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Five Must-Have Characteristics of Nonprofit Mobile Websites

April 12, 2011

[tweetmeme] On the Mobile Web, it’s 1999 all over again. Those nonprofits that are pioneering mobile websites today will reap the benefits of Mobile SEO tomorrow. Mobile search engines like Google Mobile, Yahoo! Mobile, and Bing Mobile are hungry for mobile content, especially fresh content.  That said, the uber vast majority of nonprofits have not even considered launching a mobile website. They have either not yet had their “Aha” moment about the Mobile Web, or think it is too expensive and time-consuming to be an early adopter. I am here to tell you (and train you) that it is not. Not at all.

Regardless of the nonprofit sector’s slow adoption of mobile communications, the Mobile Web continues to soar. One out of four Americans now access the Mobile Web daily and that’s a trend that will continue to increase rapidly as smartphones become more affordable. Also, texting is growing faster than any other communications method and tragically those nonprofits that are pioneering group text messaging are still linking to desktop websites which if you just stop… and think about it… makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! To this day, I have yet to receive a text alert from a nonprofit that links to a mobile website, only their desktop site. Craziness. 🙂

For those nonprofits in the throws of Aha moments and who are ready to take the leap, I have highlighted five must-have characteristics of a nonprofit mobile website below:

1. A simple design with very little images.

Like dial-up for desktop, we are in the Era of 3G for mobile. Mobile websites need to be simple in design with only a few low-resolution images to ensure fast download time. People will lose patience quickly and leave your mobile website if it takes longer than 3-5 seconds to load.

2. Fresh content.

People that browse the Mobile Web most often are looking for breaking news or current information about what’s happening at your nonprofit. Often times they are on their lunch break, traveling to and from work, or waiting in line. These folks are not browsing your site in hopes of finding your nonprofit’s history, mission, values, or programs. They are looking for timely news items and recent blog posts.

3. Location and contact information.

This is especially true if your nonprofit is location-based, such as museums, hospitals, animal shelters, food banks, etc. Many people will use their smartphones when in proximity of your nonprofit to find your location. That said, on your mobile “Contact Us” page be sure to link to a Google Map.

4. Social networking icons that link to your mobile profiles and pages.

If they are reading your mobile website on their smartphone, then of course they are going to want to read your Facebook Status Updates and Tweets in mobile format as well, i.e., m.twitter.com/nonprofitorgs, m.facebook.com/nonprofitorgs, m.youtube.com/nonprofitorgs, etc.

5. A mobile-optimized “Donate Now” page.

It’s nearly impossible to make a donation via credit card on a mobile device through a desktop website. It requires much left-right-up-down scrolling. Too much to make it easy to give. Donors don’t want to have struggle to donate. You will need either a mobile-optimized “Donate Now” page like m.komen.org or a text-to-give page like sonc.mobi.

Related Links:
22 Nonprofit Mobile Websites
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits
Subscribe :: Nonprofit Tech 2.0 e-Newsletter :: Social Media and Mobile Technology for Nonprofits

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 6:03 am

    We’re going to begin work on our m. site (hopefully this year) … really appreciate all of the great information that you share.

  2. Doug Tindal permalink
    April 13, 2011 12:20 pm

    This is all very helpful guidance Heather, thanks.

    I want to push back a little bit on your comment that it makes no sense to text a link to a “desktop” site rather than a mobile site. I wonder what assumptions you’re making about architecture.

    My (limited) understanding is that best practice is to do some server-side scripting that automatically directs mobile clients to the mobile site. In this case, then, wouldn’t one link suffice?

    cheers

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      April 13, 2011 12:32 pm

      🙂 What I am talking about is linking to a desktop site (designed to be viewed on a 12″ screen) in a text alert which of course will be read in a 1.5″ browser. Nonprofits don’t yet have sites that are desktop and then automatically converted in mobile sites. They are not designed that was yet. Thus far all the texts from nonprofits have linked to 12″ sites. Too much scrolling… too tiny to be readable. Thanks.

  3. April 13, 2011 12:37 pm

    I would also include the qualifier:
    6. Make sure you have money, people, and the technical knowledge to devote to building it
    Without money, people, time and tech savvy to get it done it’s going to be a waste of time.

    Consider mobile development only after you have a fantastic best-in-class website on your topic, have meaningful metrics in place, and a clear understanding of your audience before attempting mobile. It’s a fast changing environment where if you wait another year or two the mobile devices will be able to take advantage of your current site just fine.

  4. PiccolaBee permalink
    April 14, 2011 1:19 pm

    Hmm.. It’s probably “right up front,” (the old ‘if it was a snake it would have bitten you’) but I am finding it a bit challenging to find “the complete list” of NonProfits Twitter accounts you have curated. Is there a section in which you have organized this amazing list by category? Third, what advice do you have for people to help detect “faux” nonprofits/ scam artists, etc.

    Thanks!

  5. April 15, 2011 9:16 am

    Great article! With the widespread use of smartphones, it would be very beneficial for non-profits to have a mobile website. If non-profits kept up with prevalent technologies, they would probably see an increase in donations. Donators may want to donate but have to wait until they get to a desktop computer or research the charity to do so. This can many times be a fleeting thought that becomes lost as the day progresses. A perfect solution would be the ability to access the charity via mobile web for information and to make a quick donation.

  6. Kia, JD permalink
    April 15, 2011 8:32 pm

    Planned Parenthood has a nice mobile site that fits your checklist. It’s also available in Spanish. m.plannedparenthood.org

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      April 18, 2011 11:07 am

      Nice. I hadn’t seen that one. Thanks!

  7. August 4, 2011 12:55 pm

    Top article. The rise of smartphones means that EVERY website should be on mobile and that EVERY site needs to be adapted for mobiles.

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