Digital experience agency Pixeled Eggs and the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) have published a first-of-its-kind in-depth audit of charity websites in England and Wales.
The audit is a valuable resource for the sector that also raises awareness of Pixeled Eggs and BIMA amongst charities. It has been an ambitious project to deliver. The idea came while working with Pixeled Eggs founder Sepas Seraj, as we realised how little data there is about how well charities use websites. We set out to change this, and nine months later, partnering with BIMA, we were delighted to launch this important new research.
The charity sector is so diverse we decided to focus the audit on a segment of charities that have an income of £100k-£10m in England and Wales. This segment includes 33,000 charities with a combined income of £28bn, about a third of all charity income. It avoids the many thousands of very small charities, and the relatively small group of 'super charities' that responsible for about two thirds of all charity income. Charitybase.uk provided the raw data on charities and their incomes. [iii]
We designed an accountable, transparent and repeatable method that would give a useful snapshot of the state of charity websites. The audit examined the Platform, Technical and Usability performance of the websites. It resulted in 20,000 data points on 411 charity websites that allowed us to create a 'scorecard' for each charity website using a grading system.
(Complete methodology and statistical approach is in the report you can download here)
While there are many insights in the audit two themes came out I am focussing on here.
Many charities fail to apply a user centric approach to their website
Many charity websites fail when it comes to mobile
These fails could be costing charities anything up to 20% (about £3bn for the segment) in lost income by putting off supporters and beneficiaries and damaging the charities reputation amongst website users.
The impact of failing to apply a user centric approach
UX advocates NN/g claim that “the first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother”[iv]. The results indicate many charities just don't understand this; with 39% of audited websites receiving a D or F for usability.
These poor and terrible user experiences will be costing these charities heavily in terms of engagement, loyalty and income. On the positive side, 39% received an A or B which means there is a sharp divide between charities who do and do not apply a user centric approach to their websites.
The audit also revealed that higher income charities (£2.7-10m income) struggle to deliver good or excellent user experiences compared to their lower income (£100-310k) counterparts. Lower income charities achieve 47% of As and Bs for Usability, while higher income charities received 48% of Ds and Fs.
It's difficult to understand why this may be. Perhaps smaller charities are better connected to their supporters and beneficiaries, are better able to apply a user centric approach, or perhaps they have simpler propositions that are easier to implement online.
While there is little data on the impact of poor usability in the charity sector, there is plenty in retail where it draws a direct line to sales. Business Insider estimate that US $4.6 trillion are left on the table by merchants due to abandoned shopping baskets in 2016, up from $4.2 trillion in 2013[v]. Of course not all of this is caused by poor usability, but it is not hard to see that retailers who offer the best user experience will attract and retain more customers.
Alongside this basic engagement and financial impact there is growing evidence that a website user experience is an integral part of the brand experience [iv], which means that a poor experience translates into poor perception of the brand.
Not only are these poor user experiences reducing engagement and donations for charities, they are damaging good will too.
Ignoring the mobile opportunity
Mobile was another bug bear for charity websites. 1 in 10 audited charities had no mobile website, while 75% of all F grades were handed to mobile versions of websites.
So why does this matter? Today, global mobile traffic is ahead of desktop by about 4% [vii] so it is difficult to ignore the obvious lost opportunity for engagement, fulfilment, donations and support from mobile users.
Again, there is little data on charities or the UK, but we can see how important mobile is in US retail behaviour: 6 out of 10 internet users start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one [viii], and 82% of smartphone users say they consult their phones on purchases they're about to make in a store. [ix] They get ideas, look up information, and make decisions, all from their smartphone anytime, anywhere.
It is not hard to see that supporters and beneficiaries would also run across different devices at different points in their relationship with a charity.
How do charities move forward?
So what can be done to tackle these significant shortcomings in Usability and Mobile?
The report includes case studies and recommendations, key ones include:
Don’t assess the value or relevance of digital to your charity on the performance of your C, D or F grade website. It is likely to be damaging your brand and putting supporters and beneficiaries off.
Think of your website as a journey of improvement, not a destination to get done
Look for a digital partner (not a supplier) to help you on that journey (a partner like us!).
Learn to recognise and apply a user-centric approach that will help you create a website for your supporters and beneficiaries, rather than your charity.
Keep it simple, if you have a limited budget focus on getting the most important things right.
Pixeled Eggs partnered with BIMA to produce this audit to encourage charities to take an informed look at their website performance. They hope it will encourage charities to re-consider and re-prioritise how digital fits within their overall strategy, and that it is a useful tool that helps charities get more from digital. If you are interested in comparing your charity's website to the report Pixeled Eggs can create a scorecard for you, to get going contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a powerful example of how businesses can raise awareness by adding value through their expertise to a sector.
Contact me if you'd like to discuss how raise awareness for your business.
You can download the full report from BIMA here.
I hosted a fascinating panel discussion (including Cancer Research UK, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and Reach Volunteering) at the launch of the report, which had a focus on how charities can get better at putting their users needs first, you can view this on YouTube here (about thirty minutes in). You can view the launch and panel discussion on YouTube here.
[ii] Charity websites audited were randomly selected, with an income of between £100k-£10m and registered in England or Wales. Education, Religious and Investment Trusts where excluded.
[viii] Google/Ipsos Connect, GPS omnibus, U.S. online respondents 18+, n=2,013, Mar. 2016.
[ix] Google/Ipsos, Consumers in the Micro-Moment, U.S., n=5,398 based on internet users, Mar. 2015.