Sweet charity - or a bitter pill to swallow?

I have spent many years now gathering content, images and writing blogs for charity websites. I have checked the branding, proofread articles and worked on website design briefs. But it’s not until I recently needed to look at a charity website as a beneficiary, rather than an editor, that my eyes were truly opened.

Feeling the need to reach out for support, and knowing that there is support available 24/7 from a charity website on the internet is a relief. It feels as though somebody is there to hold your hand (albeit virtually) and guide you through a new, unknown experience.

However, landing on a homepage dotted with images of forlorn people with their heads in their hands and blog titles such as “How My Life has been Ruined” did not help me at all. Neither did forums full of people commiserating and displaying some frankly depressing comments that a ‘newbie’ does not benefit from.

I’m not saying that these websites should be censored, or shouldn’t be a resource for those in desperate situations, but how about a tab or page specifically designed for those new to the subject, and another for those in greater need? I believe that themed chat forums would help to separate out website users’ needs, from those with deeper problems to those who are looking for a positive boost and practical suggestions.

It really has got me thinking about the specificity of charity websites and the service they provide for vulnerable people. Perhaps in future some form of specialist design for charity website mapping could be applied – after all, these are sensitive topics and we are dealing with a complex melting pot of human frailty, human strength and human hope with simply the same content, images and brand voice for all users. Are we truly addressing our beneficiaries’ needs?

I believe that every challenging experience has its silver lining, and for me I have already learnt a lesson that will make me cross examine the wording and the images I use on the websites I manage from now on. Every day is a school day!