How to boost website design to match great mission presentation

publication date: Apr 19, 2012
 | 
author/source: Kori Brus, Ryann Miller


Kori
: Hi, Ryann. This month's candidate, Sudbury Manitoulin Children's Foundation, is an interesting case. A small charity with just one paid staff person, they work to send at-risk and underprivileged kids to summer camp. They also provide education and resources to help break the cycle of abuse that affects too many young people.

Design obscures mission

That mission becomes clear only after staring at the site awhile. SMCF's chief problem is visual. The entire presentation is a washout. Nothing stands out. Nothing grabs the viewer's attention, and that's despite a website that has a lot going for it.

Their clean, straightforward design lets SMCF present many sides of their work. Strong, rotating images let you see the young faces of those being helped. The animated effect on the logo is quite charming (though I didn't see it until my third visit to the home page). There are testimonials and personal stories, and there are multiple ways to get involved. They're even offering French language content. Visitors can also learn more about volunteering, getting involved with fundraising events, taking part on Facebook and, of course, donating online.

It's all there, and it's all hiding in plain view.

Simple fixes with big impact

With SMCF's slim resources, my guess is they don't want to go through a major overhaul. The good news is that they don't have to. Here are a few suggestions that will help their best work stand out a little more and help them hit above their weight class.
  • Background images: they can go one of two ways. Drop them all, or replicate what they did with the bursary program. The bursary image has a simple, high-contrast visual that draws you in and complements the strong messaging of the program. The rest of the images are cluttered, fragmented and distracting.
  • Home page banners: Same advice as the background image. They have to be focused and high-contrast. SMCF should also consider a lead banner that frames the organization as a whole to bring unity to all the home page elements.
  • Readability: I have perfect eyesight, but this text is not reaching me. Black on blue, black on green, plus mixing in alternate colours creates text pages that end up ignored. The strong lead messages on each program page took three or four visits to find even though I was looking for them. They should consider going to white or very light backgrounds and sticking with just one colour scheme.
The last change is the donate page. It's a three-click process to get to the donate form. Keep it simple and send people straight to the end zone.

The summary? For a small shop they're making a great effort. All they need to do is make it a tad easier for visitors to hear their story by tweaking their presentation. I'll give them C+ so long as they dedicate themselves to the easy improvements that they have at their fingertips.

Ryann, what are you seeing?

Ryann: Tell it, Kori!

I just spent the past few days at the AFP conference in Vancouver, which was filled with organizations large and small. What we all learned there will help us raise more money for worthy causes. So right now, I'm high on the power of education.

Fundraising

I love that they have ‘donate' links on other pages, right at the top. I don't love the donation page itself. Too much text! After leading people there, don't distract them. The image is great too, though I'd consider giving the Tyler Ferguson Trust Fund its own page, and using this space for kids who have been through the camp program.

One thing I'd love to see is the actual cost of a week of camp on that page. I'm a fan of showing a few price points because that makes it real for the donor. Giving happens with the heart, so draw them a picture of a child able to attend camp for a week because of their generosity. What I'd like to see best of all? A short note from a camp beneficiary. It doesn't have to be pretty, just sincere.

Engagement

They have a video- and photo-friendly cause, so I'm glad to see great photos and video on the site. I'm also glad to see the Facebook page-it seems like a great way for the kids to keep in touch, as well as engage friends, family, and future supporters. One thing about the videos: make sure they're working!

Messaging

There's lots of ‘why' and not an overload of ‘how' - so great to see! The home page has tons of heart, latest news, and ways to get involved. All in all they do a wonderful job.

Voice

They seem to be in touch with their target audience. The home page, fundraising events, stories, and Facebook presence demonstrate that they know who they're talking to, how to talk to them, what to say, and how to draw them in. Well done.

Design

Here's where they could use some improvement. As Kori says, they don't have to do a total re-design (though it would be nice). They can get away with just a better use of contrast. I like the recently redesigned home page with rotating banner. It's a great way to catch the eye, show some of the great photos they have, and profile different facets of their programs.

I'll stop here. Kori, you summed it all up and I agree with everything you said. This little nonprofit is doing a lot with just a little. Looks matter, and they need some help in the looks department-and on the donation page. Otherwise, they are doing a wonderful job. I give them an A- because I think the site's shortcomings are easy enough to fix, but the big, hard stuff, about focus, mission, audience etc, is already there.

Ryann Miller is director of nonprofit services at Care2, where she helps charities and nonprofits recruit online supporters. She is the former managing director of DonorTrends and was a senior fundraising consultant at HJC New Media.

Kori Brus is philanthropic counsel and marketing specialist at Good Works, where he focuses on nonprofit campaign strategy and online engagement. He's the former communications director of Ecojustice Canada and former community manager for Web of Change.


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