For businesses, usability's return on investment is pretty clear.
Increased employee productivity, greater improvements in key
performance indicators, double the sales and double the conversion rate.
But what about non-profit organizations? Can they also get ROI from
usability, even when they don't earn it back in the traditional sense?
According to Jakob Nielsen, the expert on website usability (shaping your website so it works best for users):
"It's a misleading notion that usability is only a concern for the
commercial sector, just because that's where you find most
high-visibility usability projects and hear tales of windfall profits
from site improvements. The public sector and the non-profit sector
also benefit immensely from usability, even if the calculation of
benefits is sometimes slightly different."
In Nielsen's Alertbox this week called, "Do Government Agencies and
Non-Profits get ROI from Usability?" he notes that improved
usability translates into economic value even for non-profit
"Anytime a site collects money - even if it's for opera tickets,
research reports, or continuing education seminars -- it can get more
money by increasing conversion rates. Higher conversion rates are a
direct result of better usability."
For example, non-profits accept donations on their site. Obviously,
the actual donation pages should follow usability guidelines for
registration and checkout. And beyond this? Non-profit sites are
competing with many other places where people can spend their money,
and such sites must be designed with this fact in mind. The same
applies for various charities, where users frequently say that they
don't feel like donating to a particular charity because the site
doesn't present itself in a sufficiently credible manner.
Nielsen also pointed out that there can be a big value for non-profit websites that are purely informative:
"When non-profits double the number of readers and increase their
understanding of the website's content, they have doubled the value of
having this information on the Web. That this value accrues to society
at large should be fine with non-profits, given their mission to benefit
The ROI argument is the same for intranet usability, regardless of
whether the intranet is in the commercial, non-profit, or public
sector. In all cases, intranet usability leads to increased employee
productivity, which is worth money. Save an hour of an employee's time,
and you have saved the hourly cost of that employee.
In fact, Nielsen adds the latest Intranet Design Annual
included two winners from the non-profit sector: National Geographic
Society and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In earlier
years, other non-profit winners have included Luleå University of
Technology, North Tyneside College, and the Mayo Clinic. Clearly, some
non-profits are prioritizing good intranet design.
Non-profits staffed by volunteers might not see economic benefits
from increasing the productivity of their intranet users. However,
these nonprofits should pay even more attention to intranet usability,
because good volunteers are a precious resource. The more your
volunteers feel that they're contributing to the cause, instead of
struggling with bad computer systems, the more they'll be motivated to
donate extra time to helping out. So, if you save an hour of a
volunteer's time, you might earn two hours of work from that person.
In conclusion, website usability is an absolute must and most
non-profit websites today are difficult to use with complicated event
registrations, donations, member content etc. That is why our Wild
Apricot system addresses this usability issue with an integrated set of
tools including membership management, event registrations, integrated
website, contact database, donations, online payments and more. By
doing so, Wild Apricot helps non-profit organizations achieve more with
less hassle and headaches for their staff and volunteers.
Read the full article, "Do Government Agencies and Non-Profits get
ROI from Usability?" and go to Jakob's site often for updates and new insights. If you have any comments, please send them to us. We want to know your thoughts about usability.