Sometimes even the most established business owners struggle deciding what content and functionality should appear on their website. If you’re an entrepreneur or veteran business owner, this is important information for the digital side of your business. if you’re trying to move product, you probably want to sell it on your website. If you’re trying to move ideas you probably want a blog, perhaps with a newspaper or magazine layout. And if you’re a photographer, you probably want an image-heavy website with an attractive layout to sell your products or services…or maybe both.
But what else does your website need? As you know, there is much more to getting a website than just setting it up to sell widgets or motivate ways of thinking. Do you know what functions and programs your website really needs?
The first step in knowing what to include in your website is changing your mindset a bit so that you can think of this project similar to the way you might go about hiring a new employee. Lets start at the ground level. When looking to hire someone, you first need to write a job description. A job description includes a summary objective of the job, who the individual hired reports to, qualifications and special demands of the position, and, finally, job duties and responsibilities. Let’s think of your website in the same manner and make your website, literally, work for you as a member of your staff.
- Summary Objective: Your website works for you. It accomplishes various tasks and goals like an employee, but what is it’s overall purpose? Your objective may be sales, it might be ongoing outbound communications (blogging/articles), inbound communications, or even a showcase/gallery if your purpose is highly visual. Before you can begin the process of having a website built for your business, you need to know and be able to articulate what your primary objective is.
- Website Maintenance & Upkeep: In the hierarchy of a business, employees know that when there is a problem or issue, or even just a request for time off, that there is someone specific that they need to connect with. There’s a chain of command and everyone reports to someone. Who does your website report to? Who is responsible for making sure it is doing its job as it was set up to do? A website is a composition of several pieces of software combined into one smooth-running package. Like any app on your phone or computer, website software needs to be updated so that it remains reliable. The person responsible for this task may also be responsible for updating your images, posting new blog content, or adding items to your online store. It’s imperative to know who this person is, whether it’s you or someone you need to hire or ask the web designer to continue to do. The answer to this may actually determine what kind of website platform you choose.
- Qualifications or special requirements: Have you ever been hired for a position and read in the job description about the requirement to be able to lift 30 pounds? We’ve all seen it, and it hasn’t always been applicable, but even a website has its limitations if the special requirements aren’t planned for in advance. For instance, if your website requires the ability to host its own video content you need to be confident that your website structure accommodates video and that you have enough hosting bandwidth to handle all of the views. If your website requires that you receive uploaded documents from your clients, you need to be sure you have the correct plugins and uploading capacity.
- Job duties & responsibilities: This is the section that truly gets to the heart of the issue. It’s what everyone looks at before they decide if they’re going to apply for the job. This is the part that truly describes the day to day work of the new employee. So now you need to think of your website is your employee..how do you want to describe its day to day tasks? How is it suppose to help your business develop and grow? In general, your website should be a means of contact for your current and potential customers. It should describe your business products and services and explain why your company can meet their needs. It can be a location for people to make purchases, or it can direct them to a brick and mortar store front where purchases can be made. The website can help you set up appointments with current and potential customers or it can provide a phone number where people can call to do that directly. What you want your website to DO for you is ultimately the question.
Basically, you want your website to DO things to make your world a bit more manageable. Of course, you want it to BE something too. You want it to BE attractive, modern, and memorable. What you want it to BE relevant to what you want it to DO. And when beginning the process of building a website, you should know that what you want it to DO is directly related to any of the software needed to make it function properly. Though I’m not really elevating function over form, essentially if the website does not work the way it needs to, its aesthetics will mean a lot less to those who are visiting your site, they are the people you need it to function very smoothly for.
When you begin the project of building your website, you need to draw from your business plan and marketing plan, making sure you’re working according to the strategy you have already put into place. And then as you think about where to begin, start by writing a job description. Fill in those categories of Work Objectives, Who will maintain the website, any known special requirements of the website, and overall responsibilities of the site as it relates to your business. Once you know what it should do for you, you can move into the next phase of designing your site.
Nonprofit organizations are businesses, not unlike where you buy your groceries, get your hair done, or buy your kids school supplies. But what makes your nonprofit corporation different from those is that you prioritize revenue in terms of fulfilling your mission whereas the for-profit business prioritizes revenue for the sake of the revenue itself.
How your nonprofit is EXACTLY like a business is that you need to utilize many of the same tools for successful start up and growth. You need a business plan, a marketing plan, a budget, and staff or volunteers….all for the purpose of executing and accomplishing your mission and goals. Because nonprofits are often providing for a cause or a service and not a tangible, out-the-door consumable, generating revenue can be a challenge. So I want to share a few ways to overcome challenges to growth at any stage in the life of the non-profit.
Donor Development. Because donors are the lifeblood of your organization, you need to be meeting with them as often as possible, thanking them for past support and updating them on your organization’s status. While you can’t have lunch with everyone who has written a check, you can be sure to connect with those who are top level donors. Share with them the stories about the people you serve who are at the heart of your organization’s mission and get them excited about their involvement in those successes. Let them know their dollars were well spent, thank them for their commitment and partnership and continually inform them about the great things that are happening. But no matter what, make sure you are thanking every single donor who supports your organization in some way, shape or form.
Marketing Strategy. Make sure your marketing materials are current and that you have a robust communications strategy that: 1) keeps your donors informed 2) provides opportunity for new donor acquisition 3) interfaces with the media and 4) continually communicates your mission and shares your stories. Email marketing still plays a significant role for nonprofit organizations as it provides a means to stay in front of your supporters without anything more than their consent to receive emails. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp, Constant Contact and AWeber are examples of affordable options for every size organization and provide templates for the less experienced email designer as well as professional services for getting the custom design you want.
Your website needs to be designed in a responsive format. This means that when its viewed on smaller devices like phones and tablets, it adjusts to its environment instead of becoming impossibly microscopic. The reason this is important is because so many more internet users are looking at websites on their mobile devices and not always their desktops. Don’t make the mistake of losing supporters and followers because your website is difficult to view on these smaller devices. Yes, this will mean a website redesign is in order, but it will be an investment worth making. Don’t cut corners on your internet presence, that’s often how the people in your community first come to know you.
Valued Volunteer Resources. Create a culture where your staff and volunteers can’t help but to share your mission with the people in their world. They love what your organization stands for, that’s why they are involved. Create incentives like volunteer appreciation events and monthly recognitions so that they get more than lip-service for their time – they need to actually feel appreciated and valued. When its clear that an organization values all of its resources and prioritizes its “human” resources, this can inspire others to get involved as well.
Leadership. The face of your organization, whether an Executive Director, board president, operations manager, or marketing/PR director, needs to be someone who reflects the values of the organization, is able to provide clear and concise information about its mission, goals and needs, and is capable of inspiring others to participate, support or just simply share about the organization to other people in other spheres of influence. This person is the ambassador for your cause, so if they struggle to lead the organization internally or externally, they may not be the right person for the position. Don’t underestimate the need for someone who can speak to a crowd of 20 or 200 who also has the disposition to connect with volunteers.
Co-Branding & Collaboration. Find ways to collaborate with other groups and organizations in your community. Doing so doesn’t mean sacrificing current or potential donor dollars to other nonprofits. You want to be seen as a member of an interactive community, not like you’re living on a nonprofit island and no other mission matters. An aspect of reputation management for any business or organization is a willingness to be altruistically involved in a community. If you are involved in an art museum, you could plan to collaborate with local children’s organizations to do workshops. If you represent a cat rescue you might find ways to work with local medical facilities to fulfill animal-assisted therapy needs. In the world of marketing, this is called “co-branding,” a strategic marketing partnership between two separate organizations who collaborate to generate interest from their respective customers. The success of one brand provides for the success of the partner brand.
Growing your nonprofit organization requires a great deal of attention to donor development, volunteer management & support, community engagement, strong leadership, and marketing. Every nonprofit who wants to fulfill their mission and achieve their goals needs to work hard in these 5 areas. I hope the ideas I’ve shared help you to continue to grow and move your organization forward to the next level.
Web design businesses will often work to sell you on the “custom” website because your business will better stand out among your competitors. “Custom is better” they say, because it will be a design exclusive to you. Sounds reasonable but will always come with a massive price tag. (more…)
Hero images have become quite popular in the world of web design. We are an image-driven culture and connect with our customers through the use of the visual. But the use of these large-scale images on websites has taken away from the necessary focus on the written content. Once you’ve gotten their attention with images, visitors will probably continue to read, but sometimes your visitors are just looking for information, and some bells and whistles become more of a distraction than an appeal.
The appeal of content “above the fold” in the newspaper industry is that readers would likely see whatever is placed in that area of the paper first, before they visit any other page in the paper, or even before they look at what is “below the fold.” The same concept applies to web design. If on every page of your website, the content that is seen “above the fold” is stock photography or content that simply does not meet the visitor’s need for information gathering, something needs to change.
While imagery definitely speaks to the masses, the masses also want to easily find the information they were seeking when they came to your website in the first place. They don’t want to scroll into infinity looking for your menu or click out of all kinds of pop-ups just to see what time you open. When you plan the appearance of your website, keep in mind that ultimately you’re trying to make a sale or find agreement over a cause. Whatever your business or organization’s mission, don/t let the great visual design elements of web design hinder your visitor’s pursuit for the information they are seeking.