The 5 Questions to Ask When Redesigning Your Nonprofit Website

WebDevelopmentBy Elliot Cowan

We’re knee deep in the middle of redesigning a few clients’ websites right now and felt this would be the perfect time to share some hints and tips for those of you who are thinking about updating your website, or maybe even redesigning it from square one.

Websites, much like a few key items in the creative field, are what I like to think of as “a leap of faith.” Despite seeing a revised sitemap, wireframes, flat images, and having a number of meetings it definitely feels like you won’t really know what you are getting until that final site is up on the web being tested.

We all know we need an online presence, and we all know it’s important, so it’s crucial to take your time and choose the right creative partner to bring your ideas to life. I could write a lot more that five tips, as it’s quite a process, and maybe I’ll write part two in the future, but here are the key questions you should ask to get you started.

1. Who is my audience and what do they want to know about?

When beginning your website project, start with what’s most important – the people who you are trying to help and your prospective donors. These are your core audience members. By starting with the end user in mind, this will help you determine what should be on your homepage and how your user experience (your designer might call this UX) will work across the site.

Look at it from the visitors’ perspective and allow the experience to flow across the site. When people are able to move through the site more efficiently, they get what they need more quickly, and are more likely to return. This will also show users that you are thinking of them and give people a better feeling about your organization.

2. What is the purpose of the site?

Is the purpose of your site just for people to come and donate, or do you want to show them what you are doing to help the cause your organization stands for? Your site will be different depending on what you, and what your purpose is. If you are an organization helping children, do you want the visitor to see what you are doing (blog/news), latest programs, upcoming events or how to get involved? Is that Shabbat dinner you hosted a key insight into what you are all about? Do you have a great video you’ve made for Rosh Hashanah you want to showcase? The more you can tell your web designer at the beginning, then the better the layout will be from the start.

3. What image do you want the site to convey?

This is a similar idea to the purpose. Are you an organization with a long history who needs to portray a level of gravitas, or a young “fun” group that needs more movement on your website? Your website is an extension of your brand and your image. That image must be consistent. You need to determine a look, feel, and imagery that reflect you honestly and commit to it.

4. Who will manage and maintain the site, and how?

Almost everyone on every website wants a blog – this is great and definitely adds to the interactivity of a website as well as showcasing what you are up to. The thing that most people don’t think about is who will write it, update it, and keep the content relevant. Out-of-date blog postings and incorrect information on your website will do you more harm than good in the long run, so consider all aspects of how the blog will be maintained!

Make sure your backend (or CMS – Content Management System) is easy to use for the average person. At HMC, we prefer to design in WordPress – not because it has the most bells and whistles but because it’s the easiest for an everyday person to use and update. Think of your website as a living organism that will slowly fade away if it’s not fed.

We also recommend you let people across the organization write blog posts as it takes pressure of one person and allows perspectives from different departments. If Brad in accounting made the best cheesecake you’ve ever eaten at the Shavuot party and it fits in with your brand, then let him share it with the world!

5. Where will you get your content and photography?

Great content and professional photographs can make or break a website design. Website visitors make decisions about your organization in less than a second. High-quality photographs that are consistent and show who you are will always be invaluable. Content that is relevant and up-to-date will show what is happening and whom it is you are helping. Content is not something that should be posted or written in haste, but should be thoughtful, scheduled, and refined. Long story short … don’t skimp on content and photography!


I know this was supposed to be five pieces of advice but after writing this I felt there was a major point to add, despite the fact that five tips sounds much better than six in a title.

So here it is…

Picking the agency or designer who is going to give you what you want is a huge thing to determine. Designers do this everyday: they know about fonts, shortcuts, UI, UX, what a wireframe is, font names, and more. You do not know all of these things … nor should you have to. This is not your job to do, this is not what you do on the day to day, and you don’t have to rapidly educate yourself to begin the design process. It is your designer’s job to educate you, and to be with you every step of the way.

So make sure you pick someone who is helpful, has empathy towards your situation, explains the stages and process, and walks you through everything you need. This will be the key to your success.

Elliot Cowan is the Creative Director for Here’s My Chance (HMC), an award-winning creative agency that builds good brands by design. HMC’s mission is to create impactful, engaging designs that motivate people and lead to organizational success. Proudly headquartered in Philadelphia PA, HMC’s clients span the globe and include nonprofits and socially responsible companies that work to create positive change. HMC specializes in branding, graphic design, videos, websites and infographics. Learn more at