This post is not a magic bullet nor is it hugely revolutionary. It’s just not. But by asking yourself one deceptively-simple question you can help create website visitors that are far happier:
Do my visitors know what to expect?
I know – you’ve heard similar things before. But stay with me for a second longer. We all know we should clearly manage our visitors’ expectations, but how often do you visit a website that fails to do so? They’re everywhere. By approaching every aspect of your website and online forms with a moderately obsessive fixation on this one question, you can put your site vastly above the majority of websites out there.
First we’ll briefly cover why clear expectations matter. Then we’ll move into concrete ways you can articulate expectations to your website visitors.
Why Clear Expectations Matter
Your website visitors likely already care about what you’re doing. They did wind up on your site after all. Now it’s up to you to tell them what you do and why you matter in a way that keeps them happy.
Expectations Help Minimize Frustration
If your visitors know what to expect (and you honestly deliver on what you’ve said you will), there’s less of a chance they’ll end up annoyed. And that’s certainly a good thing. Would a visitor expect to be able to find certain information? Display it. Would a visitor expect to be able to click on a certain piece of text? Either change the design or make it clickable.
Align your decisions about everything from design to content with what your visitors will expect.
Expectations Remove Fear of Giving Personal Information
If you’re asking visitors for any kind of personal information, it’s a good idea to tell them how you’ll use it. If you don’t mention what you’re going to do with personal info, you probably won’t get much of it.
How to Make Expectations Clearer
There are numerous ways you can clearly convey expectations to website visitors, but the following are a handful of user actions that show up frequently on nonprofit websites that are worth keeping in mind.
Submitting a Contact Form
If a user is submitting a contact form, tell them the following:
- How You’ll Use Info – If you’re collecting personal info, tell your users how you’ll use it. Many users will want to know they won’t end up on a mailing list because they submitted your contact form.
- How You’ll Follow Up – Some users will want to know how and when you’ll follow up with them. If you can commit to a follow up plan (like an emailed response within one business day) it can be beneficial to put details on your contact form.
Signing Up for an Email Newsletter
If a visitor is committing to receive your email newsletter, you should consider including details on the following:
- How Often You’ll Email – Give your user an idea of how often they can expect to see your name pop up in their inbox. Doing so gives them fair warning what they’re in for and will help avoid a situation where you’re sending far more messages than they want to read.
- Type of Emails to Expect – If a user loves your blog and expects to receive articles in their inbox there’s a reasonable chance that a steady diet of product pitches will upset them. And upset users complain to others and unsubscribe from your mailing list.
Making a Donation
If a user has decided to support your nonprofit by making a donation, make it a point to tell them the following:
- How Often They’ll Hear From You – If you’re going to send donors a slew of direct mailers and emails, be honest and tell them to expect it. You don’t want donors to regret their decision to give because you won’t stop pestering them. Bonus points if you allow donors to choose how frequently they’d like to hear from you (assuming of course you actually honor their wishes – otherwise you get no bonus points).
- How They’ll Know Their Impact – Many donors want to know the impact they’ve enabled your organization to make. Either before a donor has made a contribution or as you thank them for doing so, make it clear how a donor can find out the impact they’ve had.
- Progress in the Donation Process – If your donation process spans multiple pages, be sure to give some sort of indication to your user how close they are to completion. You don’t want a user to abandon the process because they don’t know how long it is.
- How You’ll Use Info – Tell donors what you’ll do with the information you’re collecting.
Signing Up to Volunteer
If a visitor is at the point where they’re willing to give their time to help your organization, you should tell them the following:
- Honestly What Volunteers Will Be Doing – Note the “honestly.” Some organizations will slightly misrepresent their volunteer opportunities in an effort to make them more appealing to volunteers. Don’t do this. It will inevitably disappoint your volunteers when they expect to play with kids and wind up sorting clothing. Volunteers aren’t looking for a party; they’re looking to make a difference. Disappointed volunteers generally don’t give their time again in the future.
- How You’ll Use Info – I know it’s repetitive, but this point is just that important. If you’re collecting info, tell your visitor how you’ll use it.
Filling Out a Survey
Many nonprofits use surveys to gather feedback from the community, which is an excellent idea. But many organizations don’t establish expectations with potential respondents, which is decidedly less excellent. Here are some points to cover:
- How Long the Survey Will Take – Halving the amount of time you claim a survey will take isn’t “bending the truth,” it’s lying. And it will likely frustrate your respondents. Be honest and give users a reasonable ballpark of how long a survey will take.
- Progress Towards Completion – Give your respondents some way to gauge their progress towards the end of your survey. This will help by not only showing how much survey is remaining, but also reminding them what they’ve accomplished. If you don’t and a user gets tired of your survey, they’ll either give hasty answers or abandon it altogether.
- How You’ll Use Data – Tell respondents how you’ll use their data and if they can expect to see it shared (likely in aggregate form) at any point.
- How You’ll Use Info – I know, you get it. Tell users how you’ll use their personal info.
Have you seen any websites managing expectations well? Do you think focusing on visitor expectations is a good way to approach your website? Let us know in the comments below.