Over the past 15 years, Expression has created websites for both very large and very small NGOs. We’d like to offer some advice to NGOs wanting to create a new site or wanting to redo or revitalize their current website.
Your site needs to look good
Yes, we’re putting this as #1 on the list because it’s THAT important. Let’s face it, you are competing vs other NGOs for the web public’s attention and you need to stand out. We use to hear from smaller NGOs: “I don’t want our site to look too good because funders will think we don’t need money”. This is an archaic way of thinking and is simply not true.
Make sure your visuals reflect your message, and make sure your visuals are consistent with your other media (brochures, posters, flyers, etc.). Working with a web company that’s good at design is crucial.
Be concise and straight to the point
You need to grab visitors‘ attention within the first 20 seconds of their visit. It is so easy for a visitor to click away from your site and move on to the next that when they land on your site, you’ve got to sink your claws into them and not let go.
Your homepage (especially the top part) should not be too wordy. Use short messages that convey your message(s) in bullet-point style. The average web userwill NOT read through long passages of text unless they are REALLY interested in your topic. Keep to short bits of text with a ‘read more’ link to another page where you can put the longer text if you need to.
Show that your site gets updated frequently
It’s nice to get new visitors on your site, but repeat visits will eventually form the bulk of your traffic. If your site looks static, chances are visitors will not be motivated to come back to your site…after all, they’ve seen it once, why would they want to see it again (unless they need to refer to specific information your posted).
Having features like News, Blogs, Reviews, Opinions, etc., will indicate to your visitors that your site is in a constant state of flux, and will make them want to come back at a later time to see new content.
Offer content that’s unique
Obviously, it goes without saying that the content of your site will most likely talk about your message, your values, your objectives, etc. However, amongst all this, try to offer content that is valuable and cannot be found anywhere else. Sites that simply reuse other people’s content will have a hard time getting a following. After all, why would people go to you, when they can go to the source? In other words, don’t be the repeater…be the source!
Make your site interactive
The word ‘interactive’ gets abused a lot, and I think it’s because most people don’t know what it really means. Traditionally, the information on a website travels one way: from you to the reader. An interactive website allows the information to travel both ways. Allowing visitors to add to your site’s content via blogs, comment sections or other methods will not only make your site richer, but will get users invested in your site (and by extension, your organization). Of course, opening that door means monitoring, so may require more work on your part…but well worth the extra effort.
Note that tools like blogs and comments sections also require good web security, so make sure to work with a web company with a good reputation to insure your site will not get hacked.
Make sure your site works on all platforms and devices
Up until recently, you could afford for your site to ‘not look so good’ on a mobile phone, but not anymore. It is crucial that your site look good and perform well across all types of devices: computers, tablets, phones or any other device where the web can be accessed.
For computers, make sure that your site is tested on both Mac and PC, and on all the major browsers. Work with your web development company to make sure all the kinks are worked out. This usually means extra costs, but can make all the difference in the world on how your site is judged.
It’s also important to perform spot checks as new browsers or devices come out to make sure you are keeping up with the times. Again here, this usually means extra costs, but will prevent your site from becoming obsolete.
Of course, there are dozens of other good advice to follow (from interaction with social media sites to tips on writing good content). If you can afford to do so, our suggestion is to surround yourself by a great team of collaborators: an experienced content developer or editor, a creative and tech-solid web development company, a social media specialist, etc. Listen to their advice. Make a solid plan BEFORE starting any work. Have a specific end-goal in mind. Follow these guidelines… and in no time, you’ll have a website that can compete with the best ones out there.
Expression Web is a well-established technology firm specializing in web design and development located in Montreal, Canada. Although Expression has completed hundreds of projects in the private sector, the company has really distinguished itself with its work in the Non-Profit and NGO world.
Over the past 15 years, Expression has completed projects for both large and small Non-Profit organizations covering topics such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Sustainability, Human Rights, Social Development, Health & Wellness and more.
Expression’s client list includes:
- Various branches of the UN
- Nobel Women’s Initiative
- Columbia University
- Fair Trade Canada
- Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children
- Planned Parenthood
- World Bank
In 2014 brought their involvement with the Non-Profit community to the next level by creating the Expression Non-Profit Website Fund. The first of an ongoing annual event, this fund awards a free website to a Non-Profit organization (up to a value of $15,000).
Expression looks forward to continuing to work with the Non-Profit and NGO community in the years to come.