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4 Things Large Nonprofits Miss When Redesigning their Website

Kurt Voelker

Vice President, Business Strategy and Growth, Forum One

Andrew Jurek

Marketing Demand Generation Specialist, Forum One

Your website, in many cases, is the entry point for the majority of your audiences. It serves as the digital face of your organization and is the main source of knowledge about the programs and issues you work on. It is perhaps the most important asset to further your mission and accomplish your organizational goals, so when it’s time to undertake a redesign, planning is of the utmost importance.

There are many things that we need to account for when planning a redesign. From improvements in user experience, to new trends in visual design and technical performance, there are a lot of factors that are fundamental or high on your priority list. As we consider what makes a website successful in 2020, here are four things we believe are absolutely essential for your next website redesign.

1. Think beyond “your website”

Your digital ecosystem — which encompases all of your digital properties, including your website(s), engagement channels, and technical support platforms — is the entry point through which your target audiences think and feel about your organization. This global ecosystem serves as the digital brand and voice of your organization, as well as the main source of knowledge about the programs and issues you work on, and the audience you are reaching. Planning and managing your entire digital ecosystem is critical to furthering your mission and accomplishing your organizational goals. For large complex nonprofits, you can’t be thinking about a “website redesign” as a standalone event, but instead one of a number of digital avenues for your organization to communicate and engage with audiences.

A digital ecosystem may include some or all of the following:

  • Public platforms, such as websites (both central and program/initiative specific), mobile applications, and social media handles
  • Email and content distribution platforms, such as email marketing, podcasting, webinar, and video platforms
  • Data management applications, such as data visualization tools, data storage, and data librairies
  • Knowledge management platforms, such as intranets and online communities
  • Internal management platforms, such as a CRM, issue tracking software, and task management tools.

How do these various elements connect and work together to vocalize your mission and brand? Do they have a unified visual voice and brand? Are the various tools speaking to one another to share data and inform your decision-making? As you work through your website redesign, keep these connections in mind as they are extremely important to how you are able to both communicate your messages and provide the right value to your audiences.

If your large nonprofit is considering a redesign of your primary website, be sure to include other aspects of your digital ecosystem in your planning. Different types of nonprofits will have different needs — e.g., associations are different businesses than research and policy institutes — so do what is more directly connected to your mission and goals.

2. Plan for a personalized experience

Today’s best digital experiences are not one-size-fits-all solutions; they are customized experiences for your key target audiences. Website personalization is the process by which individualized, relevant and targeted content is created to suit a user’s online experience. Whether the visitor is a known or unknown user, the experience is tailored to fit their profile dynamically through data analysis, behavior, user attributes, and characteristics to create a more meaningful experience.

Creating a personalization plan

Personalization is key to standing out in an increasingly-crowded digital media environment. According to a study by Everage and Researchscape International, personalization leads to a 55% increase in visitor engagement, a 55% improvement in customer experience, a 39% improvement in brand perception, and increased conversion rates by 51%. Those are pretty significant numbers, and by ignoring them you could be leaving serious support from potential donors and advocates on the table.

Here are some questions to answer when looking at forming a personalization plan:

  • Why are you personalizing? Lay out what you are trying to achieve, e.g., improve brand loyalty or increase donations.
  • Who are the audiences you are looking to target? Look at your data and use it to segment your audiences. You can look at things like past behavior, interests, demographics, and more.
  • What elements will you be personalizing and where will they occur? Decide what will change based on user segmentation and where this will occur on the website. For example, images and content displayed on the homepage will change based on past clicking and scrolling behavior.

3. Establish a new digital governance and implement change management

Creating, maintaining, and evolving an effective online digital presence for your organization can’t be done by your communications department alone. An effective digital strategy includes defining the people, processes, roles and responsibilities across the organization — from programs and development, to operations and research — that create a framework to make sure the entire organization is aligned on how to use digital communications effectively. This framework is known as digital governance.

During the process of your redesign, you will need to bring together representatives from different departments from across your organization to establish your digital governance, and then you will need a change management plan for rolling out and adopting these new ways of working.

Change management is quite simply a proactive approach to managing change in an organization’s processes, goals, or technologies. The purpose is not only to affect and control change but also to help staff and stakeholders adapt to these changes. One effective way is to take an agile approach to change management

Digital Operations

An example of how a Forum One nonprofit client is organizing its teams to effectively manage digital operations across the organization.

Your digital governance plan can help you address a number of needs for managing digital operations, including:

  • Establish clear senior management responsibilities for digital execution
  • Create formal processes and structures for evaluating digital opportunities and coordinating digital investments across the organization
  • Create processes to coordinate digital initiatives and priorities across the organization
  • Establish how centralized resources for digital production will be coordinated and used by all teams
  • Define what-in house digital production capabilities your organization will need to support its digital development

The importance of a change management plan

During your redesign, workflows and responsibilities are likely to shift which can potentially cause friction between teams or individual team members. Individuals and teams will interact in new ways and ownership can become sticking points. An effective change management plan (created in advance) alleviates these stress points to ensure a successful redesign by helping you manage changes both seen and unseen.

Steps to take when creating your change management plan:

  1. Demonstrate the reason for the change; don’t assume it is completely understood
  2. Determine the scope 
  3. Identify stakeholders and create a change management  team
  4. Clarify what benefits are expected from the change
  5. Clearly outline milestones and costs associated with the change
  6. Develop an effective change management communications plan

4. Plan for “life after launch”

Your website launch is just the beginning of your project, not the end. During the time after launch, you will need to optimize your website, continually update content, and check the health of the site regularly.

Here are five things to include in redesign planning specifically for post-launch:

  1. Creation of an editorial calendar
  2. The setting of analytics benchmarks and a plan for optimization based on performance
  3. Monitoring and optimization for keyword performance (Search Engine Optimization)
  4. Alignment of optimization plan with your organizational goals
  5. A plan to regularly update, patch, and maintain the health of your website 

In summary 

Your global digital ecosystem, personalization strategy, change management plan, and post-launch planning are all critical pieces to consider when planning for your next website redesign. Not taking these pieces into account does have real consequences, namely:

  • Not taking how your various digital properties work together can negatively affect your brand perception and data collection goals. 
  • A lack of personalization could result in lost opportunities from supporters. 
  • Not planning for a way to manage change can lead to issues resulting in your project becoming stuck or even derailed. 
  • Not effectively planning for post-launch updates and activities can lead to your website quickly becoming stagnant and clunky. 

So do make sure are keeping these key elements top of mind as you approach, execute and launch your next website. All four will go a long way to ensure its success and help you meet your digital goals.

Written By

Kurt Voelker

Vice President, Business Strategy and Growth, Forum One

Andrew Jurek

Marketing Demand Generation Specialist, Forum One

Planning to redesign your site? Let’s talk.

Forum One works with enterprise-level nonprofits, associations, foundations and government agencies to develop and launch websites that meet audiences and goals. We’d love to talk about your next redesign project and goals. Get in touch today.