Nonprofit Website Usability in Detail (Pt 1)

This article continues where “How to Boost Usability of your Nonprofit Website” ended.  You’ll benefit the most by reading both articles.  And if you or your Board aren’t convinced of the value of making these changes, then I recommend you read “Survey Says . . . Nonprofit Websites Confuse Visitors” in my News Archives section.

Changes such as these have the potential to DOUBLE your ONLINE DONATIONS so enough of the introduction and let’s get going!

Your website has many different potential audiences to satisfy.  Your audiences may include:

  • Donors
    • One group received a direct mail letter – or any offline marketing message – likes what they read.  Now they’re coming online to dig a little deeper.  They just want to be certain before they donate.  They may then donate offline or online.
    • Another group – which is considerably larger in size – learned about you somehow.  And they’re coming primarily to do research.  After their due diligence they may or may not give; but hopefully you can at least capture their email address to nurture the relationship and convert them to a donor.
  • The press
  • Staff; attract top people and entice them to work for you
  • Corporate sponsors and partners
  • Volunteers
  • People you serve; the people who are directly helped by your mission (e.g., workers without health insurance using a nonprofit health clinic come to website for resources and other help)

Decide on your core audience – which group has priority – and design your home page and website to make it easiest for them.  This will most likely be individual donors.  And if your home page and site navigation design quickly answer their primary questions . . . the odds are the other audiences will also be satisfied.

This is because nearly everyone starts out with the same basic questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. How will my money be used?
  4. How do I give/donate?
  5. And then they may move on to history of your charity, staff, and perhaps finances.  Here they’re most likely trying to learn how well you do what you claim.  They’re looking for PROOF (e.g., 3rd party endorsements, testimonials).

YOU are NOT the audience

Don’t design based on what you like, how you think, nor based on your deep knowledge of the nonprofit world.  Because this is not representative of your donors and you’ll leave them confused.  And a confused or frustrated web visitor quickly says “No” and moves on to another nonprofit.

To avoid confusion I again recommend your read about the 4 critical fundamentals covered in “How to Boost Usability of your Nonprofit Website.”

But your home page has a few other jobs in addition to those four.  Have an email sign-up and a search feature.  These really ought to appear on more than just your home page.

And that’s not all.  Your home page really needs to be inviting.  A great way to do this is with colorful pictures of PEOPLE.  Just don’t get carried away with a ton of pictures.  They quickly become distracting.

It’s very important for your pictures to include people.  Even an animal rescue can show a little boy holding his new pet dog; or a single elderly person with their new companion.  I also recommend your home page photos be on the happy side and illustrate a success story for your mission.  Click here to find 5 good examples of photos like these.

That’s all for PART 1 of this article.  In PART 2 you’ll see an example of what I consider a very poor home page and one that’s pretty darn good.  Plus 6 more tips to improve usability of your nonprofit website, and examples of confusing navigation link/button terms and clear terms. PART 2 -Nonprofit Website Usability in Detail, click here