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This week, TechSoup has a new article called Tips for Designing (or Redesigning) a Nonprofit Web Site (it's live!), that covers all the basic considerations needed in order to get a new or redesigned site up and running.
This article covers all the steps to include in your exploration process, discusses the stakeholders who need to be involved, the general timeline that most web development firms follow, and shares a variety of great resources for starting your redesign process.
What are your favorite tips to share for designing a new site? Do you have a process you follow to the tee if you've managed a web redesign before? Any advice to share with a novice?
Becky Wiegand is the Interactive Events Producer at TechSoup.org
@bajeckabean on Twitter
Top of Thread
I always start by getting some written objectives... what do you want to site to do? (for some reason, there are people that really resist this step. I've had to summarizing the objectives out of conversations, write them up, and send them in an "are these okay?" email)
I am anxious to read this new article Becky. We just went through the headaches of redesigning our org's website. I'd like to see if there are ways to improve on the methods that I used. There were many creative differences between the content people and the design person (myself).
Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NHHost Non-profit Tech Careers, Security ForumsCo-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum
I think it is important for organizations to realize that the vast majority of the steps depicted above are NOT technical. It is important to open up the decision making process for many of the items to everyone, not just the IT folks.
As I have said before, the hardest part about working with computers.... ain't the computers.
Tim ClaremontSystems AdministratorRochester, NY
I agree 100% Tim.
This article is very helpful as my agency will soon re-design our website. The steps will aid us in what direction is best.
Tim, you're exactly correct, from my experience at least!
The article is live and available here: Tips for Designing (or Redesigning) Your Nonprofit Web Site
I've gone through this process as the "accidental techie" at three small nonprofits before and have had site redesigns go both ways -- well planned up front and not-so-well-planned. The difference in the process, the frustrations, and the lack of deliverables were not only greater in the not-so-well-planned process, but they also cost our organization A LOT more money longer term.
I managed an external vendor process at a previous organization, and it really helped to get advice from other nonprofits who had gone through a site redesign. Sharing resources like RFPs and getting tips on contractors, CMSes, and goals was super helpful. In fact, these forums were a resource I called on frequently during that revamp (and that was long before I joined TechSoup's staff).
If we hadn't gotten that valuable feedback from people who work with nonprofits to redo sites every day, year round, we might've gone into the process with really unrealistic expectations that would have left us disorganized going into it and disappointed with the final product.
Anyway, check out the article if you haven't already. Good advice and steps to follow... :)
I also found NTEN's local 501-Tech Clubs to be really helpful for recruiting vendors and proposals (and there were great people both here and there who were willing to review and give feedback about feasability for my RFP before it went out widely). Asking questions about whether the deliverables we were seeking were realistic for our budget and timeline were really important in helping us temper our expectations and prioritize needs.
Seems like a pretty good article, and I am glad the topic of SEO was mentioned, but I didn't see anything about the possible problems from redesigning a site only to find that almost all of your existing traffic is suddenly lost.
Here is a link to an article I wrote on the subject, Leading your Web Designer To SEO.
Christian Nielsen's Blog
The first step is discussion. Some nonprofits provide well-written, carefully thought through project briefs, but many don't. The web developer needs to help them decide what's feasible, what's worthwhile, what's not necessary, and which technologies to use. The outcome might be a rewite of the original project brief into a document that outlines their needs in both plain English and techspeak, lists practical tasks and the costs of each, includes a timeline, and which forms the basis of a contract.
What do nonprofits not tend to realise? That email list management can be integrated into their website; they don't need to use Dreamweaver to edit their site; they need to provide quality logos and images; writing content for the web isn't easy; not all their content needs to go onto their own website - social networking is rarely understood; and that it's valuable and not difficult to gather a lot of information about the use of their website.
Use a project management tool. I use Basecamp, a simple online application, to enable the developer and the nonprofit to hold discussions, upload files (images, project brief, design examples etc), make to-do lists and set milestones. It can send email notifications to users so you can stop using email for project management and let Basecamp handle communications. The end result is an archive of all important information about the website development.
Dot the i's and cross the t's. Maybe these items should be on the to-do list: an open source CMS; Google Analytics to provide web stats; Google Webmaster Tools to check how well the site is indexed; an XML sitemap; a favicon; RSS feeds; code validation; a sprinkling of jquery; news archives; search facility; a feedback form; SEO and promotional activities.
I've used Basecamp with contractors before and found it to be very effective in helping keep and store files, notes, tasks, etc during the web revamping process. Good recommendation, jasonking. :)
Recently I've been building very simple intranets with the content management system. No matter how much the staff changes, they can never lose their notes. Plus, instead of training them on basecamp, we're training to use the CMS. When they switch to adding their real content, they've already had practice.
My non-profit was recently "offered" a free program to build/update our website. I think the "catch" is that once we signup, we are signed up for their monthly $40 fee. Has anyone else been contacted by CharityAdvantage.com and/or had success with this organization? We've found it difficult to maintain or update our current website and thought it might be nice to have someone set it up for us, but the cost is prohibitive long-term for this solution. Any suggestions welcome!
Thank you, Susan
I'm not personally familiar with CharityAdvantage.com, but I did a quick search of the forums and there were a handful of threads where they were mentioned. This one, in particular, may be of interest. http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/forums/p/18336/73375.aspx#73375
I've personally worked with a number of different content management systems, and for a nonexistent budget (which it sounds like may be the case for your needs), I've had really good luck using www.wordpress.org as the CMS and finding a free graphic designer or web developer on a local 501 Tech Club list who helped create a banner to use with one of the pre-existing templates. These "affinity groups" are local listservs of nonprofit tech pros and novices in order to share news, compare notes, job hunt, etc. Even if there's not one in your area, you can subscribe to one of the bigger groups (DC, NY, SF) and see if someone would be willing to volunteer some hours to virtually help you out from another city.
The only real cost to setting up a site is registering and paying for your domain name (that's in order to not have to include a "wordpress" in your URL).
WordPress is open-source, free, pretty easy-to-use, has loads of plugins to enhance your site, but it would require either people internally to set it up or for you to recruit some volunteers.
I'm pretty non-technical myself and created a quick website for my sister's little photo greetings side business using WordPress. It took a couple of hours to get the basic template set up and to upload her "banner" image, but for a no-cost solution, it works for her. She's totally non-technical and she's been updating and maintaining it herself for the past two years, since it was created!
We have a recent article comparing different open-source options, including WordPress, that our friends at Idealware penned. It might give you some useful advice if you choose to look at an open-source CMS option.
$480 a year for hosting is somewhat expensive these days, with a yearly cost of $120 being about average for a small or medium sized site.
But if that $40 includes a certain amount of updateds and changes each month, even 30 minutes worth, then the price could be quite attractive. When you consider that they have built you a site to start with (and the value of that could vary greatly) then it really could be a bargain.
But I would have a LOT of questions to be answered before I would be able to recommend something like that offer.
Under sec. 1 bullet pt. 5, you mention getting grants for redesign. I never have any luck searching for such grants. Can anyone direct me to a few websites? Thank you!
On a seperate note, this was a helpful article. In addition to this I suggest reading the studies/articles of Jakob Neilson at useit.com for usability.