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We are a state-wide non-profit agency about to re-design our website. Please share information about best practice for website re-design. Especially for the home page -- Is it better to have a clean look on the home page OR risk having a busier look and having more items noted that would otherwise be lost or never even noticed on one of the pages of the website? I welcome your thoughts. Thank you.
This question is very complicated and subjective to answer. A homepage is a direct representation of the organization/business that it is for. IMO, it should be clean, very well organized and as simple as possible while still representing the company and providing key navigation and important aspects of the site/organization, and then more descriptive inner pages with additional navigation options. Something like this should be decided based on what your visitors need and how much information you need to organize online, but simple is usually better.
Your homepage should not be a do everything page. It should introduce the organization and allow visitors to easily navigate to the different sections of your website, about, mission, donate, partners, etc... Detailed information should be logically organized in those sections instead of the homepage. The more information on the homepage, the less likely a visitor will be able to easily navigate to where they want to go. You suggest that putting more information on it would decrease the chance of a user not seeing it, but in reality the more information you put on it, the more likely it will be passed up.
We all assume that all of our visitors get to our websites starting on the homepage, but if you look at real analytic data on most websites larger than just a few pages, you realize that the majority of people don't actually go to the homepage, and certainly don't enter the site through the homepage. If someone finds you via a link or from a search engine, it's typically a sub page that they enter on. A direct bookmark is the only entry path where the homepage is probably the most common point of entry. Overloading the homepage further increases the chance that a visitor will not see the information on there.
If you're looking on further guidance on what you need, I strongly suggest reading books: Homepage Usability, Prioritizing Web Usability, and Designing Web Usability, all by Jakob Nielson - http://www.useit.com/. You can usually find used ones for very cheap.
Also, these are a few great places to get good information on usability and general design best practices:
What's most important, IMO, is that the web site is going to be easy to navigate and use by your current and potential clients, current and potential volunteers, current and potential supporters, and current and potential collaborators. What do each of those groups want and need out of your web site? Think about CONTENT first, and let that guide design!
Accessibility is also key - your web site needs to be fully accessible to any user, no matter what browser they are using - and that includes people who may be using assistive technology.
I have a primer on web design for mission-based organizations. It's basic, but I'm stunned at how many nonprofits and government offices forget the basics! I'm no web designer, but I'm an advanced user, and I don't care how many web design awards a site has won: if I can't use it, it's not a good design.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
A complex question that cannot be answered easily, especially without knowing what you have to work with and what you want people to do on your site.
To add to what was already said, try to make the most important topics or categories easy to find on your home page, then provide several ways for people to find other things they may be looking for such as site maps and a search box.
The search box can be one tool to get information about what people are looking for or not finding on your site. Most site search scripts provide a way to collect and review what people search for. Some also tell you how many results were found. They often provide the IP address of the person and you will be able to see if they try a number of things to find what they want.
This information can tell you what your visitors think is most important and how easy it is for them to find it. You can use this along with your site stats or analytics to get a fairly complete idea of how well your site is working or not working for your visitors.
Thank you, jestep, Jayne, and Christian for your thoughtful and thorough answers.
I'm no expert, and I am grateful for you all to give such fantastic input.
"Your homepage should not be a do everything page" is excellent advice, in particular.
I just want to add that if you are a nonprofit that people will actually be visiting with regularity (for example a museum, art gallery, theater, social services provider, training center, school, etc.), please consider including your full address with cross streets nice and clearly on the home page. This goes double if you are considering a separate mobile website.
If you are an office that mostly only your own workers will visit, this is not applicable, obviously. But if you are a destination of any kind, your community will be very grateful that you have included your address with cross streets conspicuously on the home page.
Michael DeLong | Online Community Manager
In addtion to the great advice already given, here are some additional links from US Federal goverenment. Although these sites provide guidance to federal agencies, the same principles should provide good guidance to NGOs' as well..
Visual map on site desgin:
I am learning to design websites so hope those links are helpful.
All excellent advice!My best advice to people facing your situation is that they first take the time to answer the following two key questions:1) What is the purpose of our website?2) What specific tasks on the site do we want our visitors to accomplish?Before you move forward with your website re-design, take the time to carefully answer these questions and to understand your target audience. It's not uncommon for your site to have more than just one objective. Your site's goals might include, among others, any (or all) of the following:- provide information (articles, news, PDFs, etc.)- sell a product or service - accept online donations- subscribe to newsletter- become a volunteer- submit contact form
Get your team on board so that together you can brainstorm and define goals for your site and your organization. Like I mentioned, you might have multiple objectives. Discuss each of these as a team, write them down and make sure the discussion also includes how you would define "success". For example, you could set weekly, monthly or yearly targets for each goal. How many new sign-ups to your newsletter per month would make you happy? What total dollar amount of donations are you aiming for monthly/yearly? These targets do not have to be set in stone (you can be flexible here), but the point is to talk about your goals in some sort of measurable way.
You will be in much better position to move forward with your redesign project once you're clear on your site's objectives and your key audiences. In addition, setting clear goals will allow you to establish benchmarks for online success while also providing you with the ability to track and measure your site's overall effectiveness.
I agree with what others here have already mentioned. A clean site layout with an easy to use navigation structure is important. Equally important is to provide quality content useful to your visitors. I would avoid jam-packing the homepage with tons of information for the simple reason that most people will feel overwhelmed -- and this can actually turn visitors away from your site. You certainly don't want that to happen.
A good general design approach for the homepage is to use the homepage to showcase the site's most important sections or topics. Because the homepage is often the first entry point to a site, it should also give visitors a brief snapshot of who you are and what you do. Try to do this in a way that grabs their attention by including some compelling headlines and images that effectively promotes your cause to visitors. Use the homepage to sell yourself and your key accomplishments, but also use it to introduce key areas of the site.
The bottom line is that visitors will be happy to spend time on your site if the site has a clean and user-friendly layout, and if your pages (including the homepage) contain interesting and compelling information. To your content I would make it a point to add appropriate "calls to action" that encourage people to do specific things on your site (i.e., accomplish a site goal). Examples of effective calls to action than can be included on the homepage and elsewhere are: "Learn more", "Donate now", "Subscribe today", "Contact us today", and so on. There are many that can be used to encourage visitors to take action.I'm currently running a "website satisfaction survey" on a site and some of the feedback visitors pointed out is that the site's contact information is very easy to find. Consider placing a footer at the bottom of every page of the site that includes your organization's contact information. This way anyone will be able to immediately get in touch with you no matter what page they visited.
To move you in the right direction, it helps to see what other sites are doing. The link below will show you homepage design examples that include some of the ideas I've mentioned:
Non-Profit Website Design: Examples and Best Practices
I hope you'll post back to let us know how your website re-design project turned out.
Yann ToledanoForum Moderator, TechSoup.orgDigital Marketing ConsultantYTConsulting.com@MarketingYann
Thank you all so much for your valuable feedback. I am learning a lot from all of you. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer me and share your knowlege. It is all very helpful and good advice. Sincerely, Merrill
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