Creating a Charity Website

So I’d volunteered with Otra Cosa Network mainly to provide swimming lessons for the children, this was my main drive and focus, but of course my in my professional capacity I offered to assist in any technology issues they may be having.

The office staff had arranged for me to have two office days a week, which were flexible as the swimming lessons had no fixed days or times.

After the first two weeks of random times, trying to find the best slots so most children could attend, the swimming lessons settled down to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. So now the office time could be slotted around these making it time out of the sun and in front of a computer, my favourite pastime! (well it’s the only thing that will do as it’s told, providing you know how to tell it!)

In the office for the first time and Jenny provided me with a list of 10 things they needed doing with their existing website, ranging from removing a menu bar, adding new photos and making the website bilingual so it could be in Spanish too. All easy stuff.

Bibi asked me “how was I with technology and how much did I know?”

As I don’t like to burden myself with too many tasks (thinking about the swimming lessons which were my priority) and not wanting to own up completely to what I can do, I said “I know a little and I know nothing…..!”

The next day I had completed 8 of the tasks, the Spanish addition was a little more difficult as my Spanish was not that good and I may need a little assistance on that front.

The existing website had been written using Joomla, a CMS system really for the techie world and quite hard to manage for office staff and the general end user.  So I delved in and finally found how it worked.

OMG! was my first thought – this website is not a website it is an encyclopedia of everything and nothing! Such a mismatch of images, content and structure.  How people find their way around the website I just don’t know. But having said that now and remembering back to when we first signed up, I realised – they don’t!

old website

How the old site looked

After about a week of looking around, search and generally learning more about Joomla I asked the team what their plans where with the website and what they thought about it?

It does the job, it’s old and has all the information people need.  Hum…..!

Other volunteers comments I got were ‘it was a very poor website’, ‘hard to find anything’, ‘they got lost very easy’, ‘does not work on a mobile’, and worst of all ‘it almost put me off registering as a volunteer with them’.


It was the “almost put them off registering as a volunteer” that made me think, of course this website is Otra Cosa Network’s only window to the outside world. This is where people come first and I know from my own experience that if I visit a poorly laid out website I don’t hang around for too long as I get too frustrated with it.

I must admit I was drawn to Otra Cosa Network not by the website but by the people running the office in Peru; the good and quick communication I received from them and the professional way they dealt with things.

I know I resolved their initial problems with the existing website but after a week working with it – I realised they had a much bigger issue – they needed a complete, shiny new one!

Old Website

Old Website


I asked the team in Perú what they would like to do in an idea world.

  • Easier to update website
  • Something they could be proud to say who they worked for.
  • Attract more Volunteers and Donations

Okay, so time to ask the question – how about a new website?

This got them excited and started a lively conversation about what we needed to do to achieve building a new website. At this stage it was just an internal discussion between the team in Huanchaco as we need to get ideas flowing and understanding of what was required before setting out on building a new website.

The team worked well and great ideas were coming together and a plan was forming. The next task would be to get the directors in England involved, this was of concern as the existing website was their baby – created by them so how would they feel about a new updated website?

The seed was planted and in the office we started preparing as it was inevitable that a new website had to happen.

After a couple weeks of planning it was time to choose what the website would look like, to speed up the process we looked at templated designs that featured all the functionality required to fit our needs, Joomla has a number of templated websites and WordPress does too.

We settled on three designs, all based around charities, each of the designs were good and could handle everything we need for the website, it was just a case of what one?
new website design

New Website look and feel

It was settled by the current volunteers in Huanchaco, a poll was created on Facebook and each volunteer would choose which they liked best.

Green Nature was the winner and better still – it was a WordPress template – easy to use.

While the voting was going on the team was preparing the content, both in English and Spanish, so once we had settled on a theme it was time build it!.

As Amy was given the responsibility of webmaster, I created a training course for her on the basics of WordPress and we worked together to improve her knowledge and skills of using WordPress.

The website was now taking shape in a hidden area of the internet, I had put together the basis of the new website and I showed it to Jody. The first thing she said was…. it was boring…..!  Hu?

White background was not doing it for Jody, okay, she wanted to try something more radical and changed it to orange, BAM….!

Suddenly I realised what she meant, the website came alive and was vibrant.

Now just time to get all the photos and content on the website, this took a further two weeks and time was ticking as my volunteer contracted ended on 4th March and we were moving on.

Then it was time to show the team what it looked like, this is always a telling moment, will they like it, what will they think.  I knew Bibi would like it as she mentioned she liked bright colours and a happy feeling. You can’t get much brighter and happier than bright orange.

At first they were all quiet, oh dear was it too much colour for them? Did they not like it?  A few minutes later they started talking and the excitement grew, Yes they liked it, phew….!

A few comments about things to change but this was a website that was being built and would be a fabulous once we were finished.

We split the website up into sections and each team member had their own section to work on so After another week of changes to photos and images we were ready to show it to England for their feedback.  This was crunch time.

In the end, it turned out to be more of a generation gap thing and that they were so used to seeing the old website. The new website looked so radically different they couldn’t get their heads around it.

The most important aspect of this new website was that it took the users on a journey through it. It led the user through it one step at a time providing all the information they needed to either become volunteers or make donations. Unlike the old website which enabled you to just click wherever you wanted and you had to find your own information by clicking around.

They hadn’t understood this so it became a case of just helping England staff get up to speed with why we had done what we had done.

new website in Spanish

New Website in Spanish
Perhaps in hindsight we should have got the team in England involved earlier, but in reality this was not possible. We finally went live on 22nd February, giving us just two weeks to make any last minute adjustments before I left Huanchaco.

Now the team was left to their own devices and I would be proving them support and answering them any questions they may have.

I added the ability for it to be bilingual with Spanish and they took to the new pages like ducks to water. In fact I did nothing to create the Spanish version, I was really proud of the team, they had not only learn’t how to use WordPress, but had mastered the finer details of the multi lingual side of website too.

The Spanish version went live two weeks after the new release, and it worked!

Just a few issues with the payment process not being in Spanish, but that was fixed quite easily.

Website Team
The Website Team

I feel really proud of working with the girls in the office and what we have achieved in such a short period of time, it was a lot of hard work by all of us and a lot of long hours. But the results speak for themselves. I think anyone would agree it a great website that will last Otra Cosa Network for a further 5 years at least and will for sure encourage new volunteers join and donators to sign up.

What do you think?

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