Best practices for Nonprofit Websites

Nonprofit websites do not have a good reputation in terms or design or content. Here are some useful best practices to help you improve your site and break the stereotype!

 “The Web is a World of First Impressions…Users form an opinion of a website within the first few seconds of loading It.” –Jason Gross, “The Role of Design in the Kingdome of Content” www.smashingmagazine.com 

Consider yourself flattered if a user spends ten seconds on your Homepage.  Users “surf” for information, relying on visual cues and key words to help them decide quickly if your webpage has what they came for.

Even if you consider yourself a gifted writer, your homepage is not an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. Most web users wont have the patience to relish every suspenseful detail until the much anticipated surprise ending.  Get your reader’s attention first, they can click to “read more” if they find what they came for. 

Common Website best practices

For Simplicity Sake

  • Make your mission apparent
     
  • Make the purpose of the website obvious
     
  • The homepage should be donor friendly, offering a simple, straightforward process to give money
  • A webpage should be “scan-able” – Use of headers, content blocks and visual design will allow users eyes to follow the right path of content.

Target your audience

  • Be media friendly. Make it easy for media to learn about your organisation and key spokespeople.  Highlight your appearances in the media, statements, op-eds; have high res images of key people available for download
     
  • Provide choices – not everyone accesses your site in the same way—different browsers, screen sizes, hardware, even different learning styles. Your site design should be flexible enough to adjust.  

Content is king

  • Tell a story: the human connection is critical
  • Make sure your content is consistent with the rest of your media and branding
  • Blogs are great, but a neglected blog is worse than none at all. Don’t attempt a blog unless you can fully commit to keeping it updated at least once a week.
  • Write for the web – sentences and paragraphs should short, and to the point; use bullet points and relevant headers. [See ‘writing for the web’]
  • Social media should be integrated with the website to make it easy for your audience to share content with their networks

After you have all this great content, it’s time to prioritise.

  • Wireframes (black & white boxes, no design elements) are a helpful step in creating visual hierarchy. 
  • What content elements are most important and deserve prime real estate? 
  • Remember YOUR goals as well as your AUDIENCE’S during this exercise, and stay focused– not everything everyone wants fits, or even belongs, on the homepage. 

Finally, test your site. 

Show your homepage to a group, and then ask them a series of mission and organisational questions.  If they can’t answer them, consider refocusing and prioritising your homepage.

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