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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Wireframing

Wireframing

In our last post, we explored the topic of site mapping, the first step in our three-part series on laying the foundation for an effective nonprofit website. Once you've finalized your site map, you're ready to begin the process of wireframing. This is where you'll make decisions about individual page elements and where they should appear on the screen. It's important to remember that even though you'll be working on page layouts, it's not yet time to begin the process of styling these elements. In fact, the most effective wireframes will be devoid of color, images and font selections, like the one pictured here. While your sitemap gives you a good bird's-eye view of the site, your wireframes will provide you with a page-by-page architecture or blueprint, allowing you to consider user interactions on each page.

Wireframe Example

While you might be tempted to skip this step altogether and move on to the look and feel of your website, wireframing is a crucial step in the process for two reasons. First, a wireframe allows you to focus on functionality. Before you make decisions about how anything should look, you'll need to consider the user story, or what users should be able to do once they arrive on your site. Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Do you want them to make a donation? Whatever actions you want them to take will need to be addressed in your wireframes. That said, you'll need to consider where and how to incorporate these functions into your site. You'll also want to use this opportunity to consider what type of priority to give to each of these functions. This can be determined by the placement and size of these features on the page.

Next, a wireframe forces you to consider usability. Without getting caught up in the more subjective discussions about the colors or shading for each element, you'll be able to determine the best placement and priority of specific content or calls to action to direct visitors where you want them to go. Even if you don't have all of your content completed yet, it's a good idea to define what messages will be used and where these will be placed. Once you've defined what you want users to do, you need to consider the most intuitive way to direct them to do it. Maybe that means your donate button should take up a little more real estate. Maybe that means you need to re-think how many fields appear on your newsletter subscription form. Or maybe, you'll want to move some of your content a little lower on the page so the action items are closer to the top of the screen. The key to creating a user-friendly wireframe is to consider the needs of your audience and how to meet these needs in the most intuitive way possible.

Whether you're using a pen and paper or a more sophisticated piece of software to create your wireframes, the goal remains the same. You need to first determine the functions of your website, and then organize and prioritize these elements in the most intuitive way possible. If you're looking for a tool that will allow you to build a wireframe with a web-based application, one great option is pidoco.com. This tool has a minimal monthly fee for a limited number of projects, and it allows you to design and connect countless pages within your project. If you're looking for a tool you can download and use on your computer, Pencil offers the basic functionality you would need to design a wireframe for a simple site. A more comprehensive list of wireframing tools can also be found here.

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Building a Quality Nonprofit Website: Site Mapping

Site Mapping

Are you considering a website redesign? Perhaps you're just getting your nonprofit organization off the ground and you're starting from scratch. In either case, if you're in the planning stages of building a new site, it's important to lay a foundation that will take into consideration your organizational goals, your engagement with site visitors, and your site's overall user experience. No matter what the size of your organization or the amount of content you intend to publish, this three-part series on structuring an effective nonprofit website will outline the basic steps you need to take to get started.

Sample Site MapThe first step in building an effective nonprofit website is the creation of a site map. A site map is a flow chart or basic mapping of the pages on your site and how they are connected. This map will show you a hierarchy of your content, while also allowing you to see paths of navigation from one page to the next. Typically, a site map will display your main menu items, and show you how sub-pages will be organized and connected to these main pages or categories. Be sure to consider the key elements and action areas of your site, and how you want to direct users to these areas.

By laying out your website architecture at the outset of your project, you will be able to get a bird's-eye view of the structure of your site, and you'll also be able to ask yourself some good questions about the "why" behind what you're doing.

For example, when reviewing your site map, you may want to consider the following questions:

    • Why are X, Y, and Z, the main level navigation items? Do these categories provide the best structure to organize my content?
    • Does the main page include direct access to the key areas of the site where I want users to navigate most frequently?
    • Are there any sub-navigation items that need to receive a higher priority? Have I allowed for easy access to these pages? Do any of these pages need to be more prominent or directly accessible from the top level navigation?
    • Is the hierarchy of content intuitive for site visitors?
    • Is any of the content redundant?
    • Did I leave anything out that should be included?

If this is your first time developing a site map, the process can be a little overwhelming. Be sure to invest some time to think through and identify your key objectives in building a site. It's easy to get caught up in the look and feel, but your primary goal should always be to drive your audience to action in a way that is user-centered. In order to do this, you'll need a solid site map. Once you've reviewed your site map to make any necessary adjustments, you'll be prepared to move on to your wireframes, which we'll discuss in our next post.

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ServanTek Team Continues to Improve Online Donation Processor

On the ServanTek Blog, we are constantly talking about improving usability for your constituents by making sure your website and online donation form are both responsive and intuitive. At ServanTek, we are regularly making improvements to give our responsive donation processor, to ensure the donation process is easier and more intuitive for both the donors who give and the clients we serve.

In 2015, we introduced a new look and feel to our giving pages, which included a customizable, fully-responsive design. And in 2016, the ServanTek team made additional improvements to the system, which allow donors to donate to multiple funds in a single transaction. Donors who give regularly to a specific charity can now designate a portion of their gifts to be given to a specific fund and the rest to be designated elsewhere. Whether they're setting up gifts from a laptop, tablet, or phone, the process is simple. 

This improvement will be particularly beneficial to nonprofits that raise funds for a variety of campaigns. It allows donors to split both one-time donations, as well as scheduled monthly, quarterly, or annual donations, among a variety of funds, while indicating exactly what amount should be given to each fund. Furthermore, if donors need to edit their gift at any time to increase or decrease amounts given to a specific fund, they can easily do so with the click of a button.

Our advanced tools and algorithms that allow our clients to recover failed transactions are helping nonprofit organizations all around the country collect scheduled gifts that might otherwise be lost using a different online processor.

With so many benefits to our online donation system, we've also had the opportunity in recent months to share it with new nonprofit clients, as well as pastors and church leaders. Is your organization looking for an online donation processor? If so, we offer competitive rates to keep costs down for the nonprofits we serve. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the benefits of our online donation processor, visit payments.servantek.org for more information.

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Four Things You're Not Doing That Are Hurting Your Online Presence

Have you ever thought about whether or not your nonprofit has a quality online presence? Here are four things you may not be in the habit of doing right now, which could be hurting your online presence in the long run. 
 
1. Not regularly adding fresh content
When was the last time you added new content to your site? If it's been over a month, your content may be getting stale. Potential donors are far more likely to make a donation if they can see tangible results of the work you're doing to benefit your cause. Encourage your donors to give by showing them just how far their money is going. Not only is it important to keep your constituents well-informed of the happenings within your organization, but it's also important to add fresh content to improve your SEO. By regularly adding new updates to your site, you're telling the search engines that you're still relevant.  
 
2. Not keeping your CMS up to date
Keeping your CMS up-to-date is an important security measure for any website. If you're not keeping your CMS current, you could be opening yourself up to security vulnerabilities. You can learn more about the benefits of updating your content management system here.
 
3. Not taking the time to regularly review the online giving experience
Whether you've been accepting online donations for years or just a few short months, it's important to regularly reevaluate the process to ensure a smooth experience for all donors. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you walk through the process on your site:
  • Is it obvious where how to donate from any page of our website?
  • Is the giving form straight forward? Is all of the information we're collecting necessary to request of all donors? Or am I taking unnecessary information that could be cumbersome for the donor?
  • Is the giving process fast? Does the form load quickly? Do subsequent pages (receipt or thank you pages) load quickly?
  • Does it work just as easily from a mobile device? This question is critical. We need to begin anticipating that a good portion of donors will be visiting from a smart phone.  
4. Not publishing the results/impact of fundraising efforts
Have you ever been guilty of requesting funds for a specific event or goal, without letting your donors know whether you reached the goal or how you used the funds? When donors give toward a goal, it brings a sense of satisfaction to see that the goal was achieved. Furthermore, if donors contribute to a goal and they see that the fundraising is not reaching the target, they may be more likely to share it with others to help you reach your goal. Consider adding a funding thermometer for specific campaigns to ensure donors can see your progress and understand the impact of their contribution. 
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Is it Really Critical to Update my CMS?

After paying a sizable up-front cost to have your website built, you may be wondering if it's really necessary to install regular CMS updates as they become available. Many nonprofit professionals mistakenly assume that websites are a one-time expense, when in reality, they should become a line item in your organization's annual budget. So why is it so critical to update your CMS? Here are the top reasons to regularly update your content management system.

1. Security
The first and most important reason to keep your CMS up to date is to protect your site from security vulnerabilities. While you may think your site is too small to be a target for hackers, there is still reason for concern if your CMS is not current. According to opensourcecms.com, more than 4 million websites are currently powered by Wordpress, while more than 600,000 are powered by Joomla. Judging by these statistics, even though your website may not be the most popular one out there, the CMS running it could be well known by hackers. Furthermore, because Wordpress and Joomla are open source systems, the code that powers them can be viewed by anyone, allowing hackers to study the code and look for loopholes. If your website is running an outdated version of your CMS, hackers will be able to find your site and target its vulnerabilities. In order to find and remove these vulnerabilities, open source developers release security patches in new releases.

2. Bug Fixes
While open source content management systems are heavily tested before they're released to the public, there is always the possibility that bugs can be overlooked. If a bug is introduced in a given version of the CMS, subsequent releases will often include a fix.

3. Performance and Feature Enhancements
As CMS developers constantly seek ways to make their software faster and more efficient, subsequent releases of the software will often include performance enhancements. Likewise, CMS updates can also include features that were previously unavailable. Many times, upon completing an update, you'll notice subtle differences in the user interface that make the overall system more intuitive and easy to use.

While it is critical to keep your site up to date, it's also possible that updating the CMS can cause conflicts with outdated plugins and components. If you need assistance with a Wordpress or Joomla update, feel free to drop us a line on our contact form. Our team would be happy to help.

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