All nonprofits try to make their websites the best that they can be.
And why not? It's the nonprofit organization's outward representation, arguably the most important marketing tool available, the "face" it presents to the rest of the world that conveys a nonprofit's mission and values.
Sometimes, however, things can get a little off-track, even with the best intentions. Here are some tips to help you sort out three of the most common mistakes that nonprofits make in regard to their website.
There are a couple of preliminary questions about your website that you need to ask yourself before digging in. These are items that should already be considerations when building the website itself.
First, does your website conform to modern responsive design principles? In other words, is it tailored to be viewed as expected for any device that tries to access it? When someone searches for your nonprofit on his or her tablet, do they get a different experience than if they were to find you on their desktop or laptop computer? Or their mobile phone?
This is an important factor to consider because it influences what is commonly called the "user experience". These days, users on touchscreen devices expect the width of the page to adjust to the parameters of their screen, as well as being able to "pinch and zoom".
Mobile traffic has now surpassed desktop traffic as the primary method of website access. Back in 2010, internet research firm comScore predicted that in the United States, mobile would surpass desktop in 2014. And now it's happened.
Source: comScore "State of the Internet" webinar, 2010
If your nonprofit is still in the operating under the misplaced assumption that all web traffic to your website is coming from computers, take some time to talk to your web developer, IT director, and/or CTO. The earlier you implement responsive design, the more positive results you will see.
Next, does your website's code meet current standards for validation? All too frequently, nonprofits set up their websites and forget about maintaining them until something breaks. This does nothing to engender confidence in your website visitors, especially if they are trying to send you an online donation. There are plenty of tools to help you identify places where your website code could use attention.
To a certain extent, this goes hand-in-hand with the previous requirement: responsive design. A web developer who is aware of responsive design is also more likely to be passionate about writing code which is properly validated and is usually interested in usability, accessibility, and utility. All of these are interrelated characteristics that contribute to the overall health of your nonprofit's website.
There are many benefits to keeping your website code up-to-date, but one of the most important reasons is because search engines prefer to direct traffic to websites whose code is recent, current, and valid.
Finally, the last step is making sure your nonprofit's website is easy to navigate. This is usually the responsibility of the person in charge of user interface (or UI).
UI is essentially the way that a visitor to your website views and accesses the information you present to them. According to the Nielsen/Norman Group, "eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe."
It only takes a couple of seconds. If your message isn't found directly in the path of your website visitor in that short span of time, forget about trying to capture their attention long enough to make an effective fundraising appeal.
Now you have the three keys that form the basis of a successful website; responsive design, valid code, and easy navigation.