Our Six Steps to Building a Successful Charity Website

We specialise in digital technology. We also specialise in working with organisations who are striving for change - from charities who provide employment and housing for the homeless to those who research pressing economic and social issues and social enterprises helping international development organisations to work more effectively.

It’s a great combination - and its made even better when we prioritise collaboration and participation. We know our clients think so too.

Commissioning a website can sometimes be a daunting task, so here we’ve outlined the main six steps in our process. Our work is as varied as our clients, and so we'll often adapt this process quite a bit to suit each project.

It’s always a real privilege to work with organisations striving for change,  and to see what results when technology and collaboration are combined.

1. The proposal

Every project starts with several conversations, preferably face-to-face, but also on the phone. We want to know all the reasons why our clients are getting a new website, and where it fits within a wider marketing strategy. It’s important that the context and the objectives are established right at the outset.  We then chat about the three key aspects which determine the cost of a project: what we should create, how much time should we spend and what the deadline is.  This whole conversation is then summarised into a proposal document which we submit to the potential client for approval.

2. The specification

If the proposal is accepted, we begin writing the project specification.  This document is often based on the proposal, but it goes into much more detail about the different groups of people using the website and how the different website features will fit together.  This document is also produced in collaboration, and usually goes through several versions as we discuss and present our ideas in more detail.  We sometimes use Video Conferencing (Skype or Google Hangout) during this process, and there’s lots of back and forth by email with different versions!

The specification document details the deliverable features for the client, acts as a roadmap for our development work, and it behaves as a guiding document for our testing process at the end of the project. It’s important we get it right - and collaboration is key to ensuring both parties are satisfied with what we’re setting out to do.

Here's a paragraph taken from the specification we wrote for one of our current projects.

A charity website brief from White Fuse Media

3. The visual design

The design of the website is composed of several parts.  Each client completes a design brief document which details all the visual considerations and desires to which the new website must conform. Alongside this, we work with the client to produce some draft content which is compatible with our agreed website specification.  

Meanwhile we will produce several black and white layout plans called 'wireframes' which help us present our intentions for how website visitors will fulfil their intentions through the new website.  Finally we will use the design brief, the draft content and the wireframes together to create a few full visual concepts of key pages to establish the visual design direction.  These visual concepts will usually go through several versions to make sure that we have satisfied the client’s intentions for the new website, and taken into account our recommendations and suggestions too.

The Look Up Project wireframes - charity website design

4. The content

Creation of the website content may be more or less collaborative, depending on the parameters of project.  If the website structure is more complex, then there are usually more types of pages defined in the website specification, and more guidance may be required.  We provide support on the site map and layout of the new website content, and we sometimes also work collaboratively with clients to design the core messages of the website.  While the content is inserted into the new website's content management system, there are ample opportunities for revisions and finalisation.

5. The testing

By the time the content is inserted, we will have already completed our internal testing to ensure that all the bugs are squashed.  We then invite the client to work with us to perform a round or two of user testing in our development environment, to ensure that we both agree that our new website fulfils the objectives defined within the specification, and also our ambitions for its look and feel.  Collaboration during this time of polish and refinement is managed through shared access to an issue list, which helps us prioritise and manage identified items requiring our attention.

6. Launch and beyond

Once everyone’s happy and we’ve had final sign-off, the website goes live!

Although the main part of the project is now complete and the promotion of the new website can begin, we work together following the launch to review the successful completion of our project's objectives, defined way back in the first proposal stage, using tools to track various website statistics.  

Our team of eight manages multiple projects at once, all at different stages in the project cycle - so our process is streamlined to deal with this. Each project has a dedicated project manager, who is the face-to-face point of contact for each of our clients, and there’s always someone available to pick up the phone.

There are lots of different tools we can use to collaborate on projects.  Ultimately, the closer we work together, the more our ambitions are aligned, and the greater the success of the project.

A responsive website should work well across all devices

What have been your experiences of collaboration on design, tech and marketing projects?  What has worked well and what has worked not so well?  Tell us in the comments below, and we'll chime in with our own thoughts.

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