Making Our Mark: Launching African Development Choices.org

For a social enterprise like African Development Choices, Digital Presence is key.

A website is the window for our supporters, grant funders and other NGOs/NPOs to get to know us, learn more about our projects and find out how to get involved.

More formal than our Social Media channels, the ADC website offers more in-depth information about why we do what we do. We knew early on that if ADC was going to make its mark, our website needed to be impactful. So, in February 2020 work started on a very exciting project: re-designing our online presence.

How it all started

At the very beginning, we decided to focus on re-designing only the visual elements of the website. Our small team consisted of ADC’s Founder Moses Tai, our lead web designer, the new UX/UI team and a volunteer from our PR/Marketing team.

Our initial objectives for the New Website Project were quite simple:

  • To modernise the design of the website
  • To organise the existing content to make it easily available for all users
  • To ensure that the new website aligned with our values: Transparency & Accountability, Impact & Sustainability, Empowerment & Perspective
  • To enable our supporters, grant funders, future volunteers and other NGOs/NPOs to learn more about our current projects

The design process

ADC’s lead volunteer web designer started the process by analysing our old website and planning how to present the existing content in a clearer, more transparent and accessible way, whilst modernising the design and aligning it with our Brand Guidelines.

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The designer began the process with hand-drawn wireframes for the structure of each page, focusing on how to organise the information, before then working on the design style, colour palette and graphic elements.

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To put the focus on ADC’s work, we decided to limit the use of photographs of the communities, unless they directly showed the projects we were working on; for example, our pilot project, the Nyansakia II Primary School #SupportWaterRights crowdfunding campaign.

We kept our yellow-black-white colour palette, but added light grey to soften the contrast between yellow and black.

The New Website Project group met regularly to discuss the designs, and when we were happy with the first few pages, we moved onto the next stage.

User Research testing

User research, (more widely known as UX/UI), is an integral part of designing a new website. As designers, we use our knowledge and skills to create visually appealing designs, but we never know how individual users will respond to them.

Our UX/UI team conducted two rounds of user research interviews via video call where the users navigated through the prototype website and gave real-time feedback on the design, usability, accessibility and content.

We learned that:

  • We needed to focus on our content in order to be transparent about who we are
  • Some users found the colour contrast too high and the page layouts too unclear

By this stage it was mid-March 2020 and due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 situation, a large number of very experienced and talented volunteers had joined ADC. Our New Website Project was now the main focus of nearly every Team Lead and our project team was split into sub-teams, each working incredibly hard behind the scenes to bring together every aspect of the new website.

Getting ready to launch

Phase 2 of the design process began once the behind-the-scenes work had been signed off for each respective page. As in Phase 1, the process was the same: hand drawn wireframes, drafting designs and peer feedback, until we were happy with a final design.

Once we had signed off each page, these designs were then passed over to the web developer to implement them in WordPress.

With launch day, initially set for early August 2020, approaching, we needed to make sure the website really showcased our work.

A new set of icons and banners were designed by volunteers in the Graphic Design Team, helping to bring the website to life and reflect ADC’s unique mission.

As ADC itself is a community of over one hundred volunteers, we wanted the new website to highlight the work that our volunteers do and give an insight into what it’s like to volunteer with us. Our Film and Photography Team created a Q&A with our volunteers” video which is featured on our Home page.

With the feedback from the user testing interviews concerning a need for more transparency within the content, our Research Team looked into how other NGOs/NPOs display their financial information. The Financials section of our website now shows this prominently.

Challenges faced

At the beginning of the project, the most obvious challenge was the lack of a web developer. Undeterred, we spent our time focusing on refining the content, designs and assets until we were confident that they were ready to be handed over to our newly-hired developer.

Initially, we wanted to have separate ‘Donate’ and ‘Volunteer’ pages, but we found this to be segregating the content: our supporters had to decide early on whether they wanted to donate or volunteer. We therefore decided that a sole ‘Get Involved’ page would be more productive and enable our supporters to see all the different ways in which they could help ADC.

When we started the project in February 2020, we had our written content outlined. But as we entered March, the COVID-19 situation was becoming more and more prominent and we were all too aware of the effects that this global pandemic would be having on communities in Africa, with limited water, sanitation or hygiene facilities. It became vital for us to adapt to current events, so our Communications Team altered our content accordingly. This was a good test of how our page layouts responded to last-minute changes, and helped make the design more robust.

The last challenge that we faced was the timing of our launch. We were set to launch the new website two weeks before our Nyansakia II Primary #SupportWaterRights Crowdfunding Campaign. However, as we were all working extremely hard on both projects simultaneously, we had slight delays in finalising everything for the website launch. We had been working on the new website project since February and didn’t want the last week of our five-month endeavour to be rushed. We therefore made the decision to postpone the launch another week, to the 12th of August 2020.

The Website launch

With everything finally in place, we launched our new website, www.africandevelopmentchoices.org, on 12th August 2020. It was a momentous day for African Development Choices and every volunteer involved.

Now the new website is here, you can read about the projects we’re running, learn about the people who make up ADC and even get involved yourself. Our blog is updated regularly and we have plans to introduce more features to the website over time.

The work is never finished: as our projects evolve, so will our new website.

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