Planning a Redesign – 5 Points
  1. Do you need a full redesign or just an update
  2. Balance your goals against audience goals
  3. Choose a design
  4. Improve usability and accessibility
  5. Use technology that fits
1. Do you need a full redesign?
Step one, assess if your current site is a good foundation and what the best use of your org’s resources is. If a complete redesign is not necessary or not in the budget, you can do “quick hits” or “sizeable updates”. Quick hits could include rewriting pages, making small changes to layout, adding disability access, or optimizing SEO (search engine optimization). If you are looking for more, you could do sizeable updates, including redesigning navigation, changing color scheme or fonts, or adding new functionality (e.g. member login, event registration capability, or customer relationship management software integration). Doing a navigation redesign with a graphic redesign might be more in the realm of a complete redesign.
2. Balancing Goals
What do visitors want, and what do you want? Vistors may want contact information or services, and you want people to self-serve on the site or make donations. Some other common organizational goals include making the site easy to find, friendly across devices, and discoverable by search engines. When assessing audience wants, keep in mind that your staff is (generally) not your target audience. Seek direct feedback from your audience, and/or use Google analytics to see what people are doing on your current site. Direct feedback can come in several forms.
From my own experience, I work with a performing arts nonprofit that does an audience survey of its shows. Questions about the the usefulness of our online resources could be incorporated into this survey. Brooke Thomson of Annex Teen Clinic discussed how she got input. When the teens or other audience members were already scheduled for activities with the Clinic, she would use part of that time to run a website feedback session. In conjunction with talking to your site's visitors, analytics can tell you where your site is succeeding or failing. They can tell you which online campaigns are bringing in visitors, what people are clicking on most, and which pages are the best and worst performers (how many people are arriving or exiting on a particular page).
3. & 4. Design Choices and Usability
Have a simple, mobile friendly design that conveys your brand. A key principle is to not try to show the audience everything at once. Instead, consider what you want people to see first, and then what you want to guide them towards. Consider how user flow will encourage donations or event attendance. The following are five starting points for your redesign.
  • Photos are important. And you can find them for free! A few sources are Unsplash, Creative Commons, and Getty Images.
  • Decide navigation. Do you want a lot of categories visible up front, or is deeper navigation more suitable to your goals and audience.
  • Maximize usability. Use analytics to determine how people are using your site and what their demographics are (where are referrals coming from).
  • Plan for mobile. You can tell how many people are viewing your site on mobile via analytics.
  • Make it disability accessible. Use descriptive links or high contrast text for the visually impaired. Consider the colorblind or people who have trouble using their hands. You can also make it more useable for the deaf or non-English speakers.
5. Technology that fits
Which technologies will help you with site maintenance and data management? Get the right content management system (CMS) platform for your needs. A CMS is software that a non-technical person can use to manage your site. A few CMS options for nonprofits are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, with WordPress being the most popular choice. If you maintain constituent data, find a system that can integrate with your current constituent database out of the box.
Another data consideration are the stash of pages, pictures and text from your old site. If there is a lot of old content and it needs to be moved manually (it can't be done automatically), you will need to budget time and money for this migration. You might have to schedule your staff to do these moves - per Brooke Thomson, pizza and donuts can provide effective motivation. Also, be ready to make choices on leaving less relevant information behind – be cognizant, however, that some of those old pages may have been bringing in a lot of traffic.
If you found this post useful, check out Part two with more guidance on redesign.