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Web Site Design - Things to Consider for Women's Groups

So you want to have a website for your organisation or group. WC has created some guidance notes which may give you some answers to your questions on how to go about it.

This paper gives an introduction into how to set up a website, it goes through the design stage from identifying effective design results, and thinking about what you are trying to say to what is the purpose of the website and who do you want to access your website? The aim is to get a match between message, image and audience, how much it will all cost and how much time you have to plan and maintain.

Web Site Design – Things to Consider for Women’s Groups


What's the Look and Feel?

What are the Design Constraints?

Website Planning

Putting it all Together!

Pull out a Pen and Paper; we are going to do some thinking.  The thinking leads to the design, which will help us structure a website.


Effective design results in getting your message across.  It sounds simple!  But information floods everyone each day, so we have to think carefully about what our message is and how will it get audience attention and a response?

There are three important questions to consider.

What is it you are trying to say?

Why is your information needed?

What response do you want and what do you want people to do as a result of what you have told them?

What is it you are trying to say?

When people visit your website, they need to be able to identify your message.  Their attention needs to be held long enough to learn and respond to your message.  Here is a list to help you identify your purpose:



Common to Organisations

To Inform and Educate

Research – Universities


Charitable Foundations

Voluntary Organisations


Governmental and Political Organisations

Personal Information

Personal Stories




To Entertain





Personal Information

To Market and Persuade


Support Groups

Voluntary Organisations

Community Organisations

Offering Opportunities

Political Organisations


Research – Universities

Schools and Colleges

You will probably find that you have multiple purposes.  For example to put it in a nut shell you may decide that what your organisation is about persuading people to purchase or make use of our services and products. 


Get your Paper and Pen
Jot down just what it is you want to tell your audience.

In a sentence describe the purpose of your organisation (more than one sentence is fine).

So why is your Information needed?

By focusing on audience needs your planning process becomes easier.


Make a list of the reasons why someone would want to hear your message.

Here are a few examples:

My information will:

Help solve a problem

Make them feel good

Get them involved

Provide new Information

Enable a dream to begin or develop

Show a new way of doing things

Raise consciousness

Remember your audience maybe indifferent so always analyse their need for your message as you do this task.

What do you want people to do?

Let us just think for a moment that you have a terrific website that people are flocking to and getting excited about. 


Make a list of some of the possible actions your audience could take via your website:

Here are some suggestions to give you a starting place.

Contact you via email
Contact you by phone

Checking your contact details

Complete a survey or questionnaire

Contact an MP



Join a mailing list

Try and make a note of the outcomes that you would want from these actions and prioritise them on your list.

Develop a Look and Feel for your site

This is the fun bit.  Think about the appropriate image that your site will need to complement your message.  Without the appropriate image, your message may never be read, your visitor may glance at the site and move on.  So discovering your look and feel involves creativity and planning.

The aim is to get a match between message, image and audience. 

If you are working with women then what is the image that would convey how you are working with them and how you would want to continue that work.  People make decisions based upon various factors and in particular decisions are often based upon an emotional engagement.   One of your tasks is to create an image or work with a designer to create an image that will evoke the appropriate emotion in your audience that best communicates your message.

Perhaps one way of doing this would be to decide what is inappropriate for your site.  By thinking about the site in this way will enable you will be able to become aware of what image would suit.

Visioning and Free Association may help.  This is a good way to gather impressions, ideas and feelings about your subject.  Don’t be analytical just capture free flowing ideas on paper.  The analysis can come later.   Once you have created a list try putting the concepts into themes.  Ask yourself a few questions.

Are these strong emotional concepts?

Do clear images come to mind to illustrate these?

Can the concepts be translated into a headline or content for your web site?

What’s the Competition up to?

Knowing how your competitors present themselves is a good way to understand what works and what does not work.  This is not least because they are trying to get the attention of a similar audience.  Check the web addresses on marketing materials that you may have from your competitors.  Go to their sites and make a note of the following things:

  1. What is the message?
  2. What is the look and feel? What is their message?
  3. What action do you feel you want to take, if any?
  4. Is the message the s
  5. ame or similar to yours?  How are they attempting to make themselves different from the competition?
  6. What bells and whistles (add ons) are they using on their site to get your attention?  Graphics, Animation, Sound?
  7. Is this a professional presentation?  Does the presentation support the message or does it confuse or distract from the message?
  8. How long does it take fro the images to load onto the page?
  9. Is there anything unique on the site?  Were you interested enough to look around the site via the links?
  10. Is the overall presentation effective?  Think about why and why not.


Determine the Constraints
Consistency is really helpful.  If you were a large corporation, you would probably have a design department that have created a corporate logo, perhaps trademarks or other logos that identify the image that is being projected.  These specifications or rules make it easy for people across the organisation to provide consistency throughout all communication.   Do you have such rules and conventions? 

Organisational colours – Perhaps Pantone specifications that can be used by printers and designers alike.

 Logo – What is the size and specification?  Is it always sized proportionately to other graphics or text?

 Style – Is there a particular text style, font or layout that should be used for all documentation?

 Copyright – It’s useful to mark any materials with an ownership statement such as ? along with the publication year, the name of the copyright holder or organisation and the phrase “All Rights Reserved”.

 Costs – Time and Money

Its useful to work out how much creating a website will cost.  This means working out the cost of planning, gathering your materials, scanning images and reviewing and long term maintenance.  One major decision affecting the cost is how you acquire the graphics.  There are various choices.  Do you use public domain graphics, purchase images and software, hire a designer who will create original graphics or customise existing graphics?

Gather your materials together to create content

Once you have identified your message you are ready to go further into developing content.  The easiest way to do this is to gather all materials already created by your organisation.  Here is a list to give you ideas of the materials you may be able to use:


Marketing Materials

Fact Sheets

Press Releases

Training materials

Newsletters, Magazines, Notices


Questionnaires and responses

Graphics for site


Artwork (from publications, logos, icons)

Clips from Videos

Other Content

News Articles

Reference Materials

Research Materials

Links to other Websites

Once you have all the materials together, start the careful selection process.  It may be that some of the existing materials are not appropriate for your website or even for the medium of the web.  Is there anything missing from the materials you have found?  Do you need to undertake some research or to write elements that are missing?

Have you thought about external links?  External links to other sites are usually best offered in order to assist in understanding the material you have created.  It is a good idea to create rules for why you link to other sites.  You do not want people to leave your site so only connect to sites for additional information. 


Having gone through these materials, here is a checklist to help you focus your efforts:

What is the purpose of my organisation that can be written in one sentence that would encapsulate a message for our website?

Have I now decided upon the right graphic for the site?

Have I used visioning to develop ideas for the look and feel of the site?

Have I analysed the competitions efforts concerning message and design?

Have I considered the costs and constraints?

Does what I have created conform with the original idea or concept?

Have Fun!!!!

Women Connect, January 2003

date created:22/4/2003 15:16:21

last updated:17/7/2003 12:23:01


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