6 Key Steps to a User-Friendly Website

You are reconnecting with a friend about what they have been doing the past few months. You find out she has been volunteering at a local food shelf, working with families that need food stability and support services. During the conversation, your friend expresses she had a positive volunteer experience, because of the engaging volunteer coordinator and the array of fresh food available to families at the food shelf.  She also thought the guest’s experience was dignifying and similar to shopping in a grocery store.  Your friend also expressed the organization’s immediate need for volunteers, because they are getting so much fresh food that needs to be distributed in a timely manner by volunteers. The ironic thing is that you were just thinking about finding a volunteer opportunity and are really impressed with your friend’s positive experience. You are intrigued. Now you want to learn more about the organization and how you can help make a difference.

What is the next thing you do? The most logical next step would be to go to the organization’s website and research volunteer opportunities and find out who to contact for questions and what the next step would be.

This story conveys the key reason a nonprofit needs a user-friendly website: it gives the visitor a positive first impression of the overall organization, and the tools to take the next step. If a prospective volunteer or donor stops by your website and cannot find what they are looking for it can be frustrating and off-putting. The user’s experience on a website is critical for engaging the target audience and guiding them through the process to hopefully become a donor or volunteer.

To assess your website’s impact, answer these five strategic questions:

  • How does your website fit into your organization’s overall marketing and communications strategy?

  • What are you trying to achieve with your website?

  • What are the three most important things you want people to learn during their first few minutes on your website?

  • What are the next actions you want the visitor to take? (Ex: Donate, Sign up, Contact)

  • What is a successful website?

In today’s technology-driven world, the need for a user-friendly and affordable website is essential. Keep in mind that a website is a living document and the written content can be adjusted as needed and revisions can be made relatively quickly and easily.

Here are the 6 steps for a user-friendly website:

  1. Choose a website user platform – Compare the cost and user friendliness of the software or program. WordPress is a commonly used website platform.

  2. Project Plan – Start by getting a project timeline together. Set a soft launch date. Then work backward from the soft launch date to start putting a framework around the project.

  3. Web Pages Organized by a Site Map – Next, map out a navigation menu and pages that are needed to convey your message to your visitors. Think in terms of who is your audience and what do you want them to do? A good way to categorize this is Donor, Volunteer, and Client.

  4. Mission, Vision, and Branding First – This category gives information to the visitor about the organization, the values that are at the core of the organization and the difference the organization makes in the community. The website must be branded cohesively for the organization.

  5. Create a Compelling Story in Words and Photos – Tell your story in compelling pictures and high quality written content.

  6. Schedule a Soft Launch – Pull it all together and get a few key stakeholders to review before the soft launch date. You will want to make sure the links, pages, photos and forms all work across different Internet browsers. This step is crucial to ensure your first users have a positive experience on your website.

Already have a website?  If you are interested in building a new one, you can keep your current site live until the new website is ready to go.  If you are not quite ready to make a change, you can also use the tips from above to elevate your existing content.  Hopefully with these ideas, you can refresh  your website to make an impactful and lasting first impression with visitors on behalf of your organization.

Written by Barbara Brandt, Marketing Communications Management Consultant at Strategic Consulting and Coaching with over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, communications, writing, and branding.