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8 Things Every Nonprofit Website Needs

Your nonprofit's website is a crucial tool for reaching out to potential donors, volunteers, and supporters. However, simply focusing on attractive design and compelling content is not enough to guarantee success.

There are hidden elements that are just as critical, and I'm on a mission to eradicate the website tech "scaries" many nonprofits have when they hear the word "website". 

Compliance is multifaceted, with expectations from Google, users, and even the government. With website design being a bit like the Wild West, it's easy for gaps in knowledge to develop. My aim is to bridge this educational gap and provide a checklist for nonprofit business owners and web developers to create well-rounded and compliant websites.

I've prepared a short-list of the eight essential components that every website needs. Although they're easy to attain, they're often overlooked. Whether you're a beginning web developer or slightly tech-savvy, these components can make your website much better.

So let's get started!

8 hidden things your nonprofit website needs

You're on a mission and you just need more people to know about it, and whether you're brand new to marketing or a seasoned pro. We are all looking for answers to make decisions with purpose.

  1. You need an SSL certificate.
  2. Cookie compliance
  3. Tracking
  4. A privacy policy
  5. Custom favicon
  6. Unique page titles that actually make sense.
  7. ADA compliance
  8. Fast loading

Alright, so let's start at the top with an SSL certificate.

 ๐Ÿ” What the heck is an SSL Certificate

If you're not familiar with SSL certificates, don't worry, we've got you covered. An SSL certificate is a security measure that encrypts the data transmitted between your website and its visitors.

You can tell if your website has an SSL certificate by checking the URL in the browser. If you see a padlock icon or "HTTPS" instead of "HTTP," then you're good to go!

The main purpose of an SSL certificate is to protect any sensitive information that visitors may enter on your website, such as credit card details or login credentials.

Even if you don't collect this type of information, having an SSL certificate is still necessary because it's a requirement set by Google. Without one, your website might not show up in search results at all.

There you go.

๐Ÿช The good, bad and ugly about Cookies

If you've ever wondered why websites have those cookie consent pop-ups that appear at the bottom or top of the screen, we've got the answers for you. Cookies are simply messages that are sent from a web server to your web browser to help websites store information on your device.

They are not scary and have many purposes, such as improving user experience.

While cookies are generally site-specific, major ad platforms like Google and Facebook Audience Network have cookies on many websites to track user behavior across the web. This allows them to develop rich user profiles, which can be a cause for concern for some people.

To ensure everyone's safety and comply with GDPR policies in Europe, site owners must follow specific rules, including informing visitors that their site uses cookies. So if you own a website, it's essential to let your visitors know that you use cookies.

๐Ÿ”Ž Tracking

Tracking your website visitors' behavior is essential to understand how they interact with your site and how you can improve their experience. While the idea of tracking may sound intrusive, it's perfectly acceptable as long as you're transparent about it.

Google Analytics is a popular tool that many websites use to track visitor behavior, but there are also other options available.

If you're an international organization, you must comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation Act and II privacy policy regulation. However, there are non-cookie tracking plugins that you can use to stay compliant.

If you're not subject to these regulations, you can simply inform your visitors that you use cookies on your site and ask for their consent. By doing so, you'll be able to track their behavior and use this information to improve their experience on your website.

๐Ÿ“„ Privacy Policy

If you're collecting information from visitors on your website, such as through email forms, donations, event registrations, or mailing list sign-ups, or if you're tracking visitor behavior as I mentioned earlier, you are required by law to have a privacy policy. Even if you're using Google Analytics, you need a privacy policy.

Your privacy policy is simply a way to inform visitors about how you collect their information, how it's used, whether it's protected or shared with others, and how they can contact you with questions about the policy. It also covers the use of cookies and whether you plan to contact them through marketing.

Privacy laws are constantly changing, so it's important to keep your policy up-to-date.

We recommend using a service that builds and hosts your privacy policy, there are many tools that can help you with this. Once you have your policy, you can just add a link to it in the footer of your website and you're good to go.

This way, you can be sure that you're meeting all the rules and regulations.

The Missing Link Custom favicon

The favicon may be small, but it's a crucial part of your website's branding that often goes overlooked. This tiny 16 by 16 pixel icon appears at the top of the web browser tab, helping your website stand out in a sea of tabs.

It's like having a custom email address at your domain - it adds a professional touch to your website. Plus, it keeps your brand visible and easily identifiable while visitors have multiple tabs open.

If you don't have a custom favicon, your website will default to the favicon of the software or hosting provider, which doesn't help your brand stand out. By adding a custom favicon, you can brand your nonprofit and create a better user experience for visitors.

 ๐Ÿ“‡ Page titles

Page titles are crucial because they inform both Google and potential visitors about the page's content. The title tag is used for search listings and browser tabs and needs to be unique and relevant to the page's content. 

Here are all the places Page Titles are listed:

  • The title displayed in search listings - So you search for something and then all the options that display afterwards, those are search listings. all of those titles, they're pulled directly from the website source.
  • Top of a browser on the tabs next to the favicon those are all pulled from your page titles, and they might actually be different from what you have at the top of your website's navigation.
  • Navigation. All those buttons across the top of your website. We call that navigation. And they might have different names than what your page titles actually are in the page, tabs cache

The title that's referenced in search listings and in browser tabs is actually pulled from the code of your page. It's called a title tag. Some people also call it the meta title and if you think about those search results, they're like an ad. You're trying to get somebody to click on it. So you need to make sure that you have a page title that really makes sense and tells people what's on the page, so they'll click on it and go to your site.

Keep in mind that using the same title for multiple pages is discouraged by SEO best practices.

 ๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ ADA compliance

Ensuring ADA compliance for your website involves various elements, from its overall structure to the individual components on each page. As a website administrator, it is your responsibility to ensure that your site is accessible to everyone. Here are some essential rules to follow:

  1. Ensure that the colors used for your site's words and background have enough contrast for colorblind individuals to read your content. Many people have red-green color blindness, particularly men, so it's crucial to make sure there's enough contrast between elements.

  2. Avoid building content in a table as it can be challenging for visually impaired individuals using screen reader software to read the content correctly. It can be frustrating and like trying to put together an out-of-order puzzle.

  3. Avoid using images with text as screen readers cannot read them. To make your site visible to visually impaired individuals and searchable on Google, you must use HTML to input content onto the page.

  4. Ensure that links on your website are easy to recognize by making them look like links. They should have enough color contrast between the link and the rest of the text to stand out. Underlining or using the color blue is an easy way to make links recognizable.

  5. Avoid placing content that moves or blinks too quickly on your website as it can trigger epileptic seizures. It is best to use slower moving content or allow users to choose to play a video.

By following these guidelines, you not only make your website accessible to individuals with disabilities but also improve the usability for everyone. For instance, using appropriate colors, modern coding techniques, and text instead of images, recognizable links, and avoiding fast-moving content are all beneficial to users.

๐Ÿ’ป Fast Loading

A fast-loading website is essential for nonprofits because it can improve user experience and increase the likelihood of receiving donations.

A website that loads quickly shows that the nonprofit values its visitors' time and provides a seamless browsing experience. Google's algorithm recognizes this and prioritizes fast-loading sites by rewarding them with higher search rankings, while slow-loading sites are penalized.

But it's not just about pleasing Google. Website visitors also prefer fast-loading sites and are likely to abandon a site that takes too long to load. This sends a negative signal to Google, which can affect the site's search rankings even more. So, regardless of how beautiful a nonprofit's website is, it won't matter if people never get to see it.

There are many factors that can impact a website's load time, but it's important to monitor and improve it regularly.

Let's recap what we learned:

Creating a website for a nonprofit organization involves more than just designing an attractive layout and creating compelling content.

To be successful, websites require certain hidden elements that are often overlooked.

These 8 elements are not only necessary for compliance with Google and government regulations but also help to improve user experience.

As website design is constantly evolving, it is important to bridge the educational gap by giving nonprofit business owners and executive directors the vocabulary they need to push for a website that is as great on the inside as it is on the outside.

By following this checklist, nonprofit organizations can ensure that their website is a well-rounded, compliant, and user-friendly tool for reaching potential donors, volunteers, and supporters.

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