Water Compass is a young organization working on (can you believe it?) water issues in southern Uganda. Their goal with this website project was to present themselves as professional and progressive in their field, ultimately appealing to a new crop of individual donors, government partners, and institutional funders. In other words - to git that money.
NGOs are tricky because there are SO many people that need to be engaged - individual donors, private foundations, government partners, service recipients... It's a lot. Through a series of surveys, discussions, and industry research, we built out three primary audience avatars, and established a plan for how to reach each of them through design and messaging.
As a relatively young organization, Water Compass isn't (yet) able to wow donors with huge numbers of people served. So we shifted the story from breadth to depth, telling the individual stories of those impacted by the work they do. To resonate with their target donor—a proud liberal feminist—we focused on how women and girls are affected and empowered through their programs.
There are lots and lots of water aid organizations out there. Probably most of them are great, but very few (dare we say just one?) place sustainability—both financial and environmental—smack dab in the center of their work. Given Water Compass's target audience, communicating the major points of their sustainability model was a no brainer.
Nonprofit websites are notoriously overwritten - often because the audience is unclear. While facts and figures are important to include, connecting with your average human requires a compelling story to make the issue "real." We brought the reader through a day in the life of Sarah, a typical Ugandan woman and real-life beneficiary of Water Compass programs.
Who wants to hang out with stodgy, data-obsessed NGO nerds? Not me, probably not you, and definitely not that Schitt's Creek-loving, happy hour-organizing 30-something they're trying to wrangle into their ranks. In composing copy, we were careful to use only enough industry jargon to be legit to government and foundation folks, and to keep it light everywhere else.
Building a new website often involves some rethinking of the client's visual identity. In this case, it was a big one. We essentially scrapped everything but the name, and started over: new logo, new colors, new typography, new photography... new new new. We even made some custom patterns for these folks. All kinds of fun.
A good logo should be simple in form, appropriate to the organization and its industry, and distinctive enough that it can be easily drawn from memory. And of course it should mean something. Now I don't wanna get braggy about things, but I don't mind saying we kinda killed this logo. The finished design does all that stuff while maintaining a feeling of stability, flexibility, energy, and elegance. Boom.
Our goal with the visual identity (beyond makin' that sh*t cute) was to mirror the vibrancy of communities that have new access to clean water. In addition, we wanted the color palette to be more distinctive than the plain ol' blue adopted by most water aid orgs. For inspiration, I looked to fabric and art from the region and landed on a high-contrast set of "punched-up primary" hues that perfectly suit the WC vibe.
Repetition and pattern-breaking are a core aspect of the work Water Compass does. It also happens that patterned "batik" fabrics are all the rage in Uganda. I riffed on (read: stole) ideas pulled directly from fabric samples to create a distinct and flexible set of supporting assets that could be used across the organization's entire brand.
Planning the structure of a website can be a gnarly little puzzle. Unlike a printed publication, the story you tell on an organizational website needs to be structured in a way that will a) make sense no matter where the viewer jumps in, and b) gently guide them toward the action you want them to take. This requires compelling storytelling, strategic repetition, and clear calls to action on each page.
A website should be nice to look at, aaaahbviously. But it's also gotta be functional, y'all. To capture viewers' attention and get them to take action, we established some rules: limit the amount of text in each screenview; pair that text with relevant imagery; leverage the assets created in the design phase (above); and always, always include a clear prompt at the bottom that guides them through the story and lands them on that donate page.
The Water Compass team wanted a set-it-and-forget-it type of site. They didn't need the ability to add or manipulate content beyond small text updates to a few content blocks here and there. Webflow was a natural choice over Wordpress or other platforms, because it has a super flexible infrastructure that's also no-fuss. It was quick to build, and requires basically no technical maintenance. Easy peasy.
Kelly! It was an absolute pleasure to work with you. You are a web design sensei! THANK YOU for all your help and guidance and for giving us an epic website.