Every month in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Cause Communications Community meets to talk shop, share knowledge, and enjoy the company of other nonprofit communications professionals (and those who support them professionally). 

April's topic was "Website Redesign Dos and Absolute Don'ts." We heard from the Greenbelt Alliance, a nonprofit advocating for conscious urban growth in the Bay Area. The organization just underwent a massive overhaul of its website, moving from an all-HTML site to a content management system. 

Here are the ten lessons learned that its communications manager Sara Barz shared with us.

  1. It takes 3x as long to do a redesign as you think.
  2. Get some goals, personas, and a primary target audience.
  3. Delegate a project manager make sure that person chooses a good project management system; for example: Asana: http://asana.com/
  4. Use a CMS! (There are resources to help you find the right one for your org, for example:http://idealware.org/reports/2010-os-cms)
  5. Get your wireframes done quickly (tools to help: http://www.balsamiq.com/
  6. Design is different than Content which is different than Technology (See BigDuck:http://www.bigducknyc.com/blog/is_it_time_to_rethink_your_website)
  7. Plan to move content as a phase of the redesign (it will take 3x as long as you think)
  8. Plan for testing and focus groups
  9. Plan to train your staff and/or create training materials (You have a CMS! Don't be the only one to use it)
  10. Dedicate resources -- websites need investment of $$ and staff time to succeed. 

We also touched on the importance of shaping the RFP and ongoing contracts to have the best relationship possible with developers and designers. (To that end, I shared these TechSoup resources about contractor RFPs and contract management.)

Is your organization considering a website redesign? Have you gone through one? What do you think of these tips?