Part 3 - Beginning the Project
At Cantilever we love working with non-profits, because it is energizing to be a part of making the world a better place through our work.
We sometimes get approached by non-profit clients who are not getting good results from an outdated old website, and are ready to start over, but don’t know how to approach the process.
This is part 3 of a 3 part blog for how you can navigate towards a successful outcome.(if you missed the early articles, you can start with Part 1 HERE)
Once you pick a firm, most agencies (Cantilever included) will want to start with some kind of discovery/diagnostic process.
The goal of this phase is to settle on the plan for the web rebuild project specifically. It’s not easy for the firm to know in advance exactly what would make sense for you so now is the time when all of that should get settled.
You will want to make time for several long meetings, particularly in person if practical. During this phase it’s critical to lock in the website purpose, but also now to clarify which key methods you will use to accomplish those purposes.
You can take your “feature request“ list from pre-RFP and categorize people’s ideas according to which of the primary purposes are accomplished. Then you can see where you may be heavier or weaker in different areas. The firm can help you determine relative cost for different tactics and can bring their own ideas from their own experience/portfolio.
Websites are malleable and a high-quality site should be built to grow. So the question should not be “How many features can we fit in V1“ but rather “How few features can we get away with in V1?“
Cantilever recommends that at most half of your “Year 1“ budget goes to the initial pre-launch site. We recommend that V1 be targeted simply at outperforming the existing site.
The reason we are so aggressive about launch is that as soon as you launch, you start to get data. You can get qualitative and quantitative feedback on how the site is doing. This allows the team to modify their plans for the next phases of the site build.
With a good firm there should be very little cost difference in building a feature pre-launch vs. post-launch. So there is really no reason to wait until things are amazing before you launch. Just make it better than the old site.
Make sure that data is central to the entire process. Having defined the site’s purposes, you should have clear metrics to understand if those purposes are being accomplished.
It’s likely that after V1, at least one of the purposes will not be met yet.
That’s OK! That’s why you saved more than half your money. Now you can deploy more of that money to focus on the purpose that is not being met.
This could mean using it on the website itself, or on non-website activity such as email or social media content.
After V1 is out, you and the agency can settle into a long-term relationship under which you continually monitor your success metrics and react accordingly.
Once the site is clearly meeting all the original needs, you can even start to measure and focus on more of the secondary “user stories” you defined previously.
At Cantilever our goal is for our sites to last forever, and I know other high-end firms feel the same. That doesn’t mean they won’t experience major change or even a full design refresh every now and again. It just means that there will never be another point where there is a full cutoff between an “old site” and a “new site”.
It will be like your staff – constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of the organization, but never completely turning over. This means that your team never has to expend as much internal energy and focus on the site as they will in Year 1 of the new relationship, and the website can just grow and grow in importance and influence over time.
Only a high quality site can scale this way, which is another reason why sometimes the more expensive vendor options may save you money in the long run, considering both external and internal costs.
We hope that this guidance makes it easier for any non-profit looking for a web design firm. The right firm and the right website are vital in a non-profit accomplishing its mission in the digital age.
If you’d like more direct advice and guidance, or would like to consider Cantilever as a potential partner, please reach out! We’re happy to talk through your challenges and opportunities, with zero obligation.
Get Started with a Free Consultation on how create the website your organization needs.