Recent changes at ISPs and Gmail make it more important than ever that you segment your house file and pay attention to your subscribers’ behavior.
While reviewing some new wireframes with a client the other day, we began to compare their own, nonprofit website with some other, commercial sites. In a way, commercial websites have it easy. Typically, they have tangible products or services to sell, making it really clear what they want users to do on the site (buy, buy, buy!).
Nonprofit websites don’t usually sell something tangible. Sure, you may have an eCommerce store or even a Virtual Gift store, but there is always a bigger message than just “buy, buy, buy” or even “donate, donate, donate”.
My client’s feedback on their new wireframe was something along the lines of, “When I visit a site like Convio.com, I immediately know what you want me to do. Here, it’s not as clear. What is it we want people to do on our site?” I responded that it’s more challenging for nonprofits because you’re trying to sell a relationship, which can be defined differently for each organization. For some organizations, a relationship may mean that users rely on your site as a source for news on a specific topic. For others, it may mean that they care about your cause and simply want to keep up with what you’re doing to make a difference. Sure, donating and possibly buying something should be part of that relationship, but not likely at first. It takes time to cultivate relationships and your website should provide something valuable for users and offer a positive experience so that they’ll ultimately value your organization.
Take some time to consider your online goals with respect to your relationship with a constituent. I can bet that your goals may include “increase donations” or “build our house file”. What are you offering in return? You’ve got to sell a relationship, so what does that look like for you?
Nearly all of the nonprofit email messages that I’ve seen recently have been too long, too detailed, and too boring. You’ve got to work harder to keep my attention – and in this situation, less is definitely more.
What catches your eye when you look at your web site’s homepage? What is the first thing you see and the first thing you want to click on? These are questions we almost always ask during a usability test to ensure our visual hierarchy is coming through clearly and consistently. Think of the visual hierarchy as the pecking order of a page’s content, providing cues as to what’s most important. If your organization wants, first and foremost, to bring in donations, then a compelling ask should rank high in your list. Maybe you’d rather get visitors to take an action alert or read a new study you’ve published. Your visual hierarchy should reflect your organization’s goals, whatever those may be at the time.
Take a look at the Blockbuster web site. Since Netflix arrived on the scene, one of their goals is likely to obtain subscribers to the DVD-by-mail program. From their homepage, the first thing I see is the “Try it free” button on the “Movies Delivered” promo. The “Learn More” for Blockbuster On Demand also stands out, which is likely reflective of another one of Blockbuster’s goals.
The Jewish National Fund site also demonstrates a good visual hierarchy. My eyes are drawn to the “Donate” button in the top navigation bar and the graphic in the “Plant a Tree” promotional box, both of which are major goals for the organization.
Many of you may be so used to looking at your web site that you may not see a visual hierarchy anymore. Or, the one you do see may be artificially influenced by what you know is most important. In that case, have a friend take a look at your site and tell you what they see first. You could try a “5-second test” where you display the homepage for 5 seconds, then close it and ask your friend to write down what they remember. If their list does not correspond to your organizational goals, then consider rearranging the page or redesigning certain elements. You’re likely to see more clicks and actions taken as a result.
After my last post, a reader asked for more information and instruction on creating a content inventory. What a great idea for a follow-up post! Maintaining an up to date listing of all content on your site will help your web team make decisions about adding new content and removing or updating outdated content, allowing you to keep your web site fresh which entices users to come back. Also, content inventories are essential for any web site redesign to ensure the new site structure accommodates all types of content you’re looking to include. So, how do you make one?
1. Start with a blank Excel spreadsheet using the following column headers:
a. Page ID – Use a numbering system here for reference and to indicate hierarchy of each page.
b. Title – This is the title of each page as represented in the navigation.
c. URL – A link to each page for quick access.
d. Owner – Person in your organization responsible for creation and maintenance.
Over time, you can add columns and information to your inventory as needed – things like “Notes”, “Date updated”, “Due date”, etc. – but these columns represent the basic information you’ll need to get started.
2. Populate the spreadsheet with your sitemap, starting with the highest level pages first, then working your way down to the detailed pages that may not be accessible from the navigation. I typically start on the homepage and then click all of the links in the navigation, documenting each as I go. Then, I’ll revisit each page, adding in rows for pages that are linked from there. Now, depending on the size of your web site, this may be a really tedious process but doing it manually is the most accurate approach. There are a few site crawler tools that can generate a list of links on your site (GSiteCrawler is one we’ve used) but they are quite clunky and you’ll still need to organize the links in a hierarchical order once you have the list. These tools are helpful to extract links for each page though, especially for sites with large news or press sections, to ensure that all content is represented on your inventory.
3. Keep it updated! Once you’ve completed your inventory, keep a copy on a shared drive so authors can update it as they add new content. It’s also a great tool to reference when developing an editorial calendar and, as we mentioned, is crucial for a redesign.
It’s no secret by now that social media is hot topic with nonprofit organizations, and quickly the topic of social …
Does your navigation reflect your sitemap?
The question I pose today may seem really obvious, but I’ve noticed lately that many organizations try to make their web sites look simpler than they actually may be. I posted a long while ago about navigation best practices http://www.connectioncafe.com/posts/2009/february/navigation-pass-the-test.html. Today, I want to hone in on one of my navigation test questions: “Is your main navigation representative of your entire site?”
Starting with a content inventory is always a good way to test this out. Content inventories, though perhaps not so fun to make, will make maintaining, optimizing and eventually redesigning your web site so much easier. I cannot stress enough the benefits of keeping an up-to-date inventory of every page on your web site.
Now that you’re going to run out and make one, keep it consistent with your web site’s navigation and/or sitemap so you can easily see where everything fits. As you evaluate your content and add new content, there should be a logical “home” for each item. If there isn’t a natural fit, flag the item in your inventory and consider changing your navigation once you observe several flags. A few questions to consider when testing whether your navigation reflects your sitemap…
-Are there important pages on my site that are only accessible from the homepage or from the footer?
-Are there sub-sections in my site that don’t exactly fit in the area where they’re found?
-Is there important content that users never seem to be able to find?
-Do I rely on the Search function or a Sitemap page to get users to certain contet?
Keep in mind that your navigation should scale with your web site so that you’ll easily be able to change it as you begin answering “yes” to many of the above questions. Unfortunately, your web site will never be “done”, so continuous evaluation and iteration is key to staying successful online. Have you noticed any of these symptoms on your own site or on other web sites? Feel free to share ideas in the comments.