Anyone can build a website. Anyone! A volunteer, a graphics artist, your 12 year old kid .... But building a website is much more than putting together content, images, ect... Real world market data research goes into website design, and the best website designers are NOT web designers. Sound weird but the people responsible for your website getting 5 leads a day or 50 leads a day are the data scientist behind the scenes. They tell the web designers what to do. How important is data in building a website? There is a popular story about eBay back in it's startup days. They change the color of the "Proceed to Checkout" button, and notices a whopping 40% increase to in the clinkthru which resulted in a 10% increase in sales. That is the importance of market data research. If you had a just web designer build your website, then the only difference between them and a 12 year old, is that they can make you website look prettier, but not more effective.
KNOW THE IMPORTANT SECTIONS OF YOUR WEB PAGE
The map on your right shows the important section of web page. Red, orange, yellow, gray are listed from most important to least. As you can see, the area where people normally put their banner is the most important, and if i were to put an arbitruary number to how important, i would say 90%. That area determines who will proceed and who will leave. So what do you need in this very important section of your page? If you're thinking of putting a banner image with your organization's name and logo in the banner, then be prepare see a lot of visitors leaving your website. How can you blame them? They are probably surfing several websites, yours is just one listed among many in their search results. Imagine their atttention span is a pie. Now imagine that you and several other websites are fighting for that pie. The more websites they are visiting, the smaller that slice becomes. Now let's see how we can grab the little attention span that they have left.
HEADERS, HEADERS, AND MORE HEADERS. OH, SOME SUB-HEADERS TOO.
If I had to choose between a webpage with with good quality content, but does not have any headers or subheaders, or a webpage that has just headers and sub-headers, I'd choose the latter. This refers back the visitor's attention span we were talking about ealier. People generally do not have the patience to read paragraphs and paragraphs of text, no matter how well it's written. They prefer reading your headers and subheaders, so write ones that make visitors pause. I am definitely not saying only have headers and sub-headers on your website! Just make sure each subject has an effective header, followed by an optional sub-header.
Now that you know the importance of headers and sub-headers, remove your logo and organization name from your banner and replace it with an effective header!
KEEP YOUR WEBSITE SIMPLE
I've designed websites and sales pages for almost 20 years now, and there is one thing that remains constant for all these years. People alway believe that a good looking website equals an effective website. That is rarely the case. As a matter of fact, the more visually apealing your website is, the less effective it becomes. Imagine walking into a store and seeing one big sign that shows today's specials. Now imagine walking into a store with many signs. The store that has the one sign will get their message across much easier. This analogy also applies to your website. Visually appealing websites are generally busy with images, graphics, animations, videos, audio, ect, and that can distract the visitor from the message you want to send. Now I am not saying make your website look like a research paper, what i am saying is keep it from looking like the inside of a casino.
USE THE RIGHT IMAGES (THIS ONE'S LONG)
I get asked all the time about how important images are for your website. The answer is, images are definitely NECESSARY and definitely NOT important. You need images to balance out your pages, give it that certain look and feel, more importantly feel. However, don't rely on it to make an impact (images displaying products are an exception). When choosing an image, select one that compliments the theme of your website and is unassuming. Why not get images that can make an impact? In my experience, when an image makes an impact, it's usually a negative impact. People have a list of likes and dislikes, and the dislikes are always longer than the likes. Negative things make more of an impact on people and that's why negative headlines get more attention than positive ones. I'm not saying an image can't make a positive impact, but you are playing against the house on this one.
I once had a client that wanted to put a banner image herself standing in her office. She was a CPA in her early 30's, attractive with with dark blonde hair. I advised against it and recommend that any image of her should be small and unassuming. She insisted that if people saw her, more would want to work with her. Her leads dropped by 10% within the first 3 months after putting up that banner image. Before, all her leads were from people that believed she was a good fit and they judged it based primarily on her merits and skillset. By showing an attractive image of herself, she was hoping it would make an impact on people that were "on the fence". This didn't make sense to me, and I'll break down the scenerios logically.
She created 3 groups of leads after adding her banner. The first thinks she is qualified and dont care what she looks like. The second thinks she is qualified but her looks, for what ever reason (a chauvenist who thinks attractive equals incompetant; the wife of a lead doesn't what her husband working with an attractive woman; wow! she's hot, i want to work with her! ect ..), will affect their decision. The third just dont think she qualified or have the correct skillset.
1) The first group we can ignore. Let's say she gets 100% of this group.
2) The second group, lets say half became leads and the other half, for whatever reason, did not. We have to assume 50/50 unless there are detailed data on the effects of her banner image.
3) Third group are people that don't think she is qualified or have the correct skillset and simply won't use her. This group we can ignore like the first group. We'll say she gets 0 leads here.
So the second group will determined if she will increase her leads. This group we have 2 sub-groups. Let's call the first sub-group "haters" and the second "lovers". Before the banner was added to her page, she got 100% of the "haters". After adding the banner, she would lose 100% of her "haters" and needed makeup the lost by gaining more "lovers". Considering that in sales, it's always easier to lose a lead then gain a lead, her numbers would most likely go down.
"When choosing an image, select one that compliments the theme of your website and is unassuming."
-- Line repeated from above by Yours Truly
DON'T GET OVERZEALOUS
BMW is the ultimate driving machine. Mercedes is engineered like no other car in the world. There is no substitue for a Porsche. Is Mercedes the most luxurious, most comfortable, most reliable, well designed car? No, its engineered like no other car in the world. These companies spend tens of millions to brand one single description that defines them. Your nonprofit website needs to do the same. Concentrate on the topic that is most important to you. Hammer that message into your website over and over. Your entire website should be devoted to your main topic. The more topic you emphasize on your website, the less important each one becomes. If you have multiple important topics, create a website for them.