Let’s play a quick game of “Would You Rather”:
Which would you rather visit?
- Website #1, which has a slow loading speed, clunky navigation, and underwhelming visuals
- Website #2, which loads quickly, helps you easily get to the information and resources you need, and has a great look and feel
The answer here is obvious, right? Website #2 is the clear winner. But too many nonprofit websites are set up to lose the game because they don’t prioritize a great user experience (UX).
UX refers to the quality of the experience users have when navigating and interacting with your organization’s website, and it can make or break your ability to convert visitors into donors and encourage long-term engagement.
There’s a lot that goes into a great UX, but one element stands out: speed. How fast your website loads is the very first UX indicator that could cause users to abandon your site. In fact, research shows that 1 in 4 visitors would abandon a website that takes more than four seconds to load.
To help you avoid this risk, we’ve compiled this mini guide that will enhance your nonprofit website to have faster UX. Let’s dive in.
Basic Components of Fast UX
All sorts of factors, from design elements to page load time to search engine optimization (SEO), can have huge impacts on your website’s ability to attract visitors and keep them engaged on your website. Let’s look at some areas to focus on to make your website a quicker and more useful tool for everyone who lands on it.
Page Load Speed
Your website must load quickly on any browser, desktop or mobile.
The generally accepted ideal load speed sits around two to three seconds or less—anything longer and you’ll likely see larger and larger numbers of visitors abandoning ship. It’s essential to be familiar with the two most common contributors to slow load speeds:
- Large files. Large, high-resolution images, headers, animations, and other embedded visual files that need to load at the top of a page can seriously slow down your website. Website plugins like Media Deduper can help you automatically cut back on duplicate files that might be clogging up your image library.
- Redirect chains. Chains of redirects between outdated URLs increase load time by bouncing the visitor from page to page, and it can even make them (and their browser) feel like your site can’t be trusted.
Page load speed is one of the biggest components of faster UX, especially as more web traffic moves onto mobile browsers. Think about it: How long are you typically willing to wait for a page to load on your smartphone when you’re trying to look something up or casually browsing?
Barriers to Engagement
This component of fast UX involves the actual barriers to entry that you may place on your site. Whenever you add new elements to your website that users will directly engage with, think carefully about how they’ll impact UX.
For example, requiring users to log in with a username or password is one barrier to engagement that sites will deliberately include for important security reasons. User security should always be a top priority, but make sure that your own site’s login process is streamlined. The best way to ensure that visitors will have a positive experience and find what they need is by making it easy to enter your site and quickly engage with your content, whether that means your blog posts, online donation form, or events page.
Consider Amazon and Google, two web giants that prioritize making it easy for users to get started with their services. Amazon’s one-click purchase buttons and Google’s single sign-on (SSO) authentication tools are both great examples of how removing unnecessary steps like an extra login or data input can streamline UX.
Strong website design can also contribute to a faster, high-quality UX on your website. Of course, web design encompasses a number of different topics and specific elements. As they relate to fast UX, there are three main contributing factors to consider:
- Navigation. Sites that offer strong UX anticipate their visitors’ needs. Clearly-labeled navigation bars across your site and intuitive landing pages that don’t distract or bombard users with irrelevant elements are good starting points.
- Simple visuals. Minimalist design tends to perform well online because it’s less likely to distract or confuse visitors looking to quickly find information or complete a task on your site. Plus, using simpler layouts and fewer (but high-quality) images will improve load speed.
- Information placement. Websites should anticipate what their visitors are looking for, like contact information or impact stories, and feature it in an intuitive spot. For instance, nonprofits can provide embedded donation forms to make the giving process easy and fast for visitors who will be more likely to donate while they still feel emotionally motivated.
These elements of web design can all contribute to a faster, more positive UX, and they’re some of the first places that tech novices can make quick improvements.
Building a Faster UX on Your Site
So, you know you want faster UX on your site and what areas you need to focus on improving, but where exactly should you begin? In this section, we’ll dive into some tools and techniques you can start using today to improve your UX.
Pagespeed Insights and Google Analytics
Google’s readily available tools are a perfect resource for collecting data that will help you stay on top of the quality of your website’s UX.
Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool is invaluable for a number of reasons, namely because it determines the time it takes for your site to load on both desktop and mobile browsers. It even flags specific problem areas and offers optimization tips. Remember that load speed is central to UX and increasingly important for Google rankings, too.
Google Analytics provides insights that can be crucial for your website’s overall health and performance. Most importantly, the platform makes it easy to track your abandonment or bounce rates, the first indicators of slow load times and poor UX. Then you can look deeper to find specific pages that perform poorly and target your improvements in smarter ways. For help getting started with Google Analytics, check out Cornershop Creative’s ultimate guide.
Template and Caching
Both of these techniques involve saving time and streamlining processes as you build your site and as your users engage with it:
- Create custom templates to use whenever creating new content on your website. By creating a template for a generic campaign web page, you’ll save time and ensure a more cohesive experience for users across your site. A template built with a streamlined layout and fast-loading elements will take the guesswork out of the process as you launch and promote new campaigns.
- Leverage the power of caching. Caching involves directing a user’s browser to save parts of your website that it already downloaded from a previous visit. This means your website will load much faster when the user returns to that page, which can result in a substantial improvement in UX. Caching is more complicated to implement than other UX solutions, though, so do your research on the exact settings you can configure in your own content management system.
Streamlining aspects of your website on both the backend and user-facing side whenever possible can help to generally improve its UX value.
We’ve touched on the importance of avoiding huge image files above. However, websites still need to include high-quality, attractive images to create engaging content. A full wall of text is unlikely to interest a casual browser, for instance.
Compressing the image files on your site will help you strike the right balance between offering attractive visuals and keeping file sizes low to prevent slow load speeds.
Keep image file size in mind when creating new content, and use tools that help you automatically compress images as you upload them. Platforms like WordPress often come with this feature built-in, but you can also use tools like Tiny PNG or Jpeg.io.
3 Benefits of Faster UX
As you implement the tips in this guide, you’ll notice a number of benefits. Not only will your website be in better shape overall, but you’ll also experience:
- Better performance on search engines. Search engines will favor websites with a quick load speed and an overall great UX, so you could see improvements in your search engine results page (SERP) rankings as a result of your UX improvements.
- More conversions on action pages. When a supporter decides to donate, volunteer, or register for an event, you don’t want to slow them down on their way to complete that action. Speeding up the process and making it more convenient will increase the likelihood that users will follow through on action pages.
- Improved results from your Google Ad Grants strategy. The Google Ad Grant is designed to heighten your nonprofit’s visibility and get more people clicking into your website, but it will be easier to see results if your UX is up to par!
These benefits go to show that putting in the time and effort to reach faster UX is well worth it. Remember, while you can leverage most of the tips in this guide on your own, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to nonprofit website experts for help as you begin your UX improvement journey.
Your nonprofit’s website is a great tool for marketing your mission, raising more for your cause, and keeping your community engaged. Prioritizing fast UX can make it a more effective tool, and with these tips on your side, you’ll be well on your way to making the updates you need for long-term online success. You’ve got this!