Not every website needs to be a big investment in flashy design and functionality. But there comes a point when boring website design or a frustrating user experience will push visitors to leave without doing what you hoped.

If you’ve been wondering if it’s time to make some website changes—or even scrap the site and start over—we’ve put together a list of common problem areas and metrics so that you can identify pieces of your nonprofit’s web design that need a fix.

Is Boring Website Design Bad?

I think we can all agree that a frustrating website is going to have negative consequences. Ever heard of a rage click? People don’t like to wait too long, hit unexpected dead ends, or try to complete a website task that’s broken. It’s all too easy to leave a website and never return.

But what about boring website design? Is it really a problem if your nonprofit’s website isn’t fancy or trendy? Yes and no.

There is something to be said for boring if that’s what best serves the audience and enables your visitors and your organization to meet your respective goals. As Jeff Brooks writes, “We aren’t in fundraising to entertain ourselves. We’re here to help great things happen. Which is maybe the best and deepest kind of entertainment around.”

The same goes for website design.

There’s a kind of boring that’s practical but functional, where your website visitors accomplish what they came to do. (Think: most government websites.) 

And there’s a kind of boring that’s painfully tedious, where visitors will give up trying to complete an action or leave your site without understanding what they just read and why it matters. This type of boring can be hard to diagnose, but here we go!

7 Signs & Symptoms to Watch For

To find out if you’ve reached a breaking point with a boring website design, look out for these seven indicators and elements. Some are issues you can fix without building a new site, but there are times when a do-over is worth the effort.

High Bounce Rate on Top Pages

Your website’s bounce rate measures the percentage of people who come to a page on your site and leave without clicking on or looking at anything else. There are a few different ways of interpreting bounce rates via Google Analytics (and Yoast SEO has a good breakdown), but what you don’t want to see is a good portion of your audience visiting an important page and deciding to leave immediately. These pages could include your homepage, program pages, a donation page or other landing page where you expect people to engage.

When you’re seeing high bounce rates (over 70%) on key pages, you could be frustrating or boring people with:

  • Very dense text that isn’t approachable or formatted correctly
  • No internal links that send people to related information (or having broken links)
  • Content that’s locked up in PDFs instead of on the page
  • No clear and compelling calls to action that motivate them to take the next step

Low Website Conversion Rates

Tracking website actions, like donations or event registrations, in an analytics tool offers valuable insights about the interests of your visitors and what they are motivated, or not motivated, to do while on your website. When you see a low conversion rate (under 1%) on these actions, it’s a red flag that you have some urgent work to do.

Fixing low website conversion rates often means:

  • Adjusting your content to focus on one “ask” per page
  • Simplifying the process, like offering short online forms
  • Testing your messaging to see what resonates with supporters

Slow Load Time

A web page that loads slowly (more than 4 seconds) isn’t necessarily boring, but the wait can be enough that a visitor leaves in frustration. There are lots of reasons for slow loading, some of which are highly technical, but it’s worth making adjustments to the things you can control if a simple test reveals a lag. Note that recent nonprofit benchmarks show homepages loading in 2.38 seconds on desktop and mobile while donation pages load at 2.66s on desktop and 2.77s on mobile.

Start with the following tweaks. If you still see significant issues, it might be time to think about a new site that’s built from the code up with speed and other best practices in mind.

  • Reduce image and file sizes to be more web-friendly
  • Remove any plugins or functionality that you’re no longer using
  • Host large files elsewhere, like videos (YouTube) and documents (Google Drive)

Very Few Mobile Visitors

When’s the last time you navigated and read your website from a mobile phone? Roughly 50% of nonprofit website traffic is on mobile devices with another 6% on tablets. If your website analytics data show something very different, and the mobile traffic you do attract has a high bounce rate, it’s time to acknowledge that your website design is behind the times.

There are lots of benefits to a mobile-first marketing strategy, which includes responsive website design, from easier mobile fundraising to better search engine optimization. But making an older site mobile-friendly is a tall order, outside of writing short, concise content. A new design that seamlessly adjusts to different screen sizes will cut down on the boring and frustrating factors here.

Reliance on Site Search

When we’re talking with a nonprofit about their website content strategy, it’s not uncommon to hear that the organization’s staff tends to search their current site to find what they need. It’s otherwise too hard to find what they’re looking for. If that’s the case, just imagine what their visitors are going through.

If you have a website that uses Google Analytics to collect site search data, there’s a treasure trove of information there about what people are looking for and how often searches are happening. Tons of searches, especially for the same things over and over, are a good indication that visitors are having a hard time finding something important. Time to revisit your website structure and think about how you can do a better job with page organization and page names.

Lack of Storytelling Visuals

Photos, infographics, illustrations, diagrams, short videos. These types of visuals aren’t just for show. They help guide people through your story, mission, unique approach and impact. While a lack of compelling visuals isn’t necessarily frustrating, it can absolutely be boring. Walls of text quickly make a page seem overwhelmingly academic, and website visitors aren’t sticking around for homework.

If you’re wondering how to make a website more interesting without breaking the bank, adding in elements of visual storytelling is where to start. 

  • Makeover an uninspiring Donate page with a single image. 
  • Transform an Impact page with a simple gallery.
  • Use a headshot paired with a client or supporter testimonial.
  • Give each blog post a featured image that connects the reader with a relevant emotion.

Loads of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The occasional set of three to five FAQs can be helpful if they provide valuable details within the larger context of the page. For example, you might have some common questions from parents about an after-school program. Breaking them out into digestible Q&As makes the page easy to scan and cuts down on calls to your office.

But if you find yourself creating an entire page on your website that’s full of FAQs from top to bottom…you’ve arrived at a frustrating and boring website. It tells me that your website content is either too dense or hard to navigate for the average user. People can’t self-serve to find what they are looking for, which either leads to more work on your end (like calls or emails to the office) or never hearing from people at all. And besides that, a huge list of FAQs is rarely easy to read, especially when you’re on a mobile device.

Get more tips on how to do FAQs right and transform them into better content.

From Boring to Engaging

When it comes to fixing what you think is a bad website design, it’s important to put your visitors first. The elements that are frustrating and boring to your visitors are the things that matter most to improve. It’s common for nonprofit marketers to want to shake things up and jump on a new trend, but make sure it’s not at the expense of what’s needed to move your mission forward. Focus on better engagement before investing in the awe factor.

Can you think of other signs of boring website design that we missed? If you’ve had a boring or frustrating website in the past, what did you do to fix it? See you in the comments!