Attractive, modern, fully functional websites are mandatory for nonprofits that want to be successful online. Each stakeholder — including donors (individual, corporate or potential), volunteers, potential grant decision-makers, the press and partners — has different needs, but all share the common expectation that when they arrive at your website, they'll be able to quickly find what they're looking for.
To best serve your multiple constituencies (and yield the maximum number of actions that you desire, including donations, subscriptions or other positive conversion action), it's vital that your site functions as more than a simple online brochure. While such an approach might have worked in 1999 (and perhaps even in 2009), today's users expect more, and the cost of disappointment (both to current and potential future relationships) is much higher.
Here's a simple two-step process I find useful when beginning the site developmental process:
Imagine yourself in the position of each category of potential site visitors listed above.
Compile a list of the needs of each category. What would, for example, a member of the press want to see and experience? How about a potential partner or a large corporate donor?
While the informational needs of each audience category(and hence the individual paths to conversion) are unique, there are common features to improve the quality and performance of your nonprofit site for your nonprofit's various constituencies.
1. Navigation and information architecture that meets the needs of all important parties
Designing a fast-loading, intuitive, conversion-friendly site begins with familiarizing yourself with established best practices. Usability.gov — a site maintained by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services — contains a lot of great resources (including templates and guidelines) that can make designing and deploying a human-friendly site an easy process.
2. An SEO-friendly content management system (CMS)