In today's rapidly moving digital world, companies have had to move with the times and develop digital strategies. These strategies involve optimising your site for search engines, content creation, social media and most importantly user centred design.
There are thousands of agencies taking this approach towards web design, treating a website not just as a piece of software development but as a whole project with real world concerns such as accessibility, usability and marketing.
If you compare a commercial company to a charity or not for profit, they all share the same goal when starting a project or campaign, to get people to part with their disposable income for a product or service they provide. The only real difference between them is their cause.
Commercial companies spend a lot of time and money on trying to get the user experience right to ensure visitors get the most out of the website, so the question is, are charities getting left behind?
The answer may very well be yes, but it doesn’t have to be. We see charities who are charged extortionate amounts by agencies just because the charities don’t know any better. Charities looking to create a new website or a specific campaign site need to do their research into what kind of web strategies work the best, and get a feel for how much websites should cost.
Designing for charities
For charity websites that want to pull people in for them to either donate or sign up for a membership there are some key design factors that can really make all the difference.
The site (especially the home page) should not over complicate things by making a user have to think about what they want to do. It should have clear and meaningful headings such as; Home, Join, Help, Donate, Contact, etc. Users will immediately know which section does what without having to search to find what they are looking for.
Clear call to action
If you are providing a call to action on the site such as ‘join’ or ‘donate’ it should be prominent on the homepage. This should be informative about exactly what a user is donating / subscribing to, how it will help and an ongoing tally of the total donations or members you have received so far. If you are aiming for a target make sure this is clear.
Imagery is key here, do not use stock imagery as users will know and won't necessarily connect with your cause. Instead use images of the subject of your charity, preferably this should be of the people you are helping - make sure to gain consent to use these images. On the home page try to summarise the work the charity is trying to do as simply as possible. This links back into the call to action of what you are donating to. If you want users to go to different sections of the website you should use questioning copy such as; “How many children suffer from malaria a year?“. This will help to promote curiosity and people will be interested to find out more.
Bullet point all of the ways that people can assist where they don’t necessarily have to pay. This may be as simple as ‘tell your friends by sharing this link’ and will give people who are not able to donate another way to help you.
People might not want to donate or sign up at the time but may want to be kept informed of news, etc. A simple newsletter form should always be present to expand who you are able to market to. Consider sending out a monthly digest of information but make sure you offer the ability to unsubscribe.
Social Media Basics
Mostly everyone who uses the web utilises some sort of social media in some way. During the planning stages of a project and in the initial discussion on web strategy, charities should think about if they have someone who can spend some time each week engaging with social media and incorporate it into their role. Something small like a Facebook ‘like’ button or a ‘Tweet’ button on your website would mean you could grow a ‘fan list’ that you could put out content to, similar to a newsletter. The benefit of this over a newsletter is that you can put out one post at a time, rather than worrying about collating data to produce a fully fledged newsletter.
Social Media Advanced
Social media can be utilised further by creating interactive sections of a website that can be shared. A survey / poll could be used e.g. ‘What's my carbon footprint?”, and when a user receives their results it could be shared via Facebook or Twitter. The post would contain a link back to the charity website which friends of the user may click on and generate you more traffic. And let’s not forget that more traffic with a good user experience leads to more donation conversions. There are some massive examples of social network campaigns that reward users for getting their friends involved such as the Greenpeace campaign, VW Darkside. The rewards from this are not only virtual, i.e. turning it into a competitive game, but also physical rewards such as t-shirts for recruiting a certain number of people.
At Electric Putty we offer a broad range of services appropriate to charities from help with your web strategies to designing and building your website whilst taking all you and your users needs into account.