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In this post, you'll learn three strategies for improving the user experience on your website.

Your nonprofit’s website is your “home” on the internet and the main area where supporters interact with you. It serves a number of supporter engagement functions, from collecting donations, to sharing educational resources, to facilitating advocacy campaigns.

That’s why it’s crucial for your site to provide a stellar user experience.

If your site is useful and intuitive for supporters, it will generate more conversions and spread the word about your cause. In this guide, we’ll discuss three strategies to improve the user experience on your nonprofit’s website, including tips to:

  • Make sure your website is accessible for all visitors.
  • Revisit your form design.
  • Ensure all pages load quickly and conveniently.

When you first created your nonprofit’s website, your team probably dedicated many hours to ensuring it was perfect. From selecting the right CMS, to developing your online brand, to writing website content, your team put in the work! The last thing you want is to put all of that effort in, only to realize your site still isn’t quite hitting the mark.

There’s no shame in continuing to tweak your website design and content after launch. In fact, we encourage it — especially if you’re making the updates with user experience in mind. (You can bet that the best nonprofit websites are doing the same.)

With that in mind, let’s get started.

Make sure your website is accessible for all visitors.

Accessibility and user experience go hand-in-hand, so it’s easy to make the argument for improving your site with the former in mind.

When your website is accessible, you’ll have higher engagement rates since more people will be able to engage with your content. Additionally, you’ll develop a reputation as a nonprofit that prioritizes inclusivity. Both are great reasons to focus on accessibility. However, the best reason? It’s the right thing to do!

To start, recognize that accessibility isn’t binary — it’s a spectrum. There are a wide range of accessibility concerns, with each having its own range of severity. Your goal is to make sure your site is accessible across as much of that spectrum as possible. Anyone who lands on your site should be able to navigate it.

A few baseline considerations include ensuring:

  • Content is easy to read and understand. Avoid technical jargon and over-complicated sentence structures. Aim to write for a 9th-grade reading level, which you can check using the Hemingway Editor.
  • Navigation is clear and logical. Your website’s top menu should link to all main web pages and be easily accessed. For example, avoid themes that make your menu transparent as readers scroll through pages, as they’ll need to scroll back to the top of the page to access the menu links.
  • Italics and capitalization are only used when necessary. While you may be tempted to use italics and capitalization as tools to emphasize key concepts, only do so when absolutely necessary. These elements can be confusing for screen-reading technology, which may not register that text is italicized or may read capitalized words as acronyms.
  • Visual elements have alternative text. This is a short sentence that describes what the image depicts, which allows individuals who are using screen readers to understand what is shown. Additionally, ensure key text elements are shown as text, rather than text printed within an image.

This is just a very quick list to help your team get started with accessibility improvements. Your web development wizard should have a checklist for improvements built off of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that goes way beyond this, covering both site-wide improvements and page-specific changes, to ensure your site is user-friendly for all visitors.

Revisit your form design.

There are many reasons that a supporter comes to your website. One is to learn about your mission and discover opportunities to support it. All organizations hope to encourage visitors to take the next step in actually doing so — such as by making a donation, signing up for an event, registering to volunteer, or completing an advocacy action (i.e. emailing a representative).

When supporters land on your website ready to take action, remove any friction and make it as easy as possible for them to follow through. In most cases, supporters take action through some sort of form (donation form, sign-up form, etc.). So, your goal should be to improve those forms.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when revisiting your form design:

  • Clearly indicate what’s required in each form field. Label all fields that are required, so site visitors know what they need to complete to move to the next step. In addition, write out the instructions for each field outside of the box (rather than simply including it as disappearing text within the box itself). This helps with user comprehension and with accessibility.
  • Ensure the form is visible above the fold. This means that site visitors should be able to see the form without scrolling down the page. If this isn’t possible, consider using an anchor link to take visitors directly to the form.
  • Prioritize making forms tab-friendly. This means that site visitors can click through the form fields using the “tab” button on their keyboards. This is crucial for readers with disabilities and is a convenient navigation strategy for others.
  • Maximize involvement opportunities. For example, on an online donation form, consider including a recurring giving option for donors who want to maximize their gifts throughout the year. Or, if you want to maximize your matching gift potential, Double the Donation notes how you can use matching gift software that asks supporters to provide information about their employers directly on your online giving form.

Perhaps even more important than what you include on your form is what you don’t. Run through each of your form fields with a fine-toothed comb. If it’s not absolutely necessary information, don’t ask supporters to provide it. Each field that supporters fill out is another second before they complete the transaction, so limit form fields if possible. The simpler a form is to complete, the more likely visitors are to complete it.

Ensure all pages load quickly and conveniently.

When it comes to the importance of page load speed, the statistics speak for themselves:

  • 47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds (or less).
  • 40% of people will bounce from a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
  • A delay of 1 second can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.

You may be thinking, “Wow, these respondents aren’t very patient!” But, before you start judging the folks in these surveys, think about the last time you encountered a web page that loaded slowly. We’d guess you either A) began rapidly hitting the refresh button or B) left the page entirely to find another resource. We’re all guilty of it!

Luckily, there are a few small tweaks that you can make to your site to bring it up to speed (pun intended) in no time. Start with reducing:

  • The size of your visual files. When image or graphic files are larger than necessary, they’ll take a significant amount of time to load. Resize all images or graphics to fit the exact amount of space you want them to take up on web pages. Further, compress the files themselves if possible.
  • Redirect chains. If you’ve ever changed the URL of a page on your site, you may have added a redirect to avoid your users encountering 404 errors from “broken links” across your site. Essentially, a redirect tells a web browser to go to the new URL instead of the old one. However, as you stack these redirects or create a “redirect chain” (say, you change the URL for a second time), the load speed for that page overall gets slower. Simplify your redirects to limit these chains.

These are just a few quick changes that you can make to your site yourself. However, if your site is getting bogged down with slow page load speed, consider doing a website maintenance check-up with a developer. They’ll be able to make larger, back-end changes to improve your website’s speed. You can explore that process in more depth in Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit website maintenance.

Next Steps

Your website is a crucial point of engagement between your nonprofit and its supporters. It’s where donors can give online, advocates can raise awareness, and general supporters can learn about your cause.

Because of this, any investment into your site’s user experience is a worthwhile one. With these tips, you’ll be off to a great start. However, you can also consider partnering with a web development team that specializes in nonprofit websites to take your site to the next level.

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