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Before you start a new website project

This page is free to all

Use this page to help you work out if your website needs replacing and how to go about doing it.

Why people decide to update their website

Small groups and organisations struggle to give their websites attention. That's often down to a lack of the time and resources needed to do so. When they do, it’s difficult to know where to start.

They might be thinking the following.

  • We need to know the best way to improve our site so we can help more people.
  • We feel like other charities have more modern websites.
  • A designer will make our site look more up to date. We don’t know how to do that.
  • We’re frustrated trying to add features to our current site.
  • We find it difficult to decide what’s most important to show on our site.
  • Designing a new website is something we can control. It'll be quicker if we pay someone to do it for us.

Before you do anything, take a step back and consider whether a new website is actually what you need.

Why a new website might not be what you need

A new website might not be the right thing to invest in, if it's not what the people you support need.

You won’t know the best way to spend your budget until you’ve understood what people need. And what problems you're trying to solve. This is a problem-focused approach and is the most cost-effective.

Spending your budget without understanding what your users need is cost-ineffective. That's a solution-focused approach.

People care most about being able to find the information they need. Not how good your website looks.

Words and journeys through a site matter

It’s normal to think that your website needs a visual redesign. But it's easy to spend too much time and money on branding, and not enough on thinking about the experience of using your site.

People using your website want it to be easy and quick to find what they need. The right information helps them to achieve those goals.

Share your time and money across user journeys, information and design. Invest in helping people find what they need. The words you use and the quality of your information matter just as much as how your website looks.

Talk to your users, find out their needs

Ask these questions:

  • What are my users trying to do online?
  • What are their habits and behaviours online?
  • Where do they spend their time?
  • Where do they go online when they have a problem you want to help them with? What are they trying to do and how are they feeling when they visit your website?
  • What persuades them to make donations?

You won’t know the answers until you ask. Talk to the people you support about these questions. It’s where you need to spend your time.

Do some user research. This will help you get a better understanding of the problems. It will challenge your assumptions about what your users need.

At the end of your user research phase, you’ll have a lot more insight and you won’t have spent any of your budget.

You’ll be ready to think about the best way of meeting user needs. Look at the information you provide as a service in its own right. Think about how the content on your website is arranged.

You can find more information in our section on doing user research.

Test your site, learn what works

When people come to your website they'll have particular goals in mind. These could include:

  • deciding whether to make donations to your organisation
  • signing up for services you run
  • working out how to carry out a task you give advice about
  • taking part in an activity.

Usability testing helps you check that your page structure is right. It also checks that you have the right words on those pages to help you meet their goals.

Testing content is easy to do and important.

Find out more

If you do decide you need to make changes to your website design and build, start with our comparison of DIY website building tools.

You can also find out more about setting up a website as a small organisation in the Digital Inclusion Toolkit.

Last reviewed: 02 March 2021

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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