To a regular web developer, building a website for a corporation and building a nonprofit website are basically the same thing. When I first started out in website design, I thought this as well. It was not until I started doing nonprofit web design exclusively that I realized the unique approach to web design that nonprofits demand. The following are some lessons I have learned about nonprofit web design.
1. Appeal to your target audience
Before you sketch a design or even think about a wireframe, you need to consider who is visiting your site. Is your main visitor a potential donor? Are they looking for more information about your cause? Are they looking to join your mailing list? Or are they people in your own organization looking up information on the company directory. A great way to figure out how people are getting to your site and what they are doing once they get there is to use Google Analytics.
2. Make your site donor-friendly
If your organization relies heavily on personal donations (or if you need more in the way of online donations), ensure that the ability to donate is easy for your end user. This means having a donate button large and easy to find. http://www.roomtoread.org does a great job making their donate button easy to locate. The donate page should be clean and easy to enter information. Both recurring and one-time donations should be made available.
3. Ensure your site is media friendly
Users like to get their information in various media channels. Ensure that your website makes it easy for your followers to get information in their desired format easily. This website makes it very easy to find information your looking for: http://www.ducks.org/multimedia/ . Make sure that the following accounts and information outlets are found on your media page: RSS Feed, Twitter account, YouTube channel, Facebook Page, Newsletter signup, Newsletter archive, and your photo gallery (if applicable).
4. Ensure your site is “Action” friendly
Great!…your website has been found by a potential donor. What are they supposed to do now? Make it easy for them to “Take Action”. http://www.sierraclub.org/ does a great job makes it easy for potential volunteers and supporters to find ways to make a difference. In this case you can send a holiday card or join their organization online. Regardless of your strategy for keeping and gathering supporters the ability to “Take Action” should be highly visible on all pages.
5. Make your nonprofit’s purpose clear and easy to find
Your organization’s mission is something that people should be able to rally around. Make it easy to read and highly visible on your homepage. http://www.michaeljfox.org/ does an amazing job of displaying it’s mission.