Charity web at 30

The World Wide Web is 30 today (11 March 2019). Five years ago I used the Wayback Machine to look at trends in charity website design, using British Red Cross as an example. Here is the post, now updated with lessons from 2019.

Is your charity website keeping up with the latest developments in design and functionality?

Starting out – 1998

British Red Cross website 1998

The British Red Cross homepage in 1998 shows that the web standard of logo in top-left was there from the start. The site was very basic, probably hand-coded in html and uploaded via FTP.

  • Brochure-ware content – dense homepage to be read like a book.
  • Email to make a donation.
  • ‘Click here’ links.
  • No images.
  • No search.
  • Approx 10 pages. Only one-level down.
  • Sponsored by Vauxhall.

Increased functionality – 2006

British Red Cross 2006

Fast-forward eight years and the 2006 homepage leads with an appeal. Fundraising and raising awareness is now most important. There is greater awareness of design. More thought about actions and audience.

  • Published using CMS.
  • Images but no coherent design.
  • Site-wide (top) and left-hand navigation.
  • Fundraising prominent – 6/12 ‘Quick Links’ are fundraising. Donate now tab.
  • Search button.
  • Functionality – ‘In my area’.
  • Accessible links.
  • No social media (Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter in 2006).

Integrated digital comms – 2014

British Red Cross website 2014

Another eight years and now the 2014 website still leads with an appeal using a single emotive image. The site is sophisticated offering many opportunities for interaction, transaction, discussion and commerce but also has a presence across many other digital platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Apps, games etc). It feels like digital is now being taken more seriously.

  • Multiple channels (links to six network channels at the bottom of the page).
  • Optimised for mobile / tablet.
  • Many opportunities for interaction.
  • Greater use of video, audio, photos, games to tell a story.
  • Donation button and quick PayPal option on homepage.
  • CMS powered, integration with CRM and other databases.
  • Evolution of ‘in your area’ functionality.
  • Accessibility buttons.

Website in 2019

Red Cross homepage in 2019. 10s full-screen video

Now the 2019 homepage is all about clarity and impact. Previously the homepage would have had to work hard at promoting everything as most people would go to the homepage first. Now sites are so well indexed with people going direct to the pages they are looking for, so the homepage can be devoted to telling a story or running a campaign. The homepage can appeal to hearts and minds rather than acting as a directory.

The currently site uses a full-screen video for the current appeal. It shows 10 seconds of different views from Yemen to tell a story to drive donations.

Below the appeal, the page is segmented into sections with different types of links (UK appeals, get help in a crisis, support, first aid, how we help, shop). These use colour and photos to make it easy to use. This architecture is replicated in the top-level navigation which is now reduced to five options.

  • Images are more powerful, instantly telling a story. Video is centre-stage.
  • Simplified navigation (no more What we do, Where we work etc).
  • Language is shorter and has more impact. Links are 1-3 words. Appeal text is ‘Help give life-saving aid to families in desperate need’. In contrast with ‘Help us continue giving thousands of people vital aid in this desperate situation. Please give what you can today’ from 2014.
  • Donate button on top right-hand side.

Web design in 2019

I have been training people on writing for the web since 2003 – over half of the web’s life – and working on websites since 1996. Many of the old rules still apply (short sentences, headings, meaningful link text etc). But the way we consume information and content online in 2019 means that we now need to be even tighter with our words. Attention spans are shorter and screens are smaller. The language we use needs to be immediate, strong and clear. There is no room for wasteful words on the homepage or in navigation links.

Photographs and images now need to have more impact. They should use strong colours and instantly tell a story. Compare the images used in 2006 / 2014 with the images used now. They use close-ups and are not afraid of sharing an intimate moment, pain or emotion. They are beautiful and difficult to look at.

Homepages generally use a hero image (or in some cases video) which is shown at full-screen. This image has to work very hard to communicate everything you want in that key real estate location. Do you have images that are strong enough to do that? Take a look at the homepages of Crisis, NCT, Brathay Trust, and Bloodwise for examples. (See also Review and improve your use of images.)

Your digital strategy

You don’t need to be the size of British Red Cross to need a clear plan for how your website and wider digital platforms support the goals of your organisation. Technologies and design standards are changing all the time. Just today, Samaritans launched its new website which has a cool features such as a dynamic homepage which changes depending on the time of day.

A digital strategy can help you to persuade trustees to invest in new technology or staff. You may use it to plan your increasing use of social media, create digital services and have a reference for how you’ll deal with a crisis. Or it may help you plan the next 6-12 months, ensuring you are using your resources in the right way and keeping up with your peers.

Take a look at the Charity Digital Code of Practice which was launched at the end of 2018. It aims to help charities increase their impact, develop skills and improve digital sustainability. Zoe Amar recently shared data from the self-assessment tool to show where charities are at with Code.

Whatever the priorities for your website, it is worth investing your time in producing a digital strategy to support its future evolution.

Useful links

If you need in-person help, there are lots of Digital Strategy courses and freelancers / consultants who can support you.

More on the web at 30

Read more about the web at 30:

Look at other examples of how design has evolved via the web design museum.

Google Doodle for the web at 30

Advertisements

#YouMadeItHappen 2018

The first #YouMadeItHappen day was brilliant. Well done to NCVO and partners for inspiring so many organisations to join in within just a month of launching it. The hashtag looked to be trending all day. Thousands of charities and other non-profits thanked their supporters and shared stories and stats showing the impact of their work.

NCVO's #YouMadeItHappen graphic

Impact of the day

NCVO analysis shows that #YouMadeItHappen reached 5.4m people and was shared from almost 10k accounts.

I did a quick spot check of large and small charities. I chose 10 of each at random. 6/10 of the large charities had tweeted at least once using #YouMadeItHappen. 2/10 of the smaller ones had done the same. This is impressive given that the idea was only launched at the end of October via NCVO’s blog.

Many used video, threads of tweets, images and gifs to enhance their messages. Engagement though was varied. In my sample, all but a few only generated visible low interaction (likes and RTs).

The hashtag is still active – organisations are using it beyond the big day.

Highlights

Here are a few of my highlights

Women's Aid tweet: A huge, huge thank you to all our supporters - our survivors, donors, members, volunteers, runners, campaigners, community ambassadors, and everyone who's shared awareness on domestics abuse - YOU are making change possible, and setting survivors free. Thank you #YouMadeItHappen

See also:

Vicky Browning's tweet: UK charities spend £1,500 per second improving lives and supporting communities. Thanks to all those who donate - however big or small the amount. #YouMadeItHappen

See more examples in this Twitter Moment of the day.

screenshot of #YouMadeItHappen Twitter Moment

And more examples in ACEVO’s Moment.

What did you do?

If you joined in what results did you get? It is a good time to think about what this tells you about your comms style and what works well with your audience.

  • Was engagement any higher than usual? If so, why, what was different?
  • Did you join in on other channels or just Twitter? What was different?
  • Did you use video, graphics or gifs? Or share stats or stories? What can you learn from this?
  • Did you create new images or video for the day? How easy was this to do? Could you use them again or create more for different uses?
  • Did your tweets prompt people to ask questions? Did you respond or can you add this information to your website?
  • Did you get any negative comments? I saw a few (like these in response to Shelter’s tweets). What did you do? Was that right?
  • How can you continue to thank supporters? And talk about your impact? (see this post on communicating your impact.)

What did you think about the day?

Did you see any interesting examples you could share? Or did it pass you by?

I’d love to know what you thought about the day. Should there be a #YouMadeItHappen 2019?

Other blogs / round-ups

Digital round-up – July

Highlights this month include: #WaistcoatWednesday, Charity Digital Code, IoF’s Fundraising Convention and diversity.

It’s been a month of relentless hot weather, football optimism and bleak world news. Plus another bumper crop of great charity content and digital reads.

stacks of ice cream cones in the window of an ice cream shop. they lean under the weight

How to use – pick and choose links to read, or open in new tabs for later. Or bookmark this post. Even better, subscribe and get future round-ups direct to your inbox. Enjoy!

Content

Bloodwise's call to celebrate WaistcoatWednesday to help beat blood cancer

Bloodwise launched amazing reactive fundraising #WaistcoatWednesday on 7 July to coincide with Gareth Southgate’s big moment on 11 July. At one point on the day #WaistcoastsWednesday was trending confusingly. National Trust spontaneously responded with a tweet about not wasting the coast but didn’t use #WasteCoastWednesday.

There was other fun football content including a forecast from The Met Office, #GarethSouthgateWould tweets including this one from Bliss, Scope’s brilliant BSL videos (see Football’s Coming Home), Give Blood’s missing Os, and many examples of Harry Maguire’s meme including this excellent one from The Horniman Museum. There were serious messages too including this striking image sharing stats about rates of domestic violence.

Lower half of white woman's face. She has blood dripping from her nose and wiped across her mouth. Looks like the England flag.

Also this month:

scruffy dog lying on the grass. speech bubble comes out of its mouth filled with emoji including one of paws, tree, poo etc

How do you promote your members or partner organisations? I love these tweets from Small Charities Coalition shouting-out to members for Pride and the football. Also London Community Foundation showcase grant recipients, in this case following Wimbledon.

Digital

Have you read and given feedback on the Charity Digital Code which launched in July? Consultation closes 25 September.

New websites

This month BHF launched their new website including new font.

Launching a new website, even though it has been a huge project, is not always big news for your audience. I liked this promo video from SUSE (Scottish Union of Supported Employment) to launch their new site.

Fundraising

The digital stream at this year’s IoF Fundraising Convention looked excellent. Catch up with a few of the expertly curated Twitter threads and blog posts if you weren’t there:

Crisis comms

I ran a workshop at the Hospice UK Comms Day which was about brand and reputation. Here are some useful tips from crisis expert Kitty Hamilton. Hospice UK produced a Wakelet of the day, sharing useful tips for hospices. And here is the blog post I wrote about using social media in crisis comms.

chaotic hose pipe, swirling patter

See also:

Leadership

This month there have been lots of discussions about diversity. Vicky Browning from ACEVO shared her commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive charity sector. Jane Ide from NAVCA blogged Diversity: it’s time to make it real and Diversity part 2: nobody said it was going to be easy.

How do world leaders use Twitter? Lots of data to get stuck in to from Twiplomacy.

50 world leaders shown in individual circles, illustrating Twiplomacy's tweet

10 charity digital people who should be on your radar – some top people who regularly share their digital knowledge. Very happy to have been included. Thanks Lightful.

And finally….

Sign on the wall in a zoo. naughty penguin of the month. Good penguin of the month.

Does social media negatively affect your mental health? Why not take time out with #ScrollFree September? You don’t have to go full Cold Turkey? Cut down as a Night Owl or Sleeping Dog. Check out the website to find out more.

Don’t forget to book your ticket for Being the Story in October. Super Early Bird rate ends 24 August.

Your recommendations

What did you read, watch or launch this month? Please add your links in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital copywriting, content planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes. I can help give your comms or digital processes a healthcheck and ideas injection.

——

Did you miss June’s round-up? Catch up with more good reads!