How we built a platform to support and connect creative entrepreneurs from Africa and the Diaspora?
When creating our website we focused on drawing a complete picture of our activities and making access as easy as possible for our target audience.
Before we could start the website project we had to ask ourselves these questions: How can African Gist develop a platform to unite useful content and information about the organisation’s activities under one umbrella? What will be the objectives of our website? And how can that platform appeal especially to a user base focusing on starting a business rooted in West African countries? While building a website, asking yourself these questions is important because setting a clear frame will help you focus on what picture to draw.
Centralised and structured content
For quite some time, African Gist shared its content with rather isolated posts on different social media channels. To make it easy for our audience to get the whole picture of what we’re offering we wanted to bundle all content on one platform: africangist.org. While creating the website we were always conscious of our users’ needs. For our target audience, creative entrepreneurs and digital enthusiasts, information should be easily accessible and relevant. Whether you run your own business or you are on your way to becoming an entrepreneur: time is scarce. Furthermore, the latest studies show the average time on page across all industries is 54 seconds. So we made sure content is well structured and crosslinked so users can access relevant information fast and from various angles. We empathized on snackable content — short, easy to consume, and visually attractive.
The main call to action
Equally important is to know what you expect from your users. One of the main objectives was to grow our network. Therefore, it was key to make it easy for users and potential collaborators to reach out to the organization. Besides, we wanted to show the people behind the team to make it easy to tie a face to the names. We created diverse contact elements and conceived the contact call to action as part of the navigation and footer, always within reach from any point.
Look and feel
The look and feel of the site needed to meet the demands of a highly dynamic target group. We opted for a distinct layout with bright and bold colours. It was essential to maintain a professional look while not appearing distant and cold. Instead, we wanted to bring the inclusive, familiar, and welcoming sides to life. This even prompted African Gist to revise its existing corporate design. The new design of the website lays the foundations for all other media.
Optimizing the content
Quite as important as easy navigation within your site is an easy navigation to your site. We made sure search engines were more likely to show our website in search results so users could find us. We focused on a clear structure and navigation. Furthermore, crosslinked content gives users multiple entry points to access the content. We also optimized the text and visual content to boost our online visibility. As a result, africangist.org comes as the first result when searching on Google Search, Bing and Yahoo.
While imagining the website experience we wanted to create, we remained conscious of the lifestyle and realities of our audience: always on the move or based in emerging markets with low connectivity. Therefore, we wanted a light website that uses less mobile data.
Creating room for evolution
At the same time, we had to think about future developments and how we would like to see the platform evolve over time to always satisfy the needs of our target audience. In a fast-paced field of expertise such as digital marketing and management, users expect the site to keep their finger on the pulse. Building the website as a CMS, the content can grow and can be adapted quickly to new requirements.
However, the launch of the new website is just the beginning of a long journey. With this version, it is now possible to gather concrete feedback. This will improve offerings and tailor them specifically to our target groups.
Working together internationally.
As international as African Gist is, so was working on building our website. Project management in Belgium, stakeholders in Nigeria, design in Germany, development in Namibia, our team of digital experts had to learn how to collaborate remotely.
This meant working on the project was primarily possible with cloud-based tools. We used collaborative SAAS platforms such as Google Drive, Miro, Figma, Trello, and Zoom.
When building you website, don’t hesitate to rely on online collaborative tools to document everything and help your team access all necessary material at any time.
If you want to know more about how to build a website from scratch, join our community and be informed about our next physical and digital workshops.