Backpacking Through a Website, a Simple Guide

How to Lose and Confuse Your Visitors.

What does backpacking have to do with a website? It practically has nothing to do with it, except, sometimes that is what your users are doing when they visit it.

Some synonyms for backpacking according to is wandering, rambling and hitchhiking. Yikes. Is this potentially how a visitor feels when they click into your website?

Let me clear something up before we go any further, I love backpacking and suffer from severe wanderlust. There is something liberating and adventure fulfilling to put on that pack and take steps into what is the unknown.

Visitors should not be wandering, or better yet, rambling through your website. Who has the time and what does this solve? Nothing really. It only answers your question...why haven't we gotten any new memberships or donors?

Exploring the unknown, occasionally stumbling into a dead end or finding a new adventure from getting lost (not like in horror movies) while backpacking is great and perhaps initially you thought, 'backpacking through a website' - that sounds like a cute idea! However, I assure you, this is not the experience your visitors should have on your website.

If you’ve made it this far into my post you are figuring out that the actual intention is not to discuss backpacking but to help you understand why good design is good for business.

First things first, people these days don’t just trust anyone. According to Tyton Media, 48% of people said that the website design of a business was their number one factor in determining credibility.

Maybe you’re not convinced:  according to Adobe (yes, Adobe), companies with strong design outperform companies with weak design by 219% on the S&P index. “Better products or a superior customer service are no longer enough to stand out.”

Of course, if you’re thinking a non-profit organization cannot be in the same ring as a for-profit business or company (smh...millennial slang for “shake my head”), you are dead wrong. Where a for-profit may primarily be concerned with monetary or unit goals, as a non-profit you have other considerations and goals ranging from mission to donor contribution, support and outreach, memberships and voluntary contributions.

Hopefully, now you are accepting that there just might be something to this whole “good design matters” theory...enough with the storytelling right? Nope!

Let’s talk about your identity. First impressions matter.

A lot of what we see with a new client (that’s you!) is content, a few calls to action, graphics that don’t belong, crowded navigation menus, outdated contact information, different tones in content writing…clutter, are you lost yet? I know I am and I guarantee so is your visitor. They will probably not come back or ‘accidentally’ clicked the back button to see the next link on the Google search results page.

You want to focus on the big picture, build up your messaging rather than throwing it all out there. The primary purpose of your front page should be to capture the uninitiated new visitors' attention and get them (with a clear path) to commit to a next step.

Strong navigation equals lower bounce rates.

Let’s do a little exercise...try to take a look at your navigation from an unfamiliar standpoint, in other words - you don’t already know where everything is or what it’s called. If you can’t be unbiased, take a look at your competitor's site (bet you didn’t think I’d go there) or a neighboring organization with a similar mission.

Now that you’ve looked at your website navigation be honest, was there a little bit of overload or confusion? Or, if you ventured onto another site - (admit it!) were you able to navigate your way through their website with ease? Maybe clicked on the mouse buttons really hard because you are a little upset it was easier and more clear than your own?

A strong navigation reinforces your purpose, addresses the journey you wish your visitors and users to take and is strategically aligned. What you don’t want to end up happening is overdoing it and making your menu an index.

Build relationships, and drive engagement.

Relationships are usually driven by an emotional response.

Let’s take a look at the Mayo Clinic for example. You can read all about the history of the Clinic, and how it has grown from private practice to a non-profit medical center.

The Mayo Clinic has done a fantastic job in innovating and growing with trend making sure they are promoting education, using great design aesthetics and intuitive technology. Typically in my experience looking at a medical website can be daunting and quite frankly a little boring, but I know when I think I have a new and rare disease from a loud sneeze I’m going to use the Mayo Clinic’s symptom checker. It’s fun, it’s recognizable and I trust the content I’m reading.

A great design finds smart ways to incorporate colors, typography, graphic elements, micro-moments and interactions to connect to the visitor in a meaningful way. Your design should support your mission and your principles.

This is actually a really large topic, design can influence consumer behavior and this is why it is so important that everything you put out there has a purpose.

Promote consistency, social media counts.

Wouldn’t it be weird if Google started to display their search results with purple links or cursive fonts? Yes, it totally would.

Once you’ve established trust or loyalty the design and layout of your site becomes part of your brand, not just a fly-by-night design element. This also means when you Tweet, use Instagram or Facebook your design and messaging should all be aligned.

Inconsistencies in your identity can come across as disorganized and cause your once emotionally attached donor or member to become confused and start to have doubts.

A not so great design makes me think about those scenes in horror movies where the cute couple is backpacking (awww), wandering some trail or another and end up getting completely turned around...where did all the trail markers go? what time is it? we ran out of water! --- it’s dark, didn’t we see that leaf an hour ago?? we’re not going to make it out of here...and then they don’t. All the while you’re sitting at home “smh” that they didn’t have a map!

We don’t want your visitors to be backpacking through your website without a map or at least visible trail markers (micro-interactions, strategic, purposeful graphics and CTA’s, etc), give them a trail to follow or a path to complete an experience.  

Use the topics discussed above as your big picture map or guide towards getting a conversation started within your organization today. I assure you with the right tools in your pack, visitors won’t be getting lost.

Adobe and Tyton Media are not wrong. If you aren’t building trust, making a strong first impression, building relationships, and reinforcing your message through social media...well, you probably have a lot to think about and we have a lot to talk about. You aren’t alone and we’re here to help.

If your visitors are lost and you think you could use a better map “hmu” (that’s millennial slang for - hit me up). No obligation, BackOffice Thinking has your back.

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