It made me think of the online user experience for non-profits in general. Every year, I hunt down non-profits that support causes that I think family members believe in, then donate in their name, as a gift to the family member. Usually, I come up with about 10 different causes that I need to research. I was not surprised by the results of Nielsen's study, but I think that it neglects to focus on a couple of other things (see caveat below):
- Passion is lacking in the design of most non-profit sites. I don't know why, but many non-profit sites look amateurish, busy or generic. This is so sad, because the people who work for these non-profits are amazingly passionate about their causes. Here's an example: Paws with a cause is a non-profit organization that trains guide dogs for people with disabilities. Really great, right? Their site, though, looks unimpressive. The home page is not convincing, and many of the content pages are huge text documents, really, posing as web pages. Compare that with Charity:Water, which is a non-profit that raises money to build wells in poor countries. Charity:Water has a very rich, visually compelling website. It benefits from the fact that the founder is a photojournalist. Most non-profits aren't so lucky. But, I would argue that the people who founded Paws with a cause are just as passionate. It's just their site that is lacking passion.
- Design... color, fonts, layout. Many non-profit sites end up using really, er, interesting choices. Compare the New Hampshire Food Bank with it's grey, purple, green, blue (at least 4 shades of blue on the home page) to Second Harvest of Orange County with it's black, orange, khaki and yellow. I don't love either of these sites, but the latter is more "professional-looking" because of it's choice in colors and imagery. I'd certainly trust my $ to them.
I think I know how I'm going to try to spend my volunteer hours this year... helping a non-profit with their online user experience!
caveat: I read Nielsen's Alertbox, not the full report, so there may be information like design and passion in the findings.