Posted by Erin Allen on July 14th, 2021
Posted in Blog, Digital, Nonprofit Web
Let’s face it—kicking off a new website project can feel overwhelming at times. Your website is a key piece of your brand storytelling and marketing strategy efforts. With so many logistics to consider, it’s valid to feel unsure of where to start.
Breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve got you covered.
As an experienced partner in building websites for our clients, we find that the most successful projects are those where both we and our clients have a shared understanding of where we’re starting from and where we’re headed.
To make sure every project starts with that same solid foundation, we kick each project off with a list of questions to help gather information and context. Whether you’re actively beginning a new web project, or planning one further down the road, you can get a head start by using this handy list.
A good place to start is to clarify why your organization is embarking on a web project in the first place. Is the redesign part of a larger rebranding effort? A strategic plan update? Big-picture programmatic changes? Maybe it’s that the site has been added to iteratively over the years and is in need of a serious content reorganization, or your team has a new workflow that could be supported by a site that makes use of a new tool.
This high-level context and goal-setting can help your team further understand your priorities in a new website and where it fits into the bigger picture of your brand strategy and organizational needs.
Websites are often a repository for details—programmatic or otherwise. But it should also serve as a key hub for your audiences to engage with your brand and take action. To do this, make a list of your various audiences and what they need from your site. Having this understanding of who you expect to serve with the site is an essential cornerstone to creating an effective web strategy.
Once priorities are identified, it’s time to get into the details of how you’ll get from here to there. Thinking now about your current site, which parts of your website would you consider successful? Which parts present challenges?
It’s important to not only consider your external stakeholders and key audiences, but the needs of your internal staff as well. Are there certain parts of your current website that are challenging to maintain? Processes that could be automated? Identifying this early can ensure that these ideas are prioritized in the new iteration of your website.
Before diving into creating a new sitemap for your website, it’s helpful to be familiar with your current content in order to understand its structure and hierarchy as it stands now. A content inventory can help your team identify what content is out of date or needs to be changed, as well as any new content needs. It can also help you identify who else at your organization might need to be consulted when it comes to certain sections of the site.
As part of your content, your website likely has connections with other important tools, such as donation payment processing, newsletter signup, or external portal sites. It’s helpful to gather a list of these tools and make a note which will continue to be required, which are no longer being used, and any that you are considering changing or dropping. Having this list, as well as access to these accounts early on, will make it easier to explore options for integrations and connections with other parts of the new site.
Making sense of data like Google Analytics can be a challenge if you’re not doing so on a routine basis already—and that’s OK! We suggest getting started on this early on, as it sometimes can take a bit longer than anticipated (tracking down an out-of-use email can be a bear). Aside from Google Analytics, any other tracking that you might be doing is also useful to gather at the start of a project especially if it’s in coordination with other digital strategies such as SEO or paid search advertising.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the audiences, content, tools and info that will go into your website project, it’s time to consider who should be on your project team. Although it might seem like something you should do earlier in the process, it’s useful to think about the rest of this list first in the event there are other not-so-obvious team members who should be involved. Who holds decision-making power? Who might need to weigh in on the presentation of specific program details? Who holds the keys to your third party accounts?
This doesn’t mean that everyone will be involved in every call, but identifying these team members early on can ensure that you’re looping in the right people at the right moments to avoid bottlenecks down the road. This also ensures that internal stakeholders feel their perspectives are being heard while keeping the project on-schedule.
Considering a website redesign at your organization? Reach out to us to learn how we can help!