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The messages that an organization puts online do not stand alone but together form a bigger picture. They should be part of a larger body of work, one that unfolds across media and over time.

Building your NGO’s website

Your website is a powerful platform for connecting with the world, and carefully curated content along with a great design is often the first step in showing the world who you are and what you stand for.

When planning a new website, one of the first questions to consider regarding content is whether the information already exists (i.e., are there resources already available that fulfill the intended purpose of the website?). In tackling content creation/curation, it is important to avoid re-inventing the wheel and risking becoming buried in search engine algorithms by competing with similar and potentially more developed sites, or worse still, inventing a square wheel – meaning producing content that is of lower quality than what already exists due to lack of research or clarity of vision.

To avoid these pitfalls, thorough research into what information is already available is key, and from there evaluating whether it accurately represents the site’s vision, and also what gaps may exist. This will help inform the decision to either present existing material or prepare unique content.

Another point to consider is whether the website will host mostly static content (requiring minimal interventions) or else determine the frequency of updates if the purpose is to host dynamic content. The latter case will depend in large part on the human resources that are available; creating original content on an ongoing basis requires planning, coordination and labor to ensure continuity, which may be prohibitive in some contexts and therefore cross-posting from existing resources or linking to them may be more realistic. One effective approach that can provide a good balance is using a hybrid solution: creating original content of core material (background information, overviews and summaries), but also quoting/linking to other sources that may present timely, additional updates to the site’s central theme.

One of the drawbacks of using existing content is not having the space to create a tone and focus that are unique and well-directed. For example, an organization may wish to build a new website to address online safety concerns of people working in sensitive regions with limited access to the Internet or modern devices. To this end, there would be little benefit in re-using content from, say, a digital security company that recommends tools for the corporate sector, since it is targeting an audience with very different needs, use cases, threat models and levels of expertise. In this case, even though some of the tools proposed may be relevant, they may be presented in a way that is difficult to comprehend or implement, and therefore prove to be unhelpful (or worse, discouraging to the people trying to make sense of the content). Knowing the target audience will greatly help in determining whether existing content can be used, if a degree of customization is required, or if needs would best be met by preparing fresh content that directly addresses the site’s mission.

Finally, whether the material is new or already exists, it is important to always link it to existing resources. With the plethora of information at our fingertips thanks to the Internet, no content exists in isolation; it is always part of a broader context/universe and it is crucial to have hyperlinks to the references it is making. Establishing these bridges is also an important way that we can use the Internet to build communities: by sharing resources, we are better able to support each other in our work and create unity on important issues.