We’re changing the way we approach website projects for budget-conscious nonprofits.
If an organization’s project budget is below $50,000, or a site needs to be completed rapidly, the traditional, stepwise project model of discovery, wireframes, designs, and development is no longer appropriate. By the time the organization and its agency partner get through wireframes and designs, precious little time is left to make the site functional, or for training and content assistance.
So many decent stepping-stone options now exist – from premium WordPress themes to out-of-the-box advocacy systems, and even Squarespace templates – an organization can be effective digitally without spending a relative fortune.
But, these stepping stone options still need to be implemented carefully and thoughtfully. The successful agency’s role in this type of engagement shifts to focus on content, accessibility, and sustainability. Every nonprofit or association has unique content targeted towards specific audiences and their website must convey relevant information using language that these groups understand. A premium WordPress theme or Squarespace site might provide sufficient design polish and brand credibility for an organization just starting out – or for a targeted campaign site – but it can’t anticipate every organization’s content or audience needs. With these solutions, extra care must be taken to avoid traps such as:
- Choosing a theme that isn’t fully responsive or mobile-optimized
- Choosing a responsive theme, but one that loads too slowly on phones
- Forgetting to prioritize accessibility, thereby rendering their site impossible to use for many audiences, with a loss of brand credibility (and possibly risking a lawsuit!)
- Ending up with content all of the same “type” in the CMS, instead of grouped in logical buckets – leading to a confusing user experience
- Missing opportunities for leveraging taxonomy and content relationships, leading to duplicate content and poor SEO
- Skipping critical content strategy and governance activities, leading to an unsustainable site and an inevitably costlier future redesign
At Fíonta, we are prioritizing user experience, content strategy, accessibility, and sustainability on all projects, but especially for smaller engagements. We work with budget-focused clients to quickly choose an existing solution or theme, skipping traditional wireframe and design activities. Then, we move immediately to agile sprints of development, configuration, hands-on user experience and information architecture construction, training, and content strategy. As a result, an organization’s site comes together incredibly quickly, with most of the project effort reserved for making sure the site works for their needs.
When budgets and timelines allow, it is always more strategic and on-brand to develop a custom design and user experience backed by an open source content management system. But instead of simply trying to shrink the traditional approach to fit every budget, our industry needs new targeted approaches like the one above, that meet the organization where it is today.