Below are a few thoughts one should consider when designing or revamping a nonprofit Web site:
1. The home page is critical to a Web site’s success.
Home pages that I find most attractive introduce me to what their Web sites have to offer, but they do not overwhelm me. They allow me to drill down through referenced Web pages to get to the “nuggets” that interest me. In a way, they function like a sitemap, but they are not detailed like a site map.
2. The Web site should be well organized.
Good Web sites are nothing more than a bunch of Web pages logically grouped and simply presented to their viewers.
3. The individual Web pages should be well organized, and Web pages should be consistently named.
A home page should always be referred to as a home page. A contact information page should always be referred to as a contact page. A support page should always be referred to as a support page. Also, the main theme of each Web page should be easily apparent AT A GLANCE. The substance of the content included in each page should stand out and the navigation and/or advertising included in the margins should blend into the woodwork so to speak.
4. Graphics should be kept to a minimum.
Web sites that include too many graphic files are flawed for one reason or another. People visit Web sites to get information, with some exceptions. People who want information do not want to take lots of time having Web pages load, nor do they want to sift through a picture to get information that could just as easily have been presented to them via the written word in text format. Unnecessary graphics in a Web site often are the result of banner ads and the like. If graphic files are to be included, then they should be re-sized so they can be included without overwhelming the Web pages in which they are included.
5. There should be one and only one navigation bar included on a Web site’s Web pages, and it should either be on the left margin or the top margin (never both margins).
This rule relates to a Web site’s home page and all the other Web pages included in a site. Having just one simple navigation bar keeps things simple and makes the Web site more user friendly.
6. Terms used in the Web site’s navigation bar should be generic terms used in most Web sites, so visitors can easily understand how to find things.
There are generic navigation terms that most Web sites include in their Web pages: About Us, Contact Us, Services, Ezine, Free Content, etc. It is advisable to stick to these terms when creating your navigation bar in order to make your nonprofit’s Web site user-friendly.
7. Every Web site should have a site map Web page, and it should layout the Web site in the way that a good table of contents does in a book.
Web sites are usually about marketing. As such, they should be designed so they can snake their visitors through their Web pages, so the visitors will ultimately purchase something from the underlying organization. This requires the Web pages to be designed so they are not totally straightforward. However, visitors may very well resent being “snaked through” the site and will demand a site map page to break down the site for them. I say “demand” because they will either get the site map page or else they will leave the site via a simple click.
8. Too much “advertising” on a Web site causes the Web site to lack credibility.
Some Web sites are built strictly to make money via advertising. Look at all the search engine sites like Google, and look at most of the newspaper sites like the New York Times or CNN. A nonprofit site is not supposed to be posting “banner ads” or similar graphics on its site, or else it risks looking like a commercial enterprise. Are contributions to such a nonprofit being made so people will click through to “advertisers” or are the contributions being made so the nonprofit can provide a meaningful contribution to society expressed in a wonderful “Case for Support?” It’s a balancing act for sure. Think about your organization’s credibility when allowing supporters to post ads excessively.
9. Every Web site should have a section devoted to what the underlying company or organization is, where it does business, and how it can be contacted.
10. Every Web site should have a section devoted to what the underlying organization offers, i.e. its products and/or services.
11. Every Web site should have a section devoted to providing lots of free information related to the products and/or services it provides.
These Web pages should be written in such a way that numerous hyperlinks to the organization’s product and service pages are included. These Web pages are critical to promoting the organization’s products and services as well as providing credibility to the organization and its Web site.
If a nonprofit is truly HELPING its members and constituents, then it should be able to put out a call to them to make article contributions to be posted on its Web site. Over time the list of articles could become quite a resource library for the members and constituents. Each article should also be offered as a PDF file so visitors to the Web site can download the articles and distribute them freely with their peers and subordinates.
12. All nonprofit organizations should include a section devoted to presenting its “Case for Support.” The content included in this section must explain why the organization is worthy of contributions and why donors should consider making contributions.
Anybody involved in philanthropy should be very knowledgeable about the importance of a Case for Support when doing fundraising. It is impractical to ask for support without providing a prospective donor a clear and well-written case for support.
13. All nonprofit organizations should include a section that explains how donations/contributions can be made to the organization. These Web pages will be referenced using hyperlinks included in the “Case for Support” pages.
14. All Web pages should be kept up to date.
Never, never, let the content in your Web site make it appear that it is not being maintained.
In sum, creating a Web site that stands out and helps promote a nonprofit organization is not such a simple undertaking. It takes thought, time, writing skills, organization skills, strategic planning skills, computer technical skills, and more. However, if you follow the 14 points listed in this article you should be well on your way to building a worthy Web site for your organization.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) has become one of North America's best and most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.