We hope that many of you have already tried out GrantSpace Mobile, which we're happy to have launched this year. (If you haven't seen it yet, take a quick, 50-second tour here!) To commemorate the site's launch, on March 23 we held an event, Good Gone Mobile: A GrantSpace Mobile Launch Celebration & Networking Event.
In addition to a tour of our site, the morning also included a presentation from nonprofit technology expert and Nonprofit Bridge blogger Norman Reiss, who shared advice on how you can develop a mobile web site of your own. Has your nonprofit been considering a foray into the creation of mobile-friendly sites? Based on Norman's presentation, here are some of the key issues to consider:
Check your online traffic stats! How many of your web visitors are accessing your site from a mobile device versus a computer? Before you begin seriously thinking about a mobile-friendly site, you need to have a handle on the potential demand for such a site.
Do take note that web browsing via mobile operating systems is increasing at a rapid rate, and Norman Reiss cited some surprising statistics on the subject from Blue State Digital: currently 13% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, and a quarter of all mobile users use only their phone to access the Internet. These numbers are already fairly high, and are only going to continue rising in the coming years.
As for the right moment for your nonprofit to get started on its own mobile ambitions, Convio's 2011 report, "A Guide to the Mobile Web: Best Practices for Nonprofits", suggests that when your percentage of total visits from mobile devices reaches at least 5% of your total web traffic, you should begin developing your mobile strategy.
Assess the costs and platform options. Many nonprofits operate on a very limited technology budget, while larger organizations may have more flexibility in their spending for a more content-rich site. Depending on your needs and your budget, there exists a broad variety of platforms for your mobile site, with an equally broad range of pricing.
Some companies can actually offer you free platforms for a basic, simple design (sometimes based off of a template, or featuring a link back to the platform provider at the bottom of your page), while others can help you create a basic mobile site for less than $100 per month. Many companies can offer you a more comprehensive site for a few hundred dollars or so per month.
To review what your options may be, some places that offer mobile sites include:
A web site is preferable to an app. When developing your mobile site, you have the option of creating a mobile-friendly version of your existing site, which can be accessed simply through the web, or you can create an "app" that your users can download in order to access your content. While apps can be fun and interactive, they require your users to do a lot of extra work by downloading an application that is separate from their typical web browsing activities.
Norman noted that a regular web site, in a mobile-friendly format, tends to be ideal, because your users can simply enter your web address and access your resources without having to take any extra steps. A web site is also easier to update, more compatible across a variety of mobile devices, and often less costly to create. A handy comparison of web sites versus apps can be found here.
Streamline your content. Generally, less is more when designing a mobile site. A lot of organizations put together a mini-version of their regular web site, featuring the most fundamental information, and organized in a simple, easy-to-browse format. Because smartphone users tend to do a lot of scrolling, your content should be formatted vertically, as opposed to the design of non-mobile sites, which often feature the most important information "above the fold" so that readers do not need to scroll up and down.
In addition, because mobile users tend to browse sites quickly, you need to be able to capture their attention quickly, and get your information across in a straightforward way, with only the most key information included, and new content displayed clearly, near the top of the page.
For a nonprofit, often the most important content is likely to include a mobile-optimized donation option, and key details on campaigns or upcoming events – largely engagement-focused content. Finally, keep in mind that too many graphics can slow down the loading of the page. In order for your mobile site to load quickly before users get frustrated, keep the images to a minimum.
We hope this information helps you get started in understanding the planning of a mobile-friendly site for your nonprofit. For more details, you can access the slides from Norman Reiss's presentation, as well as a relevant post from Norman's blog. As mentioned above, Convio also published a useful report last year called "A Guide to the Mobile Web: Best Practices for Nonprofits," which you can read here.
Finally, we've been acquiring a growing number of books in the Foundation Center library that can help advise you on all issues related to technology and media for nonprofits. Some great new titles to browse include (see 676 and 680 call numbers in our stacks):
- Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits
- Shift and Reset: Strategies for Addressing Serious Issues in a Connected Society
- Connected Causes: Online Marketing Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations
- Welcome to the Fifth Estate: How to Create and Sustain a Winning Social Media Strategy
- 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits: A Field Guide
-- Tracy Kaufman