Before you get too far along in making decisions about your new website, you and your staff should spend some quality time thinking about some important considerations. All of these questions may not apply in all circumstances, but some of them may elicit critical thoughts that you’ll want to incorporate in the structure, design, and functioning of your site.
If you consider these topics and capture your thoughts on those that are especially relevant to your organization, you’ll make the planning process that much more effective and efficient. You may also want to look at the video Thinking about an Online Strategy for Nonprofits and the 20-point Checklist for Nonprofit Websites.
- Why does your organization exist?
- What sets your organization apart from your competition or other similar organizations?
- Who are you trying to reach? Describe an ideal targeted individual or group: occupation, age range, gender, socio-economic level, technical proficiency, and any other relevant information. Profile more than one if applicable.
- What do the people you are trying to reach care about?
- Why are they interested in your organization’s mission, service, or information?
- What do the people you’re trying to reach think and feel about your organization?
- What do you want them to think and feel?
- What adjectives can be used to describe the way you want the organization to be perceived by the people you’re trying reach?
- What is the overall message you want to convey? (For example, cost-effective, secure, reliable, efficient, productive, worthwhile, etc.)
- What are the 5 most important descriptors (adjectives, adverbs) that you want to communicate about the organization?
- What are the 5 most important descriptors (adjectives, adverbs) that you want others to feel about the organization?
- How will your target users be primarily drawn or directed to your site? (referring links, direct url access, search engines?)
- Why will your target users return to your site on a regular basis?
- How can this new website achieve your goals for how your organization is perceived and how others think and feel about it?
- What will the new site do for your organization?
- What will the new site do for the people you’re trying to reach?
- What visual message do you want the website to convey?
- What verbal message do you want the website to convey?
- How will you measure the success of the redesigned site? If a year from now you determined that your website had been “wildly successful,” what would have happened to cause you to make that judgment?
- How does the new website fit into your broader organizational or personal goals and objectives?
Site Content and Structure
What existing content needs to be accessible? How to migrate existing content?
What new content needs to be created?
How often will new content be created?
How often will content be modified, updated, or refreshed?
Who will be responsible for maintaining the site?
What graphical elements (logos, images, symbols) must be included?
What content could be on the home page?
What content could be on every page?
Are there any unique requirements specific to your organization?
What traffic history or site statistics are available? (Most popular pages, search keywords, Google Analytics, etc.)
What are important keywords or search terms by which users may find your site and its content?
General Design Preferences
- What’s the general look-and-feel you like or want? What do you NOT want?
- What colors do you like or feel are appropriate? What colors do you NOT like/want?
- Are there websites that generally reflect the look-and-feel you want?
- Do you have any particular preferences for font types?
Structural and Functional Considerations
- What are the 3-7 different categories or major subject areas that you want to organize your site around? In other words, from your home page, what are the navigation choices you want to offer to your users/visitors?
- From your perspective, what do you want your users/visitors to do when they reach your home page?
- From the users/visitors’ perspective, what would you as a user want to be able to do from the home page?
- What content do you envision would be more or less static, i.e., pages with information that would not need much updating?
- What content do you envision would be more dynamic, i.e., new content being added (like a blog, news postings, etc.)?
- What graphics or visual elements do you want to use? (logo, photos, backgrounds, etc.)
- Think about how visitors would find your site from a Google or Bing search. What search terms or keywords would you want to lead to your site?
- Where is the primary domain name registered?
- Can you access your domain registration account? (username, password)
- When will the primary domain name come up for renewal?
- What other domain names have you registered? Do they point to your existing site?
- Are there similarly-named sites that often get confused with your site?
- Is your domain name easily misspelled?
- Are you satisfied with your domain name(s)?
- Where is the site currently hosted?
- What are the current hosting account specifics? (Control panel access, FTP access, size/bandwidth limitations, etc.)
- Can you access/interface with any related accounts? (Paypal, Constant Contact, etc.)
- Any other special requests, considerations, or questions regarding your hosting account requirements?
- Main Content
- Second/alternative menu
- External links
- Content to highlight
- Unique elements for home page
- Common elements for all pages
- Blog categories
- Logo, watermark
- Contact form/page
- RSS subscribe button
- Sharing buttons (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Tag cloud
- Recent posts
- Quotations, Testimonials
- Site maps (XML, HTML)
- Google Analytics
- Polls, surveys
- Keywords, Tags
- Sign up for newsletter, info, emails
- Color palette: backgrounds, fonts, borders, links (hover, visited)
- Font family: headings, text, sizes, emphasis
- Layout: sidebars, widths
- Place elements common to all pages
- Select images, determine how they’ll be used
- File naming conventions
- Local files/folders organization
- Server files/folders organization