Tuesday, February 2, 2010

10 Web Design Pointers for Nonprofits

I've written here before about Web strategy for a small nonprofit, and how to use a blog structure to create a free, easily-updated Web presence for your organization.

The design of your site is equally important. For a nonprofit, it is more important to clearly communicate what you do, show benefits, and make it easy to support you than to have lots of animated graphics or slick visuals.

Here are a few design pointers to keep in mind:

1. Tell your visitors exactly how to support you, right up at the top. Many potential supporters just want to know how to help. Don't make them look for it or figure it out. If you've got a Donate button, put it up there. If you are looking for volunteers, put that up there too. Keep all of that in the same place all the time.

2. Have a very clean, professional-looking header. In it, put your organization's name, location and tagline or mission if you have one.

3. Show your organization at work, show pictures of people learning or benefitting from your activities. This literally puts a "face" on your group. That said, be sure that you get a release from anyone whose image may appear on your site. Don't put someone's picture up without his or her permission.

4. Keep your type size pretty big, don't make people squint at your site. Also, put some blank space between items.

5. Use color to reinforce your brand. If you have a signature color, use it in your header as well as in the text titles for all of your posts.

6. Don't use low-resolution, blurry or cut-off logos or graphics. Also, don't stretch or squash graphics so that they look distorted. Get the high-quality graphic and use it. You can always size a graphic down, but if you make it bigger, it will fall apart. So always keep a big, high-resolution copy of your logo file handy to shrink down and use. If you partner with other organizations or sponsors, get high-quality copies of their logos as well.

7. If you are using a blog, take the extra stuff like date stamps, comment buttons, and other detritus out of the bottoms of the posts (you can generally do this under Customization or Options). This makes the page look cleaner. Also, if you refer back to an older post, if it has no date on it you don't look old and moldy.

8. Keep your writing brief and to the point, and use lots of juicy words like "education" or "children" or "schools" or "creative" or "housing" or whatever applies to what you do. This will help your posts get higher in search engines, and will also make your site much more interesting to read. I generally write a post, then go back in and take about half of it out.

9. Get a Twitter account, and use Twitterfeed to send all of your blog postings over to Twitter. This way you don't have to write twice, and your Twitter followers can get a link to your post and come see you when you announce something.

10. If you have a Facebook fan page, link your blog to this as well so that whenever you post it will show up on Facebook as well. You might be reaching one group of people on Twitter and a whole other crowd on Facebook.

And a bonus 11th tip:

11. Look at lots of sites for other nonprofits, especially those in your area of expertise. Notice how they write about what they do, what words they use, catch any good ideas. Looking at other people's work is the best way to make your own better.

Caricature for gift - 55-th bithday

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