There’s always value in looking for positives during challenging times, and there are certainly some to be found as the world continues its battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notable is the community spirit that continues to emerge in response to the societal turbulence. Being broadly limited in how they can interact has reminded people how important it is to stick together — and the suffering of so many has inspired major charitable efforts across the globe.
Despite the year’s challenges, there are still plenty of people out there who are willing to get involved with volunteer schemes. If you run a volunteer site, then this isn’t a time to settle for reduced traffic and interest. Quite the opposite, in fact: this is a time to make a strong effort to drive further action (provided it’s handled safely).
So how can you improve your site to drive more engagement?
Well, there are myriad viable ways to improve the performance of your volunteer site, but we’re going to look at one in particular: making it more user-friendly. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to achieve that goal — In this piece, we’ll pick out some prime examples.
Let’s get right to them.
Make the content more digestible
As important as it is to avoid having thin content (single-sentence lines with massive spaces between them, most commonly), you also need to avoid going in the other direction — something that happens remarkably often. This partially stems from the worry that content isn’t going to be sufficiently compelling. If your case hasn’t yet been made, why not keep talking?
Some websites featured pages packed with dense paragraphs that drag on forever. It actually pushes them away by losing their attention and causing a lot of confusion. Typically, we recommend two options: refine and polish your text to a mirror shine, or break up your content so it’s easy to digest.
Refining any content will ensure you’re communicating only the most important information. Then, work to make the text that’s left more digestible. To break up dense text, start spacing out the ideas. Convert sections to bullet-pointed lists. Throw in more subheadings. If you can find something that really fits (sites like Unsplash have useful categories), then flesh things out with some stock images.
In the end, the content should read pretty well on a typical smartphone screen. If it doesn’t, keep working on it until that changes. This will eventually ensure that you make some good progress.
Ensure excellent responsiveness
We’ve touched upon how your site looks on mobile devices, and that’s incredibly important since mobile browsing continues to rise in popularity. A great site will render well on any standard device, be it a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone, or even a tablet. That means doing a lot of testing to ensure that everything scales correctly (and functionally).
You also need to think about responsiveness in terms of speed. Internet users expect websites of all kinds to load (and operate) very quickly these days, so your website will quickly lose visitors if it hangs upon loading or lags significantly while it’s being used. Run speed tests, access the site from a mobile data connection, and check that it’s snappy. If you’re not getting the performance you need, you might need to upgrade your hosting package.
And the last form of responsiveness that warrants your attention is human responsiveness. When a prospective volunteer has a question (about how the organization began, for instance, or what they could plausibly contribute), answering it promptly will be key to keeping them interested. In addition to having standard email contact, consider implementing a live chat system (e.g., Crisp.Chat). The downside is that you’d need people available to handle the queries, but since text chat can be dealt with remotely, you might be able to find a volunteer to take charge of that responsibility from afar.
Simplify your color scheme
What kind of background does your website have? How busy is it? In the same effort to tack on complexity, some site owners fill their sites to bursting with colors and patterns, ultimately just making them painful to look at. The most effective sites have simple color schemes. A few colors should be more than enough: see how this site focuses on red and white.
Contrast is essential, so don’t pick colors that blur together. Think about accessibility. How would someone colorblind manage to use your site? Would they be able to discern your menu elements? Make your site more inclusive by catering to those who may have limited vision
What matters is the general design of your site. Get that right, and you can make it completely monochromatic if you want to. Pick two or three colors (a generator like Coolors can really help with this), stick to them, and things will work out.
Use big buttons and clear options
What are the first things you notice when you load your volunteer site? Imagine that you’d never seen it before, and generally look around to see what stands out. Pay particular attention to two things: buttons and options. Anything that concerns action. What are the available actions? Is it clear to visitors what they can do and what they’re supposed to do?
Take the homepage of this site, for example. Using a contrasting red button (as noted, contrast is key), it draws the eye to the donate button, making certain that each visitor can immediately access this target page if they wish it. Additionally, there are other red “Learn More” buttons on different components of the homepage, enticing the visitor to continue engaging with the site.
Making your volunteer website more user-friendly doesn’t mean you need an expert coder or in-depth work done to the structure of your site. A few key design changes, like simplifying your color scheme and using clear buttons, and a user-focused strategy, like ensuring content is digestible and accessible on all devices, is your best bet.