Why Usability Testing is Important for Nonprofits

  • by Ryan Phillips
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Most nonprofit directors and executives, when they think of website design, are concerned with the appearance and attractiveness of their pages. In other words, they want their new online presence to look great. That's understandable, and certainly something that's going to be important to your online success.

However, even though your nonprofit website should look fantastic, you also want to know how easy it is for people to use and interact with, and especially if new visitors can find the information and resources they are looking for quickly and easily. In nonprofit web design circles, we call that "usability," and it's something you should definitely pay attention to.

To understand why usability is so important, consider it in a different context. Suppose you were getting a new piece of equipment or software for your organization. The more features it has, the more it can do for you and your staff. But at the same time, more features usually also mean a bigger learning curve. The more usable it is – that is, the simpler it is to understand and take advantage of all the available features – the more you can concentrate on the job at hand, rather than learning how to use it.

When you take that same line of thinking back to your nonprofit website, it becomes clear that usability should be a top priority. In fact, it could be as important, or even more important, than the overall design. There are a couple of good reasons for that:

First, visitors can click away to another web destination if your site isn't usable.

Although nonprofits don't have competition in the traditional business sense of the word, you do still need to compete for someone's attention with all the other websites out there. If it's difficult for people coming to your site for the first time to find the right information or destination fairly quickly, you could see that traffic leave and go elsewhere.

And second, your nonprofit website can be the starting point for a longer relationship.

Beyond simply retaining web traffic, usability is about engagement. The more time people spend on your nonprofit website, the more likely they are to do other things with your group, like volunteer for events or donate money. It gets dramatically harder for any of these things to happen, even for people you've met offline, if they can't find the information they need to register or give, for example, on your website.

With that in mind, it doesn't just make sense to ensure that your nonprofit website is as usable as possible, but also to review it from time to time (and especially after major changes or updates) to make sure that usability is maintained. Otherwise, it's easy for new content to be "hidden" somewhere that is difficult to find, or for your site to become difficult to navigate.

Usability might sound like industry jargon, but it's an important term for an even more important concept. Make it a priority in your next nonprofit website.

Need more great nonprofit design and marketing advice? Get in touch with SW Creatives today!