Checklist/survey to determine whether we need to build additional web sites?
April 4, 2006 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Does every non-profit campaign or project need a web site? How can I determine or prioritize the need for a web site?

Background: I work for a non-profit organization. We have several satellite offices. My department has become very well-funded, so our satellite offices have approached my department with lists of "special projects" -- initiatives or projects that they wish would have more publicity, or a place to serve as a clearinghouse of information for coalitions.

While we have more funding than usual, we do have limits -- especially the availability of our web team to build and maintain these sites. In the past, we've had these spin-off sites maintained outside of the control of the web team by other staff members, and without fail, these sites are not maintained.

We tried outsourcing some web sites to outside vendors, with very mixed results. It always takes more of our time and resources to deal with the vendors and audit their work than we anticipate.

I'm cognizant that the money we'll be spending isn't really "our" money, but given to us by our donors and supporters. I want to do right by them. Maybe some of this money is better spent on paid media, or hiring grassroots organizers.

So -- I'm looking for a list of questions (maybe a checklist?) that we could use to determine whether these special projects are best served with an entirely new and separate web site for each, or if they should be part of our main site.

I don't rule the zoo here -- I'm a cog in the machine. But I want to be a smart, useful cog. Help?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As with all marketing communications, start with your goals. What are you setting out to do? Outline your objectives, messages and target audience/market. What's the best way to meet your goals, given these constraints. Identify appropriate tools. Now you can figure out if a website is part of that.

So, what you need right now is a marketing communications plan. (If you're at the point of figuring out marcom, I'm assuming you already have a marketing plan.) Do you have a marcom plan handy?
posted by acoutu at 11:19 PM on April 4, 2006

I think that you should look at a number of factors:
  • Is the project complex and large in scope, to the point where it would take more than one or two well-designed pages to explain it in detail?
  • Is the project seen as an element which could encourage further donations, to a degree which would be further facilitated by a nice web site?
  • Is the project looking for individual volunteers, answers to survey questions or other information from the public specific to itself?
  • Will there be updates on the project often enough to warrant a news site? Is it visible enough to perhaps display a photo gallery with frequently updated pictures?
  • Will users have any reason to visit the project as its own entity? The last bullet point would make some great reasons.
  • Would the project benefit significantly from a visual departure or obvious segregation from the organization's umbrella website?
  • Is it really that expensive to launch a new web site for each project?
Sticking to a basic template, upkeep may be a pain, but if you hire a competent web firm, (I happen to run one) the turnaround time will be ridiculously low, the people will be intelligent enough to operate mostly autonomously, there will be appropriate feedback mechanisms, and you'll get the most bang for your buck, allowing people inside the organization to focus on further bettering the organization.

I think there is certainly a value to be quantified by having a separate site for each medium- to large-sized project. But a system needs to be implemented, so that new spin-off sites are streamlined, changes are directed to the proper individuals and upkeep is kept to a single point of contact for each project to the firm or what-have-you that is working on said project's site.

Communication is key and it's developing and implementing an enforceable system that will get you your (contributor's) money's worth and make the difference. Seeing a non-profit who has separate sites for each project could be confidence-instilling, showing that you're serious enough and making progress and making a difference with each project. Feel free to email me (in profile) if you have any other questions.
posted by disillusioned at 11:20 PM on April 4, 2006

From a technical/implementation standpoint, the difference between "new and separate site" and "part of our main site" does not necessarily need to be that great.

With a decent CMS (content management system), it wouldn't be difficult to create an overall umbrella site with a basic layout and configuration that could be applied to all the projects. Each could have a distinct visual design, and a completely different set of pages. They could be published to different domains. But as far as common elements, they might, for example, all have section navigation in the header, page navigation on the left, external links on the right, links to your organization in the footer, a project logo and search box at the top, etc.

If things are properly templated and thought out, "creating a new site" for a project would then simply be a matter of assigning or hiring a designer to create graphic elements and do some stylesheet work, rather than assigning or hiring developers to build a new site framework from the ground up. The content of all the sites could be maintained and updated by your organization's employees using a single interface.

My recommendation is to invest some time and money up front to create such a system, which will drastically reduce the amount of time and money required for each future project's site.
posted by staggernation at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2006

Two books which I can heartily recommend: The first is full of checklists etc. Have a look at the description on the weblink. I go back to it time and again, especially when teaching my students the basics of webdesign and project management.

The second book, I only mention because you may need some direction strategising the management of the spinoff sites you mentioned. It's not essential, and rather corporate in its tone though.
posted by jim.christian at 7:31 AM on April 5, 2006

Noticing your lack of contact information, feel free to contact me if you're looking for a good web firm to handle the suggestions I made.
posted by disillusioned at 8:26 AM on April 5, 2006

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