What charities need to think about before commissioning a new website

What charities need to think about before commissioning a new website

Commissioning a new website is an exciting time for charities (especially if you've been stuck with an outdated one for some time!) but you'll want to make sure you get the most for your money. In order to do this there are lots of key things you'll need to think about before you even get in touch with a web design agency. Why? Because thinking about these things beforehand will ensure the process is much quicker and efficient.

Taking this time will mean you have a really good understanding of what you want from your site and most importantly what your objectives are. For example, are you building a new site because you want to encourage people to donate online or do you need to recruit more volunteers? By getting a handle on these things early on you'll be able to clearly explain this to the people building your new site and in turn get a website that does exactly what you want and need.

In this post we'll look at the most important things you need to consider.

1. What are your key objectives for the website?

This is a crucial part of a website build as it will affect everything from the design to the copy. Really think about what it is you want your website to do; think about the primary services your website will provide, and also secondary ones. This will help you establish what your objectives are.

2. What are your priorities?

Websites often have to do numerous tasks but putting too much information in one place can overwhelm your audience and make your message unclear. Prioritising what you want your website to do can make sure this doesn't happen.

Start by thinking about what the overriding business objectives are for your charity and how this translates to the website. For example if your charity provides volunteer mentors then the main focus of your website will be on recruiting volunteers rather than getting donations. Yet you may also wish to have a section on your website for fundraising and online donations but this won't be the priority. Or does your website need to support mobile because the majority of your traffic comes from smartphone users? If this is the case then this is an important piece of information for the basic build of the site.

3. Set 'measurable' goals

Think about what you expect your website to accomplish specifically e.g. do you want to increase subscriptions or reduce the number of enquiries received by phone? Looking at these specific goals can have a significant impact on your charity. For example, if visitors are struggling to find information that is buried away in your website they might choose to phone your enquiry line which can put pressure on resources. Make sure you look at specific metrics; take a baseline such as current calls per week and set yourself a target e.g. in six months we want to reduce calls by 30%. Setting measurable goals will give you a clear sense of ROI.

4. Who is your website aimed at?

You'll probably already have a good understanding of your target audience but it's important to communicate this with people involved in building the website. Your target audience will have a big impact on how your website is designed in terms of navigation and design. For example, if your audience is in parts of the world with unreliable internet connectivity, you should think about keeping use of large images to a minimum.

You'll also want to consider who your website is aimed at in terms of your objectives. For example are you hoping to attract people who will donate money or provide their time?

5. What is your budget?

Budget is always a sensitive subject and many charities feel nervous about sharing their budget with a web agency for fear they'll just say that's how much it will cost. The problem is, by not sharing your budget the web agency has no idea how much functionality they can offer and could end up offering you a less comprehensive website or something that is completely out of your league moneywise!

Think about when you buy a car. Without specifying your budget it's going to be hard for a car dealer to know what to suggest. A £700 car will be wildly different from a £10,000 car: Both cars would get you from A-B but offer you an experience that is worlds apart. If he knows you have a budget of £2000 then he can start suggesting cars which meet your needs, advising against features like air con which are not 'vital'. Making your budget available alongside what you need your site to do will allow a web company to provide you with an accurate quote and give you a good idea of what you can get for your money. This will in turn help you to prioritise what functionality you desperately need and what you could sacrifice if money is an issue.

6. What functionality/features do you need?

A web agency can of course help you decide what functionality or features you might need for your new site, but there might be some you already have or know you need. For example do you have an ecommerce store? Do you need to host a lot of video based content? Do you need a private login section for supporters?

Audit the functionality on your existing website. What features have been successful and which haven't? Can you identify why this is the case? This will help the design of the new website address these issues or capitalise on any successes.

7. Competition

Looking at charities that you are competing with or that work in the same space as you can be really beneficial to helping you establish what you want your website to be like. Have a look at a few examples and identify what they are doing well and what they are doing badly. You can then provide this information to your web agency which will help them grasp what you are trying to achieve and what you want to avoid!

8. Content management

Nearly all websites now require a content management system. Your charity will need to think about what specific features you require from a CMS. Look at your current CMS system, what works well currently? What causes you a giant headache? You'll also want to think about how many people will require access to the systems and whether you'll need different permission levels. This level of detail identified early on will help keep you on budget.

Summary

Giving time and thought to these highlighted areas can help make your website build a much smoother process. It will also allow you to approach a web agency fully prepared for all the questions they are likely to fire at you. This will also mean they can give you a much more accurate quote and put together a proposal for a website that should match your expectations and objectives.

To help you get the answers to all of these questions we've put together a project worksheet which you can download HERE

Can we help?

If you have a web project you'd like to discuss, then get in touch! We'd love to help.