How to Make an Engaging Website

scrabble website 5

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
  • time
  • 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?

social media icon1. Direct connection to social media

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

content design buttonsSimplicity 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.

Young Girl Using Her Laptop3. 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

Young girl using her laptop image: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


5 thoughts on “How to Make an Engaging Website

  1. Hi Jillian, I really liked the way you used images in your post. I found it unique that you posted the images adjacent to the words as opposed to breaking up the text to insert the picture. I actually like it a lot better as it makes it fun to read, but doesn’t distract the reader. I will definitely try out this technique in my next post. I also loved your use of examples. I don’t have much criticism on this post, you really did an outstanding job! It looks professional.

  2. Hi Jillian, Thanks for this summary of the week’s readings and the pared down tips for making an engaging website for a non-profit. I liked your use of images within the post, and I especially liked your featured image – it really told the story of the importance of simplicity and creativity. I especially appreciated the tip about integrating statistics to drive home your message. I really appreciate it when websites have a few key stats, and it reminds me that I need to do that in my organization’s website. From a constructive standpoint, if we had a lot more time for these assignments, it might have been neat to see examples of websites that do the “tip” well (or not well). Overall, helpful and interesting. Nice work!

  3. Hi Jillian, great post. This post is a great example of professional look, simplicity, and a nice balance of text to graphics. Perhaps the only thing to satisfy the last requirement is to consider renaming the title to “Four ways to Gurantee an Engaging Website” 🙂 Well done!

  4. All of the above and a really great synthesis of the week’s reference materials, plus you’ve brought in some new insights, such as ensuring you have capacity to respond to people who reach out to you via your website. I’m really pleased that you brought in the issue of readability (or reading level), as this is something we need to consider with all our mass, written communications. As professionals, who are highly education, we sometime forget that not everyone has the same reading level or facility with language that we have. When I’m writing something for the public I usually do a quick SMOG ( or FOG ( test to make sure I haven’t made it too difficult to communicate effectively.

    It might be a good idea to write the text for your website in a word processor or text editing package, so you can check the spelling and grammar. Then check readability before uploading it to your website. Reading some websites, they don’t even appear to have been proofread.

  5. I’m glad you mention the tone of a website. It’s actually something we should think about in all our methods of public health communication. I think the choice of tone depends on the message as well as the audience. For example, the CDC’s Zombie guide is funny (because it is obviously a joke), but the Ebola information is formal, calm and authoritative.

    If you are working to counter mis-information I think that the issue of tone becomes even more important. It’s a fine line between being firm on the facts and dismissive, or open and listening but not wishy-washy. That is probably a whole ‘nother class.

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