Google is constantly optimizing its ranking algorithms. External analysts obsessively try to figure out what factors such as engagement, load time, connections to other sites and many other factors drive top rankings. On two factors, user experience and page load speed, websites hosted by non-profit organizations lag behind those of commercial companies.
The deficit is not inconsiderable: 80% of nonprofit websites were rated as “poor” in terms of their mobile performance, and 86% of nonprofit websites were rated as “improving” according to the site’s data Nonprofit Websites Performance Report 2023 by fundraising firm RKD Group in Plano, Texas.
The report evaluates nonprofit websites based on five user experience and website performance metrics:
- Cumulative Layout Shift – the rate at which website content shifts or appears to jump unexpectedly;
- First Contentful Paint – This is the first time a user can see anything on a newly loaded screen;
- Largest Contentful Paint – the point at which the largest content of a page has loaded;
- Speed index – showing how fast the content of a page is visibly filled; And,
- Total blocking time – the amount of time before a website is ready to respond to user input. The report also considers other metrics, such as accessibility for people with disabilities.
Mobile sites hosted by nonprofits received an overall “poor” rating of 79.8%. Among individual nonprofit sectors, mobile sites hosted by aid and development organizations performed the worst, with 90.9% rated as “poor”. Other nonprofits that performed poorly were social services (87.8% poor rating), environmental nonprofits (85.5%), food banks (81.9%), and veterans’ organizations (80%).
Reviews of desktop websites tended to fall in the middle category, “needs improvement,” by a wide margin. Overall, 71.4% of desktop-hosted websites were found to need improvement, with 14.3% rated poor and an equal proportion rated good. Across each silo, 92.9% of service animal related sites were either poor or could be improved, followed by 90% of veterans organization sites, 89.9% of social service sites, 87.6% of food banks and 86% of hospital sites.
While the report doesn’t go into detail about each performance metric, it does provide insights into how nonprofit websites are performing, whether they’re accessed via mobile or desktop. Overall, the results are not pretty.
The first Contentful Paint factor is key to a good user experience. If the initial content takes a long time to load, users are more likely to abandon the page. In this case, the “long loading time” can be two or three seconds. Only 7.6% of nonprofits scored well on their Desktop First Contentful Paint score, but even that was double the 3.2% who scored well for their mobile sites.
Visitors are redirected to a website when they have to wait for large images to load. The speed at which a large image loads is called the largest Contentful Paint score. Since websites often have a “hero image” – a large, prominent image at the top of the home page – fast loading times are crucial. Unfortunately, only 26.7% of nonprofits in this category have a good rating for their desktop versions of their sites, while their mobile sites scored significantly lower at just 4.2%.
The cutoff time for websites to get a good score in terms of the Speed Index – the loading time for the entire page – is 3.4 seconds. In the online timeframe, this is a reasonable and achievable wait time, yet only 15.5% of websites accessed via desktop managed to achieve this, as did 16.7% of websites accessed via mobile devices was accessed.
There are a few areas where nonprofit websites do reasonably well. Website designers at non-profit organizations understand the importance of search engine optimization, judging by their performance metrics. More than a third (35.5%) received good ratings for SEO rankings for their desktop websites, as did 31.7% for their mobile devices. While these percentages are better than their rankings in other respects, they show room for significant improvement within the industry.
Nonprofit websites are also showing promising results in terms of their accessibility ratings – how a website accounts for visits from users with disabilities or impairments. Non-profit websites accessed via desktop computers scored well, at 36.3%, as did 33.9% of websites accessed via mobile devices.
A full copy of the report can be found here.