RED is committed to helping non-profit organizations reach the world through their presence on the web. To that end, we are posting this series of articles aimed at demystifying website creation for non-profits. If you have any questions as you read along, please write a comment, or get in touch with us directly.
Website design for non-profits
In the previous post, we discussed how to build an effective content strategy based on your organization’s goals. Having the content in place before designing your website will ensure that you end up with a design that fits your message and effectively speaks to your target audience.
Whether you’re planning to build the site in-house or hire a designer, it’s important to ask the following questions when evaluating a potential design for your website:
Does the design fit your content?
A sample design featuring a full-width image at the top of the homepage may look very appealing. However, if you don’t have a compelling, high-resolution image that conveys the essence of your organization’s mission, that design may not be right for you. Make sure that your website’s design can accommodate the amount and type of content that you intend to present.
Does the design appeal to your target audience?
Keep in mind that your organization’s website is designed around specific goals and is intended for a specific audience. So, while your favorite colors may be puce and chartreuse, you may want to keep that to yourself and instead think about what will appeal to the people you’re trying to reach.
Does the design get your message across and convey your organization’s values?
One way to evaluate whether your home page design is effective is to use the “five-second rule.” Ask someone to look at your home page for five seconds, and then ask that person to describe what your organization is and what it does. Their response will help you to determine whether your site is simple, clean, and easy to use.
Will your target audience find the information they need quickly and efficiently?
Once your content and design are in place, a helpful tool for evaluating your website’s effectiveness is to imagine how various types of individuals will interact with your site. You can think of each individual as the composite of a specific target audience. For example, you might imagine “Bob” as a potential volunteer who is visiting your website to learn how to get involved helping your organization. And “Alice” is a potential donor who is visiting your site to decide if your cause is worthy of her donation. Is it easy for Bob and Alice to navigate your site and find the information and/or perform their intended actions?
Does the design work well for mobile devices?
Many of your site’s visitors will only ever experience your site via a mobile device. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to ensure that your organization’s website looks and performs well on mobile devices. (Web designers and developers may refer to this as “responsive design.”)
Is the design effective on pages other than the homepage?
Although the homepage is an important component of your website, a significant portion of your visitors may never see it if they are referred to a specific page or post from an external source, such as a link on social media. For that reason, it’s important to make sure that the other pages of your website are just as compelling as the homepage.
Will your design stand the test of time?
How long do you want your website design to represent your organization? Some design ideas may be trendy now, but may not wear well over the years. If you can afford a redesign every three years, then go for that trendy look. If, on the other hand, you don’t anticipate a website redesign very often, go for classic, timeless designs instead.
Coming up next:
Part IV: Building and hosting your non-profit’s site
Part V: WordPress plugins for non-profits
Part VI: Security, SEO, and Accessibility
Part VII: Leveraging social media to expand your influence
Do you have any questions we didn’t address in this series? Tips and tricks to share with other non-profit organizations like yours? Get in touch with us, or comment below!