Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Have you ever asked people in your target audience, “If we were to build the perfect website, what would it look like?” This is crucial—that we understand what the end user is looking for in our website. After all, we’re building it for them, not for us. This is the most important question to ask yourself when it comes to your website structure: Does my site meet the needs of the people who visit it?

Far too often, nonprofits put a site together from the point of view of an insider. They structure their website according to how they see their organization internally. The problem with this is that the target audience may approach the website differently. If it’s not designed with the end user in mind, they’ll get confused and frustrated and leave.

Our sites should be built so the end user can intuitively find their way around. It shouldn’t feel like they’re solving a puzzle.

A well designed website will contain options, including several ways to navigate your site. Helpful navigation tools include a pull-down menu, a search tool and a site map.

• The pull-down menu is simply a navigational menu bar that a user clicks on to see all the major sections of your site.

• A site map makes it easy to see everything on your website in one place. Savvy internet users will look for a site map first thing when they get to a new website—they know they’re going to find what they’re looking for more quickly.

• A search tool allows users to search for something specific on your website. Google offers a custom search engine specifically for nonprofits to use on their sites, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t already.

There are several other navigation tools you can build into your site, but these are a few of the most common. Remember this: The key to good website structure and navigation is to ensure that any user on your site can get from wherever they are to wherever they want to be in three or fewer clicks.

Test this out on your organization’s site. More than three clicks, and your site’s navigation may need some work.