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What To Expect In Your Digital Project: Discovery, Design, Development

From a website redesign to a fundraising campaign to choosing a new nonprofit marketing tool, there’s a lot that goes in to any digital project. Our approach at Firefly Partners is to completely prepare our progressive nonprofit partners so they know what to expect. The goal of this two-part blog series about project preparation is to help you understand what partnership looks like for a Firefly Partners project. Specifically, the goal of each step, how much time to budget, and who to involve in decision making. Part one will focus on the first three steps: discovery, design, and development.

Stage 1: Discovery

Discovery is an information gathering process that is facilitated by the Firefly team at the beginning of a project. The goal is to collect data and information so together we can understand and achieve your goals.

What you should know:

  • The time commitment for this step can vary depending on the size and scope of the project, but when it comes to who is in the room, we have some universal advice. Invite at least one person who can speak to each program at your organization. This could be someone who manages your current tech tools, program facilitators, advocacy leaders, fundraisers, etc. Remember that you don’t need to add extra people if only four are needed.
  • Think about looking beyond the program team and considering someone who uses your tools every day and knows your pain points. You may want to include the person most impacted by the project now and in the future. Depending on the size of the project, accountants, donor relations managers, or volunteer coordinators might have valuable insight. It’s not just people in the digital space who are touched by system changes.
  • If you have a larger staff and want input from everyone, we can provide an online discovery survey that you can distribute to the entire group. This allows us to bring in more perspectives while keeping the discovery meeting focused.

Stage 2: Design

The design stage is where we establish what your end result is going to be – whether it’s a homepage design, form experience, or email template. It’s the creation stage, when we will present a first draft mock-up of your project. 

What you should know:

  • Clients should understand that during the design phase they will need to set aside time for regular meetings with their Firefly project manager. We will hold these meetings with our main project contact and as we create, it’s important to make sure you’ve got the time to not only review but think critically about each thing we show you. Having this internal champion to move the project along is critical.
  • As questions arise about details large and small you can reach out to your Firefly project manager for thoughts on industry best practices and user experience stats. Ultimately you make the decisions, but the Firefly team is here to provide examples, make recommendations, and employ time-tested approaches to get you the greatest results, whether that’s placement of the donation button or how to organize a site menu.
  • By the time the design phase is complete you should have a solid understanding of what we’re building. If you don’t, ask questions. Get clarifications – changes or misunderstandings after this phase can be costly. We want you to be an involved partner in this creation.

Stage 3: Development

When we get to the development stage there are two large goals. The Firefly team begins building a product based on the designs you’ve approved and the functionality we’ve agreed to. And at the same time, if you haven’t already, you should be writing and finalizing the content and images for your site, email template, or fundraising campaign.

What you should know:

  • Real talk: Content development always takes longer than expected. Over the course of three to five weeks we recommend that five hours a week to be dedicated to content.
  • Have no fear! Your project manager is there to keep everything organized, to create a structure to guide you, and to help you manage each step of this process.
  • It’s important to be realistic about not just the content creation, but also about approval. Think early about who needs to sign off on final drafts, and prepare for that process in advance so everything progresses on schedule.
  • For a website, part of content creation is also moving, or porting, everything over to the new site. This involves copying useful content from previous iterations of your project and checking that new content is accurate. We suggest factoring in about an hour for every three pages during a website project.

In the second part of this blog series we’ll cover phases three through six: testing, launch, and training. In the meantime, complete this form if you have a digital project in mind and want to learn more about the Firefly process.

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