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Designing Your Non-profit Web site

Lori Halley 29 January 2007 4 comments

Everything is subjective when it comes to the things that look pleasing to the eye. Everyone has a favourite colour, a favourite font, or a favourite aesthetic. However, when it comes to designing your Web site, there are a few hard rules that will make your association come off looking professional, serious and ready to meet the needs of your users.  

Be upfront in your messaging

Many Web sites to this day tend to speak about an organization and not to the end user, leaving it up to the harried person looking at the screen to figure out where they should go to find information.

Ideally, right on your home page, you should:

•    Tell visitors what your non-profit can offer them quickly and concisely.
•    Easily direct these visitors to any relevant information they need to know, with as few internal links as possible. (No more than nine links per page is a good rule of thumb.)
•    Have an immediate call to action – whether you’re trying to solicit donations or volunteer support, you need to let people know exactly what you want from them.

Have a site that loads very quickly

Visitors won’t have a great deal of patience if it takes a long time for the Web site to load or if they are trying to get to you on a slow Internet connection. Make sure that your coders have optimized whatever code they’re using, and that your pages have a fairly non-complex design with as few large images and files as possible.  

Offer up-to-date, easy navigation

Can your users find the information they’re looking for quickly? Or do they have to wade through a maze of (sometimes broken) links? The easier your site is to use, the more relevant you will become to a wider group of people within your target audience.

Use colour

People make snap decisions as to whether or not they like something within seconds. You need to select your colours carefully to augment your branding. Don’t be afraid to use images, photos and charts (and so on), but do use them as sparingly as possible to prevent the aforementioned slow load times. Take your Web site for a test drive in various browsers and on different types/sizes of screen. What looks great on one screen or browser can look absolutely horrible on another.

Consider where your Web site is going to be used, as well. Are you going to showcase it at a lot of events or conferences where it will be projected onto a screen for stakeholders to see? If so, your site might look a lot different against an off-white screen than it may on your monitor. Does your non-profit target people who may be colour-blind or visually impaired? If so, you need to think about their needs as well.

For more tips and ideas on this topic, please consult Todd Baker’s Non-Profit Websites: Cutting Through The E-maze (PDF).

This post is from contributing writer Zachary Houle, who has been published in SPIN magazine, Canadian Business, The National Post and the book, TVParty!: Television’s Untold Tales. He was nominated for a U.S. Pushcart Prize for his writing, and also received an arts grant from the City of Ottawa in 2005 to complete a short story collection.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 29 January 2007 at 9:00 AM


  • Conversation not publication. at Giving Matters said:

    Tuesday, 30 January 2007 at 4:05 AM
  • Tim Bednar said:

    Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 7:09 PM
  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 9:29 AM

    Kim Krause Berg from the Cre8pc Blog has a great article about website usability (making your site easy

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 03 July 2007 at 6:14 AM

    Today marks a special day for the Wild Apricot team - it's a one year birthday for our product and our

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