IN: Simple clean designs
Clean, clean, clean! You can see how simple the background is – solid colors, subtle gradients or very lightly textured backgrounds are great– nothing that distracts too much from the content itself which we all know is the real holy grail.
OUT: Heavily textured busy-looking sites
It’s easy to believe that you have to add lots of STUFF on a site to make it appealing to the younger generation, but for the most part, who is really doing the research and visiting your site? Adults. Let’s make your site adult-like and skip the funky grunge textures.
IN: Directing people to exactly where you want them to go
Use big clear messages and graphics (like swishes pointing downward) to lead people down the page and/or specific “action centers” to direct people to the action you want them to take, like donating, volunteering or just reading further.
OUT: Letting people randomly explore
They may get to where you want them to go eventually but left with too many options (like the long list of links on the left side of this example), people could start wandering and become disinterested quickly and leave.
IN: Facebook Timeline Covers
With the new Facebook timeline feature available for personal pages now (and business pages possibly later), nonprofits have a great opportunity to have their “lightly branded” photos in front of a lot of people in the form of timeline covers. How to create Facebook Timeline covers for your nonprofit.
OUT: Facebook landing pages that aren’t useful
I still like the idea of landing pages (the page you set as the first page non-fans see when they come to your page), but they need to be REALLY useful and compelling to get people to take action. You only have the one opportunity to showcase the page as most “fans” never go back to your actual page after they “like” you.
OUT: Lengthy Reports
OK – you might have the occasional brainiac that wants to delve into the meat of it by reading a full report, but for the most part your visitors will want to scan and go on to the next thing. And even the ones who want to read it, will probably prefer to print it so get it off your website pages!
IN: Content with real value
The best way to engage your audience is to create content they really need, like assessments, calculators, reference charts, information sheets and online guides – this is content marketing and the best way to promote your nonprofit.
OUT: Talking about yourself
Enough about you (and YOUR generous deeds, and YOUR support needed and YOUR mission and tagline). People want to hear about the people you help and/or get the information they need. Look at your menu titles as well (who we are, what we do, where we work) – too much inward focus can reflect negatively on the nonprofit.
IN: Celebrity Power
Not that celebrity power is anything new – but it seems that more nonprofits (even small ones) have access to that celebrity power (at any level) more than ever before. It could be the fact that there are more of them out there (from reality shows) with larger audiences (through Twitter).
OUT: Shopping for nonprofits
Unless you’ve got a great cause marketing agreement with a big corporation, is it really worth your time (ANY time) getting people to shop at the local grocery store for your cause or through a shopping mall for nonprofits?
IN: Social Media Releases
What’s not to love about a press release where you can embed graphics, upload attachments, include social media share buttons and insert your website main page directly into the press release? And you have a permanent place to store all this fun stuff after sending it to all the traditional and social media outlets.
OUT: Traditional Press Releases
I’m not saying there is never a good time to use traditional press releases, especially if you are using a professional PR person who has great contacts. But, many PR people ARE looking to social media to spot or promote their news so the social media press release seems to have a lot more value.
IN: Quickie Donation Forms
The Donate Now button was really designed to make it as easy as possible for someone who was ready to donate to go straight there. But why make them even take that one step? You can have a quickie donation form (just the minimum needed) right on the main page of you site or, like the example, as a popup right when someone enters the site.
OUT: Relying only on the Donate Now button
It’s time to be more assertive when it comes to donations. Rather than wait for someone to click on the donate now button, create a donation section on your site (with or without an actual quickie donation form). I think the days of passively waiting for them to come to you (like the example below) are over!
IN Simplified double menus
I love this trend as it makes everything so much easier to find and makes the menus seem smaller and less complex. Usually you will see one LARGER main menu with 4-5 tabs (with just the most important stuff) and then a smaller sized (and different looking) menu above or below the main one with additional options.
OUT: Dropdown menus with dropdowns
I’ve always hated dropdowns and I think finally people are realizing that everyone else does too. You know what I’m talking about – slipping off the menu and having to start over or having to go through the whole thing page by page because the site doesn’t let you click to one overview page first. It’s like having to get back on the moving escalator each time you want to jump to a new page.
IN: Full social media integration into your website
The easiest way to do this is through RSS feeds that bring your Facebook updates, tweets and blog entries front and center into your website in a way that they actually look like a PART of your website and not as a design afterthought.
OUT: Social media widgets on your website
Actually, it’s okay to use widgets as long as you can customize them to look like your site; just stay away from the little boxed things slapped in a side bar that you have to scroll down to view all the goodies inside. And avoid relying on just those social media buttons to grab their interest.