Charities: 10 quick ways to improve your website design and structure


1. Website polls

It is good to encourage users to engage and interact with your charity. Polls are a very low commitment way of encouraging engagement through your website. Website polls are anonymous but allow your users to express an opinion about an issue that is relevant to them. This also gives the impression that you listen, which is never a bad idea.

2. Related links

Try to avoid dead end website pages.

Click through your website’s pages and see whether you are ever left at a dead end. Adding related links to these pages allows you to keep users on your website for longer by letting them find other relevant content or explore new aspects of the charity’s work that might catch their interest.

3. Consistent link styles

Even if you have limited control over the design of your website you may be able to improve link consistency. In general, either through the colour or style of the page elements, a user should be able to easily identify elements on the page that are links. Introducing link styles with different levels of emphasis also makes it easier to direct your users clearly. This could be as simple as writing calls to action links in bold, with a bullet point.

4. Calls to action

I wrote more about this in my blog on calls to action on charity websites. The key point is that you need to always be thinking ‘what do I want the user to do next’? Once you know that, make it easy for them with a clear signpost.

5. Blog / news distinction

Consider splitting news and blog into two sections.

The blog is a great place to give your charity a voice. It should be interesting, which means being entertaining, informative, provocative or all three. The blog should be focussed around issues that interest your target audience. Often this means not talking about you too much! Blogs are also a great place to allow individual people in your organisation to have their own voice, within the wider context of your charity’s ethos, vision and values.

In contrast, it is sometimes appropriate to give users updates about what is going on day-to-day in your charity. What have you been working on? What new projects have you started. This kind of content is likely to appeal to a more specific audience of committed supporters and potential funders. It should be more objective in tone and written by the organisation rather than individuals.

6. Social media widgets

If you are actively using social media to promote your charity online then make sure your website visitors can get involved. Users will increasingly look for links to your social media profiles, so they don’t need to be the most prominent feature on the website. But they also shouldn’t be hard to find!

Read more in our social media for charities start up guide.

7. Photos of people

It is easy to underestimate the power of the human face to communicate, even on your website. Charities are about people. Even if your objectives relate to our natural environment or the other companions we share it with, you will depend on the work and generosity of people.

Why not have a think about some ways you can harness the power of your people to communicate more effectively? Even amateur photography can be useful as long as it is used in context and not in large attention-grabbing feature areas.

8. Donation signpost

Although it is important to manage carefully how you ask people for money, it is also important to make it as easy as possible for those who do want to give.

It is always worth considering adding a clear, differentiated, ‘donate now’ or ‘support us’ signpost to your website. If possible, think about adding this in a context which emphasises the positive work you do.

9. Twitter feed

If your organisation is active on Twitter then adding a Twitter feed to your homepage both engages other twitter users and makes recent tweets accessible to other users. Having regularly changing content on you website homepage is also great for charity SEO (click to read about why you should be bothered about improving your ranking on Google).

10. Breadcrumb trail

In large and complex sites, users sometimes get confused about where they are in the website structure. This is especially true when they arrive at the website via a search engine rather than through your homepage. In this case adding breadcrumbs to the top of the page can be a small change that adds a lot to the user-friendliness of your charity’s website.

5 March 2012
Andy Pearson