Your nonprofit’s website doesn’t exist for you alone. It’s promoting your organization, and the work you’re doing, in an effort to increase engagement with site visitors. The supporters and potential supporters you’re trying to reach are the real reason for its existence.
Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the goal when building or improving your website is to create something easy for visitors to use. It’s not about what you like best, or even what you think makes the most sense. It’s about what will create the most pleasant and logical experience for your visitors. It’s about good usability—a term we’ve all heard before, but few of us truly understand exactly what it means.
Usability is the assessment of how easy a website is to use. It’s the idea that your website shouldn’t just “work”. It should meet visitors’ expectations and provide a valuable, frustration-free experience. Good usability is not only how you keep people on your site, but how you keep them coming back, too.
So, what should you do to make sure people aren’t growing frustrated on your site, giving up and leaving? Asking yourself these usability questions is a good place to start.
Does Your Site Structure Make Sense?
How you decide to structure your site plays a huge role in your visitors’ experience. Your site should be organized logically. You want visitors to be able to easily find their way around their first time on your site. The more natural your site is to navigate, the more likely they are to continue perusing it.
At any given time, you want visitors to know where they are, how they got there, and have a clear idea of where they should go next. Self-explanatory and intuitive should be your goals when creating your main navigation and overall site structure.
Tip: Think of your main navigation as themed buckets holding content that fits under that theme. This is will help you organize your content in a more logical way. Card sorting is one great way to get inside your audience’s head and start thinking about how you can best organize everything.
Where are You Placing Your Most Important Information?
So, back when people actually read newspapers, “above the fold” was a big deal. The most important news stories were placed high on the page to ensure they were seen and read.
This school of thought carried over to the web. Just like the newspaper crowd wasn’t always sure people would ever see anything below the fold, initially, the web crowd wasn’t super confident site visitors would scroll down and read more than what first appeared on their screen.
Recently though, there’s been some pushback on “above the fold” as it applies to web content. The argument is that visitors interested in your work are going to keep reading. They may even scroll down the page. And, because they’re more engaged than your average visitor, they’re more likely to respond to your calls to action—even ones placed below the fold. So, while information placed above the fold may get more views, information below the fold could in fact receive more engagement.
Tip: Pique interest and drive visitors to connect with you. Play around with your content to determine if placing your most important CTAs above or below the fold is going to be most effective in driving these people to engage.
Is Your Content Easy to Scan?
Unfortunately, we live in a world full of people with short attention spans, who have become more accustomed to scanning things than actually reading them. Luckily, section headings can help you accommodate these people.
You need to organize your content in such a way that anyone can easily find the information they’re searching for. Break page content into themed sections. Use clear and descriptive headings to label each section. This will help you successfully catch the attention of anyone looking for something specific, and quickly provide them with the information they need.
Tip: Cover one topic per section, but make sure you have enough content to warrant the topic having its own section.
Are You Using Links to Guide People?
You can’t expect website visitors to click through every page listed in your navigation. More times than not, visitors have a reason for being on your site and are looking for specific information. Internal linking is a great way to catch these visitors in the midst of their search, and lead them to other, relevant information that may be of value to them. It’s also a way to keep them on your site longer, and increase your value to them by providing other useful content.
Tip: It’s important to remember when creating links, use clear, descriptive link text, so visitors know what sort of information they’ll find on the other side of the link.
Is It Easy to Find Out How to Get Involved?
Driving engagement is likely a huge goal for your nonprofit’s website. Every page should encourage people to take action.
You’re asking people to support your work, so you need to make it as easy and as painless as possible. This means making the necessary information easy to find. You don’t want to make this something they wind up hunting your site for because, let’s face it, they’ll probably give up before they find it.
Tip: Place various calls to action throughout your site. This not only makes it easy for visitors to take action, it also allows you to draw attention to specific ways you’d like them to show their support.
Creating a website that is easy and enjoyable for visitors to use is within your grasp. Use these questions to guide how you approach your site, and you’ll be on the right path. Just remember to focus on the needs, wants and preferences of your visitors.
Do you have any usability tips you’d like to share? Is your nonprofit website a great example of good usability? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.