5 Low-Risk Redesign Alternatives (That Will Still Boost Your Web Presence)

COVID-19 has hit some nonprofits harder than others. Certain organizations are continuing with their planned expenditures (such as a website redesign), but others have been forced to hit pause—or take a more cautious approach to major cash outlays.

However, an uncertain economic climate doesn’t mean your website woes magically disappear. If anything, now is the time when a strong web presence is more relevant than ever.

If you were planning to redesign your site this year, but are reconsidering that idea, here are a few alternatives with less risk that will still help you attract and engage more people online.

#1: Overhaul your content (including navigation and images)

Yes, your site may not look that great. But how your content is organized and presented to your visitors can have a massive impact, even if the design never changes.

In fact, a content overhaul now may translate to a substantially more effective redesign down the line (with less work), because you have taken the time to think about your content ahead of time.

Here’s a checklist to help you understand what goes into this process:

  1. Get clear on your website goals. Why does it exist (besides the fact that you “should” have one)? If your website was a person, what outcomes would it be responsible for? Clear goals will help drive good content decisions later in this process.
  2. Squash technical SEO problems. Unless your search rankings are of zero importance, you want Google to pay attention to the content changes you make. Use a tool such as Screaming Frog to crawl your website and find where there are broken links or 404 pages that you need to fix or redirect. This will improve your SEO health and help Google pick up on your changes more quickly.
  3. Identify (and fix) places where you can’t update your website. Maybe you can’t change the links in your footer—or that big headline on the homepage (oof). Or perhaps you know you need to set up redirects for those broken links…but your site doesn’t have that functionality. Get a developer to make those updates now so you have the tools you need to update your content later.
  4. Create user personas. A common problem with nonprofit websites is that they’re presented according to how the organization sees itself—not how your audience sees you. User personas (coupled with your goals) will help you think about your content in terms of what your audience wants from your website.
  5. Consider your keywords. What terms or phrases are most relevant to your organization—and also used by your users? What search terms do people use to arrive at your site? Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help highlight the keywords people are using to find you.
  6. Inventory and audit your existing content. Before you make substantial changes to your website structure or navigation, it’s helpful to see everything in one place before you start reorganizing it. It will also help you understand where there are gaps in your chosen keywords, so you can rewrite or add missing content.
  7. Create a new site map using the needs you identified in your user personas. GlooMaps or FlowMapp are some tools you can use. This is your opportunity to reorganize your site navigation according to how your audience perceives you.
  8. Rewrite your content. Now it’s time to use your goals, user personas, and keywords to improve the words on each of your pages. Keep in mind that you may (and probably will) split certain pages up, combine others, or trash some pages altogether.
  9. Don’t forget images. The images you choose should support and reinforce the words on the page. Now that you’re updating your words, make sure your images are amplifying your messaging.

As you can see, a content update is really a project in itself. However, it’s smaller than a redesign and still very powerful.

#2: Tweak the usability of your design

Just because you can’t redesign your site doesn’t mean you can’t tweak the design in some ways.

If you are going to be living with your site for another year or two, it can pay to make some adjustments now. But how do you figure out what to adjust?

Here are a few ways to understand what needs improvement:

  1. Check your analytics. Specifically, look for pages with both high traffic AND high bounce rates or low conversions (relative to your site’s baselines). Those are good pages to add to your list for closer examination.
  2. Set up heatmaps on the problem pages. Tools like HotJar have free subscriptions for nonprofits. The heatmaps will reveal areas where people are clicking a lot—and where they’re not. Use these clues to narrow down the specific page elements that need attention.
  3. Try A/B testing a few experimental changes. If you’ve identified a low-performing section of your design, you don’t need to jump straight into modifying your website just yet. Tools like Optimizely will let you experiment with changes before you publish them to your site, so you can measure to see what works before paying someone to make the change.
  4. Talk to your users. There’s nothing like a conversation with an actual site user to help you clarify the sticking points of your site. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. Tools like HotJar will also let you embed polls or surveys on your site to collect feedback from your visitors, which you can use to experiment with changes.

#3: Integrate with third-party tools

Often, site redesigns include important new capabilities your organization desires, such as the ability to create landing pages, capture email addresses, or create individual campaigns for fundraising.

Consider this: is it possible for you to get those capabilities right now by leveraging a third-party tool instead?

Granted, the solution may not be as polished or professional as one contained within a redesign. But if it gets you closer to your goal in the meantime, it bears some consideration.

Here are some examples of ways you can integrate with third-party tools to enhance your website’s capabilities:

  1. Create landing pages, popups, and sticky bars with Unbounce. Just by installing a snippet of code on your website, you can begin capturing more email addresses and creating targeting landing pages for your donation forms, digital ads, and more.
  2. Add the ability to embed donation forms within a page on your site. Most fundraising software gives you some kind of code you can use to embed forms on your site—but not all sites allow this. Asking a developer to add this feature to your site is a smaller project that can yield great results.
  3. Make your CRM play nice(r) with your website. This one isn’t always lightweight. But if your planned redesign includes a better integration with your database, is there a modest project you can do right now to get 80% of the results with 20% of the effort?

#4: Fix your admin experience

If you’re going to be living with your current site for a while longer, consider easing the pain of  staff members who have specific frustrations with the website on a day-to-day basis.

Chances are, there are some pain points with your current site that make it cumbersome to perform common tasks. Rather than wait around until the redesign, consider fixing them now.

When examining pain points to fix, focus only on the ones that involve frequent, repetitive tasks (or, in some cases, infrequent processes that take a long time to perform). You don’t need to fix everything.

Take a look at areas such as:

  • Content creation and administration
  • User account management (especially if your site allows outside users to create accounts, and someone in your organization needs to keep an eye on this)
  • Manual data entry, such as copying entries from one system to another

Most of the time, staff members are going to be well aware of the areas of the website that make their jobs harder. If they haven’t already made it abundantly clear to you, simply asking them is half the battle.

#5: Make incremental improvements

Fundamentally, all the recommendations in this article center on making incremental improvements to your website, instead of bundling them all into a high-cost, high-effort, high-risk redesign. (We recommend a different approach for redesigns when the time comes, anyway.)

If you are operating in conditions of uncertainty right now and don’t feel comfortable pursuing a website redesign, incremental website improvements have a number of benefits:

  1. More consistent, spread out expenditures. Ongoing improvements provide you with options for how much you spend and when. For example, Brooks Digital offers monthly website improvement packages for a flat monthly fee. Regardless of the company, this type of approach allows you to choose your budget for the year and focus on the most impactful changes that fit within that budget.
  2. An alternative to the “all or nothing” approach. Even if you are hesitant to pull the trigger on a major redesign, you are still incurring opportunity cost by waiting. Incremental improvements provide a viable alternative that moves your web presence forward in a measurable way—with less risk.
  3. Better results for a future redesign. Making incremental improvements provides you with data and learnings on what works for your audience. This is valuable information that better prepares you for a future redesign. In a way, you are laying the groundwork ahead of time.

Even when a redesign isn’t in the cards, it doesn’t mean you have to put your web presence on hold. If you are interested in having Brooks Digital make incremental improvements to your website, please request a call.

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