Designing Sites for Nonprofits and Charity Business

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After many discussions with friends who are looking for advice with “web design for nonprofit organizations”  I’ve learned that developers and consultants tend to focus on exciting features and intuitive user flows (as well they should), but neglect to discuss one key element with their clients: what will happen after the site launches?

As a result, when talking with the my local vicar and the web design team about their new site ideas, I not only discussed the  valuable resources of using an easy content management system but also how there team can be self sufficient and can manage to update or maintain the site with ease.

One of the challenges in non profit and charities can be getting the teams time to keep their website from stagnating and unusable at a time. It is great however for younger members of the parish/community to make some of  the decisions on what will bring more youth to the parish. It obviously need to be balanced with the adults thoughts too to be a success.  I would highly recommend  for small to medium-sized nonprofits (and even some small businesses), a great website is defined not by groundbreaking bells and whistles, but by the basic features many web companies overlook. In other words, in our efforts to provide an excellent end-user experience, we ( the iT specilaist ) can’t neglect the site admin’s experience (client). The site admin being those volunteers that keep it running and their successor as time goes on.

Last August I combed through the numerous sites for the UK’s religious building sites, looking at  how the community/parishioners have brought and shared information about their place of worship. In todays world religion forms a big a part of peoples life, and the ability to show that there community is a friendly and welcoming place is key. Some get it right and some make you feel like you just walked in to an extremely local pub, with a fruit bowl on your head.  What we have found from speak to this business in this sector  is that they need to tell people what happens other than the obvious church services. They tend ask question like:

  • “What I’d really like is to be able to update the calendar easily.”
  • “We need to be able to put our fundraisers on the homepage.”
  • “I just wish I could put pictures from our event on the site.”
  • “I just wish I could putquick message in the event of cancellations or changes to events.”

From a website designer point of view these communities aren’t shooting for the moon.  Yet some sites still use static events details.

 

Website HCI ( Human Computer Interaction ) for Non Profit / Charity Sector

At Accede IT, we have a  sense for what has gone so wrong in the past ( if there is anything wrong)– and anything that maybe wasted – for all these nonprofits.  We have seen all too many web companies develop these site with themselves in mind, not the client. Having the absolute basics is a huge need for the Non profit project owner. So as a developer, you’re often so focused on some of the advanced features that you lose sight of the core value of usability and being able to update it and keep it current.

A small nonprofit rarely has the resources to put significant time into updating and managing their website; most are lucky if they can spend five hours a month on it. For these organizations it’s crucial not only that they have a great website, but that they are able to make simple updates – adding events, photos, press releases – without going down a rabbit hole of frustration. So if you are new to the non profit sector we have a few recommendation for designer and non profit businesses.

 

1.Ask the right question

We may be the web experts, but our expertise means little if we can’t put ourselves in our clients’ shoes. Creating a great site experience together starts with a client interview and ensure they get the basics before you blast them with the bells and whistle. Here, listening skills are king over design skills.

A client interview should focus on in-depth questions, to learn what the non-profit needs and how they plan to use their website. Every community is different, and even small budgets can be used creatively, to provide different sets of “basics. The simple things in life such as adding a event calendar, and making it easy to update, are key to the end user and such easy wins for you the developer.

2. Learn the capabilities of the team;

The specific skill sets of an organization define what makes a good site for them. A well-funded nonprofit may have an experienced community members devoted to digital, but most will not—and the site should be designed with the nonprofit’s community in mind.

If the organization is so small that it relies heavily on the leader or a handful of volunteers, the site design must focus on simplicity. No one wants to waste time developing a custom menu that isn’t going to be used six months from now. While it seems basic to those of us who’ve spent years looking at the back end of a website, there’s a huge learning curve for most people when it comes to even a basic Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Concrete5. Those unfamiliar with CMS management benefit from sites that automate tasks, such as resizing uploaded images to a standard size and pre-coded padding.

For a small parish, a basic WordPress site would be far more manageable in-house, there are so many youngest that have their own blog and will be more than familiar with these web solutions.

3. Plan for Growth

The web is not stagnant (or at least shouldn’t be), and neither are the wants and needs of a growing organization.using a church as an example they needs will change and grow and may fluctuate over time. Accede IT designers and associate developers must account for long-term plans, if they’re going to have a satisfied client with a truly positive web admin experience. In this business, nothing is permanent. An organization even like a church should not have the same site five years from now that they have today.  Elected church members change, new people join and leave the parish and thus new ideas and way to achieve there goals change. When they need a new site in three, four, or five years, they’ll may come back to the same designer who understood them, and set them up for growth. They are less likely to do that  if the designer simply created a site, handed it off, and cut ties.

Although none of us are psychic, we can plan ahead a certain amount and prepare for likely web changes over time. And the best way we can help our clients plan ahead is to prepare their site, CMS, and accompanying training for the elements they don’t know they might need.  There is no magic solution to solve all the problems non-profits  sector have managing their websites. But as a supportive designers and developers can do our piece by focusing on approach over technology.

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