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6 min Read
May 22, 2024

Guide: The role of user feedback in nonprofit website design

Anne Stefanyk

So, you’re ready to refresh your nonprofit’s website to apply to your new visual identity. How can you know that the changes you make will resonate with your audience? User feedback can help!

Collecting and implementing user feedback can help you build a website strategy that drives growth. The top nonprofit websites appeal to their audiences through strategic branding decisions that excite and engage supporters, and this guide will help you do just that. Let’s review what works for effectively incorporating user feedback into your website refresh process.

Choose the right audience to ask for feedback

You don’t need to ask every single online audience member for feedback. Everyone will have their own opinion on your refresh, and including too many voices in the rebranding process can feel like having too many cooks in the kitchen. 

Instead, choose a sample of stakeholders that represent different audience segments such as volunteers, staff members, program participants or community members, donors, and board members. These people are familiar with your mission and know what your organization’s goals are. Their insights can be invaluable for guiding your branding and web design decisions. If you do ask program participants or community members with lived experience for feedback, look for ways to compensate them for their time

Encourage engagement with your feedback opportunities by explaining that you’ve invited stakeholders to join a group of supporters whose opinions you respect. You could even give the group a fun name, such as the Feedback Force, to inspire participation.

Gather direct and indirect user feedback

In the user research process, you should gather insights through both direct and indirect feedback to get a holistic view of your audience’s opinions.

Direct feedback

Direct feedback includes any comments or thoughts supporters share after directly being asked to provide input on your branding and website strategy. Consider your audiences’ preferred communication platforms when choosing your direct feedback channels. These channels could include:

  • Surveys
  • Emails
  • Focus groups
  • Social media direct messages

Ask supporters to offer their opinions on different brand and website elements like your colors, logo, fonts, and tone. Does the visual look make it easier or harder for them to find what they are looking for? Do they feel like these brand choices communicate your organization’s purpose and personality? Compile their responses into a centralized database or spreadsheet for easy reference.

Indirect feedback

Indirect feedback includes the unspoken ways audience members signal their thoughts and feelings about your website. The following tools will help you gather indirect feedback:

Gather indirect feedback by tracking user behaviors, including links they click, areas of the page they linger on, and how long they spend on a page before clicking away. Indirect feedback can help you understand the subconscious choices users make when browsing your website and how different web design decisions affect those choices.

Assess audience input

You can use a survey sample size calculator to help determine the feedback sample size you should aim for based on the size of your audience. For example, if you have around 5,000 people in your target audience, and want to have a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error, you should aim for 357 responses to your web design feedback survey. 

Once you have a decent-sized pool of feedback, identify common themes in users’ responses. For example, perhaps many users express that your online donation page doesn’t effectively represent your brand. In that case, you could explore ways to improve the page’s branding by adding your nonprofit’s logo or using your brand colors more prominently. 

Keep in mind that some supporters may feel strongly about different aspects of your brand, and change can be hard. For example, long-time volunteers may be attached to your original nonprofit logo and have a difficult time adjusting to any alterations. 

Consider input collectively and revisit the initial goals you had when you started your website refresh. Ultimately, you’re trying to find the right visual feel that effectively communicates your nonprofit’s story to a wider audience, so keep that main goal in mind as you review responses.

Turn feedback into actionable next steps

Identify three to five major points of feedback that you received in the audience input process. Turn these themes into clear next steps for your organization to take to update your branding strategy. For example, you might leave the user feedback process with these main feedback themes and next steps:

  • User feedback: It’s hard to read the homepage donate button because there isn’t enough color contrast between the text and background.
    • Next steps: Update the website color palette to enhance contrast between foreground and background colors.
  • User feedback: When I first visited the website, I felt disconnected from the organization’s mission and didn’t have a good sense of who the nonprofit helps.
    • Next steps: Enhance storytelling elements and include more images, videos, and new messaging about what the organization does.
  • User feedback: The website feels static or boring.
    • Next steps: Incorporate more interactive elements such as quizzes, maps, polls, and interactive timelines.
  • User feedback: The images look posed or inauthentic.
    • Next steps: Replace any stock images with real photos from events or volunteer opportunities. Prioritize candid images over posed ones to enhance authenticity. Be sure to get permission to use images.

Use the unique advantages of your content management system (CMS) to help implement effective branding changes that align with your audience research. For example, according to Kanopi’s WordPress guide, you can use elements like plugins to extend your site’s functionality. This includes options for adding interactive videos, photo slideshows, quizzes, polls, and other engaging elements.

Communicate changes to your audience

One of the most important aspects of the feedback process is closing the loop by sharing your findings and next steps with your audience. This helps keep audience members in the know and shows them that you took their insights seriously. 

Follow up with supporters by taking the following steps:

  1. Thank them for their input. Send a prompt thank-you email to every supporter who took the time to share their input. Consider offering an additional perk, such as free merchandise or a shoutout in your organization’s social media accounts, to express your gratitude and encourage retention.
  2. Communicate the branding and website changes you’ll make. Share the next steps you outlined and invite supporters to view your updated website when you’ve incorporated their feedback.
  3. Share the long-term results of your refresh process. Share results such as a recent boost in traffic to your online content or a decrease in your website’s bounce rate. This shows audience members that their engagement made a tangible difference in supporting your nonprofit’s mission.

Prioritizing transparency in the feedback process fosters trust with your audience, increasing the likelihood that they’ll be willing to continue engaging with and supporting your nonprofit long-term. Keep supporters in the loop over time as you continue to see results from your rebranding efforts.

Gathering, interpreting, and acting on user feedback can be a complex process that involves stakeholder workshops, analysis of website analytics, and testing your site to optimize user experience. 

If you’re planning to take on the process in-house, remember to foster and maintain supporter relationships every step of the way. Audience members should feel appreciated for their input and excited to help shape your nonprofit’s future. This makes the feedback process a positive experience for everyone involved.

About the author: Anne Stefanyk, she/her, is the Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, where she creates clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes.