Recently, there’s been a notable uptick in the number of campaign websites being built and shared (likely due to something that happened last year). But we’ve noticed that many of these campaign websites are modeled after more typical websites, which doesn’t help them to drive interest in their cause or effectively get their message across to their target audiences. That’s why we’ve assembled our list of best practices for creating a website that gets the traffic your campaign needs.
1. Keep it Simple!
Sometimes, organizations try their best to dazzle their website’s visitors by including a ton of fancy design elements on the homepage. Unfortunately, doing so will usually backfire as these elements just distract users from the campaign’s message. Instead, the design should be simple and straight to the point, especially on the homepage.
We really like campaign websites that have easy-to-grasp UI elements, as users don’t have to spend time figuring out how they’re supposed to navigate the site. We recommend that campaign websites keep all the important information above the fold. This keeps users from having to scroll or click around to find what key info, and will helps to focus their attention on taking action. Also, you should minimize the number of navigation choices at the top; after all, if you give users too many options to choose from they might ignore the Donate or Sign Up buttons altogether.
Just like how your campaign site’s design should be simple, the messaging and content of the site shouldn't prevaricate. There is no hard and fast rule for how much is too much, but every sentence you add increases the likelihood that visitors will become distracted from doing the things you want them to do (like donate, sign up for a newsletter, or volunteer).
Thus, the language you use should cut straight to the point in defining your mission and be easy to read (meaning it only features short, common words). A super catchy slogan, an open-ended question, or just a sentence or two that encompass your campaign’s goals and priorities would be plenty of language for a campaign website’s homepage. Whatever you decide to add, though, it should only serve to drive interest in your campaign and help draw attention to your calls to action.
The best part of having simple language and content on your site? It makes it easier to keep the site’s design clear and simple too!
2. High Traffic Hosting
The goal of any campaign website should be to maximize the number of individual visitors to the site. However, many campaigns are organized under an extremely tight timeline and it’s difficult to know ahead of time exactly how big of a splash one will make online, and it only takes one post on Reddit or one retweet from George Takei for a website to experience the Slashdot effect.
If you don’t have the capacity or the know-how to manage your own server rack, we recommend that you use a reputable Virtual Private Server or a Cloud-based hosting service to house the campaign site. These services are well-equipped to handle large spikes in web-traffic, and will help to ensure that your site stays up as your reach grows.
3. Optimized Load Time
Remember when you were a kid and your parents promised to get you ice cream? But first they have to stop at the store. Then they need to go to the bank. Then they run into their friend and they have to stop and talk to them FOREVER. Wasn’t that just the worst? Well, just like kids waiting for ice cream, citizens of the web hate having to wait for websites to load.
There are a number of tricks you can try to optimize your campaign site’s load time. You could build it as a static site and optimize images to minimize their file size. This will help to make sure the site loads quickly for everyone, but has the downside of making it un-updatable. Also, you may want to use a content distribution network (CDN) to load the site’s assets. Instead of just one individual server processing every single request for your website, CDNs use a network of separate servers to deliver content to end-users based on their geographic location. This means that if your server is located in Toronto, someone trying to access the site in Johannesburg won’t experience slowdowns.
4. Share Features
In this day and age, social media can make or break a campaign. This is especially true for ones that are formed quickly in reaction to pressing issues. Unless you go the extra mile and make your site and its content easy to share, people aren’t going to go out of their way and share it on their own.
At the very least, your campaign’s site should have sharing buttons for whatever social media channels your organization is active on. These don’t have to just be links to your accounts. Instead, they could have a ready-made tweet or Facebook post, with a link to the site plus a catchy hashtag. This lets users just click ‘Post’ and be done with the sharing process. In addition, a short, easy to remember URL will encourage visitors to share the link and help to get new visitors to check out the campaign and take action.
5. Connect Your Signup Forms Directly to a CRM
We still come across organizations that manage newsletter signups or event registrations over fax machines, and just the thought of it gives us the heebie jeebies. There are tons of tools you can utilize to streamline these processes, and can help you keep your visitors up to date on the campaign’s progress. We’re talking, of course, about customer relationship management programs (a.k.a. CRMs).
You can connect your website’s signup forms directly to the CRM of your choice, where the information your users submit will be saved and made easily retrievable by your team. Salesforce and EveryAction are two that are particularly popular with nonprofit organizations. If it seems like too much trouble to log into a separate service, though, NationBuilder is a CMS with built-in CRM features, making it even simpler to keep an eye on who your campaign is reaching.
6. Boost Your SEO
No website can afford to be past the first page of Google’s Search Results, and especially not campaign websites. In the modern 24 hour news cycle stories come and go fast, so if your campaign site isn’t at the top of the search results from the start you won’t be able to capitalize on the trend.
Luckily, there are tons of tools available online that will help even rookie website builders. We recommend using a nifty SEO checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you can to get your site to the top spot. There are also a number of paid services, such as SEO SiteCheckup, which analyze your site content and highlight where it falls short, SEO-wise.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the main characteristic of any campaign website should be simplicity. The fewer bells and whistles you put in front of your visitors, the less likely they are to get distracted and the more likely they are to follow through on your calls to action. Also, it’s important to make your campaign website as light and fast as possible, so your users can take the action quickly and without anything getting in their way.