Think about a time when you learned a new skill, like how to ride a bike. Most likely, you weren’t an expert the first time you hopped on. It took a few tries to get going, but each time you got back up, you improved a little bit more.
Designing your nonprofit’s website is a lot like learning to ride a bike. The first iteration of your website probably wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for, or you’ve since adjusted your nonprofit’s strategy and need to implement new features. That’s why a continuous improvement approach can be so beneficial for your website.
Continuous improvement is the ongoing process of enhancing your website with small, incremental changes rather than major overhauls. Using this approach, you can improve your website’s design, structure, and other features a little bit at a time, leading to a stronger website overall.
In this guide, we’ll explore the top benefits of a continuous improvement approach to nonprofit website design, as well as a few tips and best practices to make your approach successful. Let’s get started.
Benefits of a Continuous Improvement Web Design Approach
There are plenty of ways to approach a nonprofit digital transformation. If your nonprofit is new or you’re looking for a major revamp, a complete and immediate website redesign and rebuild could be the right path.
However, most organizations already have an established digital presence, complete with a comprehensive website, and they aren’t interested in radically changing their digital strategy. A continuous improvement approach allows nonprofits to take a slow and steady approach to website development, enabling organizations like yours to implement small, deliberate changes over time.
A continuous digital improvement approach provides multiple benefits, allowing your nonprofit to:
1. Avoid major overhauls.
A complete website rebuild or overhaul costs time and resources. Your marketing team will have to devote a significant amount of time to carrying out the overhaul, and it can be expensive to launch a new website from scratch.
In contrast, a continuous improvement approach allows you to spread out the cost and time requirements over a longer period. This can greatly reduce your team’s stress and allow them to focus most of their time on other critical marketing and outreach tasks while your website receives continual updates.
2. Maintain a consistent look and feel for visitors.
Put yourself in your nonprofit’s supporters’ shoes. Many of your supporters have stuck by your organization since the beginning, contributing donations, volunteer time, and advocacy work to support your mission.
Imagine one day, these loyal supporters head to your nonprofit’s website, only to find that it’s unrecognizable. The structure, page navigation, branding, and other elements are completely different. This could serve as a major shock to your visitors and even cause them to doubt whether they’ve clicked on the right website!
The last thing you want to do is alienate your supporters or cause them to distrust your nonprofit. This is especially important if you’re using your website to collect donations online. If your supporters don’t trust you, they won’t feel comfortable giving you their personal financial information.
With a continuous improvement approach, you can maintain your website’s look and feel while making small changes that enhance your site piece by piece. This helps retain your supporters’ trust and ensures they don’t rethink their decision to donate or volunteer because of a confusing or unfamiliar website.
3. Use A/B testing to make data-informed design decisions.
A/B testing is the process of creating two different versions of a web page and determining which is more effective for engaging visitors or driving conversions. By taking a continuous improvement web design approach, your nonprofit will have time to conduct a thorough A/B testing process and determine which versions of your website are the most effective.
To conduct A/B website testing, follow these steps:
- Assess a specific webpage’s engagement metrics, such as your fundraising landing page for your current campaign. You can use your Google Analytics profile to conduct this overview. Look at metrics such as average time spent on the page, most clicked links on the page, and bounce rate.
- Download a report for the page and store the analytics in your organization’s database.
- Choose just one element to change on the page. For instance, you might adjust the wording on your call to action button that leads to your online donation form. Or, you might switch the header image from a photo of an individual volunteer to a group.
- After a set period of time, such as a month, run another analytics report for the page. Determine if the change made a difference in visitors’ engagement with the page.
A/B testing allows you to enhance your website’s user experience based on direct feedback from those who use it the most: your nonprofit’s supporters!
With a continuous improvement approach, you can test your most important website pages, such as your online donation page, ‘About’ page, and volunteer sign-up page. Choose a page to focus on and start making changes until each page is optimized for engagement.
4. Keep your site updated and secure.
Regular website maintenance is crucial for your website’s continued health. Maintenance activities include:
- Updating your website’s core framework to keep up with new version releases and retain access to the best security features available.
- Updating your plugins and modules to ensure your important fundraising-related tools continue working.
- Maintaining search engine optimization (SEO) best practices such as fixing broken links and finding ways to decrease load times.
Kanopi’s website maintenance guide explains that a continuous improvement approach involves more than just conducting security, module, and plugin updates. A continuous improvement approach sets your website up to grow sustainably over time. This approach takes website maintenance to the next level by not just plugging leaks or applying quick fixes but creating a long-term growth strategy.
5. Improve your SEO rankings.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website so that it appears higher on search engine results pages. Among many factors, search engines like Google look favorably on pages that are updated and recent.
You can regularly update your site’s content with a continuous improvement mindset. For example, you can routinely create blog posts and informational pages to add new content to your website. This shows search engines that your content is relevant and useful for people searching for topics related to your organization.
For example, perhaps your nonprofit is focused on protecting dusky dolphins, a unique dolphin species that lives off the New Zealand coast. You have a page on your website dedicated to describing this dolphin species and the threats it faces in its natural habitat. You keep this page up to date with the latest statistics and progress reports about the species’ health. Doing so shows search engines that your page is an authoritative, useful resource for people searching for the term “dusky dolphins,” causing it to appear higher on search results pages and driving more traffic to your website.
Best Practices for Taking a Continuous Improvement Approach
Before you can reap the aforementioned benefits, your organization needs a solid strategy for launching your continuous improvement approach. Here are a few best practices for incorporating continuous improvement into your organization’s digital strategy:
- Launch updates as soon as you can. Initiate site updates as soon as they’re available. This ensures that your site won’t suffer from security gaps or outdated technology. Place at least one staff member in charge of tracking and implementing site updates to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Create a branding guide. Whenever you implement a site improvement, you’ll want to make sure it’s consistent with the rest of your digital branding, from the design of your online donation page to your social media marketing materials. This gives your supporters a uniform, cohesive experience no matter what digital platform they’re using. Create a digital style guide that your staff and volunteers can use whenever they create new website content.
- Work with a web design partner. If you need a helping hand launching your continuous improvement strategy, working with a web design agency might be the right move. Kanopi’s guide to nonprofit tech consulting explains that these professionals offer services such as:
- Assessing your website’s current state.
- Offering high-level recommendations for improving your website’s design, user experience, SEO performance, and other aspects.
- Implementing recommendations and staying in touch to keep your site continuously updated.
These best practices will allow you to start integrating a continuous improvement mindset into your website approach.
Website design and improvement can be a major undertaking, but the process is critical for ensuring your nonprofit’s website remains engaging and useful for visitors. A continuous improvement approach is the most helpful strategy for maintaining an updated, modern website. Remember, a nonprofit web agency can provide a framework for introducing your organization to this web design approach.
Author: As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne Stefanyk helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.