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The Secrets Behind Successful Nonprofit Home Pages

secrets-behind-successful-nonprofit-home-pages.jpgReprinted from the Chronicle of Philanthropy

A nonprofit's home page is its face to the digital world. As our lives become more and more digital, creating a great home page can make an enormous difference in how many people understand and engage with your organization.

The first thing to remember is that people tend to scan Web pages. Long passages of text that explain an organization's mission and values are rarely read and take up valuable real estate on the home page. Within a few seconds, visitors to your site should understand what you do and what actions you want them to take.

When creating a home page, it's essential to write and rewrite the main text until a clear, intriguing, and very short explanation emerges. Many visitors spend only a few seconds trying to understand what they are looking at, and if they're confused they will probably move on.

Once visitors know what you do, they need to know what you want them to do. Home pages should have at least one clear call to action, such as "donate now" or "sign up for our newsletter." More vague calls to action, such as "join the movement" or "take action," can work, as long as the site provides enough context to explain what they mean.

As with the central message of the site, the calls to action are competing with all the other content on the home page, so you want emphasize these key features and question the necessity of everything else. If something isn't essential to the home page, get rid of it.

Many of these design principles are common sense but not common practice. Over the next few days, I'll analyze some nonprofit home pages to discuss what works and what does not. [Editor's note: the analyses are available from the bottom of this post on the Chronicle of Philanthropy site.]

Matthew Scharpnick, Elefint Designs
© 2012, Chronicle of Philanthropy. Reprinted with permission.

Matthew Scharpnick is the co-founder and chief strategy officer at Elefint Designs, a design and marketing company in San Francisco that works with nonprofits and other clients that work to improve the common good. He received his master's degree in business administration from the University of California at Irvine and has offered design advice to nonprofits for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter @elefint.

Topics: Communications