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Is Your New Nonprofit Website Stalled in the Design Stage?

Has your nonprofit been struggling to set up a new website? Or perhaps your parent organization has decided that each chapter should have its own site, but nothing’s happening. You’re getting tired of explaining to members that their website is “coming soon” – but your web committee’s stranded on the shoals of indecision.

There are just so many choices to make!

“Let’s admit that creation of a website is not as easy as it seems,” writes Obaidul Haque. But a “great idea” isn’t necessary for a great website. The 5 Biggest Challenges You Need to Face in Website Creation, he points out, are also the most important features for your website visitors:

  • Accessibility
  • Compatibility
  • Navigability
  • Readability
  • Usability

Aesthetics are largely a matter of taste, but it’s here – in those 5 features that most directly impact how easy and pleasant your visitors will find it to use your website – where the difference between a professionally designed website and a do-it-yourself job will often show up.

And that's often the cause of a stall in the early stages of creating a nonprofit website. Small member-based nonprofits don’t often have the budget to hire a good web designer. And it's equally likely that you may not have among your membership anyone with the expertise to wrangle all those design variables with confidence. Yet, everyone care passionately about getting it right. The result?  Ideas fly back and forth in email are are hotly debated in committee, with lots of scribbling on the whiteboard... but not much concrete action.

The design possibilities are infinite... but the probability of conscensus is somewhat more remote!

"Under Construction"

Is your website still just a motion in the board Minutes?  Or perhaps you’ve registered a domain name, but it’s been pointing to an “under construction” placeholder page for weeks on end.  What can you do to move ahead and get your nonprofit’s website launched?

One solution for the small nonprofit may be to extend your reach beyond your own community of members, to find a volunteer online with the expertise to help you create the website you need. A small membership base need not hold you back, with the resources of the Internet at your disposal.

Another option is to start with a professionally designed nonprofit website template you can easily customize to meet your needs. Parent organizations and chapters might consider a “suite” of templates with similar designs but different color variations, to distinguish the individual chapter websites while maintaining a consistent brand.

Nonprofit and association website templates from Wild ApricotAnyone who’s worked on a committee will know how hard it can be to get consensus on a decision where personal taste comes into play, as with the design of your new website.

Fortunately, people find it much easier to react than to act. Choosing a theme from a shortlist will be a much easier task for your committee members than having to come up with their own ideas for a website design!

If you do decide to seek out a designer to create your nonprofit’s website, it will expedite the process if your committee can sit down ahead of time and work out a list of must-have items.  For example,

  • Do you want a blog module?
  • A contact form?
  • An events calendar?

Look around at other nonprofit websites to see what works and what doesn’t for other organizations, and talk about how those elements might work for your own organization.

You’ll also want to make a list for the designer of any content elements and design considerations that are set in stone, such as your organization’s official name, your logo, any associated colors and typefaces, and so on.

Ask your designer to come back to your committee with a limited number of designs from which to choose – three options should be enough, in most cases. If you’ve done your prep work and communicated clearly with the designer about your organization’s hopes, aims, and goals for the website, and how you’d like visitors and members to be able to use it, one of those early drafts is bound to come pretty close to something all can agree on with a minimum of revisions.

And remember – a website is always a work in progress. That’s the nature of the ever-evolving Web. The most important thing, for launching your nonprofit’s new website, is to find a way to get moving forward – to get your website off the drawing board and into the search engines, so people can start to find and support your group online!

Learn more:

What Makes a Good Non-Profit Website? [Wild Apricot Blog]

Non Profit Website Design: Examples and Best Practices [Smashing Magazine]

Building a Nonprofit Website on a Shoestring [(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0]

Crowdsourcing Your Nonprofit Website [NTEN.org]

Web 2.0 Websites on a Small Budget [Wild Apricot Blog]

Building a Nonprofit Website on a Shoe-string Budget [Care2/Frogloop]

The three incredibly important laws of a good website [Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog]

10 Things Never to Leave Out of a Web Design Brief [Boag World]

What other resources do you recommend for nonprofits in the process of revamping their existing website, or setting up a new one?

 

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