Diffusion of innovations is a theory that explains “how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures” (Wikipedia). The four main elements of diffusion of innovations are
- the innovation itself
- communication channels
- a social system
A good website can directly influence communication channels and social systems, both of which can increase the speed of diffusion. Heather Mansfield, author of Social Media for Social Good, states “the return on investment from using social media and mobile technology is directly connected to how well-designed your website is.” In other words, investing in a good website is well worth it.
So, what are critical features of a successful public health website?
Make it easy for users to connect to your social media from your website. Visitors will expect a more interactive experience on social media than on your website. Consider your time, personnel, and budget for social media before you join them all. Only join the site(s) you can keep up with. “People will expect you to react if they reach out” (Idler, 2013). Therefore, it is better to manage one site well than several poorly (Mansfield, 2011). Include social media icons on every page of your website. Also, include a link to your website on each social media site you join.
2. Simple layout
Simplicity is key. Once people land on your homepage, they want to know what your organization is all about quickly. Provide a direct, clear path to the information visitors want. The best way to do this is with images. Keep the text to image ratio to a minimum, especially on the home page. If you want to include more information but don’t want it too look too wordy, consider writing a phrase (or sentence) and then including a more link that people can click on if they are interested in reading more (Mansfield, 2011). You can monitor click through rates to see what topics or wording piqued enough interest to click the link.
A note on color scheme: Use black text on white background. It is ok to incorporate a few colors that tie into your branding, but limit them to two or three.
Example: The USAID home page includes large rotating photos accompanied by just enough words to provide context. Within a few seconds any visitor can get a snapshot of current foreign aid efforts. The design is sleek and simple. Also, the site is easy to navigate as menus and links are clearly labeled.
3. Use a tone that best addresses your target audience
The correct balance between a professional and casual tone depends on your nonprofit. Think about who your audience is, their reading level (even language), and how they would best respond to your calls to action.
Example: Stay Teen is intended for teens so the tone is more casual. Fun features such as games and quizzes are also included to increase engagement of the target audience.
4. Integrate statistics to drive home a point and pique interest.
Incorporating statistics are a great way to share information quickly. Viewers may see a statistic when visiting your site and become curious about what they can do to help your cause.
Example: The front page of ONE features scrolling statistics focused on current campaigns. An Act Now button (intentionally placed by designers, conveniently located for users) is located directly below for people who want to get involved.
Featured image courtesy of Michal Koralewski at freeimages.com
Young girl using her laptop image: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net