Web usability (that’s simply ensuring that a site is easy for target audiences to use) expert Jakob Nielsen has just released his tips on keeping sites usable.
I gotta say that most nonprofit communicators I know test for usability one time, if at all. And that is during the initial development of the site. So even though content, interactive tools such as forms to complete and calendars and other funcations are added, the site isn’t tested as a whole. Mistake.
Neilsen recommends fast and cheap usability testing before each significant change in design, site architecture (where content is), navigation (how the user moves around) or functionality (what the user can do). Believe it or not, paper prototyping is what Neilsen suggests. You actually mock up paper versions of your planned changes and test out with five users. Quick. Cheap. Doable. So do it before your next site change.
But when it’s time for the annual check-up, a more robust approach is called for. The reality is that for most nonprofits are going to make changes throughout the year — seometimes without any testing — which cumulate into a hefty mix of this and that, usually far less than the sum of its parts.
Neilsen suggests a three-part check-up, including:
- An independent review of the site, by a consultant or other objective reviewer.
- A competitive analysis comparing your site to three main competitors for donations or volunteers. Neilsen works corporately, and ballparks this study at $40,000, but you can do this internally for far less.
- A benchmark study comparing your current site usage statistics with those for last year/month/week.
Even if you’re only able to tackle one component each year, you’ll get a good sense of how you need to improve your nonprofit’s site. Add this to quick-and-dirty studies coming before you make any significant change, and your site is bound to be much more usable — which means more donations, more awareness, more action.