Your website may be the first place donors, service recipients, volunteers, and other members of your community interact with with your nonprofit. It is crucial that your website design is optimized to meet both your organization’s goals and the needs of site users.
Panelists on NXUnite’s “Your Nonprofit's Virtual Architecture: Nonprofit Website Design Innovation and Best Practices” discussed website architecture and branding strategies. Pursuant Vice President of Digital Strategy Kacey Crawford was joined by Constructive’s Karla Despradel and Kanopi Studios’ Anne Stefanyk for this conversation.
The speakers discussed key elements of web design, including:
Pursuant’s Kacey Crawford observed the importance of having a flexible mindset about your website. As Kacey said, “you don’t need to boil the ocean;” website design is never done. Even when your organization is launching a new site feature, there will be space for future updates and improvements to the feature. Lean into an evolving state, and be willing to iterate, test, and learn.
One of the first steps in establishing your web strategy is identifying your primary audience. Are you trying to reach donors? Are you offering resources to your service recipients?
Set priorities in what you’re asking your website to do for you and your constituents. If your goal is to increase donations through your site, optimize the pathway to your donation form to ensure that potential donors experience the least amount of friction on that path.
Next, determine the types of content you want to prioritize. Inventory your existing content and decide what you want to keep, revise, and remove. This is also an opportunity to identify gaps in your content. Looking at your site analytics can help you see how content is actually being consumed.
Throughout the panel, Kacey highlighted the importance of centering accessibility in your design strategy. She emphasized that the need for accessibility will only grow, and nonprofits owe it to their constituencies to provide an accessible experience online.
Think about all the people visiting your site. Consider reading level: will your content be comprehensible to different audiences? Use alt text to ensure people with screen readers or internet speed issues can understand what your images are contributing to the page.
Kacey noted that there are layers of accessibility, and you will not be able to remove all access barriers in one swoop. To begin, prioritize accessibility features based on your current audience.
If you know many site visitors are using adaptive technology, ensure that your text is readable in a large, high-contrast font, and include image alt text. Additionally, have adaptive technology on hand to test your solutions.
When building your website, consider the pathways visitors will encounter as they navigate the site. Kanopi’s Anne Stefanyk emphasized that it is most effective to use storytelling to share what your organization does. Instead of posting facts about your work, highlight testimonials from volunteers and service recipients. Feature these at the top of your page, as visitors often don’t scroll past a heading banner.
Anne also discussed the value of connecting your social campaigns to your website. When people come to your site from a social media channel, they should land directly on a page that is specifically designed for visitors from that platform.
To avoid overwhelming users with information and options, the curated landing page should have one ask. If your goal is to increase donations, it may be most effective to direct visitors from outside channels directly to your online donation form.
For example, visitors from TikTok might be directed to a donation pathway for younger audiences. This could include a cryptocurrency donation form or young supporters group page.
Site visitors come to learn more about your nonprofit or to discover how to engage more deeply with your nonprofit if they’re familiar with your work. Designing a website that addresses different audience needs with informative content, accessible design, and thoughtfully-created visitor journeys is essential to keeping users engaged. An engaged supporter base that sees your website as a valuable resource will best support your mission.