Win some pro bono development work with our 10 tips for designing a charity website

Webdesign

We know that first impressions are everything. Your charity may have the most noble mission in the world, but a tired, boring website will ensure your inspiring message is overlooked. Whether you’re asking people to donate, sign a petition or join a charity mountain climb, developing a sense of trust with your online audience is crucial.

So we’ve invited design agency Artificial Labs to share with you their top 10 tips on how to design a great charity website. What’s more, in return, they have kindly offered 40 hours of pro bono design and digital work to one lucky JustGiving member charity. So have a read of the following tips and then think about how you could best make use of such technical expertise. To apply you will need to complete the form below and Artificial Labs will select one lucky charity to be the recipient of their technical support. You never know, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

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1. Get your mission statement right: Users should be able to clearly grasp who you are and what you do as soon as they land on your homepage. Fuzzy explanations and long-winded About Us sections don’t show your story off to its full potential. Read this article by US charity resource Non Profit Hub to find examples of good and bad mission statements.

2. Keep your story short: A clear and compelling message will help forge emotional connections to your cause, while a beautiful website will help that message come to life. But remember, the attention span of the average web user is quite low; your bounce rate will soar if you don’t keep your content short. Read this Econsultancy article for tips on optimizing your website for short attention spans.

3. Develop a visual identity: The internet is awash with bad charity websites and incoherent branding. Your visual identity will comprise everything from logos to imagery and will help you stand out from the crowd. Animal charity Dogs Trust is immediately recognisable for its vibrant yellow colour palette, while Macmillan Cancer Support employ soothing green shades.

4. Don’t get too personal: Avoid long-winded explanations of why you got involved in the charity sector. The average person is more interested in the concrete work of your charity and what it achieves. Stick to your short, punchy mission statement instead.

5. Find the right agency: It can be tempting to lower your costs with a one-size-fits-all website. Don’t risk alienating your target audience with a poorly designed website – instead, find an agency that will understand your needs and create a website that’s perfectly tailored to the needs of your charity.

6. Do your research: Before briefing an agency, examine the websites of similar charities to see what they’re doing well and identify any gaps. Outline your website’s needs, then speak to agencies you think can address them. Review any similar work they’ve done for other clients, and once you’re chosen your agency, provide them with a concise, detailed brief (find some tips on creating the right brief in this Drum article by Joseph Liu).

7. Identify your needs: If you’re asking people to donate, sign a petition or join a charity project, make sure the functionality works. Clearly labelled calls to action, donate buttons, effective integration with online payment systems and a coherent user journey will all pave the pay to high recruitment and donation levels. According to this E-Consultancy piece, only one in five charities are equipped to take donations online: don’t make that same mistake.

8. Mobile optimisation: Make it as easy as possible for potential supporters to connect with your cause, whether they’re commuting at rush hour with a tablet for company, or browsing social media on their smart phones. Charities without mobile-friendly websites will be penalised in Google search engine rankings, so make it’s central to the design brief. Read this Engaging Networks blog by Eline Ledsinger to find out more about the benefits of mobile optimisation for charities.

9. Use photos, video and user testimonials: Whether it’s photos and videos of campaign rallies or events, project work in developing countries or user testimonials from supporters or volunteers, use all the assets at your disposal to engage users with your campaign.

10. Keep in touch: A carefully designed ladder of engagement is essential in order to recruit new supporters and keep the ones you have. That may mean asking your network to sign up to a regular newsletter, packed full of great content, or updating and thanking donors with tailored email campaigns. IT for Charities provides a useful overview of fundraising and membership databases that can help make that process more efficient.

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Jamie Parkins is the API product manager at JustGiving. He specialises in developing the services and technologies that enable charities, agencies and a growing community of developers to build applications that utilise JustGiving's technologies.