5 Mistakes to Avoid When Revamping Your Nonprofit Website

Anne Stefanyk • Feb 17, 2022

So, you’ve conducted a website audit and decided it’s time to undertake a full-scale or partial website redesign. Perhaps your branding or homepage structure is outdated, or you think your website could simply work better than it does now. 

However, you don’t want to conduct a time-consuming website overhaul just to have to change it again one or two years later. Instead, you want to approach your website refresh with a comprehensive, forward-thinking strategy. 

Your question is: how can you make the most of the website overhaul process? You can start by making sure to avoid these top five common errors:

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Make no mistake—the best nonprofit website designs aren’t flawless. However, they all tend to avoid these major missteps to create websites that serve as an enduring digital resource for their main audience.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at each mistake and how you can steer clear of it to make your revamp project a success. 

1. Not setting a “big picture” goal for the redesign. 

Without a large-scale goal in mind, your redesign project runs the risk of becoming listless or lasting for an interminable amount of time.

When you visualize your website’s target design and know why you are aiming for that design, you’ll have an easier time building your redesign roadmap. Plus, you’ll know when you’ve reached your objectives and can bring the project to a close. 

To know if your website’s redesign has met your goals, identify concrete key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your success. These might include:

  • Page visits
  • Time spent on page
  • Conversion rates for important pages
  • Traffic sources
  • Search engine rankings

Before you start the redesign process, be sure to measure each of your KPIs so that you can mark your progress once the revamp is complete. For example, if you’re hoping to increase site visit length, make a note of this metric before starting the revamp process, and then regularly check your progress as you continue to work through your redesign.

2. Not updating your user journeys.

Your target audience may have changed since your last website redesign (when was the last time you reviewed your personas? It’s important to consider any shifts in your supporter base to ensure your website remains relevant and appealing to your target audience. 

You can do this by updating your user journeys. The user journey is the path a visitor takes when using your website. 

The journey each visitor takes depends on who they are. For instance, your donors’ journey takes them from when they initially become aware of your organization and researched it to when they actually decided to contribute. 

Craft your user journeys by making individual paths for each audience segment. These segments might include donors, volunteers, constituents, advocates, peer-to-peer fundraisers, community members, and corporate sponsors. Each nonprofit has its target audience, so identify the audience segments that make the most sense for your organization. 

Then, you can put these segments into practice using your website. For instance, take a look at Feeding America’s homepage. It specifically addresses each audience segment, including one-time donors, recurring donors, peer-to-peer fundraisers, and volunteers. 

Feeding America’s homepage
Feeding America’s homepage

This gives each website visitor clear next steps to take depending on how they want to engage with your organization. 

3. Prioritizing aesthetics over functionality. 

Website design trends come and go, bringing exciting new concepts that stick around for varying amounts of time. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new fad, only to realize it doesn’t truly offer visitors a better experience. 

Plus, what looks trendy and cool today might seem clunky or outdated even as soon as a year from now. That’s why it’s more effective to focus on how well your site works rather than if it achieves a certain modern look. 

Keep your focus on maintaining a high level of usability for all users by emphasizing these elements: 

  • Mobile/tablet functionality: According to fundraising statistics gathered by Double the Donation, half of all nonprofit website traffic comes from mobile and tablet users. No matter what changes you make to your website’s design and structure, ensure the site as a whole maintains a high level of functionality for smartphone and tablet users.
  • Simple user experience: Kanopi defines user experience as “the experience users have when they engage with an organization’s online content.” Your user experience should be simple and hassle-free. If users have to navigate through confusing design elements, exit out of multiple pop-up messages, or page through a carousel of images to find what they’re looking for, they will likely exit your site quickly. 
  • Clear navigation/menu items: Support a streamlined user experience by implementing clear and simple navigation. Ensure your top-level menu includes only a few categories to reduce clutter. Design your menu items to appeal to each supporter segment for ease of navigation. 

Just because it’s important to prioritize functionality doesn’t mean your website has to look bland or plain. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities to play around with the color scheme, imagery, typography, and other elements to achieve a sleek, eye-catching, and timeless look. 

4. Neglecting accessibility.

Accessible websites offer a better user experience for all visitors. You’re missing out on a major opportunity to better engage with your supporters if you neglect accessibility throughout your website redesign project. 

Conduct an accessibility audit to determine where you’re coming up short and what types of changes you can implement to improve your standing. These changes might include:

  • Ensuring your color scheme has a sufficient contrast between background and foreground
  • Increasing font sizes within graphics to improve readability
  • Adding or updating image alt text to be more descriptive
  • Eliminating any flashing or strobing elements
  • Cleaning up your page formatting to establish a clear hierarchy of elements for easier navigation
  • Ensuring your website can be browsed via keyboard 
  • Zooming in on your browser to 200%, reviewing your website’s usability in that format, and making adjustments as needed

In addition, ensure that your website’s forms are accessible as well. This includes your online donation page, volunteer sign-up form, email newsletter registration form, and any other important forms that you want supporters to engage with. Make sure these forms can be navigated with a keyboard, feature descriptive labels, and offer clear directions for filling them out. 

5. Not preserving the valuable content that’s already on your website.

One of the most common errors organizations make when updating their websites is losing track of valuable content that’s already performing well. This might include pages that see a high conversion rate or blog posts ranking well on search engines results pages. 

Letting these pages fall by the wayside means throwing away all of the energy and work your team has already contributed to making them effective. 

To avoid this mistake, assess which website pages are your highest performers and prioritize maintaining these pages during your revamp project. Think through how you can best adapt each page to your new branding or design guidelines. During the redesign process, you should also note which pages you can update to make them even more valuable for visitors.

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When conducting a website refresh, it’s practically impossible to avoid making any errors. But you can ensure you’re doing everything you can by keeping an eye out for these common mistakes and creating a strategy to avoid them. 

You can also partner up with a website design firm for more support. These organizations offer services such as website refreshes and full site redesigns. They can offer a guiding hand or take complete control of your revamp project based on your organization’s needs and preferences.

Anne Stefanyk, Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios

About the author:

Anne Stefanyk, Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.