When you look at your organization’s website, how do you feel? Does your website capture the essence of your work? Is it a good representation of your brand?
Earlier this year, we realized our website needed a refresh. Maybe like yours, it was great when we launched it, but we’ve changed while it hadn’t.
What really triggered this for us is the realization that our site didn’t look nearly as exciting as those we develop for our clients. I’ll spare you the cobbler’s children trope. Let’s just say we knew that to really represent who we are, and what clients get when they hire Mission Minded, we had to apply the best practices of strategy and beautiful design we use when we create websites for our nonprofit, foundation, and school clients.
Here’s what we learned that we want to teach you so you’ll be more empowered next time you’re part of a website redesign:
1. Make it a priority
This should be obvious, but it’s not. A website redesign is a hefty undertaking for your team, so make sure everyone has the bandwidth to take it on.
Who will develop the strategy of your site? Who will handle design and make sure that the color palette, images, graphic elements, and fonts align with your brand? Who will develop it and handle all technical aspects? Who will write the content? Even if you hire professionals to lead you, there will still be much for your team to consider and contribute.
For Mission Minded’s website, everyone on our team was involved in some way. When it came down to the final stretch, four weeks before launch, we cleared bandwidth for three people on our team to handle a large majority of the project management, content, design and development. Weekly, each person spent roughly 10-15 hours working on our website.
And then there were the reviewers — people who considered the content and design and provided feedback to make sure it was good to go before it was uploaded to the site.
As a nonprofit, foundation, or school, your team likely has many other priority projects going on simultaneously. If you’re considering redesigning your website, create a space for the time and effort your team will need to put into it. Know who needs to be involved and when. Give yourself an end date that you can all work towards, and make sure everyone understands their piece in meeting the deadline.
2. Find comfort in what you know (and what you don’t)
One of Mission Minded’s values is to improve, always. While we have the skills to handle our own website redesign in-house, we recognized that this was the perfect opportunity to bring in outside consultants to broaden our perspective and bring more collaborative ideas to the table.
The investment was well worth the return in learning. Not only did we gain a better sense of our audiences, and how to improve the user experience, we learned how to improve how we work with our clients on their websites.
By the way, if you’re wondering how to go about looking for a communications consultant, consider our tips on finding the very best one for you.
3. Start content development early!
We constantly tell our clients to keep their messaging simple, strip out the jargon, and focus on the benefits, not the features. When it came to redesigning our website, we took our own advice.
We critically reviewed the copy in the main navigation, in sub-menus, on every single page, and we incorporated the word “you” wherever we could to create a connection with our users. We also love the word “you” because it conveys the sense of warmth essential to our brand personality.
On the subject of content development, this portion of the work took the longest. We’ve noticed that our clients often underestimate just how much content is on their website. You’ll need to assess the copy you have on your current website and take inventory of what you can keep, what needs to be condensed, and what needs to be rewritten completely to tell your story. It’s best to preserve large swaths of time do devote to this rather than tackling it in between meetings, calls, or other duties.
We’d highly recommend you start content development right away after your team has approved the new site architecture. We copied and pasted Mission Minded’s new site architecture into a Google Doc because we wanted one document that everyone could work in simultaneously. We tagged people to review and provide feedback when it was time to do so, giving us one master document to keep content simple and clear.
We hope what we learned helps you on your website redesign journey. For additional resources, take a look at 9 ways to make your next website really, really good, which outlines best practices we learned the last time we redesigned Mission Minded’s website.
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one impact coach.
See all posts by Jennie Winton