Who They Are:
Our House provides free childcare and other services for Atlanta’s homeless children and their families. Our House’s early childhood program serves children from 6 weeks to five years old with a NAEYC-accredited curriculum, immunizations, health check-ups, and special education services. They also have many “family advocacy” programs, such as individual case management, counseling services, referrals, educational workshops, job training, and employment opportunities. Our House also allows families to stay in their emergency shelter for up to six months at a time, where they receive free childcare, meals, laundry services, as well as the other programs listed above.
The Our House website comes from the viewpoint of the Our House team, but the inclusion of the “Our Stories” section on the website was a very wise rhetorical choice. Within this section, authorship changes to mothers who benefitted from Our House’s services. For example, one story is a touching excerpt of a poem written by an Our House mother that she read at her graduation from Our House. Although I had read about the amazing services provide throughout the website, but it was through reading the poem that I realized the scope of the impact that Our House has on Atlanta’s homeless families. In this section, excellent credibility is established because the authors actually received assistance from Our House. As for the rest of the website, credibility is established through the inclusion of staff biographies, a board of directors list, and an advisory board page. While credibility is community respect is established through these pages, “Our Stories” and descriptions of the programs allows the authors of the website to come off as genuine and approachable.
The purpose of the website is to showcase the programs of Our House and the major impact that it makes on the homeless community of Atlanta and Decatur. As I noted above, the website goes in to detail describing the various programs and services available to homeless families. However, the authors of the website made a great rhetorical choice by including an “Accomplishments” section. Before opening the tab, I assumed this section of the website would display awards received or money raised. Instead, accomplishments listed include expanding the Atlanta location to include two more early childhood classrooms, to be equipped to serve 151 students, and the addition of the emergency shelter after merging with Genesis shelter. Showcasing these accomplishments helps serve the purpose of the website by displaying growth and change within the charity, which leads to the secondary intention of the website, attracting donors. When a non-profit is shown to produce change, and provide services that help break cycles of homelessness and poverty, it is more likely to attract donors. On the website, there is a tab for people to donate online. This allows people to donate as much or as little as they like, making it more approachable to those who don’t think their contributions would amount to much. On the other hand, there is a tab that describes donating stocks and securities as well as planned giving. This allows donors to make large legacy gifts to Our House that would endow a fund for generations to come.
As I described in the previous section, one audience of the website is potential donors. Donors do not want to donate to a charity that does not produce results, so by displaying the outcomes of programs, as well as accomplishments, donors are more likely to see their contribution as a beneficial investment in the community. Because the website allows online donations and planned giving options, donors do not fit one specific profile. Some may be wealthy families, while others may be working people who want to give back what they can. Another audience of the website is potential volunteers. As a nonprofit organization, Our House must provide all of their services on a budget. That being said, it can be difficult to hire many employees, so many operations must be carried out with the help of volunteers. Sometimes, volunteers may opt out of helping an organization because the duties look too difficult, but the programs described on the Our House website appear to need all types of help, not just certified teachers and nurses. For example, the early childhood program may just need some extra hands in the classroom, or the emergency shelter may need help serving meals. A third audience, who is perhaps the most important, is potential Our House families. Many people forget that homeless people can access the internet, but Atlanta libraries serve hundreds of homeless adults everyday who need the computer access to find employment, shelter, and other services. Also, many people who are not currently homeless may know if they will become homeless in the next couple of days. By finding the Our House website, potential families can find a glimmer of hope.
Determining the genre of the Our House website is difficult. The website is informative and multimodal. Although I am not exactly sure which genre the website is, I know that it utilizes the linguistic, visual, and spatial modes. One linguistic decision on the Our House website include the choice of simple, concise, approachable texts instead of lengthy descriptions of Our House programs. In terms of the visual mode, the website uses red and blue to create a simple, cute layout. The layout and style of the website are not overwhelming, so the text and content of the website is the focus. Photos on the Our House website display the children and family served, so none of the photos seem out of place or like stock photos. The website’s spatial decisions include the arrangement and organization of the content. Instead of including large chunks of content on each page, the website utilizes many drop-down menus and pages so that each page only includes a small section of necessary content. In doing so, the website is easier to navigate, and visitors don’t have to scroll through much to find what they need.
The Our House team chose to create a website because websites are within the reach of all different kinds of people: potential donors, volunteers, and families. It is also probable that they chose to use a website, rather than a newsletter, because a website can be altered and updated. With a growing nonprofit like Our House, this feature is necessary for reflecting the constant growth and change in the organization. The website, and the charity itself, were created in the context of Atlanta’s growing population of homeless families. With over 800 homeless children under the age of six living in Atlanta, Our House is an extremely necessary organization. In order to connect those in need to the organization, the website is extremely necessary. While some potential families may find the website directly, others may not have the privilege of doing so. In that case, the website is still necessary because once someone sees it, it can still reach potential families via word of mouth.
Other Design Choices:
Throughout the Our House website, there is a major emphasis on the ways the programs work to “break the cycle,” of homelessness. There is an old saying that it is better to teach a man (or woman) to fish, than it is to give him (or her) a fish. Our House seems to work with a similar mindset. Of course, giving families in need a safe place to sleep is vital, but Our House takes it a step further by providing programs that help prepare parents for life outside of Our House. For example, Our House teaches parents valuable skills for employment and assists parents in searching for jobs.
On the homepage of the website, stylistic contrast helps certain elements stand out from one another. On the left side of the page, frequently asked questions such as “Why support Our House?” are answered on a white background. On the right side of the page, a dark grey box displays Our House’s “Latest News.” In that section, a recent grant from the Atlanta Women’s Foundation and the recent merger with Genesis Shelter are described. By utilizing contrasting colors, the page can display static information about Our House alongside new, changing information.
As I previously mentioned, the organizational choice of breaking the website down into many short pieces of text was a smart decision. It allows the website to include a large body of information, while maintaining emphasis on all of the information. If the website was formatted as only a few pages containing more information, some information could be skimmed over and “lost,” while the organization of the Our House website keeps all of the content easy to find.
On many of the pages, such as the homepage, contrasting colors draw attention to different sections of text. In doing this, one paragraph, or body of text, is aligned left, while the other is aligned right. On other pages that don’t utilize contrasting colors, text is aligned across the page, but ———— lines are used to separate information. Like the overall organization of the website, the alignment of the text breaks down and simplifies the informative text.
At the top of the Our House website, different dropdown menus help users navigate the website. On the left, the menus pertain to the organization itself, the staff, and the ways that the programs have helped families in our community. On the far right, the menus are all related to donors and volunteers. Putting these dropdown menus next to each other allows someone options for helping Our House. Here, people can decide whether or not they want to devote their time or finances to helping Our House provide a safe space for homeless children and families.