7 Best Homepage Updates

The good people at JFFixler Group know that the entry point to your organization is your website. That’s why they asked me to contribute an article to their blog about the 7 Best Homepage Updates you can do. They’re quick, they’re easy, they pay off. Check it out:

7 Best Website Updates on JFFixler Group blog.

The Case for Good Web Design

Design is a dirty word for many non-profiters. The idea of an organization spending time money making something look polished and clean, some think, is a sign that organization is spending time and money where they shouldn’t. All resources should be funneled into the cause.

That’s not saying much for design. Design may be artistic, but it’s not art. The design process is calculated and defined. It follows methodologies and steps that support the objectives of a website and is there to help the viewer accomplish tasks.

While your focus should definitely go into your cause, you should also explore every outlet you can to help support what you do. Think about how you look at websites and how quickly you make judgments. In a snap, you decide if that organization is trustworthy. You decide if the donation process makes sense. You evaluate how easy it is to pledge support – if that Donate Now button isn’t easy to find, you might assume donations aren’t important.

If you have a scrubby website that looks like your favorite niece built it between classes, people will think that you’ve got an equal organization. Inspire trust in your visitors. Show them respect. Trust that design serves a purpose other than to look pretty, and let your website shine.

4 Fast Fixes for Dead Links

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One of the smallest things that can go wrong with your website can damage it the most. Link rot – dead hyperlinks – are just as nasty as the name suggests. When you leave your website unattended, the inevitable happens. References to other websites become invalid. You move or delete pages. Someone changes the name of a file, and any links there break.

It’s easy to see how link rot happens, but you might be surprised to learn how adversely it can affect your site. When website visitors encounter a dead link, the overwhelming tendency is to leave the site altogether. Granted, a dead link on a deep internal page is less detrimental than one on your homepage, but still. One false click, and you’ve lost a potential doner, volunteer, customer or fan.

Luckily, there are some common-sense precautions you can take to minimize this risk.

Run link reports.

If you have an analytics program (which you should – read what we’ve written about analytics) that you’re consulting regularly, you’ll see a report of dead links visitors are encountering. If you don’t have an analytics program, you can at least run your website through a link checker. How? Type “link checker” into Google, and you’ll be spoiled with free choices.

Enable automatic aliases.

Those who use our Drupal websites hardly notice when they’ve changed a link. We enable automatic aliases so that whenever a page name changes, any old links that lead there change too. Look for this feature in your own content management system. You can also create redirects that reroute old links to new pages.

Provide informative 404 pages.

You’ve seen pages with the 404 File Not Found page. If you can’t catch every dead link on your site, at least create a custom 404 page. List potential reasons the link may be dead, and help direct the user to find the page they’re seeking, such as by using a search box.

Avoid URL shorteners.  

These services that take your lengthy URL and transfer it into something shorter that looks like http://bit.ly or http://ow.ly are killer for links. They change over time and get reassigned to other users. Only think of them as a short-term fix, not a long-term solution for your website.

[Photo credit: Death Becomes Her by 19melissa68, on Flickr]

Assess Your Website Mess (May 2010 Newsletter)

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[This little gem is the e-mail newsletter our subscribers just received. Want a slice of this for yourself? Sign up now.]

Websites are like silverware drawers. They start out the vision of order, with special compartments for everything. Then a grapefruit spoon gets mixed in with the soup spoons. Someone tosses in a ladle because they can’t figure out where else it should go. Toast crumbs accumulate at the bottom. Before long, what was a bounty of neatness can become a chaotic mess just from day to day living.

It’s understandable, because websites are always growing and changing. Nevertheless, it helps to take a periodic assessment to figure out what should go where, and if it’s operating at optimum capacity.

Here are a few things you can check right now:

  1. Is your name clearly identified on your homepage? Make sure it appears on internal pages too.
  2. Are your organization’s colors consistently used? It’s a good idea to limit your colors to two.
  3. Are there broken links? If so, fix them right away!

While that’s a good start, you should do a complete website assessment and do it regularly. Lucky for you, we’re here to help.

This month, as part of Talance’s year-long 10th anniversary celebration, we’re performing free website analyses to determine how you can improve the performance of your website. The analysis includes a review of design, user-friendliness, search engine visibility and how popular it is in social media. We’ll deliver you a handy report you can keep and refer to while you make updates.

>> Request your FREE website analysis now!

[Image: Flickr user vinnie7]