Build your own website! The task at hand can seem overwhelming for many people. When I was tasked with creating a website – I panicked. After all, website design is something that people spend years in school for, so how could I be expected to create something that is worth sharing on the Web, without any prior experience? However, once the initial fear settled, I realized that it is actually doable to create a website that will be successful, you just need to do your homework first. The post by Social Driver lists 41 best nonprofit websites. After reviewing them carefully, I learned that they  all have the following concepts in common:

Be focused

The purpose of your website needs to be clear from the home page. For instance, every last drop is a website that specifically focuses on water conservation in the UK. Sure, other topics on water, like the current CA water shortage or ocean pollution, may be interesting to the viewers, but too much information can easily distract your visitor, and thus the whole point of your website will be lost. A good tip that I came across, is to write your mission in the shortest simplest form before building your site. Then, as you add graphics and other text, make sure to always circle back to the original purpose, to ensure that you are not digressing and including too much.

Too much text can be a bad thing

Again, simplicity is key. I found this website on a list of “worst websites” and as soon as I clicked on it, I could tell why. Way too much text, everything is compressed together, and it is very unclear what the point of the website is. As Shakespeare once said “brevity is the soul of wit”; therefore, keep your text short and to the point.

Know your audience

According to Tony Callahan, an internet promotions consultant, one of the 10 tips to a successful website says that knowing your audience is key to a successful website. For instance, if a nonprofit wants to target children from immigrant families, it is important to ensure that your website can be easily viewed in several different languages. Or if you are trying to target an older population, make sure you use bigger font, so that the text is easier to read.

Make it easy

We live in a society where people expect to get things instantaneously. Nobody wants to click on several tabs, just to get to the key information. So make sure your content is easily accessible! Reduce the number of tabs to the bare minimum and organize them in a logical, easy to follow order.

Make it fun and creative

There are millions of websites our there, make sure yours stands out! Use interesting pictures, make it interactive, create catch  phrases and etc. Anything to separate your website from “just another website” to “the best site out there!”. Use original photography, or work with your local community artists to create a logo. Use your imagination – your visitors will appreciate it!

Happy Building!


4 thoughts on “Ready…Set…Build!

  1. Those are all great suggestions. I especially liked the idea of looking a bad websites. Sometimes it is easier to learn from bad examples rather than good ones. One thing I would add is the point made in Health Mansfield’s Social Media for Social Good that good writing is important. In this age of social media, sometimes we forget how important it is to spend time working on our writing. One technique that is often used is to go back through your writing afterward and eliminate superfluous words. As you point out sometimes tense can be too dense, and it can often be too wordy. All in all, I think you provided some really good ideas for creating a good website.

  2. Thanks, Julie! I agree – good writing is really important. I think it is also important to remember to not use a lot of abbreviations, especially if it is meant to be a technical website. One can’t assume that the viewers will be familiar with all of the terminology used. Thanks for a great tip, I will keep it in mind!

  3. Hi Luda,

    This is a great post! I really like that you used the example of “Every Last Drop” to demonstrate how to stay focused. This is a really cool website, especially because it is so unique and does not follow a lot of the mainstream best practices (i.e. there’s no navigation bar!) One thing I have to admit, I didn’t know what to do when the website first loaded and only when I started to scroll down did I realize that you need to keep scrolling down the page in order to read all the different facts about water conservation. I wonder if other people experienced something similar? I also like the tip that you shared, about circling back to your mission statement and ensuring that all text and graphics are still related to your central message. I actually think this tip is a bit more useful compared to the one that Mansfield mentioned in her book about increasing your vocabulary. I personally think that increasing your vocabulary is something that takes a much longer time than simply re-reading your work and doing a quick check of whether or not you’ve deviated from your original theme. As much as I think that increasing your vocabulary would in the long-run improve one’s overall writing abilities, I think that re-reading your work to constantly evaluate the content is more practical and is also a good way to make sure that you stay focused. I guess when you take both of these tips into consideration, you’ll have even greater success!

    I like the tip that you included from Tony Callahan about knowing your audience. I was actually a bit surprised that Mansfield didn’t include this as one of the 11 best practices that she discusses in her book about website design for nonprofits. I think knowing your audience is so important and so you need to put on your “marketing thinking cap” when you are designing your website with a specific purpose. For example, a website that is difficult to use may not cater to an elderly population and if that’s part of the target population for a nonprofit/public health campaign, it could result in less exposure to the elderly. If the target population is teenagers, then a very formal/professional website may not be appealing enough to grab their attention and to keep them engaged. I’ve heard of how celebrity endorsements may come in hand for this particular age group (but not limited only to teens). I found an interesting nonprofit organization called “Candie’s Foundation” which I think did a great job of displaying celebrity profile pictures and quotes about teen pregnancy and parenthood on the main homepage: I also found an interesting article that discusses the pros and cons about celebrity endorsements, such as being associated with a celebrity which develops a bad reputation. Here’s a link to the article: Anyways all this got me thinking about how it’s very important to know your audience before starting to build a website. Thanks for sharing these really helpful tips!

  4. Hi, very surprised that we have similar topics. Like to read your post very much, very informative and very interesting picture. I realize there are so many ways how we can improve the websites. I really like your ideas especially knowing your audiene. Definitely, very important since by knowing the audience we can then design the website especially for that audience. The only thing that I would like to add is testing the design before presenting it to the public. Only, by testing do we actually know that what we want the website is actually being presented. Thank you for a great post.

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