Why it's important to think about the purpose of a website

A guest post by Katy Carlisle from The Wheel Exists.

For our first café of 2017 we'll be taking a look at how to create a great website for your organisation, but there's a twist... I will be creating a website from start to finish, live during the café.

In the next few weeks we'll be looking at what I'm doing in preparation for the café in order to maximise the time available on the day for actually building the website. 

The first step I'll be taking is one that often gets a bit neglected in the early stages of creating a website in favour of the more shiny and attractive planning options around design and colour schemes. The look and feel are important, but before you get to that stage it's really helpful to get clear on the purpose of your website. 

What do I mean by the "purpose" of the website? Let's look at this in more detail. When you took the decision to create a new website (or update your existing one) there was a reason behind that choice. At first, you might think that the choice was made because of a design issue, for example your website wasn't mobile friendly or it was starting to look dated. 

However, if you explore that reason in more depth then you will start to get closer to the true purpose of the website.

If the website isn't mobile friendly, why is that a problem? It could be that the people your charity supports are more likely to browse the web on their phones or tablets and therefore wouldn't visit or interact with your website if it was too difficult to use.

So why is that a problem? Well, if they aren't visiting your website then they aren't accessing all of the great services or resources that you can provide in order to help them. Aha! So your website's purpose is in fact to provide services and resources for the people or causes that you support. 

Taking a bit of time to reflect on your purpose can make a big impact when looking at providing an effective website.

Imagine the difference between two mobile friendly websites, both nicely designed. The first one begins with the sentence "Get the help that you need now" and the second starts with  "Our charity was founded in 2005". Of these examples, which would better fit the purpose that we identified earlier?  

Another way to identify your purpose is to ask yourself what you want people to do when they visit the website. Let's turn our attention to the example campaign website that we're creating on the 19th January.

The theme of the campaign is around showing a local charity some love, linked to National Hug Day and Valentine's Day. That's kind of a vague purpose, so let's refine it. What actions do we want people to take when they visit the website? 

We want people to support a local charity, so how could they do this?  

  • Donate money (or possibly items depending on the charity)
  • Volunteer or help the charity to raise money e.g. by holding an event
  • Share the work that the charity does in order to encourage others to donate or volunteer

In order for people to support the charities, they would first have to know who they are. Our website would therefore need to have a way of showcasing local organisations and providing a bit of information about them. 

So our purpose is something like: 

Providing information on local charities and the actions that people can take to help them, and encouraging people to take those actions.  

We may refine this as the weeks go on, but it's a good starting point and has already got me to a point where I'm much clearer about the structure of the website, and the information I need to start gathering. 

Next week I'll be sharing my planning around the pages and sections of the website, and we'll be coming up with a name for the campaign! 

WebsitesKaty CarlisleComment