By Jeff Kline


Is Your Nonprofit Website Making A Good First Impression?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

5 Questions to Evaluate Your Web Design

shocked woman looking at computerIt only takes a person .05 seconds to form a first impression of your nonprofit website (and, ultimately, of your organization). If visitors like your web design, they’ll stay longer and navigate through your pages, increasing the likelihood that they’ll eventually become a new member, donor or customer. But if visitors don’t like your website, they will immediately click the back button, adding one more strike to your “bounced” tally.

Presenting new visitors with a good first impression of your website is crucial to establishing credibility and trust among your audience and accomplishing your nonprofit’s internet marketing goals.

In today’s blog post, you can evaluate whether or not your web design is making a good first impression on visitors. Ask yourself these five questions, and figure out if your website is hitting the mark or falling short. 


1) Does your website load in less than 3 seconds?stopwatch

The average website loads in 2.45 seconds, according to a study by Google. If people visiting your website have to wait any longer than 3 seconds for your page to load, they’ll have formed a negative opinion of your website before they even see it!

If your website takes a long time to load, work with your web development company to resolve the problem. Common culprits are massive image file sizes and an excessive amount of content (images, videos, widgets) on a single page.

2) Is there an obvious point of focus – a single area that really draws the eye?

A visually appealing web design is simplistic and clean and features one standout element that immediately attracts a visitor’s attention. If your website is cluttered, the visitor’s gaze has nowhere to land, and instead bounces all over the page. It’s visually frustrating – not the way to make a good first impression.

There are several ways to create a clean web design that has a clear-cut focus item:

  • A large image slider will fill most or all of the page, so it’s the only place for the eye to land.
  • Surrounding your focus item with whitespace means it won’t have to compete with other design elements.
  • Circles, on a subconscious level, are faster and easier for the human brain to process. We perceive circles to be more pleasant and comforting than sharp-edged shapes.

The Schenectady JCC website features four circles that draw attention to their action items.

Schenectady JCC

Remember: Whatever you decide to draw your visitors’ attention to – whether it’s a call to action located in a circle, a photograph in a large image slider, or something else – be sure it clearly evokes the purpose of your nonprofit website. This is one of the first things that will influence your visitors’ first impression – make sure they don’t just like your website, but that they also understand it.

3) What does your headline say to visitors?

Another important aspect to getting visitors to like and understand your website is your homepage headline – the largest line of text on your homepage. Along with your company name and navigation bar, this is one of the first things your visitors will read.

Ask yourself - is this the first thing I want to say to new website visitors? Is it compelling? Does it communicate my website’s purpose?

On the Apple website, an attention-grabbing headline is placed front and center. The message is simple, but still informs visitors that this website will educate them about the iPhone 5.

Apple website homepage

4) What do your colors say to visitors?

Different colors affect people in different ways. The color red portrays passion, excitement and attention, while blue communicates a sense of loyalty and trustworthiness. And the combination of red and yellow triggers something in the brain that makes people feel hungry. (That’s why restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King and Hardees use those particular colors in their branding.)

Be sure the colors on your nonprofit website communicate the right message to your visitors. 

It’s also important to make sure you’re implementing your colors in a visually appealing fashion. Your entire website shouldn’t be drenched in these colors – instead, incorporate your existing brand colors into your website as accent colors on top of a neutral background. 

Check out the McDonald's website – though the brand colors are bright and gaudy, they are implemented elegantly on the website.

McDonald's website

5) How effective is the layout of your homepage?

Visitors approach all websites with certain expectations. If you wish to make a good impression, it’s best to meet their expectations. Conversion XL provides some useful best practices for designing the layout of your homepage.

First, where is your logo or organization name located on the page? Most visitors will look for it at the top left corner of your webpage.

Where is your navigation menu? People typically read left to right, and thus pay more attention to the left side of a page. Your navigation menu should either be located horizontally across the top of the page, or vertically down the left side.

What is visible without having to scroll? The visible area of your website before visitors have to scroll is called “above the fold.” This is where you should place your most important information. But don’t go overboard – if you put too much above the fold, there’s no longer any MOST important information.

The Greater Grads website knocks it out of the park with their page layout.

Greater Grads website


After asking yourself these five questions about your nonprofit website, what have you concluded? Does your website load quickly, draw attention to a single focal point, evoke a positive message (through both text and color), and consist of an effective page layout? If so, your website is making a good first impression on its visitors.

But if you’re missing a few key elements listed in today’s post, you might want to consider making some positive changes to your web design.

After all, first impressions last a lifetime.


Come back next Thursday for an intriguing post on how to properly incorporate unique and hand-drawn typography into your nonprofit’s web design!


clientuploads/webinar_icon.pngIf you like my Web Design for Nonprofits blog series, you’ll love this webinar presented by our talented design team. Peek inside the mind of a web designer to discover the mechanics behind responsive design, the true meaning of color, the reason why infographics are so effective, and much, much more!

Join us Tuesday, April 9 at 2:30 pm EDT!

Click here to register for the Web Design Knowledge and Tips webinar.


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