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Why and How to Invest in Digital Platform Updates (Instead of Complete Overhauls)

It’s relatively easy for your ministry’s decision makers to understand the need to build a new website or app, or rebuild an existing one. The results of these projects are visible to all; the ROI is conspicuous. 

Investing in work that doesn’t have that obvious ROI, on the other hand, can be harder for leadership to stomach. 

And yet, putting time and resources behind three such “hidden” initiatives—incremental UX improvements, behind-the-scenes system modernization, and bug fixes—is paramount to the long-term success of your ministry and its online presence. 

Let’s explore why and how to get the buy-in you need on updates (not overhauls) to your digital platform.  

App and Site Updates Can Be Unpopular. Do Them for Your Ministry Anyway.

The three areas we want to encourage your decision makers to invest in (UX improvements, system modernization, and bug fixes) are not usually the initiatives that generate the most donations—let alone excitement. Remember: Few people care about unseen upgrades. But you’re still stuck needing to communicate the value of work that isn’t adding new features or apps

Here’s what you must focus on to garner the support you need…

A modern platform with few bugs will effectively reach your ministry’s audience today. What’s more, it’ll be robust enough, thanks to modern tech, for further development in the future

After all, you can’t always build a new thing (although there’s a time and place to do so, of course). Creating a fresh ministry site or app takes upwards of 18 months, so you’re leaving your constituents high and dry with a faulty platform in the interim. More importantly, you can’t (or shouldn’t) build a new thing on top of an outdated, poorly functioning old thing. That’s just lipstick on a pig. 

For a Modern Ministry Platform, Seek Support for These 3 Initiatives 

Keeping your platform up to date and easy to use is the best course of action. When it is time for something new, your existing tech will be able to support modern dev tools and practices. In the meantime, you have a platform your ministry’s constituents can enjoy using, thanks to investing in the three initiatives below. 

1. UX Improvements 

It’s perhaps easiest for your ministry’s decision makers to understand the need to invest in your platform’s user experience. The UX of your site or app matters to your users, your donors, and, as such, to your organization as a whole. You may even receive less donations if, for example, one of your constituents can’t locate your donation page because of a poor UX. 

Even though everyone generally accepts that a quality UX is important, you might need to help your internal stakeholders understand that UX improvements are incremental. Working on your UX is a process—not a one-off project. You need resources to support the UX of your platform on an ongoing basis, which is why we include incremental UX improvements as an update or modernization initiative you must undertake. 

To get started with UX improvements, look at your site or app’s navigation and accessibility (you could check that the color contrast is okay for people with low vision). Both are low-hanging fruit when it comes to bettering your UX

2. System Modernization 

For lack of a better term, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is real in the nonprofit space! You and your decision makers alike want to keep up with your ministry peers when it comes to the tech they’re employing. 

But remember, you can’t effectively build a new platform atop an old one. Systems fall out of date, and your developers rely on outdated methods and software. From there, maintaining your app’s codebase becomes increasingly difficult because these older methods fall into disuse and the older software lacks support resources. It’s also harder to find staff to work in older coding languages and environments. 

All to say, it’s a slippery slope when you fail to keep your systems modern, which is why doing so is critical. We’ve had clients spend an entire quarter just paying down their technical debt, which could’ve been avoided by making iterative updates. Modernizing, however unglamorous it may seem to your decision makers, is worthwhile. 

3. Bug Fixes

Bugs and deficiencies never fix themselves and often come back to bite your users. It seems obvious that a software bug never just goes away, right? But your development practices may demonstrate that, in fact, that’s exactly what you (or your internal stakeholders) think happens. You’re not fixing the issues that pop up—perhaps because you lack the resources to do so. 

Here’s why you must advocate for support in fixing bugs…

Unfortunately, when you ignore bugs or deficiencies, more and more of your ministry’s users will encounter them over time. Eventually, they could become disillusioned with your organization. Buggy platforms also rely on band-aid workarounds to attempt to avoid buggy behavior, so you’re accruing tons of technical debt. 

Intentionally addressing bugs and deficiencies, even if they aren’t particularly apparent to your users, ensures that you have the bandwidth to develop the features you want instead of working around the problems you don’t want.

Tip: Keep track of your platform’s most common and problematic issues through your support department or inbox. Work first on the bugs and deficiencies your users are reporting most often. 

Go Forth and Update Your Ministry’s App

There are no downsides to keeping your systems modern and making iterative improvements. We know you already have your eye on your app or site’s deficiencies. And you probably have a long list of optimizations you’d like to make. We hope this article helps you justify how crucial UX tweaks, system updates, and bug fixes are to maintaining a user-friendly ministry platform.

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