Boldlight's Chris Smyth shows us what charities can do to enhance the online experience for supporters.
Charities are increasingly aware of the importance digital plays in supporter engagement. If you've got a website and you're on social media, that's a good start. But if you want to really nail the online experience for your supporters, there are five crucial things you can do:
Know your audience
Who is interacting with you online, and what content is working and not working for them? Google Analytics and free or cheap social media analysis tools can provide a great starting point for gaining some audience insight.
Review how people are interacting with you online, across your website, email and social media. It can reveal vast areas of online content that can be trimmed, ineffective communications, or as happened with one of our clients, a single page hidden away that gets vast amounts of traffic.
Once you know how people are engaging with you, you can use this as the basis of your online communications.
Make it easy
How do people take in information online? If you can understand this, you can start producing digital products that people love to use.
One key thing to bear in mind is that great designs use visual hierarchy, colour, white space and imagery to set the tone - They also allow people to find information easily and quickly. It’s important to reduce the ‘noise’, and allow people to feel in control of their own journey.
Make performing tasks online a positive experience by learning about what supporters are trying to achieve, and then giving affordances (such as an icon being slightly raised above an otherwise flat surface, suggesting the idea of pushing a button) to guide them along the way. Hide complexity, and only show what’s relevant.
These are all principles that we applied in our recent project to make the Blueprint for Water website.
Use popular content to its fullest
Part of any user experience project involves really digging into the objectives of the organisation and the needs of the users. Sometimes we find there’s a mismatch between the content a charity wants to push, and the content their supporters want to access. If this happens, it usually results in the homepage or navigation menus getting filled with things that users have to navigate around to get to what they want!
Identify content that covers both organisational and user objectives. This ‘core’ content can then be used as a stepping-stone to promote relevant charity objectives.
Consider the wider experience
It’s important to consider how people interact with your charity offline too, and make sure that the online experience matches up.
Take opportunities to meet supporters, work a phone line or get out there and experience the work your charity does ‘in the field’. This always gives us a more nuanced understanding of what motivates supporters, in turn giving us greater insight into what they want from an online experience.
Test the product with your supporters
Perhaps the most important step is involving your supporters in the development of your digital presence.
Sitting in a room, one-to-one, and asking real supporters what they think about the things you’re producing is the best way to get the user experience right.
We put all of this into practice recently with Alzheimer’s Research UK to help them redevelop their online donation forms. We ran user testing sessions to understand the needs of their audience, and validated design decisions with their input and feedback. You can see the end result here.
Chris Smyth is digital and UX director at Boldlight