The era of businesses that are exclusively profit-focused is over. Today’s consumers do not want to support companies that only care about themselves. They want businesses that have a real impact on other people and the world as a whole. Becoming a social impact company does not happen overnight – it takes strategic planning and following through with a mission. To engineer and develop a social impact site, you must embrace special considerations regarding web design, content marketing, and customer relationships.
The Importance of Website Design
Your website is often the first interaction users have with your brand. It must portray who you are as a company, what your mission is, and what you have to offer. If you are in the school of thought that any website will work, you are doing your business a huge disservice. The “any old website” approach died about 20 years ago when users became more web-savvy, and brand competition became fierce.
Having a bad website can hurt your business more than having no site at all.
The right website can have a significant impact on how your target audience thinks about your business. For social impact businesses and nonprofits, audience perception is incredibly important. You must establish credibility as a social impact company, build trust, engage with your customers, and ultimately close more ‘sales’ (or donations – whatever your site’s objective is) for your cause. To accomplish these goals, you cannot only throw a site together. You have to prioritise smart, custom web design with an understanding of how it impacts your brand as a whole.
Nine times out of ten, a user will leave a website due to its poor design elements. This is because bad site design makes today’s savvy users wary – they are suspicious of sites that do not prioritise design in 2017. Users assume the site is outdated or inactive. For a nonprofit organisation, poor website design can be the nail in the coffin. Now that you can understand the importance of website design, it is time to learn the best practices to leverage for your social impact site.
Know Your Users
Before you can successfully develop a site, you must understand your audience – what they want and what they expect from a brand. To create a successful user experience (UX) on your social impact site, you must first identify and analyse user metrics. This will enable you to understand your unique position and value to customers. One way to achieve this is by using satisfaction questionnaires that ask about the usability, and overall experience guests had on your site. Gather as much data as you can about your customer base and target audience, and design your site using this information.
Understanding your audience is at the heart of good website design. Otherwise, your design elements and content will cater to the wrong crowd. Identify your target audience and create personas of your typical donors or buyers (the users that help you achieve your objectives). Then, craft your site around what these people would want to see. Your audience may want to see photos of your team making a real impact in the world, such as planting a community garden or volunteering at homeless shelters. They may also want a clear, concise mission statement to gain an understanding of who are and what you’re doing with the money you make.
On a charity website, for example, users would likely react negatively to the lack of an “About Us” page. The reputation and mission of a charity are two major contenders in whether a person feels comfortable donating to a cause. Potential donors are not going to enter their credit card information or give money to a charity that does not make its mission, goals, and values clear. This is just one website design element that is important for social impact sites.
Look Past the Homepage
The homepage may be the initial landing page your users see, but it is far from the most important. In recent years there has been a marked shift away from the homepage and more on other elements of a website, such as “Our Mission” and “How You Can Help.” These are the pages that let your nonprofit shine and that generate conversions. Interior pages have greater focus and are more useful for website visitors.
This does not mean that you should ignore your homepage. It should represent your organisation and introduce who you are. But do not spend all your time and effort optimising this page, or you may be disappointed by the lack of returns. Your other pages should at least match your homepage, creating a cohesive user experience throughout your site. Every page needs to deliver riveting, fresh content that speaks to your main message.
On a social impact site, pages such as the “About Us,” “Meet Our Team,” and “Contact Us” are more important than the homepage because users want to feel a personal connection with a nonprofit before they donate money. Your users want to know they can trust you to do what you say you will with their money, and to make a real difference toward your cause. Accomplish these tasks with poignant, relevant, and engaging website pages beyond your homepage.
Who said social impact sites had to be boring? Many nonprofits are revamping their marketing efforts with exciting, modern, UX-design strategies such as gamification. Making donating fun can encourage more people to join your cause, and can help you reach a larger audience. Games can also be addictive, leading to donors coming back and making repeat donations. Here are a few examples of nonprofits using gamification:
- Budge (thebudge.com): This is an app where users can challenge their friends to virtually anything – a game of chess, a new track record, to quit smoking, etc. People play for fun and a sense of healthy competition. If they lose, they have to donate to a worthy cause. Budge is a fun way to engage with audiences and generate revenue for good causes.
- Vaccines on the Go (chop.edu): This app teaches parents facts about vaccines using fun games like crossword puzzles and hangman. This is an excellent example of gamification to spread awareness, and not just to make money. Turning your cause into a game of some kind can help people understand your mission and why they should consider donating.
- Free rice(freerice.com): Perhaps the original gamification for nonprofits, freerice.com asks users vocabulary questions. For every correct answer, the charity donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end world hunger. This may not seem like a lot, but it adds up quickly.
You can join the gamification bandwagon by working with an app developer (it is easier than you think) to create your social impact site or app. When you hire a professional web designer, it is easier to incorporate a game that will connect with your audience and encourage engagement right on your website. Gamification is just one creative way you can improve your social impact site.
The goal of a social impact site is not to make money. It is to generate funds for a good cause. People are at the heart of every good nonprofit and charitable organisation. Show your human side by understanding and empathising with your target audience, designing a site that represents your mission, and tailoring your marketing efforts to appeal to the people. Your site should appeal to the emotions of your users, using storytelling and imagery to send your message home.
Spending ample time optimising every page on your site will prove your status as a trustworthy organisation, while quickly and clearly communicating your core purpose across your site gives users a positive first impression. Coming up with a simplified and understandable mission for your site is essential to show users the value your organisation brings. No matter what page your users land on, it should communicate this mission.
Finally, gamification and other UX design strategies can engage with your audience and spread awareness about your cause, as well as garner donations. Developing your social-impact site beyond what users expect, can distinguish you from competitors, and keep donors coming back for more. Thinking outside the box can help your organisation shine, helping your cause by extension. Learning best practices for your site will ultimately help the people and causes you serve.
(Lead image: maxlkt – Creative Commons)