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Top Web Design Mistakes - 2005

While email is key to driving potential donors to your donations page, your website or your html email can just as quickly drive them away.

Jacob Nielson, the grand guru of website useability has published his annual list of Top Web Design Mistakes. (Neilson is author of the classic guide, Designing Web Useability. Be sure your developer has read it!)

Many of Neilson's identified mistakes (click for the full list) apply directly to nonprofits hoping to raise funds on the Internet. Here is Neilson's list of common mistakes as we apply it to the nonprofit sector:

Legibility Problems
The most prevalent mistake made is the use of bad fonts and/or small font sizes. They tax readers' patience as well as their eye sight. Remember, older donors are a growing web demographic.

Non-Standard Links
Links that don't look like links; pages where its not obvious what's clickable. Never make your visitor puzzle over how to find the next step.

According to Neilson, "The one bright point is that splash screens and Flash intros are almost extinct. They are so bad that even the most clueless Web designers won't recommend them, even though a few (even more clueless) clients continue to request them."

Content That's Not Written for the Web
Don't lift your brochure or grant request content and paste it into your website. Make content short, scannable, and to the point. Web content should answer users' questions and use common language rather than made-up terms.

Bad Search
A search function on your website should yield accurate, helpful results. When visitors use it, they're looking for specific information.

Browser Incompatibility
Enough people use browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari that the ROI is worth investing in cross-browser compatibility.

Cumbersome Forms
Forms are used too often on the Web and tend to ask for too much information
Cut questions that are not needed. For example, do you really need a salutation (Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss)?
Don't ask for a telephone number on the web because web donors don't want you to call.
Don't make fields mandatory unless they truly are.
• Support autofill by avoiding unusual field labels (just use Name, Address, etc.).
• Allow flexible input of phone numbers, credit card numbers, and the like. Make it the user's option to include spaces and dashes and have the software strip them away.
Accomodate international postal codes.

No Contact or Other Organization Information
Having a physical mailing address and telephone on your site is one of the key credibility markers. An organization with no address is not one you want to give money to.

Frozen Layouts with Fixed Page Widths
• On big monitors, websites are difficult to use if they don't resize with the window. Conversely, if users have a small window and a page doesn't use a liquid layout, it triggers insufferable horizontal scrolling.
• The rightmost part of a page is cut off when printing a frozen page.

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