5 Questions to Ask When Budgeting for your Website in the New Year

Rose Liebman, Vice President of Accounts at Advomatic, shares key questions to assess whether or not you should spend your nonprofit’s dollars on a completely new website or a few small improvements. This post is a helpful precursor to our upcoming webinar, Your Website: When to Overhaul and When to Iterate.

Budgeting season is fast approaching. The stakes can feel high around this time of year as you manage your immediate workload while also trying to find time to project ahead. When you do find time, you may not quite know where to start.  

Here are five questions you should ask yourself as you pull out your crystal ball and look into next year.

1. What are your current challenges with your website?

List them all. Don’t be shy.

Send the list around to your team and have them add their challenges.

A list of your pain points with your website (whether internal or public-facing) is a great place to start. It will help you determine the nature and scope of issues you need to resolve. It’s also a great way to monitor where you are in your website’s lifecycle (we’ll elaborate on that in question #4).

Writing this list of issues is a powerful way to lift your head up from your day-to-day and begin to widen the lens in preparation for budgeting. Your frustrations with your site tell an important story.

  • Do you have to resort to workarounds and “hacks” in your CMS to promote that upcoming event?
  • Can your donation workflows be streamlined?
  • Is there important information buried on the site that’s not getting the traffic it deserves?
  • Does your dated-looking homepage send the wrong message about your organization?

Getting this all down on paper is a great first step to uncovering what you need to budget. If you can, prioritize the list in order of importance. This will set you up nicely to know what to tackle first when the time comes.

2. Is your site inclusive?

The first step to removing barriers is to define them.

All too often – despite an organization’s best intentions – its website can fail a substantial portion of its users. Inclusive web design covers many subject areas. Work with your team to honestly evaluate your site.

  • Does your site content invite users in? Or does it serve as a barrier? Is the writing on your site full of jargon and acronyms? Is the hierarchy of information inconsistent? Can a new user easily become disoriented?
  • Should you be offering your content in more than one language? Does your nonprofit serve people who speak languages other than English? Do you offer content in other languages? If you need guidance on how to plan to add multilingual content to your site here is a handy guide.
  • How accessible is your site? Do you know how it performs for people with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities?
  • How do mobile users experience your site? A growing segment of the population is now smartphone-dependent. If you are working with low income or non-white populations this should be of particular importance to you. Mobile-only audiences will only grow over time.

3. Where is your website in its lifecycle?

You may be able to extend the useful life of your site.

You may be convinced that your site is at the end of its life and due for an urgent overhaul. Your site may feel old and clunky and you may be tempted to throw it all out and start over.

Before acting, it’s worth thoroughly testing your assumptions here. Sometimes the best way forward is indeed a full redesign (and if you do decide on a full redesign join us on 10/25/18 at 1pm ET for our webinar with Whole Whale to learn about, The Secret Ingredient to Getting a Better Website). Other times, however – despite how it may seem – a site overhaul may not the best way forward.

Even if you don’t think you will need a full redesign of your site in the coming year (or if you simply can’t afford one) you still want to understand where your site is in its lifecycle. There may be an opportunity for meaningful (and affordable) improvements. It may be possible to minimize or fix many of your current challenges without the need for a big redesign (and the budget that comes with it).

If you want to know more about how to determine where your website is in its lifecycle join us on 10/16/18 at 3pm ET for our webinar with Big Duck, Your Website: When to Iterate and When to Overhaul. We’ll walk you through the steps to define your current issues, how to take the information you gather and decide which approach to redesign works best for you. We’ll also review some best practices for ongoing site support.

Which bring us to the next question…

4. Does your team have the ongoing website support they need?

A good technology partner can help you plan better and save you money over time.

One of the biggest mistakes we see is when an organization builds a website and then fails to budget for continued website support. Doing so is like building a new house and then neglecting to mow the lawn, change lightbulbs and make day-to-day repairs.

A site that falls into disrepair is less secure, more expensive to update and, over time, will begin a steep decline in its ability to engage and effectively communicate your mission and your impact to your public.

We often hear organizations say that they can’t afford website support. We understand. Budgetary constraints are real. Still, we respectfully disagree. You can’t afford not to have website support. A good website support plan can help you avoid the boom and bust cycle of website management and can help you use your available resources (whatever they are) wisely.     

Having a high quality support account also means that you can enlist your technology partner to help you make the right decisions in budgeting season and beyond.

A good technology partner can also collaborate with you on your strategic plan for improving and maintaining your site over time. In fact, in some cases, a good website support strategy can obviate the need for a site overhaul altogether. Imagine that! No more big, expensive, stressful website overhauls.

5. Who needs convincing?

Prepare to defend your numbers.

As you identify your challenges with your website, uncover barriers for users and hone your understanding of how to get the most out of your site updates, you will naturally be uncovering and documenting inefficiencies, waste and, most importantly, missed opportunities for outreach to your community.

If you have worked through questions 1 through 4 methodically you should have all the raw material you need to make a strong case for your budget in the new year.

If you want to know more about how Advomatic can help you budget for the coming year reach out to Rose at rose@advomatic.com. We’d love to chat!