Word of Mouth / Social Media / Partners / Newsletter Enter Home Page Developers Learn About Loans Needs More Visual Variety See Requirements Make Clearer See Contact Options Make More Obvious Leaves Site yes no Call HEART Leaves Site yes no Fill Out Contact Form Leaves Site Housing Assistance Seekers View Housing Resources Needs More Visual Variety Learn About HEART's Programs See Form Add Form Directly on Page Leaves Site yes no Fill Out Form See Newsletter Sign-up Make More Prominent Leaves Site yes no Join Newsletter Read Onboarding Sequence No Onboarding Sequence Read Newsletter Return to Site to Access Resources Funders Learn About HEART Explore Impact No Impact / Stories Page View Information Around Site Others Learn About HEART Needs More Visual Variety View Information Around Site See Newsletter Sign-up Make More Prominent Leaves Site yes no Join Newsletter Read Onboarding Sequence No Onboarding Sequence Read Newsletter Return to Site to Access Resources
HEART of San Mateo County Website Messaging Mission Clarity More clarity on homepage Tone of Voice Scannability Needs more white space and headings "You"-Focused Write more directly to the reader Differentiators Be more direct Length Homepage needs more non-blog content Design Layout Looks like a dated blog Spacing Needs more white space Motif Lacks defined motif for visual polish Imagery Needs more photos, especially of people Logo Add logo to website header Colors Typography Choose fonts with more personality Platform Content Management System Accessibility Issues with color contrast, alt text, etc. Search Engine Optimization Tech & Integrations Site Speed Content Stories Needs more stories of people served Newsletter Make signup more prominent on site Calls-to-Action Add clearer calls-to-action with forms Visuals Social Proof Add impact stats, make testimonials more obvious
Last updated: December 14th, 2022 - 06:27 am

Current situation

Where you are vs. where you’d like to be

Big idea
Educational First Steps is an organization that provides coaching, consulting services, and professional development to early education professionals in the North Texas area.

More detail
As with any locally based nonprofit, HEART exists to serve the needs of the local people and community. To that end, HEART provides early childhood education centers with the support, training, and materials required to become nationally accredited—helping hardworking entrepreneurs in diverse communities not only improve the quality of their instruction but also succeed as a business.

Description of main program or focus area
Through its signature Four Steps to Excellence program and other services, HEART transforms these centers into true preschools, improving education outcomes, preparing children for a successful academic future, and closing systemic gaps in early childhood education and school readiness.

Transition to website
As with any nonprofit trying to better meet the needs of your community, your website has become an area for concern. So far, communicating the nuances of your mission and positioning HEART as a thought leader in the early education space—at least through your website—has proven difficult. Among the top concerns is the overall site experience. Rather than just serving as a static billboard that visitors can pass by and ignore, you want a website that takes visitors on a journey, helping to draw people in as you enter into the next phase of growth. But going even further: you should have full control over that visitor experience, without any static or hard-coded sections. HEART will only continue to shift as you grow, and you need a website that you can fully own as the needs of your organization and community develop moving forward.

Elaboration on website problems
Furthermore, you feel like your website isn't being leveraged as the educational tool that it could be. You have a lot of great resources to offer your audiences (from board members to potential partner centers), but they aren’t displayed in a way that makes it easy for people to scan, navigate, or understand. This can make it difficult for people to grasp what you do and how you’re relevant to their lives.

Website better future
As you ramp up your online communications, you want to create a central hub (website) to which you can direct people to learn more and get people taking action. You want a website that finally communicates your unique positioning as not just another organization in the ECE space, but as a thought leader transforming North Texas communities through your unique service model.

Website better future ending
You also want the website to connect the dots between what you do, who it's for, and why it matters. It should clearly and succinctly lay out the path for donors, partner centers, parents, community and civic leaders, as well as clients. And above all, you want a website that encourages those same audiences to take action, whether that be making a donation, applying to Four Steps to Excellence, finding a local ECE center, reaching out to begin a conversation, or anything in between.

Opportunities & Recommendations

How to get there

Clearer Brand Messaging

More Directly Speaking to Audiences

We recommend supplementing your current messaging (which feels informational though sparse in places) with copy that more directly creates a full narrative arc surrounding HEART's work. For example, many pages contain useful information, but most pages exist as their own island. If you want to learn more about HEART's mission at all, you have to go to the About page. (As opposed to having several pages that touch on the broad strokes of your mission and then having the About page dive into more detail.)

Additionally, some of the content feels overly formal and comes across as somewhat stilted, especially in the sections that refer to HEART in the third person many times in a row. We recommend using friendly but professional language throughout the site that breaks down some of the content silos and allows visitors to quickly understand more of HEART's work without having to read through several pages of small text. Some larger headlines and more discrete chunks of text (with links to other pages) would help the reader get the message more quickly.

This content should also more directly speak to the reader and use personal pronouns throughout (such as "you" and "we"). Here’s the best rule of thumb for copywriting: The more you can create a personal connection with your audience, the more likely your message connects and resonates.

By clearly articulating who you are, who you're for, and the "why" of HEART (and repeating those ideas throughout the site), your community will more easily be able to connect the dots between what you do and how HEART benefits the North Texas communities.

More Content one Home Page

Building on that recommendation, another major area of improvement is to add more content to your home page in general. Right now, it doesn't quickly answer the top questions visitors have:

  • What do you do?
  • Who is it for?
  • Why does it matter?

While this information can be found on other pages of your site, many visitors won't click around if they feel confused from the first interaction. Adding more content to the home page (including a section at the top that summarizes HEART's work) will go a long way toward helping visitors understand how you fit into their lives.

For the top section of your home page in particular, we recommend answering the question, "Why should someone keep reading in 20 words or less?" During our meeting, two great descriptions of HEART's work came up (both of which could be finessed into this top-of-page messaging:

“We are a leadership and training development organization focused on early childhood education with an emphasis on national accreditation.” “We provide coaching, consulting services, and professional development to help leaders in education centers gain the tools, knowledge, and information they need to give children the highest-quality instruction. And we do it for free.”

Short, sweet, and to the point – if you had to sum up what HEART does in one sentence, you'd have difficulty improving that phrasing. But something like this sentence doesn't appear anywhere on the website. We think adding something like this to the top of your home page (at a minimum) would instantly help visitors understand the broader strokes of the type of transformation you create.

Finally, we recommend leaning more into the human side of your efforts. Incorporating more quotes, stories, and other personal touches (and showing them on your key pages such as home, about, etc.) will help support the rest of your messaging. By showing the human element of your work (and the greater North Texas area), you'll draw more people into your narrative and make your visitors understand how they could benefit from participating in HEART's story, too.

More Authentic Visual Brand

There are several areas you could focus on to create a brand that better reflects your organization and feels more unique.

One aspect that is missing from the current HEART site is a clear design theme or motif. For instance, there's a lot of potential with the pencil and leaves in your logo, but these design elements aren't repeated anywhere else on the site. Whether the theme pulls directly from your logo or not, having some overarching pattern or visual anchor to your website design would help pull it together, make it feel polished, and give it a sense of truly belonging to HEART (rather than being a website that could work for any education organization if you changed the logo and swapped a few colors).

Beyond your logo, another example of a clear design motif is your 2021 annual report. That document feels very well designed with great usage of shapes, patterns, themes, typography, and color. (It would be a great brand on its own!) But these elements don't really fit with the vibe of your current website. We think you could use your annual report as a strong starting point to draw inspiration from and create a website that showcases your focus on early childhood education in a visual way.

Another notable opportunity is to utilize more visuals to communicate HEART's model and role, which might help visitors better understand your work. Here are some ideas for graphics: an overview of the NAEYC pillars, a more detailed map of your coverage area, or a timeline-style infographic of what collaboration looks like between HEART and partner centers. Creating one or more of these visualizations would help visitors understand the aspects of HEART's work that are important but aren't so easy to convey through words alone. Visuals are also great for scannability as they break up long pages of text.

Finally, some of the colors on the website aren't accessible to visitors with visual impairments. This issue mostly occurs when green text appears over a white background (see several of the links on the News & Press page) but also appears in other spots such as the boxes on the home page. We recommend tweaking your web design color palette to ensure maximum readability according to accessibility standards.

More Intentional Visitor Journey

Broadly speaking, a website's purpose is to help visitors move from someone relatively unfamiliar with your organization to someone taking action. With that goal in mind, it's important to get clear about the overall journey we want to take those visitors on throughout their interactions with HEART.

Starting from the beginning, you’ll want to make it crystal-clear where visitors should go on your website. This is especially important for the HEART website, as the needs of your various audiences (primarily donors and partner centers) can vary so widely.

We recommend creating dedicated pages for each of these distinct audiences and then linking to them from a prominent section of the home page, helping visitors quickly self-identify what they need and where to find it. These audience landing pages should also be included in the primary navigation menu as well as linked through strategic areas of the site, such as the About page, Programs page, etc.

Beyond directing visitors to the appropriate areas of the site, you need to ensure you're prompting visitors to take action. We recommend adding call-to-actions specific to each page and incorporating them directly on the page. For example, on your //TODO page, add a button that directs visitors to the Apply Now page at the bottom of the program description. While you have a link to the application in the sidebar, it's off to the side of the content (rather than below, which is where readers’ eyes will go) and the link gets lost among the other sidebar links. Adding a button to the bottom of the page would create a more seamless experience for your visitors.

//TODO This same idea could be extended to other pages of the site as well, including adding a contact form to the Ways to Give page (rather than just David's email) as well as the newsletter sign-up to appropriate pages of the site (Home, About, etc.), rather than relying on the footer newsletter signup, which many visitors will skip over entirely. By suggesting a clear next action that's directly on the page, more visitors will take that first step in their dialogue with you.

As mentioned in a previous section, another suggestion is to add more information to the top of the HEART home page. This area is the most important real estate on your site, and it's important to answer the top questions your visitors likely have as quickly as possible: what does HEART do, who is it for, and how can I get involved? By incorporating a clear, descriptive headline along with a firm next step, visitors will be able to more quickly move on to understanding the finer details of your work (i.e. your programs and services).

//TODO Finally, we recommend reorganizing some of the content currently found on the News & Press page. While much of the information is valuable, we found the overall category structure to be confusing and too scattered. We think splitting some things out into their own pages (such as the Internet Press Kit) and reconsidering some of the category names would go a long way toward improving the news section's ease of use for visitors.

Enhance the Community Experience

Community-focused websites do one thing and they do them well: put the needs, wants, and expectations of their audience first and foremost. Websites are a conversation with your visitors, and if you want to create connections, your community needs to feel heard. To that end, it's important to ensure you're providing the content they want to see. Listed below are some suggestions for content to create that would likely speak to the needs of HEART's website visitors.

One major addition to the site is to add an impact page to the site. Having a central location where you could highlight the difference HEART makes for students, teachers, and communities would help make the case for why your programs are so needed in North Texas. And while most audiences would find this information useful, donors in particular would want to see this information before making the decision to lend their support.

Along with the above page, one other important missing content piece is a page dedicated to HEART's story. This could be kept on a new Our Story page or it could be added to create a more detailed About page. Essentially, this would be your opportunity to paint the larger narrative of your work – how long you’ve been around, why you were started, who originally founded HEART, as well as how that beginning translates into the current day. This new content would help visitors see the longevity of your work and understand your evolution as an organization.

Another opportunity for the site is to create a dedicated FAQ page that houses the questions you frequently receive. Right now, you have an FAQ section, but it's buried on the Program Benefits subpage. We recommend taking this page and making it more prominent while building out its content to cover more of your work. This would help visitors understand the value of your approach while also providing you with another location where you can convey frequently misunderstood concepts. FAQs are also a great way to insert questions that you would like people to be asking and to reinforce certain branding/messaging points subtly.

Since there are several audiences you're trying to reach, we recommend more strategically incorporating FAQs embedded within key pages as well. For example, on each of your key pages, you could include a select 2–4 of the top questions you receive about that topic. This section could also link back to the main FAQ page containing the full list of frequently asked questions. Most visitors won't read every single page of your site, but you can increase the likelihood of them seeing important pieces of information by repeating it in strategic places throughout.

Across the site, we also found there to be a lack of social proof regarding your work. Outside of the news page, there are very few statistics, testimonials, case studies, or stories surrounding your work. We recommend taking some of these talking points and adding them to different sections of the site wherever visitors might want to find them. For example, we think it would be effective if you added some testimonials or case studies to your home page. Many visitors coming to your home page may not already be familiar with your work, and seeing some third-party endorsements of your work can help intrigue visitors enough to make them want to continue reading.

Finally, there is currently very little information on the site surrounding home-based providers. Since they are a growing area of your work, we recommend incorporating more details about how home-based providers can benefit from your services and what working together would look like.

More Information Through Your Newsletter

For new subscribers, we recommend setting up an onboarding welcome sequence. This is a series of 3 to 5 emails that would automatically get sent to all new subscribers. These emails play several important roles: welcoming people to HEART and thanking them for joining, filling in the gaps for visitors who didn't read every page of your site, and prompting them to take action.

For example, here's what your welcome sequence could look like:

  • Email detailing the need for accredited childcare centers + education's effect on families, teachers, and communities
  • Email covering HEART's programs and services Email highlighting how HEART works with partner centers and in-home providers
  • Email sharing a case study or testimonial from someone who benefited from HEART's services
  • Email asking the subscriber to sign up to apply now (as a center) or make a donation (as a donor)

A welcome sequence would help educate visitors by filling in any missing information about HEART and then prompting them to take action. Offering relevant information right before making an ask provides the needed context for someone to take that next step.

According to Nonprofits Source, it can take up to 20 points of contact for someone to become a donor. But this same logic applies to any kind of ask you might make of your site visitors. And by putting a welcome sequence in place, you're introducing an additional 3 to 5 (or more) touchpoints. In effect, this can help "warm up" a relationship by communicating HEART's brand.

Future-Proofing Your Website

No nonprofit website lasts forever. But even if you'll one day go through another redesign, there's no reason to get as much mileage out of the next version of the HEART website as possible. To that end, we have a few recommendations to ensure you end up with a website that can grow alongside your organization over the next few years.

First and foremost, you need a website you can update quickly, easily, and without requiring technical intervention. You don't want to have to edit weird code blocks by hand or be stuck with a system that's too hardcoded to allow you the ability to make content changes. HEART isn't a static organization, and your website won't be, either. Therefore, we recommend sticking with WordPress as your website platform, but make sure the agency you work with builds the site in such a way that you're able to make normal changes to the content. You should be able to add pages, remove pages, add new sections to a page, reorganize your content, and generally fully control the site. Unfortunately, it's common to end up with a website that looks great on the frontend but is a total disaster on the backend admin side. It would be helpful to speak with your future agency about your content needs so they understand that easy content management isn't a nice-to-have but a requirement.

Sticking with WordPress will also offer several other benefits in terms of extensibility. Chief among them is multilanguage support for Spanish speakers. While creating a multilingual site is more complex than something using a single language, using something like WordPress as the base makes the process much smoother than most alternatives.

Summing It Up

To summarize, your current website doesn't effectively communicate HEART's desired branding, messaging, and overall positioning. By making the website more closely align with the way you speak about HEART face to face and by expanding the site to more closely speak to the needs of your audiences, you'll get your programs and information in front of more people, create more of a hub that can more authentically convey your mission and impact, and position HEART as a thought leader in the early childhood education space.

Target Audience


  • Developers
  • First-time home buyers / general affordable housing assistance
  • Secondary

  • Donors
  • Funders
  • ADU program participants
  • General Public
  • Core ideas, words, & concepts

    pro-housing, diverse, community, approachable, innovative, agile, connected, collaborative, driven, empathetic, security, housing, stability, tailored, empowered, freedom


    These are the pages that would appear in the main navigation menu. Under each page, we have listed out the recommended content and page structure to build a cohesive and compelling visitor journey.


    • Section containing a clear, descriptive headline regarding HEART's work, single background image showing the [//IMAGE] or another high-impact visual (not a slider //IF THEY HAVE SLIDER), and a call-to-action to join [//MAIN CTA]
    • Section that goes into more detail about HEART's mission and the types of [//COMMUNITY] you work with
    • Section highlighting your various audiences with buttons linking to the appropriate pages of the site
    • Section that clearly outlines the issues [//your community faces as they attempt to navigate the system]
    • Section that positions HEART as the solution to the above problems, highlighting your [//“beloved community”] approach[//or focus]
    • Section covering HEART's current programs OR Section covering “how it works” for HEART's programs
    • Section highlighting HEART's history
    • Section showing upcoming events
    • Section containing statistics regarding HEART's work OR Section containing a testimonial about HEART OR partners
    • Section featuring some resources
    • Section showing the latest 3 blog posts and linking back to the larger Blog page
    • Section featuring stories from HEART's community
    • Section highlighting HEART's partners
    • Call-to-action to join the [//MAIN CTA]


    • Section touching on HEART's [//ADJ] approach OR Section covering how HEART's programs transform [//THINGS], and communities
    • Section prompting visitors to [//DO NOVEL CTA LIKE QUESTIONNAIRE]
    • Section listing programs and services by category OR [various sections for each major program] Section outlining how you work with [//AUDIENCE] and linking to the appropriate page
    • Section containing HEART's partners or a testimonial about HEART
    • Section listing some frequently asked questions about your [//programs]
    • Section showing your process for new //participants
    • Section listing 3 resources and linking back to the larger Resources page
    • Call-to-action to reach out to [//MAIN CTA or begin a conversation]
    Subpages in navigation under Programs
    • Which Programs Are Right for Me? (questionnaire page)
    • Resources
    • For [//specific audience]
    • [//listing of programs]


    • Section containing info on HEART as an organization, its philosophy and approach, and its origin
    • Section touching on your approach and linking to the full [//Our Approach] page
    • Section introducing [//executive director or major person] and [//pronoun] background
    • Section covering HEART's history and how HEART got started
    • Section highlighting [//main program] and how it works
    • Section linking to the [//subpage] pages
    • Section highlighting your primary audiences with buttons linking to the appropriate pages of the site
    • Section listing some frequently asked questions and linking to the longer FAQ page
    • Section listing HEART's partners or a testimonial about HEART
    • Section containing some stories from [//audience] HEART has worked with
    • Call-to-action to join the [//main Cta]
    Subpages in navigation under About
    • Our Approach
    • Our Team
    • Board of Directors
    • Partners
    • FAQ
    • Contact
    • History
    • Outcomes & Impact
    • Careers
    • For Media
    • Awards
    • Mission & Vision
    • Press Kit
    • Media Mentions
    • Photo Gallery
    • Financials & Reporting
    • [//random community-oriented pages]


    • Section with text summarizing role and impact of HEART
    • Section highlighting various projects/impacts
    • Section containing a testimonial regarding HEART's impact
    • Section linking to [//PAGE TITLE] to see current impact and work
    • Call-to-action to join the newsletter
    Subpages in navigation under Impact
    • Projects Funded
    • Stories


    • Section stressing the importance of [//CONCEPT LIKE EDUCATION] and the need for [//THING THEY DO]
    • Section showing 3 latest blog posts and linking to the larger Blog page
    • Section featuring 3 actionable resources pertaining to [//AUDIENCEs] most frequent questions or concerns
    • Section showing 4 - 6 FAQ items and linking to the larger FAQ page
    • Call-to-action to join your newsletter
    Subpages in navigation under Resources
    • Blog
    • Community Voices
    • FAQ
    • Videos
    • Press
    • Find a [//THING]
    • For [//AUDIENCE]
    • HEART Updates
    • Partner Spotlights
    • Podcast
    • Media Mentions
    • Events

    Donate (//Button)

    • Section that talks about how HEART brings awareness surrounding [//FOCUS AREA], why you need support, why you’re a trusted organization, and how funds will be used
    • Section containing your mailing address (for checks)
    • Optimized donation form

    Moving Forward

    Based on the Nonprofit Beacon, we'll build a brand and website that positions you as the go-to with clear messaging to attract and educate . Your website will serve as a beacon to draw in your ideal community, build relationships, and get visitors taking action.

    *Payment terms: We request 50% upfront payment to schedule your project and hold your dates. The remaining balance is due 45 days after the start date of the project or after final approval but before final assets are delivered, whichever happens first. We accept payments via credit card and ACH.