Do Non-Profits Get ROI From Usability?

Lori Halley 13 February 2007 1 comments

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 organizations, stating:

"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 society."

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. 

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 13 February 2007 at 11:06 AM

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