Nielsen Norman Group Releases a New Study of Nonprofit Web sites and Estimates that Organizations Could Double Online Donations
FREMONT, Calif., April 3, 2009 — People would be willing to give money to charities, and even give a greater amount of money through online donations if only it was easier for them to find out from the organization's website what its mission and goals were and its plans for spending the money. That's according to user-experience research firm Nielsen Norman Group, which released a report this week entitled "Donation Usability" that presents details from a study in which they observed potential donors struggling to find the information they wanted in order to decide whether and how much money to contribute online.
Nielsen Norman Group studied 23 representative non-profit websites covering a range of initiatives from animal rights to youth education programs. Test subjects were observed performing two tasks: Choosing a recipient and making a donation. By far, the thing the users sought first was an understanding of the organizations' goals and objectives. Only 43% of the websites studied put their mission on their homepage and only 4% stated on the homepage where the donor's money would be applied. This information was often provided inside the website, but users had trouble finding it and this affected their donation decisions.
"We uncovered several donation killers that caused some of the charities to lose out," said usability expert Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group. "Were they to fix these turn-off factors, we estimate that they could easily double donations."
The turn-off factors were nearly equally divided between poor page design (47 percent) and unclear content (53%). Usability issues relating to page and site design included cluttered pages and confusing workflow, and in 17 percent of the cases, users simply could not find where to donate. Content issues centered on unclear information, missing information and confusing terms.
"To get donations flowing in, non-profits would be well advised to communicate more clearly and answer donors' main questions on their website's homepage," said Janelle Estes, Nielsen Norman Group user experience specialist and co-author of the research report.