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posted on August 8th, 2011

Website Design and Development for Non-Profits

Website Design and Development for Non-Profits With release of the very successful Avon Lake Public Library website, and 3 more upcoming non-profit websites, we now understand what it takes to develop a non-profit website. If yours is a non-profit (a library, a foundation, a support cause or a government supported organization) and need a better website, a better online brand with better online outreach, read this post carefully before you contact a web design firm.

Long Term Value Proposition

The initial cost for website design and development might get offset against the long term gains that you attain with a design and marketing agency that has a professional approach. Your website is your most powerful tool for when it comes to generating support, collecting donations, garnering media attention and generating awareness through social networking. Beyond the looks and aesthetics of your website, it is essential to consider the sustainable value proposition through determining the functionality aspect of your site.

Your non-profit website should not only be participation worthy and usable, but should also be search engine-friendly, easily updatable with a CMS like Drupal or WordPress, integrate event registration, connect to stores or carry eCommerce functionality and should support regular content updates through a blog, newsletter and integration of Twitter/Facebook updates. When you are creating a new website, remember that you are creating a marketing machine that will serve your organization for years down the line.

Design that Captures Attention and Calls for Action

The visitors on your non-profit website should clearly understand your mission, your roots, where you have support from, and should be able to identify and verify your non-profit nature easily. Engaging copy, use of high-resolution (yet fast loading) images and video do wonders for an organization website. Your non-profit website should have emphasis on the key projects, accomplishments and visitors should be able to locate information on it using a simple yet dynamic navigation. Use of sitemaps, breadcrumb navigation and in-content links can never be over-emphasized in structuring your organization website.

Since your organization is supported through public participation and donations/buying, clear calls-to-action, highly visible “Join Us” and “Donate” buttons, maps and driving directions to your events and avoiding forced registrations for any of the above, makes the visitors happy.

Search-Friendliness and Smooth Transitions

Most of the non-profits in the US and in the other parts of the world already have a website. If your web development firm understands SEO in depth, it can save you from “traffic slumps”. This is done with the use of proper 301 URL redirects which help the Pagerank of old URLs pass to the new ones seamlessly upon website redesign. Also, server and development environments need to be consistent so that all the existing applications (like a catalog search feature) are properly migrated to the new platforms.

A good website design firm would list your existing pages, take a back-up of the existing website and then create a web topology that needs to be executed as you move along. Most great web design agencies will identify your existing backlink structure and use tools like Google Websmater Tools to understand where you are already linked from and what needs to be done to keep those links intact (301 redirects or asking the webmasters of those websites to link to the newer URLs).

If your website development company knows SEO in-depth, they will assign an SEO to your project and create meaningful titles and meta tags that using the keywords found on the page. This will not only increase your website’s rankings in search engines, but when users see well-crafted titles and meta descriptions (used in snippets on a search engine results page), they are more likely to click on your listing rather than the others.

Fresh Perspectives

As a client, you might not be aware of all the web technologies available that can transform your web presence. A capable no profit web design firm can bring to the table much more than just following instructions. Knowing the web world much more than the client themselves, they work under frameworks but can suggest new ideas for functionality and design and even for marketing your website. This comes from experience, expertise and research. A genuinely interested company which appreciates your business will bring new perspectives and ideas for you to ponder over.

In totality, you should see a difference in the approach that your web design firm adopts because non-profits have different needs and objectives and while balancing all of them may be a fine art, a cookie-cutter approach cannot be adopted for a non-profit site. 5 pages for $500 is a thing of past. Dollars are weighed differently today.

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