8 mistakes to avoid during website development for your non-profit organisation
When organisations come to Osky, they often have many questions that need to be answered.
- How long will the project take?
- How much will my project cost?
- What platform is most suitable for my organisation’s needs?
- How will our website be maintained?
- What do I need to know to run this project successfully?
Realistically, all of these questions need to be addressed to the fullest extent. It’s very easy to slip up when developing the scope for your website or application. Many organisations make costly mistakes, and if left unasked, may result in major headaches.
Here are my eight most typical blunders that organisations experience:
1. The Wrong Platform
There are essentially three kinds of platforms or Content Management Systems (CMS) you can choose to drive your website. Picking the right platform is crucial, and a decision can only be made once you’ve carefully considered the benefits and disadvantages of each one with respect to your organisation’s needs.
A proprietary (or off-the-shelf) platform may initially cost less to set up, and may even be a good solution if the scope of the project is fixed. However, it works best when you are confident that the platform will meet your organisation’s needs – without the intention of scaling the website in near future. Many proprietary solutions are the industry gold standard and virtually irreplaceable (think, Adobe Photoshop). These platforms do have drawbacks however, in that you won’t own the source code and it may not be future-proof if you need the solution to grow with your organisation. Instead, I would prefer to see organisations invest money in improving and innovating its customised digital offerings instead of paying for license fees.
An open source CMS can easily be modified and is highly portable. I generally recommend WordPress or Drupal for its scalability and cost effectiveness. Both these platforms make up 64.5% of the world’s CMS website market share, boasting a wide community support and add-on modules that are supported by the community. There is already a good chance that a module you require is available in the marketplace, which can save you needing to build one yourself. Consult with your partner agency to see which of these popular platforms may suit your business requirements most. I tend to recommend this solution to many clients because it is user-friendly and has widespread support.
A custom build gives you complete control over the platform’s functionality and interface, but you’ll need highly-skilled developers to deliver. If you require a custom solution from the ground up, I recommend modern open source frameworks such as Laravel and Symfony. Personally, my team leans towards these frameworks because it’s part of the PHP ecosystem we’re familiar with. But there many great frameworks out there like Ruby on Rails, Node, Django etc. However, support for these technologies may be more scarce compared to the more popular LAMP stack. These solutions can be more expensive, given the extra resources and skills required for design and development but if executed well, the outcome would be tailored to your business with a huge potential for flexibility and customisation.
2. Inadequate or Excess Budget
The Old Adage “You Get What You Pay For” is particularly true when it comes to web development. Web development and design is labour intensive and you want your investment to be in the hands of qualified and highly skilled web professionals. There are many skill-intensive areas to consider when building a website which you may not even realise. Such areas of considerations include:
- Wireframes and Mockups
- Information Architecture
- Quality Assurance
- Security and Maintenance
- Content Writing
- Marketing & SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- Social Media Marketing and
The reality is that the less budget you have to work with, the less time an agency can afford to spend time on your website. Work with an agency who genuinely wants to help your organisation achieve its goals by giving you an honest recommendation on budget and not necessarily the cheapest quote.
3. Underestimated Content Preparation
A website without useful or meaningful content is practically ineffective. Great content is still extremely important in providing a great website for your visitors and readers.
Getting your content to engage and resonate with your audience can be achieved with content mapping. Content mapping is a user journey tool that is used for your potential visitors to help them see the right content at the right time. This content map helps nurture your visitors to see the relevant information according to the behavioural stage they are at. Content mapping leads your visitors to a destination and falls into 3 broad categories:
- Awareness – Your visitor realises what the potential problem, opportunity or cause might be. Your visitor may be just visiting your website for the first time and looking for information regarding your organisation and their own problems. What content ideas can be created to help them become informed?
- Informative content
- Explanatory content
- Catchy content
- Content that engages curiosity
- Consideration – They understand the problem / opportunity and identify the key problems with it. Your visitor is reviewing and evaluating options. What content ideas can help with the consideration?
- Evaluative content
- Comparative content
- Decision – Your visitor has a definite solution or approach in how to handle the issue. What content and structure can make is easy for the visitor to follow through with the decision?
- Promotional content
- Sales related content
Organisations that underestimate and cannot prepare great content, face major challenges in timeframes and delivery of their project. Involve your partner agency and ask for advice when preparing content for your website. If they are unable to help, often, they can at least point you in the right direction.
Don’t wait until after your site’s been launched; start planning and content mapping as soon as you can.
4. Unrealistic Website Goals
Setting unrealistic goals is a major hurdle with ensuring your website becomes a success. S.M.A.R.T website goals are extremely important to ensure that you are on track for the right targets. It’s unlikely you can become the next Google or Facebook without having major resources to actually do so. Therefore, I recommend a few specific tips to help you set better goals.
- Specific – “I would like more people to visit my website.” or, “I would like 1500 members to register and donate to my cause.” The better goal is the specific one which can definitively be achieved.
- Measurable – Does your goal have quantifiable results? We recommend using Google Analytics to track your measurable goals such as page views, unique visitors, click-throughs and conversions. These measurements make it possible to optimise your website.
- Actionable – Can you make progress today which will help you achieve your goals? Does your website need a simpler way to help members receive registration and training? “How can I make that easier for them?”
- Realistic – Unrealistic goals can come in many forms, such as short timeframes combined with huge expectations, anticipating to rank 1st on Google instantly – “Why isn’t my website appearing right at the top?”, or expecting a lifetime of performance at no cost – “I had this website built in 2008, so why is my website not converting like before?”
- Timely – When it comes down to crunch time, the pressure is on to deliver. Keeping an open communication line with your partner agency is important to ensure you don’t receive any unwanted surprises. It’s important your project has deadlines and milestones to achieve.
You can also break your goals down to more manageable goals, subgoals, and into deliverables, while maintaining a clear direction.
- Annual Goals
- Monthly Goals
- Weekly Objectives
- Daily Tasks
These goals should build on one another to eventually result in the biggest goal coming to fruition.
Finally, you’ll want to track your goals on your website.
Once these goals are defined, ensure that your organisation’s website is tracked on the website using tools such as Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to provide measurable and usable metrics for ongoing testing and optimisation.
5. Neglected Functionality
While an appealing website design is essential to attracting visitors and looking credible, it is not something that merits all of your focus. If the navigation doesn’t work or is too complex, it doesn’t matter how aesthetically pleasing your site is, visitors won’t stay long.
Great functionality is imperative in providing a great web experience. An intuitive user experience can prove that the website and by extension, the organisation, is completely trustworthy. WCAG 2.0 standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) provide accessibility guidelines for all users, including those with disabilities such as blindness, low vision, deafness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, limited movement and many more. Designing a website with at least a WCAG 2.0 AA standard in mind is important to ensure that all users can navigate the website regardless of device choice – desktop, mobile or tablet.
At Osky, we employ AIDA principles in web design to ensure that you are receiving sales-oriented web pages. AIDA stands for:
- Attention – Ever heard of The Fold? When you have a headline and main banner, it’s important to ensure your information remains Above the Fold.
Anything above the fold is immediately visible when the page loads for your visitor. Your key message or headline needs to strike immediately (in preferably large bold text, beautiful animation, video or imagery).
- Interest – Generating interest in what you’re offering is important to ensure you are communicating your product or service. Generally speaking, this is done through demonstrating benefits and explaining why your visitor should follow your offer.
- Desire – After demonstrating the benefits to gain interest, building desire for your offering is paramount to your website. This is usually done through powerful imagery.
- Action – Call to Action is the final principle. It’s very simple, and usually presented as a request to contact, support or donate to the organisation. Others provide a subscription to newsletters to generate leads, or provide a downloadable a report in exchange for your email or tweet. You need to lead your visitors to take action.
The concept of AIDA has existed for centuries well before the creation of the internet, and in fact was first theorised in 1899 by an American marketing legend named Elias St. Elmo Lewis. To demonstrate, think about every time you see a radio ad, listen to a podcast, or watch a TV advertisement – do you remember being asked to call, subscribe, share or visit? Leave your visitors with a direction and action to take before they leave.
6. The Wrong Team
Getting a good dependable partner agency is imperative to developing a successful web project. But it’s always a two way street. Your organisation’s staff are the decision makers and influencers who will champion the project from your organisation.
The coordinating team you put into place must be comprised of capable individuals who can handle potential complications without your direct involvement. Forming an incomplete team is like having half a team in a football game. You can’t win without a great team composed of specialised individual roles.
Whichever agency you engage to develop your website should at least have the following team members (but not limited to):
- Project Manager
- Business Analyst
more significant websites / projects usually require additional specialist roles such as:
- UI Specialist
- UX Specialist
- Front-end & Back-end Developers
- Solution Architect
I recommend reviewing your partner company, and ensuring they have the right people to meet your project’s requirements. Each of these positions play a critical role to ensure a successful outcome.
7. Too Many Influencers
Your executives might have a personal vision for the website. This is fair, as they should have a say in what will essentially be the foundation of your online presence. However, if too many people are influencing the final design, what your development team comes up with may not be entirely cohesive.
At the end of the day, you are not designing the website for yourself but your users.
Design decisions should be made based on research and data gathered from analytics and user behaviour reports. Trust the web team you engage and take their professional advice.
Having said that, if your developers come to making design decisions without any UX process even the most basics of wireframing and prototyping, then you may find out your final product is ineffective for your organisation’s purpose.
8. Lack of Business Analysis
Business Analysts are trained professionals who are able to break down your business requirements into a technical specifications for your developers build you the solution to achieve your project goals. Not having a discovery or business analysis process is like building a house without a plan. You’re ultimately creating a website to achieve something, whatever that may be. Your website needs to be tailored towards your specific goal.
A business analyst can tell you precisely where your organisation stands and how far it has to go in respect to what you want to achieve. You can consequently use the analysis to better design your website in a way that it helps bridge the gap between where you are to where you want to be.
Your non-profit organisation deserves all the traffic and attention it can get. Avoid these common mistakes to maximise potential results.
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