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5 Steps to Improving Your Website on a Tiny Budget

Strategy is where you make the most difference with limited funds

Graphic showing the 5 steps to improving your website on a tiny budget
Nicole Sirivansanti - June 10, 2016
Most people understand the value of a well-designed website. The major challenge, especially for nonprofits, is how to upgrade a website design on a limited budget. In this article, learn about a few actions you can take to drastically improve your website without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

The need for a well-designed website becomes obvious as soon you visit a website where it's easy to get lost and discouraged in the matrix of information. Compare that to one that clearly communicates and drives users to get involved.

When working on redesigning your website, a good place to start is with your website's strategy. Strategy is where you can set the stage for successful design, and where you can make the most difference with limited financial resources. You'll see this outlined in the following five steps.

1. Set Goals

1. Set Goals

The first thing to do is to ask, "What do you want your website to accomplish?" You may want to share your mission, attract and process donations, highlight customer or beneficiary stories, register customers, foster dialogue, or educate a particular community.

Write down your answers. Then take a look at your current website to see if any of those goals are being achieved. What goals are not being addressed? Keep these in mind as you go through the next steps.

2. Organize

2. Organize

Look into how you might be able to rearrange your pages and menu to make it as easy as possible for users to understand where to go. Make it easy for a funder you met a conference to visit your website and figure out how to get an overview of your programs. Give a volunteer a clear path to becoming a donor.

You can do all this by looking at your site architecture and site map. A good rule of thumb is to keep your main menu items limited to five sections. Here's one example of a site map for a larger website that we at Elefint Designs recently created.

3. Reduce

3. Reduce

Oftentimes the sheer amount of information that's on an older website is overwhelming. The best thing you can do here is to whittle content down to leave only what is necessary. This strategy would apply not only for the amount of text you might find on a single page, but also for entire pages and sections of the website as well.

For example, an organization had started a community forum, but didn't have the capacity to maintain and grow engagement on the platform. Instead of leaving it up, its staffers simply took it down. It's better to do things well than half-heartedly.

Similarly, if you have a blog, take a step back to assess your true capacity for updating it. How fresh is your content? If you can't create new posts at least once a month, consider scrapping the blog altogether. Also, do you really need to have a newsletter archive? How many users actually use it?

Another type of content to reduce: visuals. Make sure the visuals you have actually serve a purpose — does that infographic really add value? If it doesn't add value, eliminate it. One design principle that this action calls to mind is to appreciate the value of white space. Oftentimes, less is truly more.

4. Refine

4. Refine

See if you can find opportunities to change your remaining text content and language to help you meet your goals. Look at how you've worded your menu navigation labels. Are they clear to a new visitor to your website? For example, would "What We Do" be better as "Our Services," or maybe "Our Stories"?

You can also refine your visuals. If you had identified unworthy graphics in the previous step, brainstorm some ideas to make them more useful. See additional data visualization tips.

You can also refine how your website looks through use of color. Make sure that your brand's colors — and no others — are prominent and used consistently across your website. Too much color can be overwhelming too.

5. Recruit

5. Recruit

Once you've made a list of the tweaks you can make to your website, find a freelance website developer to help you make the changes. Depending on the platform you use for your website, making small changes can be a matter of a couple hours of work to 50 hours or more. A freelancer familiar with HTML should be able to help with things like color changes and other needs.

Elefint primarily uses Wordpress as a platform because we find it user-friendly to make simple changes like reorganizing pages and menus, and editing content. If your website is on Wordpress, you can make many changes yourself without having knowledge of HTML, and Wordpress has a pretty strong online support community to help you.

But if you don't have the capacity, consider the few thousand dollars you may spend with a freelancer as money well spent. To find freelancers, check out sites like, or get in touch with developer bootcamps like DevBootCamp and General Assembly to see if students might be interested in helping. If you're looking for volunteers, also try organizations like Taproot Foundation, Catchafire,, and

And finally, to round out this list, here's a bonus sixth step:

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

The first five steps highlight small yet significant changes that can get your website and organization closer to your goals. There are many more design and interactive features that can help get you the rest of the way. For example, a designer can help you rethink and create the site architecture and page designs entirely, suggest new ways to enhance engagement, and highlight your brand. When you're ready, reach out to a designer or design firm to start getting a sense of what a full redesign might look like in terms of cost, time, and scope.

Many firms, including Elefint, are happy to brainstorm with you in the early stages for free. In fact, we prefer to chat with you earlier rather than later. If you've completed all these steps, you'll have the information you'll need — why a website redesign is important, some first thoughts on how to improve, and an estimated budget — to make a compelling case for support from your potential funder.

Images: Elefint Designs

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