Faster UX on Your Website: A Crash Course for Nonprofits

User experience, or UX, involves the quality of the experience that users have when navigating and interacting with your nonprofit’s website. It’s a fairly broad but extremely important element to keep in mind whenever you’re updating your site. In today’s digital-first environment, UX can make or break your ability to convert new visitors into donors, and it plays a critical role in encouraging long-term engagement from existing supporters.

If you’re new to web design or the concept of UX, the easiest way to think about it is to simply consider your website from a new user’s perspective:

  • Is your organization’s mission easily identifiable on your homepage?
  • How easy is it to find your organization’s contact information, donation form, blog, or another main page that a visitor might be looking for?
  • How long does it take to complete an action, like making a donation?
  • Is your website easy to use and navigate, or do issues like broken links and poor mobile responsiveness make it a frustrating experience?

Questions like these are a great starting point as you begin reviewing your own website for potential improvements. However, there’s one element of UX that stands above all others in terms of importance: speed. 

How fast your website loads is the very first UX indicator that could cause users to abandon your site before they even fully land on it. As internet users, we’re more impatient than ever, and we’ve come to expect a lot from the sites we engage with. Studies have found that 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and even a delay of one second can drop conversions by 7%. 

Simply put, if it takes visitors a long time to 1) access your website and 2) complete the action that they came to complete, you’ll see higher abandonment rates across your site. 
At Cornershop Creative, we specialize in web design for the nonprofit sector, so we understand what the top nonprofit sites need to accomplish and what donors are expecting when they visit. We’ve seen firsthand the difference that even small UX improvements can make on a site’s ability to engage and convert donors, so we wanted to share a quick crash course on how to speed up the UX of your own site. Let’s dive in.

Basic Components of Fast UX

All sorts of factors, from design elements to page load time to SEO (search engine optimization), can have huge impacts on your website’s ability to attract and engage visitors. The statistics mentioned earlier illustrate the importance of fast load speed, which is where we’ll start first.

Page Load Speed

Your website must load quickly on any browser, desktop or mobile. 

The generally accepted ideal load speed sits around two to three seconds or less — anything longer and you’ll likely see larger and larger numbers of visitors bounce away. It’s essential to be familiar with the two most common contributors to slow load speeds:

  • Large files. Large, high-resolution images, headers, animations, and other embedded visual files that need to load at the top of a page can seriously slow down your website. Website plugins can help you automatically cut back on duplicate files that might be clogging up your image library, as well. 
  • Redirect chains. Chains of redirects between outdated URLs increases load time by bouncing the visitor from page to page, and it can even make them (and their browser) feel that your site can’t be trusted.

Page load speed is one of the biggest components of strong user experience, especially as more web traffic moves onto mobile browsers. Think about it: how long are you typically willing to wait for a page to load on your smartphone when you’re trying to look something up or casually browsing? With the current necessity of digital-only engagement, load speed should be the first place you look when improving your website’s UX.

Barriers to Engagement

This component of fast UX involves the actual barriers to entry that you may place on your site. Whenever you add new elements to your website that users will directly engage with, think carefully about how exactly they’ll impact UX. 

For example, requiring users to log in with a username or password is one barrier to engagement that sites will deliberately include for important security reasons. Users’ security should always be a top priority, but make sure that your own site’s login process is streamlined. The best way to ensure that visitors will have a positive experience and find what they need is by making it easy to enter your site and quickly engage with your content. 

Consider Amazon and Google, two web giants that prioritize making it easy for users to get started with their services. Amazon’s one-click purchase buttons and Google’s SSO authentication tools are both great examples of how removing unnecessary steps like an extra login or data input can streamline user experience.

Design Elements

Design can also contribute to a faster, high-quality user experience on your website. Of course, “web design” encompasses a number of different topics and specific elements. As they relate to fast user experience, there are three main contributing factors to think about:

  • Navigation. Sites that offer strong user experience anticipate their visitors’ needs. Clearly-labeled navigation bars across your site and intuitive landing pages that don’t distract or bombard users with irrelevant elements are good starting points.
  • Simple visuals. Minimalist design tends to perform well online because it’s less likely to distract or confuse visitors looking to quickly find information or complete a task on your site. Plus, using simpler layouts and fewer (but high-quality) images will improve load speed.
  • Information placement. Websites should anticipate what their visitors are looking for, like contact information, and feature it in an intuitive spot. For instance, nonprofits can provide embedded donation forms to make the giving process easy and fast for visitors who will be more likely to donate while they still feel emotionally motivated.

These elements of web design can all contribute to a faster, more positive user experience, and they’re some of the first places that webmasters can begin to easily make improvements themselves.

Building a Faster User Experience on Your Site

As mentioned above, there are plenty of ways to speed up your site’s UX without the help of a professional web designer. Consider these additional tips:

Pagespeed Insights and Google Analytics

Google’s readily available tools are a perfect resource for staying on top of the quality of your website’s user experience. 

Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool is invaluable for a number of reasons, namely because it determines the time it takes for your site to load on both desktop and mobile browsers. It even indicates specific problem areas and offers optimization tips. Remember that load speed is central to user experience and increasingly important for Google rankings, too.

Google Analytics provides insights that can be crucial for your website’s overall health and performance. Most importantly, the platform makes it easy to track your abandonment or bounce rates, the first indicators of slow load times and poor user experience. Then you can look deeper to find specific pages that perform poorly and target your improvements in smarter ways.

Templates and Caching

Both of these techniques involve saving time and streamlining processes as you build your site and as your users engage with it:

  • Create custom templates to use whenever creating new content on your website. By creating a template for a generic campaign web page, you’ll save time and ensure a more cohesive experience for users across your site. A template built with a streamlined layout and fast-loading elements will take the guesswork out of the process as you launch and promote new campaigns.
  • Caching involves directing a user’s browser to save parts of your website that it already downloaded from a previous visit. This means your website will load much faster when the user returns to that page, which can result in a substantial improvement in user experience. Caching is more complicated to implement than other UX solutions, though, so do your research on the exact settings you can configure in your own content management system.

Streamlining aspects of your website on both the backend and user-facing side whenever possible can help to generally improve its user experience value.

Image Compression

We’ve touched on the importance of avoiding huge image files above. However, websites still need to include high-quality, attractive images to create engaging content. A full wall of text is unlikely to interest a casual browser, for instance.

Compressing the image files on your site will help you strike the right balance between offering attractive visuals and keeping file sizes low to prevent slow load speeds. 

Keep image file size in mind when creating new content, and use tools that help you automatically compress images as you upload them. Platforms like WordPress often come with this feature built-in. New image formats like Google’s webp image format can also help ensure that you’re offering high-quality visuals without sacrificing valuable storage space or the user experience.

With the current importance of digital engagement, it’s more important than ever that websites prioritize creating fast user experience. Pages need to load quickly, offer immediate ways to engage with content, and tell your nonprofit’s story swiftly and compellingly.

By using a few important resources, exploring additional tools to adopt, and building better habits, it’s easy to start enhancing your nonprofit’s site to improve its UX value! For a thorough audit or professional-grade improvements, working with a nonprofit consultant specialized in web design will often be your best bet for long-term value.

Creating Websites - 7 Tips to Increase Site Visit Length

Website Design: 7 Tips to Increase Site Visit Length

Did you know that an average web user spends less than 15 seconds on a web page before they decide to stay or leave?

Nonprofit organizations and their websites are no strangers to this challenge. Getting people to find your website is difficult enough, but getting users and potential supporters to stick around and engage with your offerings is an additional obstacle that is imperative to tackle. 

With online fundraising becoming increasingly popular, your website is more important than ever for capturing leads, displaying engaging and relevant mission information, and facilitating gifts, volunteer activities, and fundraising events. In order to do all of that, you need to design your website in a way that increases site visit length. 

Whether you’re designing a brand new site or undergoing some much needed nonprofit website maintenance, doing everything you can to improve user experience is the key to success—both in fundraising and supporter engagements. This guide will walk through these website design tips to help you get started:

  1. Prioritize and update your content layout
  2. Improve the readability of your pages
  3. Add engaging graphics or images
  4. Incorporate interactive or clickable elements
  5. Optimize your most popular landing pages
  6. Incorporate internal links
  7. Show credibility

Ready to increase the site visit length for your nonprofit website? Let’s begin.

1. Prioritize and update your content layout

Your nonprofit website is likely the first place potential supporters will go to learn about your mission, recent accomplishments, and other information regarding your organization or sector. As soon as the prospect lands on your site, and depending on their goal with your organization, they’ll be looking for and expecting specific, up-to-date content.

For instance, let’s say they want to learn more about your mission and what your nonprofit does. They’ll want easy access to your Mission Statement, About Us, Recent Accomplishments, and News pages. 

On top of that, they’re going to want the most recent information available. If your last news article is dated in 2005, they’ll likely click away and just assume that your organization isn’t active anymore.

To keep them on your site, you need to not only prioritize the content you display, but ensure it is updated. Look at the above the fold area of your website for both mobile and desktop view. Because this is the first thing users see, that is where your most important content should be displayed. Make sure this is being updated as often as needed. 

From there, you also have to keep your website’s design simple with an easy to use navigation system. A good idea is to format your navigation menu so that it is at the top or the side of the page. This is the perfect place to include links to your most popular landing pages, including your online donation page, event calendar, and more. 

Another way to funnel users towards those pages is with prominent button or link calls to action (CTA). Taking insight from Kanopi’s article on content strategy, CTAs are tried and true methods of funnelling users towards their target action in a seamless way. 

2. Improve the readability of your pages

There are always those few outdated websites where the text is too small, the color contrast is not high enough, or the background image is too busy, compromising the readability of the page. 

Your website should be readable for everyone, no matter the device type or even their ability. Here are some general tips to follow:

  • Make sure the font is large enough for easy reading on your laptop or mobile device. However, don’t make the font so large that you force the user to unnecessarily scroll through the page. 
  • Break up large paragraphs into easy to read sections. Use bulleted lists and other formats with ample white space.
  • Ensure that background color and font-color are contrasted enough, with at least a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.
  • Have a team dedicated to spell checking and grammar review.

The above not only ensures that this is readable, but can also help when screen reader devices read the text out loud for those with visual impairments, improving your website’s accessibility. The better the words flow, the easier it is for those listening to understand and engage with the content.

3. Add engaging graphics or images

A large chunk of text is always intimidating. That’s why so many people simply skip the terms and conditions, hitting submit without even taking a closer look at the fine print. You do not want your own nonprofit website to fall into this trap. If a visitor clicks on your homepage and simply sees lines and lines of sentences, it is not the most engaging form of user experience. 

A great way to break up text is to add engaging graphics or images. Humans love looking at images, especially more than reading text. 

Before adding any images to your site, make sure to optimize them. High quality images will have a larger file size, which can also slow down your site speed. It’s worth it to compress them so that they don’t slow down your page load speed. 

On this same thought, that is also why having too many images can actually be detrimental. Having a healthy balance between text and graphics is key. 

4. Incorporate interactive or clickable elements

One key method of increasing site visit length as well as conversions for your nonprofit website is to incorporate interactive or clickable elements. 

For one thing, interactive elements capture the user’s attention and encourage them to stay on your site. This increases their usage of your site which can even lead to data that helps personalize and optimize your website. 

On the other hand, engaging and clickable content is just more fun. Users will remember your site and nonprofit mission better with this enjoyable experience as a core memory.

Incorporating interactive or clickable elements can be as simple as a slideshow of images that users can click through, or be a more engaging experience like a mini game or quiz. 

5. Optimize your most popular landing pages

For most websites, your homepage will be the most popular landing page and receive the most site visits. However, nonprofit organizations are unique in that there are a couple of other core landing pages that will be frequently visited and sought after by current and prospective supporters.

For instance, you should be improving the quality and value of these pages:

  • Online donation pageiATS Payments, a top payment processing tool dedicated to nonprofits, recommends leveraging the top of your online donation page, investing in a secure donation and payment tool, embedding your online donation form, optimizing the page for all devices, as well as other insightful tips. 
  • Event calendar or registration page — Ensure that supporters can click through different events to see which appeal to then, find out all essential information within that page, and even sign up for the event they want.
  • Volunteer opportunity page — If you offer volunteer opportunities, it’s a good idea to provide search and filter options so that users can easily find the opportunities that match up with their skills and interests. 

Optimizing your most popular landing pages ensures that users are having the best experience and can lead to more conversions depending on what the page’s purpose is. 

6. Incorporate internal links

An easy way to keep people on your site is to simply incorporate more internal links. This means linking to appropriate landing pages to leverage key conversion opportunities as well as linking to blog posts or other news articles throughout the site.

You should make it a habit to ensure that each article and page on your site has plenty of internal links. This is in fact the best way to get people to visit those pages and can help reduce your bounce rate, which is the rate of how often people enter your site and then leave without exploring further.

Incorporating internal links can also improve your site’s SEO (or search engine optimization), but only if you’re linking to valuable content. Putting internal links just for the sake of it won’t do much, but with some careful thought and consideration, it can not only encourage visitors to continue engaging with you, but also bring up the overall value of the website. 

7. Show credibility

As soon as someone lands on your site, they’ll likely be looking for reasons to trust or not trust it. Websites with less content or an outdated design is enough to turn your most passionate supporters away. No one wants to risk their data being hacked.

With this in mind, showing credibility is a basic method of establishing that trust with supporters. For instance, adding photos of real people who have been impacted by your organization can make your site appear more trustworthy. 

Here are some other quick ways to show credibility:

  • Linking to social profiles
  • Adding trust markers like BBB ratings, awards, certifications, and more
  • Include bios and pictures for your staff members

If you want to increase your online presence and digital fundraising, establishing trust with your supporters is key. One data breach or online hack can damage your reputation for years. To ensure that their website is up to standards, many nonprofit leaders will even turn to tech consultants for help

Wrapping Up

Your website is the online face and virtual office front for your nonprofit and mission. Doing everything you can to keep users engaging with it is essential if you want to increase your online fundraising and further develop those important relationships. Use the above tips to ensure your website is as prepared as it can be for the new year. Good luck!


As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.