Recently, some colleagues and I started an email exchange about best practices for monthly giving. The question was whether or not, on a recurring donation form, to ask the user to determine the duration of their gift. The default configuration for a recurring gift form in Convio looks something like this:
The suggestion was to simplify the form, making it look something like this:
Truth be told, I’m a marketer. Approaching this question with a marketer’s hat on, the answer to me was obviously the latter option since it might result in the gift recurring for longer, thus resulting in higher fundraising potential.
Marketer hat aside, I also considered this from a usability perspective. The general principle I use for forms is to ask the least amount of questions possible in the most concise and simple way. The shorter and simpler the form, the more likely a user will be to finish it. Thinking about it that way, the latter option was also preferable to me since it slims down the form and the number of questions included.
You might be surprised though that in a virtual room full of marketers, the very first response was in favor of giving users the option to choose. This response said, “Thinking like a donor; however, I do like the option of deciding how long this monthly gift will last. The simpler solution is clean, but I might not want to commit to forever or until I decide to make this stop. Otherwise, I have to go take some action to stop it instead of deciding up-front that this is going to last one year, for example.”
At this same time this response was sent, I was drafting my own response that quoted a client saying, “Asking me when I want my gift to stop is like asking a bride how long she wants the marriage to last.” My response was also quickly followed by other responses in favor of simplifying the form.
Thanks to my colleague’s comment in favor of the donor, I started to consider this question from a donor perspective and reconsidered it from a usability perspective. While I still don’t think we should ask the donor when they want the marriage to end, I do think that making the recurring gift an explicit choice is important. The checkbox at the bottom of the gift amounts feels a little sneaky to me. Not that we would ever recommend pre-checking this box, but it kind of feels like those pre-checked boxes on a site’s registration form that trick you into signing up to get hundreds of emails from that site and all of their partners. The solution I landed on is a combination of both forms that would look something like this:
Moving forward, our team hopes to do some testing on these form variations to see which one yields the best results. I'll report back on our findings but in the meantime, I’d love to hear opinions and/or results from you too. Feel free to share in the comments.
While reviewing some new wireframes with a client the other day, we began to compare their own, nonprofit website with some other, commercial sites. In a way, commercial websites have it easy. Typically, they have tangible products or services to sell, making it really clear what they want users to do on the site (buy, buy, buy!).
Nonprofit websites don’t usually sell something tangible. Sure, you may have an eCommerce store or even a Virtual Gift store, but there is always a bigger message than just “buy, buy, buy” or even “donate, donate, donate”.
My client’s feedback on their new wireframe was something along the lines of, “When I visit a site like Convio.com, I immediately know what you want me to do. Here, it’s not as clear. What is it we want people to do on our site?” I responded that it’s more challenging for nonprofits because you’re trying to sell a relationship, which can be defined differently for each organization. For some organizations, a relationship may mean that users rely on your site as a source for news on a specific topic. For others, it may mean that they care about your cause and simply want to keep up with what you’re doing to make a difference. Sure, donating and possibly buying something should be part of that relationship, but not likely at first. It takes time to cultivate relationships and your website should provide something valuable for users and offer a positive experience so that they’ll ultimately value your organization.
Take some time to consider your online goals with respect to your relationship with a constituent. I can bet that your goals may include “increase donations” or “build our house file”. What are you offering in return? You’ve got to sell a relationship, so what does that look like for you?
Continuing the theme of "busy mom" from last month, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the need for organizations to optimize their sites for use with mobile devices.
I'm not going to tell you HOW to do it - the nuts and bolts are for others to discuss. Rather, I want to convince you of the NEED to do it.
First - some stats. Nielsen reports that as of Q1 2010, 23% of people with mobile devices now have a smartphone instead of a regular old boring/dumb cell phone. (Boring/dumb is what I currently have, by the way - early adopter I'm not.) Compare that to Q2 2009, when just 16% of consumers had a smartphone. This is a trend that's only going to grow.
What that means is that more and more people are going to be viewing your website with a mobile device. And while I don't have a smartphone myself, I do have an iPod touch that I used to access websites while on maternity leave. If you've never viewed a site using a mobile device, and you're in charge of your organization's web presence, then I implore you to borrow someone's smartphone so you can see for yourself. After viewing a couple of sites, you'll be convinced.
First, go to one of my favorite sites - Wikipedia. Wikipedia will sense that you are using a mobile device and will automatically display the version of the site that is optimized for mobile. It makes the browsing experience a lot better. Then, click on the link that says "View this page on regular Wikipedia." You'll see the difference.
Okay, so what does this mean for nonprofits? You'll want to view this through the lens of how you want people to be interacting with your site using mobile devices. Wikipedia wanted to make it a better experience for people to look up information and then to easily read/consume what they found.
Nonprofits might have different goals. Do you want people to donate? Then you'll need to create mobile-optimized donation pages. Are you running a big campaign around a piece of legislation? A mobile action center might be right for you. Does your organization publish research to which reporters and professionals need ready access? You might consider optimizing those pages.
And since people will generally just go to the URL for your main website, instead of the mobile version, you'll want to put something in place to detect whether people are using a mobile device. And then, the $64,000 question - what to feature on that mobile homepage.
Making these decisions will certainly be a big deal - perhaps almost as much of a big deal as what to display on the main website, since there will be less real estate available. But don't let that be a deterrent - rather, think of it as a challenge and an opportunity to test what works best. First impressions are everything - and let me tell you, I'm much less likely to go back to a homepage that isn't optimized for mobile. So do something - anything - and then build on it.
Does your organization have a mobile version of your homepage? How did you decide what to feature on the homepage? Share the answers to these questions - and the URL for your mobile site - in the comments.
In the June edition of Wired magazine there is a fascinating article about how the web is changing the structure of our brains. The article was adapted from the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. You can guess by the title of the book Carr surmises that the internet is not promoting deep thinking on singular topics but rather skimming the surface of multiple subject matters. And to prove his argument I am not going to go into the details of the article, ha! Instead here are some of the theories outlined that I believe are good considerations for planning, designing and/or writing for your site. Make your site an oasis in the sea of information by creating a design and content that is relevant, fresh and succinct. And get a subscription to Wired if you don’t have one already. Carr, Nicolas. “Chaos Theory.”Wired. June 2010: 112+
In the June edition of Wired magazine there is a fascinating article about how the web is changing the structure of our brains. The article was adapted from the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.
You can guess by the title of the book Carr surmises that the internet is not promoting deep thinking on singular topics but rather skimming the surface of multiple subject matters. And to prove his argument I am not going to go into the details of the article, ha! Instead here are some of the theories outlined that I believe are good considerations for planning, designing and/or writing for your site.
Make your site an oasis in the sea of information by creating a design and content that is relevant, fresh and succinct. And get a subscription to Wired if you don’t have one already.
Carr, Nicolas. “Chaos Theory.”Wired. June 2010: 112+
What catches your eye when you look at your web site’s homepage? What is the first thing you see and the first thing you want to click on? These are questions we almost always ask during a usability test to ensure our visual hierarchy is coming through clearly and consistently. Think of the visual hierarchy as the pecking order of a page’s content, providing cues as to what’s most important. If your organization wants, first and foremost, to bring in donations, then a compelling ask should rank high in your list. Maybe you’d rather get visitors to take an action alert or read a new study you’ve published. Your visual hierarchy should reflect your organization’s goals, whatever those may be at the time.
Take a look at the Blockbuster web site. Since Netflix arrived on the scene, one of their goals is likely to obtain subscribers to the DVD-by-mail program. From their homepage, the first thing I see is the “Try it free” button on the “Movies Delivered” promo. The “Learn More” for Blockbuster On Demand also stands out, which is likely reflective of another one of Blockbuster’s goals.
The Jewish National Fund site also demonstrates a good visual hierarchy. My eyes are drawn to the “Donate” button in the top navigation bar and the graphic in the “Plant a Tree” promotional box, both of which are major goals for the organization.
Many of you may be so used to looking at your web site that you may not see a visual hierarchy anymore. Or, the one you do see may be artificially influenced by what you know is most important. In that case, have a friend take a look at your site and tell you what they see first. You could try a “5-second test” where you display the homepage for 5 seconds, then close it and ask your friend to write down what they remember. If their list does not correspond to your organizational goals, then consider rearranging the page or redesigning certain elements. You’re likely to see more clicks and actions taken as a result.
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