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Three Nonprofits Pioneering Responsive Web Design

October 8, 2012

Responsive web design (often abbreviated to RWD) is defined as an approach to web design in which a designer intends to provide an optimal viewing experience — easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling — across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones). Stated simply, a nonprofit website that is responsively designed will alter and format itself depending upon whether the visitor is viewing the website on a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Why is this important? Because recent data from ComScore claims that mobile will surpass desktop in 2014, however, if smartphone and tablet sales continue on their current trajectory, that could easily happen late next year — and from my research, less than 1% of nonprofits are prepared for this fundamental shift in online communications.

If you have yet to view your nonprofit’s website on a tablet or smartphone, do so as soon as possible and be prepared to be a little shocked and somewhat dismayed — and hopefully inspired to take action. Nonprofits have been woefully slow at preparing for the Mobile Web. Responsive web design is rarely discussed or implemented in the nonprofit sector. At least twice a week on social media I see a pitch posted by a nonprofit to visit their new website and the first thing I do is enter their URL into my iPhone and then on my iPad only to sadly, tragically discover that their new website is already out of date from the moment it launched.

All that said, if your nonprofit is currently in the process of redesigning your website or it’s on the list for 2013, then please prioritize making your website compatible for the Mobile Web. To get you started, you can study the exceptional examples of responsive web design pioneered by the three nonprofits listed below:

1. World Wildlife Fund ::




2. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh ::




3. Boot Campaign ::




Related Links:
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Utilize Mobile Communications & Mobile Fundraising
11 Mobile Website Design Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations

37 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2012 6:25 am

    We are almost ready to launch our new site, which is RWD. So exciting!!

  2. October 8, 2012 7:14 am

    Good roundup of responsive design, Heather. I’ve been talking to others in the sexual health field about making content available on any device through responsive design. If you update your list, please consider adding as an example of responsive design.

  3. October 8, 2012 8:08 am

    I recently launched a new Responsive Web Design for my non-profit client here:

    Their percentage of mobile visits is at 13% and rising.

  4. October 8, 2012 5:33 pm


    Future 500 just launched its RWD webiste: Have fun playing around with it and feel free to give us feedback!


  5. October 9, 2012 3:21 am

    It’s a cool responsive web design stuff. It’s inspired me a lot… going to design something awesome responsive web designs today. To be sustain in future every web designers have to be experienced with responsive web designs.

  6. October 9, 2012 10:35 am

    Thanks for the update, is there any way I can receive an email sent to me when you write a fresh article?

  7. October 9, 2012 11:26 am

    Informative piece – our small non-profit is making good use of RWD with our recent relaunch:

  8. October 9, 2012 7:27 pm

    Great post! Here are 20 more examples of cool responsive sites if you are doing research:

  9. October 10, 2012 10:18 am

    Good post Heather. While I get the value of RWD for non-profits (i.e., long-term lower costs of management and device optimization for a better UX), we’ve found that organizations deploying RWD mistake mobile optimization for strong UX design. Delivering a powerful UI design with great branding should not be confused with a great user experience. (Apple Maps provides a great case study of a wonderful UI execution but poor UX design.)

    What we have found in talking to users of RWD online properties is that the sites are certainly optimized for the device but they often fail to perform the heavy lifting associated with context-driven use cases. So while users are pleased to have access to a legible site, they often can’t easily find what they’re looking for on-the-go or when they’re trying to respond to a TV/radio/outdoor call to action. Consequently, we’re seeing significant traffic dropoffs after the initial page of entry. Now that’s not a reason to avoid RWD but its a caveat emptor to those who choose RWD. Optimization is merely the first step toward developing a great UX. You still need to execute a UX that acknowledges the user’s context and empowers them \ to accomplish their mission in the most efficient manner possible.

  10. October 10, 2012 1:31 pm

    Great post! Please check out this great post to learn more about the benefits of CSS in your web design. Extremely important for responsive design and mobile devices!

  11. October 11, 2012 9:56 am

    I have read many times where your mobile site should not mirror your desktop site because people visit mobile sites on the go and don’t need so much info. What are your thoughts on this?

      • October 12, 2012 8:34 am

        I actually remembered reading your informative article and many others who agree with that. So how do you accomplish this and still use relative design?

      • Brie permalink
        October 16, 2012 1:17 pm

        I’m wondering the same things as Lori. Our organization is at a crossroads right now, deciding between responsive design or a distinct mobile site that is stripped down for the mobile user’s needs. The responsive design seems to have a lot of advantages to it, but the technology still seems new. Do you think responsive is where mobile sites are heading? We probably won’t have a budget to redo it again any time soon. Would love your thoughts!

      • October 18, 2012 12:13 pm

        I do think responsive design is the way to go. has is built in. If it were me, I’d hire a website designer that works with as a CMS.

      • October 19, 2012 10:19 am

        While Responsive Design is a viable solution for managing in a multichannel digital world (especially for e-periodicals), using WordPress as a CMS won’t get you there. WordPress will merely optimize your content for viewing on mobile devices but it’s doing nothing more than rendering all of your desktop content on a very small plot of digital real estate.

        Which takes me back to my earlier comment…that’s not delivering a great user experience. Your mobile supporter has very specific use cases in mind when interacting with your brand via mobile. You need to create a relevant experience for them that goes beyond providing legible content.

        This perspective is shared by the leading retail sites–sites that have undergone extensive split and usability testing. These leading retail sites (e.g., Amazon, Staples, Walmart, Dell, etc.) have developed discrete mobile sites to support the mobile consumer and the priority use case: sales. Their decision to take a pass on simple content re-formatting (i.e., WordPress) and Responsive Design is that the user experience has a demonstrable impact on the UX and hence, performance against objectives.

        So, how do these corporations efficiently manage digital content for multiple channels? They rely on CMS systems that help them syndicate content that drives the use cases relevant to the user’s context. The big guys have powerful CMS engines that makes this process manageable. Fortunately, the same digital data syndication is increasingly accessible and affordable for non-profits. These modules allow for easy, efficient content management that’s relevant to the users content.

      • October 19, 2012 10:54 am

        So can you recommend a good, affordable, mobile-optimized CMS for the nonprofit sector that meets the criteria you suggest? That’s the question I get all the time. In my case, WordPress works just fine, but my content is simple and there is not an online payment requirement.

  12. Johan permalink
    October 16, 2012 5:26 am

    Muy interesante y lo voy a considerar para mis clientes de diseño de páginas web en Costa Rica. Gracias por el aporte

  13. Johan permalink
    October 17, 2012 11:49 am

    Very interesting! I will use it for my own clients about web design in Costa Rica. Thanks for the article.

  14. October 18, 2012 12:39 pm

    This is a great case study of responsive nonprofit websites. WIth use of mobile increasing at a rapid pace, it’s critical to plan your website for mobile devices, and to make sure you have a solid content strategy to maximize effectiveness of your site on various devices. Here’s some other examples of great responsive designs for nonprofits (for our clients).

  15. January 31, 2013 12:54 am

    I like World Wildlife Fund website. Responsive web is the great feature for modern web in 2013

  16. February 18, 2013 3:25 am

    Thank you for the detail explanation about the web design its really good keep sharing….best web design company in USA

  17. Alexander Witsch permalink
    March 13, 2013 1:15 am

    Just came along your page. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We think about RWD for our site (we’re a german npo). But did you realise, that the RWD-approach stops when it comes to the donation site (check at WWF and Bootcampaign). That’s quite bothering I guess.

    • March 18, 2013 10:46 am

      Thanks. Just tested them on my iPhone and iPad… donation process is responsively designed for the WWF… not for the Boot Campaign on a smartphone.


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