It is important to make a clear distinction between commercial websites and nonprofit websites. While many of the principles behind the design of both are the same, the path to conversion is different. Therefore you should consider a different approach.

User experience (UX) strategists take a more holistic approach to securing donations and conversions than web developers. They deal with the creation and construction of a website according to a very specific plan. UX designers and strategists start with a vision of what the site should look and feel like, and work backwards from there.

And this is very important when it comes to nonprofit websites. While commercial sites concentrate on the benefits to the consumer, nonprofits have to connect with people on an emotional level — and stir feelings of empathy. Implement these best practices from UX strategists and release your inner superhero.

1. Make Users Your Priority

The user must always come first. Everything on the website, from the links to the photos, must be displayed in a way that enhances the user experience. Develop a typical user persona — the average person you’re targeting for donations or volunteering. Every time you add or edit something on your website, ask yourself if your typical user will respond to it.

2. Communicate Your Mission at the Earliest Opportunity

UX strategists can get into the mind of the target user, and they can also get right to the heart of the message you’re sending. You already know your mission, but what’s the best way to communicate it? Once you know, make sure it’s delivered quickly — and in an impactful way. Often this means rewriting your formal mission into more web-friendly language. Long sentences and paragraphs can be glossed over by many readers. Making your mission concise goes a long way towards people absorbing it.

3. Make it Donor-Friendly

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that donors don’t get a tangible benefit when handing over their cash — unlike buyers. This means they’re often more likely to lose interest if making a donation is complicated. As a simple rule of thumb, try to ensure your users are never more than one click away from a donation page. And make sure that your donation landing page is optimized for maximum success. It needs to align with the ad or email the person clicked on to find it, and needs to offer no distractions from the goal of making a donation.

4. Focus on Visual Storytelling

UX strategists know what makes your target donor tick — and they hone in on that with the use of emotive and expressive imagery. The right photos, fonts, headlines and flow tell a story in a fraction of the time standard prose can. Visual storytelling is one of the skills that separates the a web developer (who focuses on the technical aspects of building a site) from the UX strategist (who’s interested in the people visiting the site, their experience doing so, and making sure they get what they need).

5. Integrate with Social Media

Make the connections between your website and related social media platforms seamless. Replicate the branding and tone of your organization in all of your Facebook and Twitter communications — and vice versa. But there’s often a fine line between growing a following and overly brash self-promotion. That’s why why nonprofits are increasingly turning to UX strategists for help. UX strategy includes a focus on content strategy designed to draw in your audience in a natural way. It can be far more effective than traditional advertising.

6. Create Mobile Responsive Themes

According to Blackbaud, giving via mobile devices accounts for around 17 percent of all online donations — and this figure is only going to increase in the coming years. But your conversion rates could suffer badly if your websites aren’t responsive, or designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. Make sure the user experience is just as seamless on mobile as it is on desktops. Frankly, at this point in time, any firm that’s not automatically including mobile responsive design on some level is just being irresponsible.

7. Always Test with Real Users

The work of a UX strategist doesn’t end once a website has been completed. Nonprofit websites must be tested with real users continually, otherwise it may not deliver the conversion rates and return on investment you’re looking for. You and your strategy team may have great ideas fully verified by initial user research, but only your actual  audience in the process of using your website can tell you if they’re getting what they need. Continual monitoring, metrics tracking, and optimization will let you maximize the value of your investment in a website.

To tell a story that will resonate with donors, nonprofit websites need to be tailored to the target audience — and that’s something UX strategists (and superheroes) specialize in.

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