The Pleasures of Pro Bono Website Design Work

Every so often I get the chance to do a site for free. Not free as in the case of family members wanting something for nothing but free as in a charity for a deserving cause.

In this case it’s the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education or C.A.R.E. as they’re known. It’s a long title but basically it’s a baboon sanctuary. I have a soft spot for baboons and I think they get a bum rap.

I did two sites for them years ago and then they went somewhere else. Years passed and last I looked them up and they had a dreadful site. For an operation that relies absolutely on charity with no governmental help, the website is critical and this was a poor site.

The problem places such as these have with money extends to the website. They cannot possibly afford a professional website of probably in excess of R10,000 so rely on free help. They are loathe to turn down an offer and are at the mercy of the skill level of the offerer – as in the case of the current website.

I came across the same crappy site a month ago and thought ‘Bugger this’ and got hold of them.  I can do a far better job – and got the job. Doing a website for a cause you believe in is very satisfying.

One of the problems with charities is that they are full of those who believe passionately about its causes and they tend the run off at the mouth, churning out scads of readerless prose. Secondly, you have to have a Web Nazi. The web Nazi is the single person in the organization who has the authority to filter the more ridiculous agendas from the charity. You cannot deal with a mob.

The mob lose the plot early on. Charity websites are business websites. They are in the business of getting money out of people and their currency is compassion. Compassion is what they sell and in this respect they are a standard marketing website.

primatecareHowever, they are different to standard business websites. These often do not need to engage the visitor to any extent and many purchases are impulse buys. Someone who wishes to donate cash or kind to a charity will scrutinize it thoroughly to ensure that his donation is not mismanaged and therefore every part of the website has to work towards this end. A business website’s pages more often than not are for search engines rather than humans but not in the case of charities. A charity website has to answer every question a potential donor might put to it and will have to establish credibility in a big way.

This charity also relies on paying volunteers so the experiences of volunteers are essential to the recruitment of others.

Fortunately, baboons are very photogenic so it is not difficult to tug at heart strings. But, the serious side of the operation is not the sanctuary part but the coalescence of groups of orphan baboons into viable troops and their eventual release to the wild.

 

The site is currently at draft level at www.warthog.co.za/primatecare.

Do Not Change What They Want!

An  easy mistake to make.

You can see clearly that what your client wants is deficient in some way and you have the right answer at your fingertips. If it’s something related to the design of the website and it’s not a show stopper, let him have it.

My experience is that all you end up doing by inserting your sensible improvement is upset the client. Even if you get your way, there is still residual resentment. It’s a little thing he thinks he got right and you got wrong.

Even if you win a couple of battles, your client will declare war and you will definitely lose.

When to Submit the Website Draft to the Client

You want to impress the client with your work and the interpretation of his needs. You also want to impress him with the speed of your response.

draft-smallBut, if the draft website is largely incomplete, the client will pick lots of holes in it and think you don’t know what you’re doing. So, what do you do?

If you work and work at the website to get it as complete as you can get it, any wholesale changes will be resented. Further, the extra time you have taken to get it right will not be appreciated by the client as well as the possibility that your interpretation is not his.

I try and complete just enough pages to give the client an idea of his website, if necessary using dummy text and pictures on the major pages. Knowing when to stop is not easy and is based on a site by site basis.

The other problem is how to submit the draft. Often, there is no face to face communication. Do you just post the web site draft and inform the client by email? Do you add a short explanation? A long explanation? I often write my justification as the home page text if none is available or add a separate page.

The best way is a face to face without the client having previously seen the draft which also has the advantage that the client’s response can be observed and there is no time for him to develop an entrenched opinion.  It’s easy then to discuss the various merits and nip problems in the bud.

If that’s not possible, then a phone walk through is the next best way.