Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Have you ever asked people in your target audience, “If we were to build the perfect nonprofit website, what would it look like?” It’s 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.

Over the next five posts, I’m going to talk about the five required elements when building websites for nonprofits, something every organization needs to consider as they evaluate their own website.

As we’ve worked with countless numbers of constituents, donors and volunteers over the years, these are, universally, the things they want to see in a nonprofit’s website.

The first element is structure, which is basically how a website is put together. Our sites should be built so the end users can easily find their way around—it shouldn’t feel like they’re solving a puzzle. The information, content, resources and tools on our website should be organized so that it’s easy and intuitive for people to interact with us.

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 or frustrated and leave.

Well designed websites for nonprofits 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 key to good structure and navigation is this: Any user on your site should be able to get where they want to go in three or fewer clicks. Test this out on your organization’s site. More than three clicks, and your site’s navigation needs work.

Be sure to check back for the next four required elements when building websites for nonprofits, or check out this video on creating the perfect nonprofit website.