Five Things to Do Now to Enhance Your Nonprofit’s Website

Lists are everywhere – Top Cities to Live in, Wealthiest People, Coldest Places on Earth, and so on. All fun to read but here’s one you can actually do something with, starting now!

Website design and development is a moving target where little changes can make a huge difference to your nonprofit’s website performance over time. In the past few years, you’ve heard a lot about responsive/mobile websites and the use of videos/ graphics to make the content more user-friendly. A lot of that still holds true. Here are some additional trends for making your website produce greater impacts in the coming year.

1. Get Social1.  An old rule for a high-ranking website was to have others link to it. Recently, Google made a subtle change noted on its Webmaster Tools’guidelines2: the text changed from, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages” to “…that users will want to use and share.”

It’s no longer enough to simply link to other websites but have content that people want to share. If it’s trending on Twitter or Google+, it’s also going to trend on search result pages. Encourage your users to share by integrating social media icons and RSS feeds into your website content.

2. Big data schmata!  You’ve heard the phrase, but how relevant is it to your nonprofit? In simple terms, big data is any large and complex dataset that cannot be managed by traditional database management tools.  However, as storage capacity increases, the definition of big data will change as well. What’s big data now won’t be so in 2024.

As a nonprofit organization, you probably don’t generate terabytes of data like Google or Facebook.  So don’t worry about big data. Instead, start with analyzing small datasets for insights that your nonprofit organization can apply quickly. You may be better off digging deeper into “little, but meaningful data” and focusing on improving your data quality. There are many business intelligence and visualization tools available today that can help you do just that.

3. Good Content.  Remember Get social above? Users visit your website for high quality education, research, fundraising, or other relevant information. Thus, you need evolving content that they find interesting and will want to share.  Anyone can build you a fantastic-looking and functioning website – but the content must come from within your organization.  What does Google care more about? Quality content. It’s no wonder Wikipedia comes up so often in results.  Provide good content and almost everything else that makes your website more successful will follow.

4. Siri & Google Now.  Perhaps the most surprising 2014 trend is how users will derive more and more information from your website without ever having to visit it.  When’s the Nonprofit Technology Conference?  What’s the weather in Portland?  All of these can be answered by digital assistants on smartphones, like Apple’s Siri or Google Now. In a strange twist, the fact that a digital assistant can cull this information from your website is perhaps the highest compliment you could receive for your well done, properly search-engine-optimized website.

5. Flat Design.  In the year ahead, look for website design to trend toward simple shapes, colors, and typography.  We’re going back to the basics.  In many cases, shining design may not benefit your website.  A website that emphasizes clarity and usability over pomp and snazz will ultimately serve its constituency better.  Google also notices and rewards those sites with high page rankings.

Let’s recap.

What’s Out What’s In
Links to your site Shares to your site
Big data Usable data
Same old content Revitalized content
Going to your site

Design distractions

Aggregating from it

Less-is-more design

Bieber Beyoncé
Adam Hostetter
Web Design & Development Lead
American Technology Services
Adam Hostetter leads American Technology Services' Design & Development practice. In that capacity he oversees client strategy and the efforts of a team that focuses on website redesign projects, mobile application development, and other web application project efforts. His experience in web development dates from 1997, starting when he was a developer himself. He jokes that he now just "pushes paper." Adam began his career serving mostly Department of Defense-based clients and now serves a variety of commercial and nonprofit interests. 80% of ATS' website development is done on behalf of associations and non-profits. Adam has made numerous thought leadership presentations on a variety of topics ranging from responsive design to AMS/DMS/CRM integration and from mobile applications to web strategy at important industry events for ASAE, NE/SAE, NYSAE, PRSA, Technology Affinity Group (TAG), IPRA, NTEN, DMA, among others. Adam is currently serving on the American Society of Association Executive's technology council for a 2015-2018 term. Adam lives with his wife, 2 kids, and dog, Tilley, at their home in Alexandria, VA.