Political campaigns, especially in presidential years, are great testing grounds for new communications and fundraising techniques that eventually transfer over to the nonprofit world. Howard Dean revolutionized small-dollar online giving and Barack Obama was the first to integrate mobile/texting both for campaign advocacy and fundraising.

I wonder what we’ll learn about in the coming year?

Well, nevermind all that for now. It’s more important that you have a half-way decent website . . . and it seems that’s a lesson that several current presidential campaigns still need to learn.

As Colin Delany reports on his great e.politics blog, even presidential candidates still make “major and painfully avoidable mistakes.” Colin summarizes the results of a new study from Normal Modes, which ran the current Republican hopefuls’ sites through usability tests.

Here are just three of Colin’s points, all of which apply to nonprofit websites too:

  • People hate email-gathering splash screens, which are now standard-issue on most campaign sites. In fact, some users (older ones in particular) found them so confusing that they tried to leave the sites entirely.
  • Once users got past the splash screens, the sites frequently did a terrible job of collecting email addresses on internal pages.  (Colin notes that “nonprofits have known to put a clear email signup form or button on every page for years” but I think he’s actually being pretty generous with us on that one. Lots of work to do there still!)
  • One phrase that turned out to be particularly confusing: “join the campaign,” wording that’s also become standard on campaign websites. People found it off-putting since the text didn’t actually tell them what clicking on a “join the campaign” button would imply. Colin suggests making the wording specific, as in “get emails from Mitt” or “volunteer in your community” or “donate.” (I’ve lectured about lame calls to action before, so you know I agree on this one!)

Check out Colin’s full post and the full report for more details.

P.S. Here’s what’s coming up next on our webinar schedule . . .

December 1: Trends for 2012 and Your Marketing Plan for the New Year

December 7: Writing Thank-You Notes That Inspire Future Gifts

December 14: The New and Improved Nonprofit Annual Report

 

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