Maybe something like this has happened to you:

  • The Outreach and Communications Committee has decided your freebee website on WIX just isn’t cutting it any more, and they want you to “get us some options for the next meeting.”
  • You’ve got a page for “Donations” with a cute picture of a kid drawing something with crayons as a volunteer looks on, but you can’t figure out how to accept donations online.
  • You brought on an intern from the Technology Department at the Community College to do a website for you last summer and now you’ve got a mess of HTML files and no idea how to update it.

For whatever reason, you need a new website, and you don’t know where to start. When you Google “Web Design” you get a dizzying array of options, and what all the technical jargon means — let alone which one is right for you — is as clear as mud.

So you cross your fingers and call up a few places just to ask the question: “How much for a new website?” only to be told, “Well, it all depends….” You get estimates ranging from $250 to $12,500, but you don’t have any idea why some quote so low and others so high, or what the difference is.

Sorting out the myriad of website technologies and options can be a daunting, challenging task.

Here’s the Secret:

You can tell more about whether the website you’ll ultimately get will meet your needs and your budget, not from answers to the questions you’re asking them, but from the questions your prospective web designer asks you!

That’s right:

The questions a prospective web designer asks will tell you whether they’re the right choice.

So what questions should you be listening for?

7 Questions You Need to Hear

There’s more to building websites than just slapping together a lot of code. Websites that work begin with a deep understanding of what your organization’s objectives are and how your website contributes to meeting those objectives.

Therefore, a good web designer or developer should start by asking questions about your organization, not technology.

Your prospective web designer should ask you:

  1. Tell me about your organization’s mission. What do you do to make the world a better place and how do you accomplish that?
  2. Why does your organization need a website? How will having a website contribute toward achieving your goals?
  3. With that overall reason for having a website, what specific goals do you have for your website? (For example: How many online donations? How many event sign-ups? How many visitors?)
  4. What else does your website need to do for you? And why?
  5. Of the goals that we’ve listed for your website, if we can realistically only afford to do three, which are the most important or critical for success?
  6. If we’re looking back at this project after a year celebrating a great success, what will that success look like?
  7. What’s your budget for this project?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, a web designer is just taking a guess. Guessing what technology is appropriate (or just using a “1 size fits all” approach). Guessing what design patterns and layouts will communicate your message. Guessing about what features you might want.

Whether you’re investing $1000 or $100,000 in your website, you don’t have to guess. You have a right to know that your designer knows what you need.

Your Web Designer Is Your Partner

Sure, you’ll have some questions to ask them. You’ll want to know whether they have the technological chops to get the job done. You’ll want to know about their experience. You’ll want references. But ultimately, the right person or firm for the job is the one you would choose if you were choosing a new partner or collaborator for your nonprofit organization. Someone who cares about what you do. Someone who understands you well enough to look out for your long-term online success.

Photo Credit: Juhan Sonin