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Ask Nonprofit WP: How do I help my different website audiences with a single site?

I’m wondering if you can help me think through the plan for getting the nonprofit I work for (as marketing/comm manager) a website focused on funneling our different audiences towards specific actions (a site focused on better user experience to build an engaged community), making sure our site is well-supported and healthy, and setting up a good foundation for any future web dev needs.

It sounds like what you’re looking for help with is possibly the #1 challenge of many nonprofit sites. They don’t simply have a “customer” to cater to but instead a wide array of stakeholders with different backgrounds and relations to the organization.

I hope that if you work through the processes and technical recommendations for planning your nonprofit site and recommended plugins and themes, you won’t be led astray toward overly complex systems and harder-to-support themes and plugins. The biggest piece of advice I can give you for tech is to keep it simple, probably simpler than you’d even like. Your visitors want your site to be as simple as possible so long as it meets their core needs.

Keep It Simple!

When trying to do really complicated things (like custom layouts not provided by your theme or rube-goldberg-esque data processes on the site), that’s where I see things go wrong. If you can settle for a site that 100% works and is 75% of what you were hoping for, then I think you’ve succeeded. That last 25% (and especially the last 10%) is just really hard to get without a lot of professional help.

The same really goes for content too. Use fewer pages than you think you need. Keep your menu short. Avoid jargon. Those will all help your audiences find what they need fastest and with the least stress. I often recommend reviewing the menus of similar organizations that you think work well and using those as a starting point. If at all possible, follow that up by testing your menu with a few stakeholders. 5 minutes of watching someone use your website is incredibly eye opening (you can’t understand it until you see it!).

Find Help

I don’t know where you’re located, but I’d try to do some networking at meetups and WordCamps to find people to help you. Lots of people go to those looking for help, and I know I’m always happy to help people try to find someone when they show up.

If you’re a small organization, this one hour webinar I presented for Washington Nonprofits offers lots of great tips for getting started with a new website. For larger organizations planning to hire a web consultant or agency, sign up for my twice-a-year Anatomy of a Website Redesign course from NTEN.

If you’ve had successes building a simple DIY site for your nonprofit, share your best advice in the comments to help your fellow nonprofits!

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