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Where Newsletter Readers Seek (Web Site) Help: February Question of the Month Results

Ever find yourself at a digital dead end? Tangled up in the Web? Where you turn for assistance in these sticky situations was the focus of February's Question of the Month. We asked, "When you need help using a Web site, which of the following are you most likely to do?" Here's what you told us:

What Readers Do When Stumped

(Participants could choose more than one answer)

Look for FAQs on the Web site 74%
E-mail the Web site's customer service staff 49%
Leave the Web site and search the Internet 49%
Call the Web site's customer service staff 18%
Open a live chat session with the Web site's customer service staff 14%
Other 14%
Watch a video demonstration on the Web site 10%
Check the Web site for on-line seminar opportunities 2.0%

Over half of the participants who said they look for FAQs also supplement their sleuthing by either leaving the Web site to search the Internet or e-mailing the Web sites' customer service staff.

What Readers Look for in a Web Site

Several participants shared their thoughts on what makes a good Web site. Many readers commented that sites need to have a clean presentation with timely material that is clearly written and pertinent to the user. As newsletter reader C.C. Benedict concisely put it, "Updated websites are a must; donors want to know what's up NOW, not two years ago; language has to be lay-person-friendly, writing clear, concise, not fluff."

Too much fluff and the site may cause a "disconnect" and deter visitors from ever returning. The Internet is a vast depository of often redundant information, so at the first sign of a struggle, surfers might follow the path of this anonymous participant: "If I am unable to easily find the info needed to use the website successfully, I am most likely to leave the website and not return"—certainly a worst-case scenario for any Webmaster.

Another participant pointed that the rush to have the latest and greatest presentation and graphics can prevent some visitors from coming back for more. Accessibility by the widest range of connections and software is key to keeping a large user base, wrote Steve Hoad of the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods: "How many low income and dial up customers, along with persons with disabilities are you 'locking out' with web site decisions to use modern, often inaccessible, software programs?"

It seems that GuideStar Newsletter readers want a site that provides quality, not quantity. It's better to have current, plainly written information that can be accessed by the widest range of users than to present a "flashy" site with a sparse amount of content.

Why We Asked

We're constantly working to improve our visitors' experience. Your responses to Questions of the Month like this one and our semiannual user surveys help us determine when we're on the right track and where we can improve. And don't forget the Feedback link at the top of home page, advanced search page, and search results page. Although we can't respond to every comment, we do read each one, and we greatly appreciate the time our users take to tell us about their experiences on GuideStar.

Christopher Trent Kaplan, March 2007
© 2007, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Chris Kaplan is an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary and a communications/marketing intern at GuideStar.
Topics: Communications