Empowering Nonprofit Clients. Strengthening Nonprofit Communities.

The latest custom-branded, mobile responsive WordPress redesign for Refugee Women’s Alliance. ReWA provides refugees and immigrants in the Puget Sound area with services to help them become independent.

Primary project objectives included:

  1. To improve ease of use: content management, information architecture, and site maintenance
  2. To improve page load performance

One of our first tasks was optimizing 10.5 Mb of full size images to load faster. Other performance optimization tasks included:
replacing homepage content sliders/carousels with more effective user interface elements – such as sitewide calls-to-action to drive conversions; reducing Javascript features; consolidating and removing Theme features; replacing theme-integrated features, such as  custom event Post Types, with more appropriate Plugins to improve modular integration, long-term stability and maintenance.

screenshot of website redesign for nonprofit serving refugees and immigrants

Web Design + Development Team

Visual Design Consulting: Erik Fadiman
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

ThemeForest vs. WordPress: Theme Comparison

Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation contacted me in fall 2021 about a website rebuild.

The organization was satisfied with their overall brand identity, as well as the look and feel of their existing site. However, the board of directors wanted to address concerns of very poor mobile page load speeds, often in excess of 12 seconds.

Scope of Work

My goal was to clone the site content and mimic the existing visual look and feel – while optimizing accessibility, performance, and search engine optimization.

  • accessibility testing
  • front-end web development
  • performance optimization
  • security hardening
  • search engine optimization
  • WordPress training and consulting

It was easy to identify the root cause of the performance issues: a template ThemeForest Theme, with too many Plugins. Overall page size was 3.6 Mb, well above the industry average of 2.4 Mb. However, the main contributor to page load latency is usually ‘web server file requests.’ Together, the Theme and Plugins generated 89 server requests – including 36 Javascript files. In addition to a rotating content carousel, the Visual Composer Plugin was generating significant code bloat. These poor development practices impacted usability, site engagement and conversions.

Below are screenshots during development. Do you notice significant changes in the look & feel?

Before (left) & After (right) optimization screenshots

Performance Analysis

By switching to a Theme, _Underscores, and consolidating and removing Plugins – web server requests were reduced 64%, from 89 to 32; overall page size also decreased 71%, from 3.6 Mb to 1 Mb. Replacing the Visual Composer Plugin with WordPress’ native Gutenberg Block Editor significantly improved performance. These efforts improved page load speed to reasonable sub 3 seconds on mobile devices.

MetricThemeForest (Anima) ThemeWordPress _Underscores Theme
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility88/10096/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices80/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed31/10085/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed64/10099/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization70/10086/100
WebPageTest Speed Index7.5233.267
Homepage File Size3.6 Mb (1.9 Mb Images + 1.3 Mb Scripts + 199 Kb CSS + 305 Kb Fonts + 70 Kb HTML)1.05 Mb (720 Kb Images + 125 Kb Scripts + 68 Kb CSS + 120 Kb Fonts + 28 Kb HTML)
Web Server Requests89 (21 Images + 36 Scripts +15 CSS + 7 Font + 9 Other + 5 HTML)32 (9 Images + 11 Scripts + 7 CSS +3 Fonts + 2 Other + 1 HTML)
Homepage Load Time~7.5 seconds~3.3 seconds
WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2021, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.

The final result is a simpler, faster, yet on-brand, website that is easier to maintain.

Site Credits

WordPress Theme Development by Scott Marlow

What Would Western Wildlife Outreach Do?

Western Wildlife Outreach (WWO) works with partners to provide science-based information to community groups about the ecology, biology, and behavior of grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, and gray wolves. By engaging communities in wildlife and habitat stewardship activities, WWO programs foster an appreciation for large carnivores’ niche in maintaining ecosystem health — providing critical context to environmental recovery efforts happening throughout the Pacific Northwest.

nonprofit wildlife organization website screenshot
screenshot of WWO’s new WordPress site

By fall 2021, WWO’s old website was becoming endangered. Page load speed was sluggish, above 5 seconds. Volunteers and new staff could not easily add and update content. Compounded by a clunky user interface that was difficult to navigate, visitors were not engaging with the science-based content.


WWO found my nonprofit website marketing services thru 501 Commons. Soon, we embarked to completely rebuild their existing WordPress site, using the native Block Editor to provide a rich, intuitive editing interface, which showcases their rich wildlife photography.

Project objectives included:

  1. To refresh and modernize the website based on WWO’s existing brand identity;
  2. To improve ease of use – content management, information architecture, readability, and site maintenance;
  3. To improve the mobile responsiveness of the site layout for displays from phones to tablets to desktops – including a collapsible navigation menu on mobile;
  4. To improve compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA – including keyboard-navigable navigation, skip-to-content links, semantic HTML, and high color contrast [> 4.5:1 and > 3.5:1 for large text];
  5. To improve site security and performance.

Overall homepage size decreased 36% from 1.8 to 1.14 Mb, with another 36% decrease in web server requestsresulting in sub 2-3 second page load speeds.

Performance Analysis

Performance MetricOld website (November 2021)New Website (February 2022)
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility90/10098/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices80/10092/100
Google Lighthouse: Mobile Speed74/10094/100
Google Lighthouse: Desktop Speed97/10097/100
Google Lighthouse: Search Engine Optimization83/10098/100
WebPageTest Speed Index1.5952.029
Total Homepage File Size1.8 Mb
( 1.3 Mb Images + 110 Kb Scripts + 36 Kb CSS + 12 Kb HTML)
1.14 Mb
(788 Kb Images + 241 Kb Scripts + 69 Kb CSS + 44 Kb Fonts + 22 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests67
(32 Images + 24 Scripts + 9 CSS + 1 HTML)
(11 Images + 17 Scripts + 11 CSS + 2 Fonts + 2 HTML)
Total Homepage Load TIme~2.4 seconds~2 seconds
WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2021, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.

Web Design + Development Team

Visual Design: Erik Fadiman
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

A Fresh Website Redesign for California Foundation

During the summer of 2021, Cecile Thomas of Make it Matter approached our team to redesign the website of the Girard Foundation.

Their vision is to foster innovation and systemic change in education with the goal of improving student outcomes in San Diego County and beyond. The old site was outdated in its appearance and needed to better present their recent accomplishments.

Our goal was to migrate all the existing website content into a fresh, modern Theme; and train the team to manage content with the new WordPress Block Editor.

California nonprofit foundation website redesign
Girard Foundation’s new look and feel

Michele is over the moon thrilled with the Girard Foundation website. One board member’s only email after receiving the link was “love love love it” The board chairman said it was ‘marvelous‘ and makes them look like a major player.
Cecile Thomas, Make-it-Matter

Performance Analysis (October 2021)

Google Lighthouse
Accessibility: 97/100
Best Practices: 100/100
Mobile Optimization: 82/100
Desktop Optimization: 96/100
Search Engine Optimization: 79/100

WebPageTest Speed Index: 1.992 (median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388)

Total Page File Size: 912 Kb ( 834 Kb Images + 131 Kb Scripts + 52 Kb CSS + 29 Kb Fonts + 11 Kb HTML) – In 2020, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Total Web Server Requests: 29 (10 Images + 8 Scripts + 6 CSS + 2 Fonts + 2 Other + 1 HTML) [< 40 – 60 requests recommended]
Total Page Load Time: ~2 seconds

Web Design Team

Content and Creative Strategy: Make It Matter
Visual Design: Erik Fadiman
WordPress Theme Development: Scott Marlow

Providing WordPress Support, Empowering Clients, & Encouraging Accessibility

supported living services nonprofit website

A WordPress Theme rebuild for Alpha Supported Living Services – a non-profit agency providing supported living and group training home services to adults and children with developmental disabilities in King, Snohomish, and Spokane counties.

This latest WordPress website project involved helping a nonprofit to better comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (Level AA). By replacing the commercial paid Theme with an open source WordPress-approved Theme (_Underscores), accessibility benchmark scores improved markedly.

Scope of Work

accessibility testing
front-end web development
performance optimization
security hardening
search engine optimization
WordPress training and consulting


To improve conformance with WCAG Level AA, 3 navigation features were added: a ‘skip to content’ link to help visitors bypass repetitive navigation; a keyboard-navigable menu; and site search. For low vision visitors, color contrast ratios were increased to meet the minimum 4.5:1 guidelines; a second visual indicator was added to body text links; image-based text was replaced with text; and the minimum font size was increased to 16 pixels.

Other accessibility improvements included removing an auto-rotating content slider (that did not include a pause feature); integrating more accessible social media icons; and making telephone numbers more accessible to assistive technology and mobile devices.

Ongoing accessibility efforts include improving alternate text for images; converting inaccessible PDF documents, like Annual Reports, to Pages and Posts; and maintaining content in semantic HTML.


Additional work involved optimizing page load performance. By optimizing images for web loading and reducing the number of web server requests (generated by Plugins and the former Theme) by 46% – page load speed almost doubled.

Performance MetricOld website
New Website
Google Lighthouse: Accessibility71/100100/100
Google Lighthouse: Best Practices93/100100/100
WebPageTest Speed Index3.0921.654
Total Homepage File Size6.4 Mb (4 Mb Images + 937 Kb Scripts + 157 Kb CSS + 278 Kb Fonts + 63 Kb HTML)1.5 Mb (464 Kb Images + 763 Kb Scripts + 84 Kb CSS + 111 Kb Fonts + 72 Kb HTML)
Total Web Server Requests99 (13 Images + 32 Scripts + 13 CSS + 8 Other + 16 Font + 5 HTML)53 (8 Images + 20 Scripts + 10 CSS + 5 Fonts + 7 Other + 6 HTML)
Total Homepage Load TIme~3.1 seconds~1.7 seconds

WebPage Test Speed Index: median = ~3.591; top 10% = <1.388
In 2020, the average page size = ~2.4 Mb and median page size = ~2.1 Mb.
Database-driven websites, like WordPress, are more performance optimized when server requests are < 40 – 60.