What Makes a Good and Bad Website?

  • by Diane Park
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Most of the nonprofit executives we meet with for the first time assume they have a great website… even though they have to wonder why they aren’t getting visitors, and people seem to have trouble navigating through their pages.

If they aren’t getting the results they hoped for, are these websites really that great? And more importantly, what do you need on your website to make it more effective?

If you’ve been searching for the answers to these types of questions, you’re in luck. Below, you’ll find our quick-and-easy guide to the good and bad in your web presence.

A Few Things That Kill Your Website

There are as many ways to get a website wrong as there are to get it right, of course — but we have noticed that most organizations that need a new web presence are struggling from at least one of these issues:

Incoherent design choices. This might sound harsh, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of websites we see feel as if they were designed and constructed by half a dozen different people (and they might have been, with successive revisions over time). Your pages should look like they belong together; inconsistencies in sizing, fonts, or colors might not seem obvious at first, but they make a poor impression on visitors.

Key information that is buried. On every page in your website, key information and details should be “above the fold,” meaning that the user shouldn’t have to scroll around the page to find them. When that’s not the case, your website feels cumbersome, confusing, and difficult to use.

Difficult navigational structures. Speaking of usability, there are a handful of different navigational structures and menu types that searchers and visitors are used to. Once you stray away from these, people have to think about what they’re doing when they use your website. That can be frustrating, and detracts from your message.

Unconventional colors. Lots of people want to think “outside the box” when it comes to website design, but you have to be careful when it comes to color choices. There’s only a slight difference between something that makes your pages “pop” and coloring that’s distracting and irritating to visitors.

Low-quality graphics and unreadable fonts. Amazingly, we still see webpages using clipart from decades ago, or are built with fonts that are either hard to read or can’t be displayed correctly by modern web browsers and mobile devices. These send an instant message to visitors, and it isn’t that your group should be taken seriously.

A lack of mobile compatibility. More than half of all web users access the Internet through tablets and smart phones. If your webpages don’t display properly for them, then you can’t be surprised when you aren’t getting the kinds of results you planned for.

How to Build a Better Website

In many ways, building a better website is just a matter of avoiding the kinds of mistakes we outlined above. Here are a few tips to help you get moving in that direction:

Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Put yourself in the shoes of the first-time visitor to your website and consider this: How easy or difficult would it be for you to find the information you’re looking for? Everything on your site should be streamlined for convenience.

Choose conventional color, design, and navigation schemes. Don’t make visitors work to understand your website. You want them focused on your content, ideas, and organization, not the offbeat design choices you’ve made along the way.

Don’t rely too much on images and animations. We used to see a lot of websites that were built using only pictures, but this practice has faded because it leaves your page invisible to Google and the other search engines. Additionally, such layouts don’t always display well on mobile devices.

Make your audience the top priority. This is an easy detail to overlook, but it’s the key to building a great website. It doesn’t matter whether your favorite colors are blue and pink – what matters is that your website is functional, has a great design, and is appealing to your most important audience. Ask yourself what they want, and then analyze every page to see what you can do to bring things closer to that goal.

Work with a team of professionals. Your website is likely to be the first – and sometimes, only – point of contact you’ll have with a potential supporter. It doesn’t matter how intelligent and professional you and your team are. If your website doesn’t reflect those qualities, the chance to make a great impression will be lost in seconds.

Your website is too important to trust to just anyone. Work with a team of experienced creative professionals who know how to help you get the results you’re looking for.

Looking for the very best in web design and Internet marketing for nonprofits? Contact SW Creatives today at 301.891.0111 to schedule a complementary account review!