Your website is essentially a quick digital credibility check. In most cases, nothing more, nothing less.
Here are a few truths about NGO websites that may help you decide what to do with them.
If you aren’t extremely clear about why you are building/rebuilding your website, don’t start.
We often see organisations feeling the need to "revamp" their website because they want to update information or they want to see some change.
Updation can be done within an existing site (and should be done much more regularly than once in 5 years), and wanting a change isn't a good enough reason. You need to know why you want to change and think about if and how that change is going to make any difference to your work. Unless you're sure of that, your rebuild will have no direction, will never finish on time and will never really meet your expectations.
Nobody keeps revisiting your website. It’s mostly a one-time credibility check.
Think of your website as a space to help a reader clearly understand what your organisation does, what it's trying to solve and how it works. Once they’ve understood what you do, there is a very low chance they keep revisiting the site. They are most probably going to reach out to you via phone/email if they’re interested in engaging on any level. Don’t mistake it to be a forum/community that you’re creating online. That’s a whole different project and requires quite a few resources to sustain.
If you don’t have dedicated “content-creators/ curators/ bloggers” on your team, DO NOT waste time building a “resources page” on your site.
We all get inspired when we stumble upon some websites with loads of amazing articles, resources and fresh information. It takes a skilled active team in the backstage curating and creating rich content through the year, to make websites look and feel like the ones with dynamically changing resources. If you don’t have the internal bandwidth to constantly create content, do not waste time building a resources page/blog page.
These pages tend to look incomplete with old content, and very little information over time, which in turn, makes your organisation feel less credible and less relevant to the outside world.
Unless your work is specifically focused on knowledge sharing and dialogue (like a news platform), don’t attempt to do that with the limited resources that you have. Use your resources wisely for other mediums of communication.
The way you internally bucket your programs/ work/ departments can be different from how you need to group information on a site
As your organisation grows, your internal departments get layered, and the programs start getting grouped in certain ways for operational/ financial reasons. There is a high chance this grouping only makes sense for your internal teams, given that you’re in the system. For an outside stakeholder, these groups and nested information may seem either irrelevant or confusing. You CAN have two different versions of grouping your work - an internal one, and a simplified version for the external world. This will be smarter and more effective.
You are building it for others, not for yourself. Focus on your stakeholders’/ market’s interests and what they need to understand
Sometimes, when we keep looking at the same website for years, we get bored of it. We feel the information is stale. However, this doesn’t mean your external stakeholders find it boring and stale. For a new reader, everything you’ve showcased is fresh content. If your website does justice in effectively explaining your current work, DO NOT invest in rebuilding it. You can simply swap out photos to make it feel different for you.
Nobody has time to click into more than 3 pages
There is no point building 10-15 pages. No one is going to click into it. Usually, your landing page is your main hero. If I don’t understand what you do in a few scrolls, I’m going to be out of your site. Depending on what your reader gets drawn towards, they may click into a few more pages. It’s usually to learn more about your team / about your work/impact. If your work is split into 5 sub-pages, there is a high chance they may skip most or just skim through a couple of them. We are also learning that “scrolling” is easier than clicking (our social media platforms have gotten us used to infinite scrolls). So, it’s okay to have long scrolls versus forcing people to click into new pages.
Everything can’t be editable. Even if it’s made so, there is a low chance your team keeps editing the website.
When building websites, one of the most requested features is to make everything editable.
Making everything editable on a custom-designed/developed site, is a nightmare for developers. There is a lot more work for which they will need to charge a lot more. Additionally, even if everything is editable, that doesn’t mean your site will seamlessly retrofit whatever changes in text/image you make. You will face a lot of bugs, your mobile viewing will have glitches and issues that will need constant fixing.
There are software like Wix, Squarespace, Framer etc. that allow you to custom-build completely editable sites without depending on a developer, but they too have their limitations.
Honestly, we have rarely seen people edit too many elements on a website. Your work, your philosophy and your org overview don’t change every week. You will end up making tiny tweaks once a quarter on your site, to update basic info.
Your website is a powerful digital brochure to get a person interested to get in touch with you and learn more. It is not a repository or a directory. Don’t turn it into the “yellow pages” to access every detail about your organisation.
Don’t turn your website into a drive folder for your teams to access all information about the org. Use a Google Drive folder for that. You can always make several out links from your website to documents, PDFs, and/or slide decks. This will help you have more control when creating/updating nested information.
To reach more people, you must invest in an outreach plan, not a website.
Making a strong website doesn’t help you reach more people. It only helps you improve the connection you can build with people who have already reached your site. You need to invest in an outreach strategy to get more people to visit your website and learn more about your organisation.