The 3 Phases of a Nonprofit Website Redesign Development Project (done right)

Design Process

If you are building a custom website with a developer, you typically will go through a discovery and design process before you get to coding.  At AnnieCannons, we have a standard 3 phase process that helps us deeply understand what you are trying to achieve, how the user should engage with the website, and what technical requirements you are expecting. This process establishes the most efficient development work scope by prioritizing clarity early on and transparency throughout your process.

Below is a glimpse into the phases and types of questions you should prepare for when working on a new website redesign.


The discovery phase resolves critical questions necessary for design. Discovery is intended to identify the key assets and design constraints in building the platform. Some sample questions we cover and deliver in this step are:

  • What is the overarching goal for the project?              
  • Who are the target users? What are their demographics and interests?
  • What is the key action or actions site visitors should be able to take?
  • What assets, research, and other information do you already have that can improve or streamline the design process?

Keep in mind that a “developer” writes code – they don’t plan organizational initiatives.  If you’re working with AnnieCannons, a Product Manager guides you through this process. If you’re working with a “web developer” and not quite sure what the website developer is going to build, it’s important to nail that first. Answer these questions for yourself first if you don’t have a business-minded team at your side, and gather all the asset you already have into one place. . Going in with undefined expectations is a great way for both sides to be disappointed. 


The design phase creates the visual treatment for an interactive and engaging platform. This step plans out the visual treatments, animations, layout, interactions, and content of the site. Some sample questions we cover and deliver in this step are:

  • What is the”user story”, the path a user follows through their experience? Once they land on the home page, what are they looking to do? What do you want them to do? Visually, how can you get them to take that path?
  • What actions can users take on the site? As a nonprofit, are you more interested in getting direct donations, collecting email addresses for email campaigns, or something else? 
  • What is the back-end result of these user actions? Once the user does something, what does it look like? How do you want them to feel? 
  • What do the target users think of our provisional designs and concepts? Share your design concepts to a core group of people who are your ideal website visitors and get their opinion. Is it visually appealing? Difficult to navigate? Off-putting? 

Keeping your website clean and modern is always a good idea. Being able to update content to keep it up to date is essential. Plan and test your visual elements now to prevent wasted time and money later. 

If you’re working with AnnieCannons, we’ll get your clear approval on the exact look and feel of your site before writing any code. If you’re working with a solo web developer, make sure you don’t get charged for “design as you develop’ work – that’s sort of like building the car while you drive it.


In the development phase, we build, host, and launch the new platform. Development makes those pretty visual designs into an interactive reality available to users over the internet. Some sample questions we cover and deliver in this step are: 

  • How do we execute the functions and user stories reflected by the designs?  How do they all work together in practice?
  • How do the browser, database, hosting, and any content management systems work together?
  • What analytics, records, logs, and other data do we create and store?
  • Where will you host the site, and do you need more than basic hosting (for example, security to process payments)?

It may not be imperative for you as the nonprofit to understand how all of those things work (except for budgeting annual costs like hosting), but it is important to know that there is more to a website than just what it looks like on the surface. Your design team plays an important role in not only getting your website built but also in making sure it functions properly on the back end. 

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