I spent an hour this morning rummaging through the website of a small nonprofit organization. I was highly motivated to learn more about this group, or I would have abandoned my attempts pretty early in the process. Getting the information I needed shouldn’t have taken that long. This nonprofit offers quite a few services, and they put every one, in full detail, front and center on the home page. So, their site is dense, filled with text that’s often repetitive and occasionally punctuated with a typo. It takes scrolling down (and down) the screen to get critical project information that should be at the top. Content seems stale: the most recent program dates listed are from 2011.
Let’s hope it isn’t this hard to find out about your organization. If your site is crowded, if you’re using acronyms that only you and the people in your office understand—you could be losing potential donor and volunteer support. Your website really isn’t for you, after all. It’s for the people you serve, or people interested in learning more about your mission.
When someone arrives at your home page, they want to get information about you in one of two ways. They could want info served up peripherally, meaning they’re looking to skim headlines, rely on images, bulleted lists, and maybe some pull-out quotes to get the gist of who you are and whether they’re interested in sticking around for a while. On the other hand, they might want to take a deeper dive. Some visitors will be motivated to understand the ins and outs of your organization from the beginning. You need to plan a site that allows both types of visitors a way to get information in the way that works best for them.
If you aren’t sure if your website works, ask someone unaffiliated with your organization to sit down and go through it. This doesn’t mean an expensive website overhaul. It could be as simple as an objective third party auditing your site for clarity, flow, and messaging (and typos). A new member of your Board may be a good candidate for this job, or a community volunteer new to your organization. Bonefish Strategies can help you with this too.
Most folks will fall into the “peripheral” category, at least at first. Ideally, they’ll fall in love with your mission and want to dig in a little deeper. And when they do, everything they need will be right there on your site, waiting for them.