Attracting young supporters to your site

Inclusive websites


Today’s philanthropic kids are tomorrow’s donors, so charity websites should stimulate interest in your cause and a generosity which will pay dividends in the future.

Raising funds will be any charity’s priority, so websites tend to be built with the target donor audience in mind, where naturally, adults are high on the agenda. But jumping to the conclusion that charitable giving is an adult-only domain could be limiting your marketing potential.

The web is an excellent resource for fundraising and raising awareness which can often go untapped through poorly designed or non existent websites. According to a recent USA study, 83% of teens are regularly online, so neglecting a younger demographic by not exploiting your website’s potential is clearly a missed opportunity.

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Few websites have a design which will appeal equally well to the younger generation as well as adults, but a few basic changes to your website can make all the difference.

Youth and adult design – the differences

Young people and adults have different things in mind when they go online. Children often use the internet for entertainment and community, as opposed to adults who use the web for work or more generally for finding information. This means that younger users are used to more stimulating, visually attractive material in websites, and they will expect this from their online experience.

Primarily, the site layout has to be clear and simple for young users. Contrary to popular belief, a bright, busy site is not ideal. Children do not have the patience or often the ability to work out how to navigate through a page packed with links, text and graphics.

However, it is important to bear in mind that teenagers pay more attention to the visuals of a site than adults, so they also expect cool-looking graphics.

It is important to bear in mind that text should be punchy and written in a register which all ages can understand, avoiding complex terminology and long sentences. Writing carefully targeted copy with catchy headings will break information up into manageable chunks. Also, use headings and sub-headings that contain keywords that will help boost your site’s ranking in search engines.

Limiting the overall length of each page may be beneficial, as children will rarely scroll down the page, whereas adults have learnt that doing this may reveal more information.

Misconceptions about websites for young people and children

Although kids and teens are attracted to slick design, too much glitz and overcrowding will confuse them and make your site unusable – only add colour and graphics where they will catch users’ attention and therefore engage the user more.

Sticking a ‘kids’ zone’ page onto your existing site is not necessarily the best option. Children don’t want a childish website written especially for them, complete with primary colours and nursery style pictures. According to a research by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, children often prefer simple sites which have been designed for adults, such as Amazon and Yahoo.

Websites designed for teenagers can also be based on misconception. Teens are often classed as techno-experts, who spend their lives online via social networking sites, messaging and more. Nielsen’s study found that only 55% of teenagers were able to successfully access some selected websites. This compares to a 66% rate for adults. So, it’s important not to over estimate teens’ techno-expertise, and ensure that your site’s navigation is intuitive, and that any applications and add-ons are easy to use.

Setting a good example

Many examples of websites which appeal to all age groups are visible across the web. It is worth browsing other charity sites to find examples of good practice. The Prince’s Trust site, for instance, couples a clean, simple colour block design with basic but eye catching graphics, to make it useable and attractive to all.

The site’s other strengths include:

It is worth noting that making your website accessible to disabled users should ensure that it will be usable by all ages. Basic accessibility features such as clear navigation, text (not graphic) menus and simple, classic fonts should do the trick and allow anyone to visit your website.

Get them to interact

Once you have attracted younger users to your website, interactive features could be what make them stay. Features such as online quizzes, comment boxes, feedback forms and voting buttons are a good way to pull in kids and teenagers and to help them feel that they are making a mark on the charity. Many websites and social networking sites have message boards, so adding this facility to your site should be popular with younger users, and allow them to discover more about your cause.

According to a recent Ofcom report, up to 49% of 8-17 year olds use social networking sites, so getting your cause onto Facebook, Bebo, or Myspace has never been easier or more effective.

Facebook leads the way in charitable web applications. Charities can set up publicity profiles and their own applications to engage with a younger audience. Recent successes include the Church of England’s festive campaign which allowed Facebook users to ‘send’ animated Christmas cards and publicise the Church. Individual charities such as NSPCC and Childline already host their own Facebook pages. These provide a space for members to chat, a message board to promote news and events, and a logo button which members can add to their own pages and spread your charity’s brand.

Fundraising

Once you’ve managed to boost interest amongst younger web users, it’s worth considering fundraising opportunities. Challenges like Cancer Research’s Race for Life, skydives, sponsored school events and other charitable activities are already popular amongst kids and teens, meaning that they could become some of your most enthusiastic fundraising supporters.

Justgiving.com enables people to donate cash and sponsor friends to complete challenges all in the name of charity. The site is an excellent resource for all charities, from small start ups to international organisations like Oxfam. It is well worth inserting a widget onto your charity’s homepage which will take visitors straight to your Justgiving page. A Justgiving application is also available on Facebook, if your charity has supporters here, or you run a group there.

Making the most of interactive tools, as well as following these other guidelines should open your website to all and maximise traffic, increase public awareness and drive revenues.