We’ve just launched a new service offering fixed-price WordPress charity sites . Let me tell you a bit more about them…
Our bread and butter work is creating bespoke WordPress sites for charities. We love to dive in deep and really get to know the charity and its audience. We love drawing upon our experience to help charities tell their story better and showcase their amazing work. And we love making their lives simpler by building websites that help solve their problems rather than be a part of them!
For an investment of £5-£15k we can work with you and create something customised to your needs and deliver a great website. But some charities aren’t yet at a point where they are able to invest this much.
Your options based upon your budget:
Healthy budget (£5k – £75k+): You’ll find plenty agencies or freelancers who’ll solve your problems for you and come up with a solution tailored just for you. Send out your website tender document and you’ll probably get a load of custom proposals which you can choose from.
No budget: You don’t have a lot of options, but at least there’s no financial investment at stake if you pick the wrong one. Have a look at our blog post to see what some sensible choices might look like.
Small budget (£1,500 – £5k): This is the space where lots of small charities find themselves. You’re not going to be spoilt for choice by agencies queuing up to help you spend your money so you have to do a lot more of the legwork yourself. The rest of this article is aimed squarely at you.
If you’re not confused then you probably don’t know all the options yet!
Seriously, there’s never been more options (and opinions) for how to build a website. That’s a good thing, but it can also make the choice rather overwhelming. We’ve been in your shoes and we’ve spoken to hundreds of people in the same boat.
You know that having a good website is important, and that for a small charity your website is often the public face of your organisation. So making the right decision is important, and because it’s an investment of your time and money, you need to be sure that whatever you do now will still have been the right choice five years from now.
And you’re almost certainly not a digital expert and you haven’t built many (if indeed any) websites before. And you’re probably trying to fit it in around the rest of your day job and all the other hats you need to wear when working for a small charity!
Look on the bright side
Although developing a brand new website seems a bit daunting and stressful, it’s also a great opportunity for you to compete with much bigger charities. Though they may have more staff, bigger budgets, more advertising etc, they still just have one website – and more often than not it really ain’t all that great. I honestly believe that in many cases you can create a better, more engaging and more compelling site than their one which cost five or ten times as much. But it takes an investment of your time, effort and creativity.
What are the ingredients of a good charity site?
Here’s what I think you should be looking for. All of these are included in our fixed-price websites:
- An easy to use, open-source Content Management System (CMS)
By far the most common complaint we hear from small charities about their websites is that it’s too hard to edit content or make changes to the site. Either because they’re using a really clunky CMS or because they have to pay an IT company a small fortune every time they want to change anything.
See our blog post about why we recommend WordPress, the world’s most popular (and open-source) CMS.
- Mobile friendly.
More and more people access the web on their smartphones and tablets these days. Not to mention their watches and their wide-screen TVs. ‘Responsive web design’ (where the content and layout reformats itself to be readable on any size screen) is the norm these days. It’s way easier and cheaper than building two separate versions ( Desktop and Mobile) of your site.
- It should cater for different types of content
You’ll probably need to create multiple types of content, each with slightly different characteristics.
- News articles and blogs for example have dates associated and they become less relevant, the older they are. But they’re not the same thing and they look odd when they’re mixed in together.
- Static pages like ‘About us, Corporate fundraising’ etc are designed to be more permanent and you may want them to be listed in your navigation menus.
- Events have a date on which they are published on the site, but they also have an actual Event Date as well – and you will probably need to list Events on your site in chronological order according to the Event date, not the date you added them to the site.
- Similarly, Jobs have an application closing date that the website needs to be aware of in order to only show ‘current’ job opportunities.
- Publications and staff might come and go but you want to be able to display them on your site in a user-friendly way so they’re presented nicely – without having to know the HTML coding to get the images the right size and the fonts formatted identically every time.
I could go on, but the point is that trying to create and display all these types of content with one or two generic ‘page’ templates just doesn’t work. It’s a square peg in a round hole. And it’s probably the number one reason why charities find their current CMS system setup so restrictive and unhelpful.
- It needs to look, and be, reassuringly secure
There’s two issues rolled into one here. First of all your site should be as secure as possible from hackers and malware. ‘Security through obscurity’ i.e. “we’re only a small charity, why would anyone bother trying to hack our website” is not a viable strategy. The overwhelming majority of hacking attempts are made by automated malicious ‘bots’ that scan the internet indiscriminately, looking for vulnerable sites they can infect. Suffice to say, you don’t want your site to be one of them.
There’s also the issue of perceived security. You not only want to handle people’s online donations securely but it’s important that your site looks robust and professional. Just like using an iffy-looking online shop, people aren’t going to fill in your donation form if they think it was designed by your 14 year old nephew and they don’t know what’s going to happen to their credit card number once they’ve keyed it in.
- It must be as future-proof as possible.
For me, this goes back to the reason for using WordPress. It’s incredibly powerful and flexible – and there’s a huge community of developers and agencies that specialise in it. So both your choice of CMS and your source of advice/support/further development are in good hands rather than tied to the fortunes of a particular company or person.Further than that though, there’s hundreds of ways you can build websites using WordPress, and some are more future-proof than others.
It’s cheaper to buy ready-made ‘themes’ from somewhere like ThemeForest but when you put in your own content rather than the stunning stock photos and perfectly trimmed dummy text that they use in their demo sites – then the experience is rather like comparing the picture of a McChicken Sandwich in the menu at McDonalds, to the rather sorry looking bun in a box that you end up with!
And when you try to change the layout or tweak the design of those ready-made themes, you’ll quickly see that it’s virtually impossible. That’s why we build our sites to be much more modular. To put it another way, our sites are built using like Lego blocks that you can re-use and rearrange, rather than out of matchsticks glued together permanently in one configuration.
What’s the difference between the fixed-price sites and the bespoke sites we build?
At just £2,300, our fixed-price sites are thousands of pounds cheaper than our bespoke website builds.
Here’s what’s not included:
A written proposal
Writing custom proposals in response to web design briefs/tenders is a time-consuming process. You should by all means weigh up our offering against all the other options you find, but our fixed-price sites don’t include a written proposal and/or a ‘pitch’ to be awarded the job in the first place. That enables us to keep the cost as low as possible.
We won’t do a ‘Discovery’ phase with you. Normally we’d sit down with a client before we start designing their site and ask all sorts of probing questions about who their audience is and what they’re looking for, what their ‘story’ is that they’re trying to tell, what problems the website needs to solve, how it could save staff time, what does ‘success’ for the project look like. All of that information would feed into the rest of the project.
You’ll need to do a lot of that thinking yourself, but it’s well worth your time doing so. Our briefing template is really useful for helping to guide you along in that process.
Custom content creation
For our bespoke sites we’ll often create some custom pieces of content that really showcase their work or helps to tell their story. And we’ll sometimes help them with copywriting or editing their content to make it more web-friendly. That’s a time-consuming process and it’s not included in the fixed-price service.
Similarly, adding the content to the site will be your job. For our bespoke projects we might populate the site with the content before it is launched. It’s up to you to add in all the content to your fixed-price site though. We provide plenty instructions and video tutorials and the CMS setup makes this pretty easy to do. So it’s not hard, but it is often the most time-consuming aspect of a web design project – especially if you are creating all the content yourself from scratch.
Custom graphic design
We’ll help you to modify the colours and fonts to suit your branding and there’s plenty of layout options for your site depending on how much content you’ve got, whether you’ve got lots of nice images etc. But we won’t be designing anything in Photoshop for you to see and approve. In our bespoke projects we design the site around your content. With the fixed-price ones you fit your content into the design (albeit that those designs can have many different configurations to choose from).
Here’s what is included:
What do you get that’s same as our bespoke sites?
The quality and the flexibility/reusability of the coding is the same. Rather than cut corners with the WordPress building blocks on the fixed-price sites, we’ve taken some of the best bits of the bespoke sites we’ve built recently and rolled them into the fixed-price ones as standard.
In terms of how the sites are constructed within the WordPress CMS, I’m very confident that any other professional developer or agency could take over the maintenance of the site tomorrow or in five years’ time and they’d understand exactly how and why it’s put together and they’d be able to add further functionality or change the current setup without having to redo huge chunks of work.
You still get a legally binding mutually signed contract covering the project. And you’ll still get me (Ben) as the primary point of contact. We’re not sub-contracting these sites out to someone else while we concentrate on building the bespoke projects.
Who are these sites aimed at?
Small charities who want a solid, nice-looking and future-proof site that they can invest a little in now and will be able to build upon in future years as they grow. Charities that are happy to be guided by well-informed choices we’ve made on their behalf rather than being confronted by a blank page and too many potential decisions to make.
They’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and there are some potential clients we won’t offer the service to because we don’t feel like we’re the right fit for them. If you’re someone who hates computers and isn’t at least a bit interested in digital communications then you’ll probably find better solutions than us.
Some degree of IT literacy.
We don’t expect you to know much (or indeed anything) about WordPress or Content Management Systems but you need to be IT literate enough to be able to learn it relatively easy. If you can use MS Word and your computer OK without having to ask someone for help every five minutes then you’ll be fine. We don’t have the capacity to deliver one-to-one training or to be at the end of the phone/email to help you all the time. If you want to play around with a demo site first and see the user-guide and video tutorials before committing to anything then we can facilitate that no problem.
Willingness to do some work and some thinking yourselves.
If you’ve got ten grand to spend then you can pay for someone else to do a lot of the thinking and the work for you. But you need to be realistic that for a lower budget you’re going to have to do a lot of it yourself. Our guides and blog posts are intended to help point you in the right direction but the more effort you put in, the more rewards you’ll reap. We appreciate that most small charities are running at full capacity already, which is why we recommend that you be realistic about how long it will take you to get all your content into the site.
On a tight budget you’ll need to give up complete control of how every single element of your site looks and works. It’s sometimes the case that the functionality we’ve built or the ‘plugins’ we can add to your site will achieve 95% of what you’re after. But making something that fits 100% of your requirements for an event ticket booking system for example, might easily cost an additional £1,000 of custom coding.
The authority to make decisions.
If you want to colleagues, trustees etc. to look at and feedback on the site before it’s launched then by all means do so. But we’re relying on you to collate and filter it and give it to us as one coherent set of revisions. We can’t keep making changes to the design every time a new stakeholder sees it, so it’s your job to decide who ultimately will make the final decisions, and make sure they’re consulted at the appropriate time.
A plan for creating content going forward.
A website is for life, not just for Christmas. The launch of your site isn’t the end of your website project, it’s merely the end of the beginning. The more quality content you can add on a regular basis, the better. Period. But if you’re going to lose the enthusiasm or diary time to write regular blogs or news articles then it’s not a good idea to design your site so they’re heavily featured on your homepage.
To sum up:
The cost: currently £2,300 (no VAT)
Web hosting: You’ll pay for that separately. Our recommended hosting package costs approx £100 per year.
The process: Download the process as a PDF here.
Ongoing costs: We recommend that you sign up for our website care plan that costs £90 per quarter (no VAT), but you’re not obliged to. If you ever want any future development work to add new functionality to the site then we charge £40 per hour for that.