regulations on volunteer information pages to suggest wearing masks instead of requiring them. That way, when you’re recruiting volunteers, they’ll have all the necessary and current information about volunteer expectations.
Maintenance can also identify any website features that aren’t working, like outdated buttons or visuals that aren’t loading correctly.
How do supporters use your website? Put yourself in their shoes as you develop your site. Consider how users will read, interpret, and act upon your content. Some elements you might revise include:
- Mobile-friendliness: According to Double the Donation, “half of all website traffic last year came from mobile and tablet users.” Develop a mobile version of your website for users to access from their phones and tablets. If your site already has a mobile version, ensure that everything loads correctly and doesn’t take too much time.
- Image alternative text: Alt text is text that displays in place of an image in case it can’t load. It can also be read aloud to visually impaired users and used by search engines to understand your page’s content. Add alt text to each image on your website to make it as thoroughly accessible as possible.
- Descriptive links: Make your website’s links descriptive so users will know exactly where their clicks will take them. They should be easy to understand, even if the user just reads the link text and ignores everything else.
- Color contrast: Choose a text color for your website’s body text that contrasts with the page’s background color. This will make your text easier to read.
As a hub for all information about your nonprofit, it’s important to improve your nonprofit’s website accessibility. Not only should you revise content to adhere to accessibility guidelines, but your website should also maintain general usability that makes site interaction easy for its users.
Custom-build vs. website templates
Making these changes to your website can be high-stakes in terms of supporter involvement and engagement. According to Kanopi Studios, an optimized website that displays compelling graphics and tells your nonprofit’s story can empower your donors, so you’ll need to effectively share your organization-specific content in a well-designed site.
There are two main methods to approaching a website rebuild:
- Website templates: Templates essentially create a website for you, allowing you to fill in your nonprofit’s information where necessary while leaving the design features, such as page layout and buttons, to the software. They’re offered through a content management system (CMS), and your nonprofit might already have access to them through its existing platform.
- Custom-build: This means you’ll completely build the website from scratch. It offers greater flexibility since you (or your nonprofit’s website developer) can code the site to match whatever aesthetic or theme you’d like.
Website templates can guide website styling and offer user-friendly features to match your design preferences. But ultimately, the flexibility of a custom-built website allows you to create a unique site that truly stands out. Custom-build options allow you to craft a website that meets your audience’s specific needs and helps reach your digital engagement goals.
You might also lean on the expertise of a nonprofit tech consultant for your nonprofit’s website redesign. Establish a clear goal for your project first and choose a consultant who specializes in web design on your site’s platform.
Website rebuilds are big projects, but when done correctly, they don’t have to happen repeatedly. Complete an audit of your organization’s website and record the information to regularly track necessary updates to your site.
For example, if you have a Drupal website, it’s important to keep track of the latest updates and security releases by following planning and development best practices. By keeping up with potential areas to update, you’ll have all the information you need to regularly maintain your website. After all, little changes are usually easier than a complete rebuild!