Designing Sites for Nonprofits

Search “nonprofits and website usability” and Google will spit out dozens of great posts on user experience. What it won’t give you, however, is something that many cash and resource-strapped nonprofits value even higher – advice on how to manage the site. Where well-off companies might leave site management to a content strategist or IT director, nonprofits rely on us—the UX professionals building their sites—to find alternative solutions. After many discussions with people in the nonprofit sector, I’ve learned that developers and consultants tend to focus on exciting features and intuitive user flows (as well they should), but neglect to discuss one key element with their clients: what will happen after the site launches? As a result, nonprofits waste valuable resources trying to work with sites their staff can’t manage to update or maintain. Their websites grow stagnant and unusable at a time when even the poorest of the people they serve are searching for online resources. Essentially, for small to medium-sized nonprofits (and even some small businesses), a great website is defined not by groundbreaking bells and whistles, but by the basic features many web companies overlook. In other words, in our efforts to provide an excellent end-user experience, we can’t neglect the site admin’s experience. Last August I combed through the 77 applications for Chicago Cause, a competition in which a nonprofit is chosen to receive a free new website. Flipping through the applications, I found myself getting frustrated for these organizations—many of which couldn’t do anything with their websites. Here’s a sampling of what these nonprofit directors said: “What I’d really like is to be able...