Our new website, featuring the updated organization name and logo.

How we rebuilt our website by listening to our visitors

Rebranding: It’s no joke. For anyone working in communications, the idea of a rebrand is a dream. Ok, well, maybe for some. For me, it was huge. I was excited about my organization changing its name after 35 years, because I knew a better name and sharper logo would help me better explain our work. Our new name and logo does just that.

And more selfishly, I was thrilled for the opportunity to manage a website rebuild, design new collateral, and get into the weeds in places where I’d only scraped the surface before.

Before I could dig into the fun stuff, I had to get our house in order. We hadn’t had a major website refresh since late 2014, and while our site was technically up to snuff, we were up against a harsh reality: with consistent, year-over-year growth of about 25%, other measures of success were not also rising, most notably transactions.

Using data to drive decisions

I started by looking at Google Analytics, Optimizely, and Crazy Egg. How are users navigating our site? Where and why are they dropping off? And importantly, what is it that makes them sign our petitions, join our email lists, and ultimately open their wallets to power the work we do in 56 countries?

The great thing about sites like Optimizely and Crazy Egg is that the data is straightforward. Either people clicked on a headline or they didn’t. We found that users read more of a story when there was a big image at the top, not when we put an image a few paragraphs down into the story. And while we clocked great traffic to our disability rights and country pages, we couldn’t harness those streams of traffic for action.

It’s important for charities like ours to dig down and see where we’re doing a good job of encouraging our users to take an action. Analyzing where and when they donated was key, because if we can crack that nut, we can amp it up a notch.

Yet the more we dug, the more we realized that we had a disconnect. We could see donations coming in, we could count more petition signatures, but because our Google Analytics account had some major disconnects (for reasons unknown to our team), we were unable to see the big picture and answer those important questions about UX (user experience).

Finding consultants

Like any other organization going through a rebrand with a comms team of two, I searched high and low for a consultant and outside contractors. Funnily enough, it was at the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference that I met some Google Analytics gurus from an exhibitor there, Forum One. Since then, they’ve managed to clean up the account and installed E-Commerce, which accurately tracks document downloads, petition signatures, and donations, and populates a pretty dashboard on Google Studio that shows us the data above the weeds.

Then came the fun part: the website rebuild. We considered a few different options for our CMS, but ultimately stuck with NationBuilder, our current system (though some of our colleagues abroad ended up choosing another platform), since it has worked well for us as a user-friendly site that looks good, doesn’t break the bank, and helps us manage our growing database of online friends.

After an RFP process, we opted to continue working with our trusty developers from Liberal Art. We’ve been happy with their work over the years and knew that they would deliver a clean, modern site.

Building and testing

Three months before the launch, we started going back and forth on wireframe designs, what the footer should include, how we want users to consume our news, where we should put that big orange donate button, and so on.

I got into the weeds again on things like colors. WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker was one of my best friends throughout the process. Humanity & Inclusion works alongside with people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, so the site had to be built around accessibility. The Color Contrast Checker helps ensure that people with low vision can read our headlines based on Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

After weeks of testing and ensuring a mobile-friendly site, the site was ready to launch! Our brand launch date in January came and went. Our team shared the news of our new name and more-accessible logo (it even won an award!) over email, across social, and beyond. Our donors, supporters, friends on social, and other friends we met along the way all seem to approve of the change and some have even used the word “love” about our new name and website.

For the most part, everything we had planned in advance throughout the rebranding process went off without a hitch. Of course, there were a few minor glitches along the way and some limitations when building the site, but this wasn’t surprising and we were able to adjust.

Managing post-launch

For weeks, I planned on sharing the big news on social with a countdown GIF (“5, 4, 3, 2, 1…here it is” sort of thing) and it failed miserably. It barely had any likes or retweets and the shares compared to other posts were just sad. In fact, the simple post we shared on a Facebook event had way more likes and shares than that silly GIF that I spent time designing. Who knew? Overall, the post the prompted the most engagement was our Be a Lifeline campaign video.

So what happens after a rebrand? People start flocking to your site to click on that big orange donate button so they can make a tax-deductible gift. Ok, so that’s not quite how it works, but you will spend the first few days tightening loose ends and ironing out wrinkles—because there will always be a few wrinkles once everything goes live. And there will be things you decide to change just based on UX.

Since the launch, we’ve already made a few minor changes like making headlines clickable based on data from heat mapping. And over the following weeks and months, I’ll continue testing as much as I possibly can to see what’s working and what’s failing miserably. I’m sure there will be a few surprises but that’s what makes digital communications work so much fun.

One of the many updates we had to make was on our Google AdWords Grant account. That was easy. What wasn’t easy was Google changing their rules around the same time that we launched. I’m still on that learning curve.

Last thoughts

A bit of advice: don’t go it alone. We worked closely with our colleagues in other Humanity & Inclusion offices, especially those in Canada, the UK, and Belgium, to ensure that before, on, and after launch day, we were drumming a strong, unified beat. I also leaned on friends from NTEN. Fellow NTENners who’ve been in the weeds of a rebrand before helped me navigate updates on our social accounts (tip: contact Facebook about your name and URL change weeks in advance!), testing the website for accessibility, and more.

Like I said, rebranding is no joke. But with a plan in place and support from colleagues, friends, and contractors, it can be incredibly rewarding.

Michele Lunsford