Athena Software Blog
Six website optimization tips for nonprofits
Posted by Neil McDonald on Jul. 14, 2015

As I’m sure we’re all aware by now, websites are preeeetty important.

It’s how people find you, how they find out about what you do, and it’s generally going to be the first impression people have of your agency.

But just because you have a website doesn’t mean it’s necessarily presenting a friendly face to the public.

Sites that are hard to navigate, slow to load or that are just plain old-fashioned or ugly can drive people away from your site and make sure they don’t return.

Here are some tips that may help your nonprofit or health and social services agency improve the user experience of the people seeking you out online.

1. Ask Google!

You know who are experts in anything related to websites? Google!

You may still think of Google as just a search engine, but they also provide a wide range of helpful tips and resources to assist you in improving not just your website ranking (i.e. how well your site does when people search for it organically), but also your website performance.

One of these tools is called Google Page Speed Insights - this can be used to analyze each page of your website and give it a ranking out of 100 to let you know a) how fast or slow your website pages are loading - this affects both user experience and your Google ranking - along with specific instructions on what you need to fix and b) how Google ranks the user experience of the page.

Now, you may not be the webmaster for your agency’s site - they’re the ones who can run this test - but this is something you can ask the person or company running your website to provide.

Whether you have the authority to do this directly, or can bring it up at your next board or staff meeting, your agency should be aware of your website’s health.

Ask your webmaster for a report on page speed - they have easy access to this resource via Google Webmaster Tools.

2. Get Mobile Friendly

Optimizing your website for mobile has become increasingly important since the advent of smartphones and iPads.

Quick, grab your phone or a tablet and go to your agency’s website.

Hopefully it looks ’normal,’ with no slow-loading pages, clunky scrolling or images too big for the screen but if not, then you should mention this to your webmaster as well because it's undoubtedly frustrating the large number of people who are accessing your site via a mobile device.

Again, Google has tools you can use to test your website’s mobile friendliness, with tech-y tips on how to improve it, so get your webmaster a Google account!

Here's an example of a successful mobile test run on the Athena Software website:

Google Page Speed Insights can help optimize your website

3. Optimize Your Pictures

You take some photos at the latest fundraising event, you send them to the webmaster and they’re uploaded to the site. Great!

Unfortunately, if those photos are not being compressed to shrink the file size, they may be affecting how fast those photos load on your site (and, of course, in any e-mails your agency might send out with photos in them).

Luckily, there are free and easy-to-use tools out there that you can use to compress your pics without losing any resolution before you have them uploaded to your site.

If your pic is a .jpeg file - one site I'd recommend is Jpeg-Optimizer.

Below is an example of a photo from a great stock photo site called Death to the Stock Photo that was originally 7.8MB in size (that’s huge!).

All I had to do was browse and find it on my computer, then click Optimize Photo. Ta-da!

I just reduced it by 99.9 per cent.

It’s now 8.6 kilobytes (that’s not huge!) and now won’t take forever to load on my site or in an e-mail.

And it took literally 10 seconds for me to do, with no technical expertise required whatsoever.

Photo compression tools can help your website load faster

I’d also recommend TinyPNG for .png files. Just drag and drop the pic into the box on their home page and get it compressed in seconds!

Again, compressing pictures can help your website user experience, your page speed and, as a result, your Google ranking.

4. Use Non-Cheesy Stock Images

Stock images used to be uniformly lame. You know the type - cheesy shots of people in business suits all laughing heartily at something while standing in front of a fountain for some reason.

Well, cringe no more - there are lots of stock photo sites out there offering great non-traditional stock images, sometimes for free.

We looked at this in a previous blog post on six inexpensive ways to tell your nonprofit story, but great stock photos can help your agency put forth a better visual presentation while helping to tell your story.

People expect great visuals from a website, and this is an effective and budget-friendly way to provide them.

And don’t be afraid to go big!

Large pictures are essential to a good-looking website (though don’t forget to optimize them first!) and will help foster a good first impression.

Studies show that it takes about 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website so make sure you grab them with a great image.

The one below is used on our careers page and came from an awesome company called Unsplash, and it cost us exactly zero dollars.

Free stock photos are available from sources like Unsplash

5. Start a Blog

One place to use those stock images is in a blog, like this one! New and useful content is always good to attract new visitors or keep previous visitors coming back.

Blog maintenance can sometimes get buried in the to-do list as people get busier and busier, but they’re a great way to keep your website fresh and up-to-date.

If possible, try to get more than one person at your agency contributing to the blog - that will help keep regular or semi-regular posts coming.

Also, they can use the blog as a reason to get together for half-an-hour or over lunch once every couple of weeks to brainstorm ideas.

Here are some great examples of blog topic brainstorming ideas from Hubspot to start you off.

6. Donate Now!

If your agency accepts donations, then hopefully there's a Donate Now button on your website that makes it easy for visitors to immediately donate to your cause.

If not, get one on there! And make sure the button is big enough on the mobile version of your website for on-the-go visitors to donate as well.

Donate Now is a tool that can be used to encourage donations to nonprofits

Also, you likely have a Facebook page - did you know Facebook has a Donate Now button to take contributions?

Well, it does, and if you’re looking for more options for Donate Now buttons and widgets, be sure to check out this great list from Nonprofit Hub or this list of 15 online donation tools from Double the Donation.

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