do you need a web 2.0 website make-over?

(hold your horses)

Now that nonprofits are really getting hip to web 2.0 — encouraging a two-way conversation with constituents, yielding some control of their message to gain bigger and better results, and getting engaged in social networks to expand and enlarge their bases — a lot of us are also looking into shaking up our old websites to reflect these changes.

Maybe you want to rebrand your website just to send the message that you’re using technology in new and exciting ways, to broadcast the fact that there’s new content being created, and not all of it is by you and your marketing director anymore.

Maybe you’re cool with your website, but you’re finding it hard to integrate your newly found web 2.0 tools — does your current website allow you to easily embed YouTube videos? To draw attention to new blog posts and comments? To feature your members’ latest contributions to your Flickr group?

So what does a really well-designed, web 2.0-ready nonprofit website look like?

First, check out this excellent checklist from Kivi Leroux Miller, good for evaluating any nonprofit’s homepage. The list covers all the basics: navigation, SEO, online donations, and more. If you’re not hitting all these notes, all the blogging in the world might not help.

Second, take a look at the nonprofit website that I keep coming back to as an example of Doing It Right, The Nature Conservancy.

Why do I like these guys so much?

    • They integrated their recent successful contest on Flickr that drew thousands of photographic submissions from their community — right at the top of the front page.

    NC banner

    • The most common word on the home page is “you” — and they explain all the different things “you” can do in a quick and easy way.
    • They have a variety of different newsy, well-written content to choose from on their homepage, without making the choices overwhelming. The design is information-packed, but clean and readable.

    news NC

    • They make it easy to donate online, and in a number of intriguing ways.

    donate NC

    • They make it clear that accountability matters to them, by linking TWICE to Charity Navigator, both of which links actually take you to a comprehensive “About Us: Accountability and Transparency” page that addresses these topics in depth, as they relate to The Nature Conservancy.

    accountability NC
    Is it necessary to overhaul your website in order to truly engage your community in the ways they are now coming to expect? Well, that depends on what your website looks like now. Nonprofits are certainly doing nicely without going to the time and expense of a complete redesign, since services like Flickr and YouTube and WordPress make it easy to integrate these tools, if not seamlessly, then nearly so.

    What’s your plan? Are you getting ready for a major website redesign? Or are you waiting to see what shakes out of all this web 2.0 business first?

      2 Thoughts.

      1. A wholesale site redesign can be both intimidating and expensive for a nonprofit to contemplate – especially a small organization with limited resources. I’m so glad you pose this question of whether it’s necessary. Your example of The Nature Conservancy makes the vital point that Web 2.0 is about multimedia content, yes, but it’s primarily about a user-centred experience. Sometimes getting there can be as simple as stepping back to look at your site from the user’s perspective – is it quick and easy for site visitors to find the information they’re looking for, and to do those things that they need/want to do? Above all, I’d say the biggest bang for an affordable update would come back to text and tone – finding opportunities to use that magic word: ‘You.’

      2. rjleaman’s got it right, of course.

        Successful websites are always all about the user – serving him, entertaining him, or enabling him. This is no less true for nonprofit websites.

        In the few freelance web consultancies I do, I’ve always made darned sure that the company’s website connects their mission with the user in an intimate way. It’s what needs to happen with every website that intends to have any impact on their viewers.

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