Safe shelter. Crisis intervention. Advocacy.
These are the three hallmarks of Albion Fellows Bacon Center (AFBC), which gives victims of domestic and sexual violence a place to turn in times of crisis.
Consider these facts:
- In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds.
- More than four million women experience physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner every year. Over the course of their lifetimes, more than 38 million women experience intimate partner violence.
- Domestic violence is a contributing factor for homelessness; a victim choosing to leave an abusive situation often has nowhere to go.
These statistics continue to grow every year.
In the late 1970’s the need for safe shelter was rapidly outpacing the services available in the Evansville area. A group of concerned citizens, operating as the Evansville Coalition Against Domestic Violence, recognized the need for additional shelter and services in the area, and established the AFBC in 1981.
Since that time, the Center’s service area has grown to encompass an 11-county area in Southern Indiana. Because a significant portion of that service area is rural, it is imperative that the Center’s website is accessible and informative.
Replacing an Ineffective Website
The need for services related to domestic violence and sexual abuse continues to grow. In order to best serve its 11-county area, AFBC needed an updated website. The old website had out-of-date information and was very difficult to read on a smartphone.
Half of their monthly traffic comes from mobile, so this access was very important.
A large number of clients trying to access the website found that pages did not load correctly or did not work at all. This lack of available information was especially problematic for clients in rural areas. Because of transportation limitations in rural areas, face-to-face services are not always possible. Therefore, access to website information is critical.
Updating the website would make it more usable and useful for clients, community partners, donors, and volunteers. Because the site serves as a touchpoint to connect victims with services, it was essential to make it mobile-friendly. AFBC’s list of needs for the new site included:
- A modern look and functionality
- User-friendly organization of information
- A section for AFBCs community partners
- Password-protected area for volunteers to access training materials, webinars, and documents
- Service calendar for classes, support groups, and events
In addition to improving the usability of the site, there needed to be a way for users to hide the site. For individuals in an unstable domestic situation, privacy can be critical to safety. In this situation, hiding a site is done by deleting the computer’s browser history and cache. This is why a prominent “Escape” button is always visible on desktop or mobile.
Connecting With Donors and Volunteers
Additionally, donors and volunteers needed up-to-date information on items needed by the shelter as well as specific volunteer opportunities. The Center wanted to be able to update this information themselves instead of relying on a third-party administrator. With the rapid nature of changing needs, many non-profits turn to Facebook for such updates. That may be helpful for an immediate need, but such posts disappear in the news feed in a matter of minutes. Since they can update any part of their site on their own, AFBC is able to keep lists like the Wish List up-to-date with the changing seasons.
Our Web Design Process with the Albion Fellows Bacon Center
Our Lieberman web design team met with as many board members and employees of AFBC as possible. We created personas of specific (albeit theoretical) people who would be visiting their website. Doug the donor, Sue the 17-year-old, Simone the victim of bullies, and Katrina the middle-aged wife in the county. These imaginary people became our focus for design, from the colors and the pictures to the way the menu worked and what pages most needed easy access.
We worked closely with the staff of Albion Fellows to make sure we weren’t overlooking any use for the website. We made mock-ups of what the site would look like on a smartphone, a tablet, and various desktop computers.
Responsive design would be a must if we were going to be available to a mass audience. In situations like these, users might not have much time to research or look for help, so the user experience was a key focus. They also wanted to fill the site with bright colors that conveyed hopeful, uplifting, and empowering themes. We did that through the use of color and photography that represented people on the healing side of domestic violence and abuse.
Communicating with the Customer
As we worked through the design process with demos and mockups, some of their folks mentioned that we had left off the “Escape” button. Why was this important? As it turns out, many times victims of domestic violence are being watched by their abuser. If they are caught looking for help, it can cause more trouble. The Escape button on their website immediately took the user to a Google Search page to hide the website. With that insight, we restored the Escape button and made sure it was easy to find on mobile and desktop views. Additionally, we added a “Why?” link to explain the purpose of that button and instructions on how to wipe out your history in your web browser. We also changed the button to say “Hide This Website” so that it would be more clear to a first-time visitor.
Giving Organizations Freedom to Use their Website
We built the site on WordPress so that anyone within AFBC could learn how to update and maintain it. We trained them on using the custom features that we developed such as testimonials, the single word on the home page hero image, and the various ways that people can donate and help the cause. By being able to update their site without calling in a specialized team or paying a marketing company, AFBC can respond to their donor and client needs instantly. Even changing something like a phone number is now as easy as editing a Microsoft Word document or filling out a form. As their staff grows more and more comfortable using the site, they will be able to blog, post events, and add more content.
Great Looking Websites Draw More Traffic
“We wanted a website that was going to serve the community looking to help or looking for help through our services,” -Rachel Gumble, Community Engagement Coordinator. (quoted from the Courier & Press article here.)
Not only does training and engagement benefit the website because it can always be up-to-date, it also empowers employees to contribute and to be proud of their site. Up-to-date articles are more likely to be shared on Facebook and will draw more traffic to the Albion Fellows Bacon Center site. In an age where almost everyone does research via the web, having a website you are proud to share is critical.
“We are very proud of the site.” Kristie Byrns, Executive Director
Our web development team was very happy to work with the AFBC team and launch this website. We grew as a team and learned a lot about the problems of domestic violence. We also learned about some of the struggles non-profits face in their websites and how to address those problems. Talk to us and see if we can help you empower your staff and clients through a website redesign.
Update: Silver Addy Awarded for The AFBC Website
In February of 2017, our team won a Silver Addy for this website. It was a great honor to have our work reviewed by our peers in the advertising industry and we are thankful for their support.