If your nonprofit is about to go through a website redesign, this is a major opportunity to completely overhaul your website and the internal processes that can easily ruin your site. Jared Seltzer, co founder of Rad Campaign and I had the opportunity to talk about these issues at 501TechNYC last month.
While there are many ways you can ruin your website that will prevent you from effectively telling your organization’s story, inspiring action, and cultivating donors, here are a couple of web design pitfalls that I want to focus on today. Avoid them at all costs.
Not Showing Restraint
The fastest way to ruin a website redesign is to NOT show restraint while going through the planning and redesign process. I know how exciting it can be to plan a new website. Every stakeholder in the organization has lots of ideas and opinions to share about what the site should look like, what should be featured, the site architecture, etc. Collect those ideas and work with an experienced website vendor or your trusted in-house website team to prioritize them based on the established goals, objectives, and target audiences.
When we go through a website redesign process with nonprofits at Rad Campaign, we also develop a discovery brief. This is a high-level document that clearly outlines the important elements of the website – including objectives, target audiences, like I mentioned above, and how you want these audiences to perceive the organization. I’m also a big fan of vision statements. This is a 3-4 sentence statement for internal stakeholders that describe your organizations inspiration and vision for the new website. I find that these two documents set the stage for the rest of the process and help control scope creep. Since they highlight the primary goals and overall vision of the website, they are a great way to remind everyone to focus and show restraint, which people can often forget several months down the road as they are deep into the weeds of the website build.
Not Doing a Content Audit and Re-Writing Content
If you don’t do a content audit you will waste every penny you invested into your new website. Why? Because the content issues you had on your old site, will follow you on the new site. You can’t mask a bad content strategy with a pretty design. Your audience will see right through it.
Content needs to be carefully curated and presented in a way that people can easily find the information they are looking for. Too often organization’s homepages (and interior pages) look like everyone in the organization had a say on what should go on the homepage and it ends up looking like the kitchen sink.
When doing a content audit and preparing content for the new website, focus on keeping it simple and streamlining the content. A recent Harvard study found that the more complex a website is, the less appealing the website is to visitors. Here’s an example of a political news site that has shown no restraint with their curated content. They have posted at least 53 articles on different topics on just 1/3 of the homepage. This is the exact opposite of keeping it simple.
Remember your website is not your organization’s personal filing cabinet. The website is not being built to serve your staff’s filing needs so that they can find that resource that they wrote last year. The website is there to serve your audiences needs and the content they need from you. Your target audiences are a different demographic then your internal staff.
Carve out the time to do the content audit and re-write your content based on the goals, objectives, and audiences of your website. You will thank me later.