I recently read a blog post entitled, Why You Can’t Afford to Skimp on a Great Website. I couldn’t agree more and wanted to share. One of the main points of the post was not to be afraid to ask your contractor what something means and why they have chosen to use it. Another was to educate oneself on some of the web jargon. Both are important, as it can definitely cost a lot of money if you don’t understand exactly what you’re buying. If you were buying a computer or other important item, wouldn’t you do the same thing?
If you are short on funds, the post also advised to “learn HTML and CSS and code it yourself”. I strongly advise against this. A great site is not accomplished by simply learning some code. For those of you who work with me regularly, you know this is not me trying to sell or push more services. I’m very conscious of budgets and offer solutions that can be implemented without my help if it is not going to hurt overall marketing goals.
So, as a designer who has learned some HTML and CSS, I highly recommend letting the pros do it. Coding is not that easy and implementing it improperly can even take down an entire site, simply with a missing semicolon (yes, really). When you are the director of your organization, obviously you have no plans of doing this yourself. I advise against passing it off to an intern who is tech savvy or one of your assistants to do on the side. This is not a realistic expectation and technology is changing at lightning speed. At big corporations, there are huge teams that create and work on websites. In my experience, for smaller staffed non-profits the best sites are made when a designer and developer work together with the director to create the new site. A staff member can be utilized for content creation or you can bring on a great freelance copywriter.
Beyond coding there are other considerations that go into creating a successful site. Websites must be intuitive, fast and easy to navigate. They have to incorporate SEO (Search Engine Optimization), so search engines can find them. It must also be viewable on many mobile devices including tablets/iPads and through multiple browsers.
Keep in mind sites must be set up to be easily maintained and regularly updated with fresh new content. The lifespan for a website depends on several factors, but usually falls somewhere between 2-5 years. Creating a classic design for a non-profit with a nice content management system (CMS) and a built-in blog should last about 5 years. A good website also morphs regularly and a marketing calendar will help manage it. After all, you don’t want the time and funds to create the site wasted due to inactivity. With a CMS in place a staff member can be brought in to learn how to post new pages and update the site regularly to keep costs reasonable.
I won’t bore you with more of the hazards and pitfalls of a do-it-yourself website, but I’d be glad to sit down with you – face-to-face – so we can go into more detail. Whether you already have a website and would like me to critique it or you’re just in the planning stage, call me. After all, your website is too important and a pivotal part of the success of your business.