When it comes to websites, there’s A LOT of information available and even more choices to make. Deciding which tech to use, writing the content and choosing the look of the site can take up a lot of your time and, as a nonprofit professional, I have a feeling you don’t have much extra time available. As such, I’ve come up with some web design tips to help give you some parameters to make sure you don’t spend extra time on unnecessary design mistakes.

Don’t Overdo A Good Thing

You have probably seen websites that have a cool effect at the top of the page. Something like a moving video background or an effect that creates a typewriter effect. They are relatively simple to achieve if you have a designer who knows what they are doing. The point of these cool designs and effects is to draw the attention of the visitor, resulting in a greater likelihood that they will interact with that portion of the site. It is tempting to implement that design wherever you can. Obviously, if the goal is to draw the users attention and these effects do that, you should use them whenever you can, right? WRONG! These effects are powerful when they are used sparingly. They draw the eye because they are not seen everywhere else, and that makes that content special. Take this example. Which button do you think I want you to click?

Obviously, the button that is shimmying! And you ONLY know that because that is the only button shaking.

Clear Calls To Action

Before you even start to think about the look of your website, you should map it out. You should know what information you need to have up on the site so you can tell your designer what pages need to be created. Once you know what pages you need, I recommend that you start by setting an outcome for each page. What do you want the visitor to do on that page? Do you want them to download a report? Do you want them to sign up to volunteer? Do you want them to donate? Once you know what you want the visitor to do, you can write clear content that will move them toward that outcome. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago on tips for writing a winning call-to-action that can get you started!

Simple Navigation Menu

Visitors come to a website to find information and they usually aren’t interested in taking a long time to find it. They want quick answers with as little fuss as possible. Having a clear and simple design starts with your navigation menu at the top of the page. It is good practice to have no more than 6 menu items at the top of the page. Any more than that and the top of the page starts to look cluttered and can put off visitors who are usually just looking to find one piece of information.

Always Provide An Option To Search The Site

Always tell your designer that you want users to have the ability to search the site. This option usually goes in one of the top corners of every webpage on a site and ensures that visitors can find the information they are looking for quickly. You may be thinking “but I want them to stay on the site for as long as possible, why would I make it so they can leave the site faster?” It is always better to answer a visitors question quickly than drag it out and frustrate them. You want a visitor to have a positive experience with your site, not a negative one. If its negative, you can bet that they won’t be back any time soon.

Use A Current Design

It’s not the 90’s anymore. Your website should not look like it belongs there. Hop on Pinterest or do a basic Google search for current web design trends and you will be bombarded with beautiful and responsive. When working with your web designer, make sure you send them references to websites you like and what you like about them so they have a visual reference. This will help them create a better site for you and will make your expectations clear up front.

Make Sure Your Front Page Content Is Always Being Updated

Visitors like to see that content (blog posts, social media posts, etc.) is being updated on a website. Publishing content regularly lets visitors know that things are happening in the organization and that someone is paying attention to the website. This increases their likelihood of using your website as a place to come back to, which means more chances for interactions with your CTA’s. Some easy ways to do this without changing the major writing of the site are as follows:

It is important to note that, if you are going to implement the above, you need to commit to putting out content regularly. If a visitor can see that you posted yesterday, they can also see if your last post was 3 months ago. That looks bad! Simply commit to writing content once per week or once every other week along with including a social media feed where you post a few times per week, and this should do the trick.

So What Now?

Having a website can be an incredible asset or it can be a detriment. Make sure that, when you hire a designer to design your website they know what they are doing, understand current design trends and have a portfolio of previously designed websites you can look at. After all, if you are going to be spending money on a website, you want to make sure it is going to look and feel how you want it to!

Hire A Web-Designer With 10 Years Of Nonprofit Experience To Build Your Website.

Brandon Reed

Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib

Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.
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