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Planning a new website

Top tips, guides, resources and links for effectively planning and launching a new website


Wireframe of website

Wireframe of website (Photo: Baldiri)

The internet is a fact of life, but creating a new website can be a daunting prospect for a small care provider.  Harnessing the web as a tool for telling the world about your organisation is important, even if you consider your services to be primarily offline and not reliant the internet.  Not having an online presence makes your organisation difficult for funders and service users to find, potentially deterring new clients and connections. With a good modern website you can tell the world your story and celebrate your work with supporters, friends and families.

This article will get you started on the basics of planning, considering accessibility, writing a brief, dealing with a developer and integrating social media into a new or upgraded website.


Website planning

Whether you’re planning a new site or enhancing an existing one, start by writing down and agreeing what you want. Questions to consider include:

  • What do we need a website for, and what kinds of information do we want to include?
  • Who will be using the website? Ask the potential users what they want to get from it.
  • What specific requirements do we have for our website (e.g. calendar, news items, or a directory)?
  • Who do we expect to be maintaining and updating the site once it is up and running?

For more information see our'New Website Initiative' webinar

We'd recommend using the free Idealware Guide to website planning which asks 'Do you need a website?' and then through 10 east to follow worksheets helps you plan your website framework.


Content

Make your website interesting to your target audience. Keep it up to date to encourage return visits with frequently updated news, examples of work and information relevant to your target audience. Consider:

  • timely news items, or a calendar of forthcoming events or activities
  • stories of the good work we are doing with our residents and users of our services
  • a list of staff or key volunteers, with photos or a video, and appropriate contact information
  • links to relevant websites and resources, or a directory of useful contacts / member organisations
  • a search facility, together with an ‘About us’ or ‘What we do’ page

Once again Idealware have produced another free resource and set of worksheets covering how to plan your approach to implementing a new website.


Commissioning a website

Although some people build their own website, many will commission someone else to design and build it. Whether you're buying in a web designer, or using a volunteer it is best to start by writing a website brief which clearly sets out what you require. 

For guidance on writing a brief and what to include see our webinar on writing a website brief and Boagworld's '10 things never to leave out of a website design brief'

We've also produced this checklist which covers the sections you should include in any website brief you are producing for a web developer.


Web accessibility

The Equality Act 2010 replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act and legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. Whilst the law is not intended to place barriers in the way of innovative use of technology, reasonable adjustments need to be made wherever possible to ensure disabled persons do not suffer disadvantage.  If you’re commissioning a website you need to be aware of the key standards and ask for web designers to account for them in any website they build for you.

For more information see AbilityNet's Expert Resources.


Choosing a website and managing content

Choose a solution that enables staff and/or volunteers to add and update content with ease, as regularly updated content attracts more visitors. A common approach is to use a content management system (CMS), see Idealware's 'Consumers' guide to content management systems'.

  • Options for creating a simple website that’s easily updated (particularly useful for small groups) include: Wordpress https://nonprofitwp.org/ and Google sites www.google.com/sites
  • Choose a solution that can grow and change over time. Most CMS systems can be updated but some have more features from the start – although beware of using a feature just because it’s there!
  • When designing your site, such as navigation, images and colours, make sure you ask people from your potential audience for their views. Basic user-testing before launch helps avoid problems later.
  • Choose a domain name which is easy for people to remember, and make sure it is registered to your organisation rather than a third party.

Popular content management systems include the self-hosted, free and open source WordPress, Drupal and Plone, and free and paid for hosts such as hosted WordPress, Expression Engine and SquareSpace.


Social media

Integrating social media content into your website helps make it look more dynamic, interactive and social - and encourages people to make more use of your site. For example:

  • Provide links to Twitter or Facebook (if your organisation uses either of these).
  • Share photographs, videos or audio clips using Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube or Audioboo.
  • Use email subscriptions to keep people upto date with a newsletter
  • Encourage discussions about your work with web pages and blogs that allow comments to be made.

For further information see http://connectingcare.org.uk/articles/detail/social-media-resources


Downloadable resources

Idealware: The Consumers Guide to Content Management Systems for Nonprofits

Comparison of content management systems used in the charity sector


Further reading on accessible web design

AbilityNet Factsheets
AbilityNet exists to change the lives of disabled people by helping them to use digital technology at work, at home or in education

My Computer My Way

My Computer My Way is AbilityNet's easy to use guide to the accessibility features built into your desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone

JISC: Equality, disability and the law

JISC champions the use of digital technologies in UK education and research

BBC: My web my way

Excellent guidance on personalising accessibility features and assistive technologies available to view the web in a more accessible way

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