High-Impact Websites

Nonprofit Website Error PageWe’re so focused on “urgent” to-dos and right-now campaigns that it’s easy to overlook a valuable engagement opportunity: Your website’s “page not found” page (a.k.a. 404 error page).

Error pages alert visitors that the page they were seeking no longer exists, or they typed in or clicked on a broken link, and redirects them to the content they want. When crafted well, your error page becomes excellent customer service, providing an engaging intro to your organizational personality, impact, and content.

Flip Frustration to Satisfaction
Hitting a dead end is frustrating and
time consuming. But the right error page—featuring a clear explanation of why visitors are on the page; a simple, bold graphic connected to your organization’s brand; and easy navigation to what “lost” visitors are looking for—can flip their frustration to satisfaction. Here’s how to delight your “lost” visitors as you get them where they want to go:


Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites | 2 comments
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High-Impact Nonprofit Website DesignThanks to guest blogger Alex McLain, who designs engaging websites for nonprofits as a member of the Wired Impact team.

Creating a new website for your nonprofit is a mind-boggling task. You’ve got a million questions reeling through your head throughout the process, but one of the most important to consider is: “How important is the role of design in our website?” Without a doubt, your answer should be, “Very important.”

In order to wow website visitors and keep them returning to get more info, make more donations, or sign up for events, your site needs to stand out in a sea of websites that “get the job done.” Here are 10 ways great visual design drives website impact:


Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites | 4 comments
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Home BaseWay back when, when social media was new-ish (let’s say 2007), I used this classic baseball analogy to illustrate how social media fit into the communications universe.

   1) Website as home base, with email as pitcher (no hits without the pitcher)
2) Core social media platforms (now Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram) as inside bases
3) Other social media platforms as the outfield.

Then, for so many organizations, social media platforms took precedence—capturing our imagination and anxiety (if not the impact)—over more traditional online and offline marketing… READ MORE

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sotelo_yeseniaSo glad to welcome guest blogger Yesenia Sotelo! Yesenia founded Smart Cause Digital where she builds and grows smart websites.

A couple of months ago, I finally gave my business website the same love and attention that I bring to nonprofit clients’ sites. During this process, I learned several important lessons that will help you build a site that truly reflects your nonprofit and its goals.

Stop trying to hide

Originally, I tried to make SmartCause look more like an agency rather than just me. Why? Because I thought nonprofits wanted to work with an agency for their website.

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There’s nothing more important than ensuring your website —  your organization’s homebase online — is easy-to-use (a.k.a. usability). More specifically, your site has to be easy for your target audiences (not users in general, but the folks you need to engage to move your mission forward) to use to facilitate the type of actions/interactions you want – online giving, contacting your organization for more information, registering for a program or signing a petition.

Website usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently studied the usability of 23 nonprofit websites and his findings pave the way to improving the impact of your website. It’s doable, so read on to learn how:

Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites | 5 comments
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website analyticsAs pressure to perform grows for nonprofit marketing, many of you are trying to redefine priorities in your new, more streamlined environment.

The most effective way to define your nonprofit communications priorities is to evaluate what strategies are working best, and do more of them. But as you told me a couple of years ago, only 37% of nonprofits track communications outcomes. So you don’t know what’s working best.

Google Analytics are an an incredibly easy and cheap (no cost, beyond your time) way to evaluate what’s working best on your website and blog by measuring user behavior. You should be using them to track usage, and to assess what to do more of and what to change.

But here’s the problem — I bet most of  you (both nonprofit communicators and fundraisers) don’t use analytics data, even if the tool is set up. And that many of you don’t even think it’s your responsibility to do so.

That was confirmed last week, when I released 7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Nonprofit Marketing Impact with Google Analytics to Getting Attention e-update readers. Just 21% of readers opened the email (and the subject line is always the article title), compared to an average of 31%. That means 1/3 of you don’t think website analytics are not important to your work. Wrong!

Read the full article to learn the key metrics to focus on (analytics programs, including Google, generate so many analytics it’s hard to know where to start) to understand your audience better and shape your website to contribute even more to your org’s marketing impact.

For those of you who are using analytic data, please comment below on the top website usage metrics your organization focuses on to understand your audience and improve your site, and your process for putting those insights to work. Thank you.

Most importantly, dig into this valuable information and put it to work!

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing (and video) success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Evaluation, High-Impact Websites | 2 comments
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increase nonprofit website usabilityI’ve always advised nonprofit communicators to put key content up top on website pages, so users don’t have to do anything to see (or act on) it. It’s part of my “make it easy for your base” philosophy. In other words, your want to shape your nonprofit website to generate the actions you need.

So I was thrilled to discover the hard data in website usability guru’s Jakob Nielsen latest research findings: Web users do scroll down to the next “panel,” but only after investing 80% of their focus on what was first visible on the page. That means that content below the fold gets only20% of users attention. In a time of overall attention deficit, starting with 20% isn’t enough.

But but defining the fold is a real challenge: This approach works only if you know where the fold is. And that differs widely depending on browser resolution, screen size and other demands on onscreen vertical space. For those who use your site via smartphone, all bets are off.

My advice to your organization is do what you can to place key content in the first and second paragraphs on every web page — that’s first on the writing for the web success list anyway, to increase content digestion.  Your thoughts? Please email me or comment below.

P.S. Here are three more right-now website revisions your organization should make.

Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites | 1 comment
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I was shaken by new stats on a crucial shift in online user behavior–only 5 to 15% of your website users are coming in through your home page. Tip of the hat to Gerry McGovern’s take on the decline of the home page for clarifying what works now for nonprofit marketing online .

As a result, your site users:

  • Won’t be “introduced” to your organization (as happens when they enter via the front door, or home page).
  • Aren’t likely to know the breadth and depth of content and tools on your sites.
  • Won’t be asked to give or subscribe to your e-news (usually buttons featured on home page).

What to do about the decline of your nonprofit’s home page:

  1. Feature Donate and Subscribe (to e-news) on every page throughout the site, above the fold (e.g. visible without a user scrolling down).
  2. Label navigation elements (buttons, menu bar) to be broadly accessible and include on every page.
  3. Write/revise content to provide context, so users understand and can act, no matter what page they’ve come from (which may be Amazon, a competitor’s site, weather.com or another page on your org’s site).
  4. Include a site search engine window on every page. It’s the easiest way to reduce user frustration level.

This is just one of several critical shifts in site usage patterns I’ve been meaning to share with you. I’m in the process of reconfiguring my consulting site, Nancy Schwartz & Company, and have reviewed current trends in site usage to make it as effective as possible. I’ll be sharing other tips on site design out with you in posts to come.

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today .

Nancy Schwartz in High-Impact Websites | 2 comments
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Project Hope Empowers Citizen Fundraisers wDIY Web Pages I recently heard from Project HOPE‘s (PH) Marisol Murphy-Ballantyne, who wanted to share the communications innovations integrated into the org’s new website.

Frankly, I (and your audiences) couldn’t care less about a new website. And organizations that announce the launch of a new site as if it’s news drive me nuts.

But when I hear about a new or improved site that makes it easier or more effective for the org and its base to achieve its goals, that is news.

Marisol and colleagues made many of the typical updates in the new site — improving access to basic information on its international health education and humanitarian programs, and adding homepage links to Project HOPE’s Facebook Fan and Cause pages, and its Twitter and YouTube channels.

But far more important are these two changes, likely to make a real difference in engaging the org’s base:

  1. A new series of stories of individuals like Consuelo Rodriguez participating in PH’s programs are much more meaningful that the broad-based descriptions and stats of those served that are featured in the program summaries.
  2. The ability of donors, friends and fans to create their own fundraising webpages, similar those created by ActBlue supporters during the 2008 elections. Users choose the specific Project HOPE program (by geography or focus) they want to fundraise for, describe what the organization means to them, then quickly and easily create and promote their fundraising page. The leading fundraiser to date (and this is brand new) has raised over $10,000!

Thanks for the heads up, Marisol. These are two significant improvements to the site that are strong models for your colleague nonprofit communicators.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Good Things Come in Small Packages Put a Favicon to Work for Your Nonprofit Definition
A favicon (short for favorites icon) is a small graphic or icon associated with a website or blog.  It appears when you type a URL into your address bar, on the tab of your web browser and in your favorites list.

Often overlooked, this tiny graphic packs a visual punch and is a simple way to reinforce your brand (or at least your graphic identity) online.  Here are the benefits of putting a favicon to work:

  • Improved usability – Users can easily indentify your website in their favorites list or when multiple tabs are open.
  • Increases recognition – When your favicon is consistent with the look and feel of your org’s graphic identity, your website or blog will be instantly recognized as coming from your organization.
  • Professional touch – Favicons are becoming a standard of online design.

Here are a few examples of organizations with striking favicons:

rwjf Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

nothingbutnets Nothing But Nets

about About.com:  Nonprofit Charitable Orgs

How to Create a Favicon
Creating a favicon is simple.  Keep in mind that a favicon should reflect your brand.  If your logo does not scale down to a small size, you’ll need to come up with a design that complements the look and feel of your organization’s website and other communications.

Here’s an easy-to-follow tutorial on favicon creation and implementation using Photoshop.  Alternatively, use this online favicon generator to create one for your site.

Flickr photo: migs212

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today .

Amy Kehoe in Branding and Messages, Graphic Design, High-Impact Websites, Web/Tech | 0 comments
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