A new report into the state of not-for-profit websites - released by Sigma - has revealed that the sector is lagging behind when it comes to user experience (UX).

The report  tested 10 not-for-profit websites, selected at random. Out of a possible score of 25, the research found that the UX of the websites on average came in at just 13.55.

The report delved into the usability, accessibility, and self help functions of each website, and also looked at how well the sites functioned on mobile, to accumulate an overall score.

The 10 websites and their scores were: Citizens Advice (19), The Prince’s Trust (17), Victim Support (16.5), British Medical Association (16.5), Age UK (15.5), Step Change (13) War Child (11), Trafford Housing Trust (11), Business in the Community (BITC) (10), and SportsAid (9).

A recurring theme throughout the research was the issue of mobile. Four in 10 of the websites tested were found not to be responsive or adaptive, making them difficult to navigate on mobile devices. And just two of the organisations had their own mobile app - as mobile app usage grew by76% in 2014, this is something that needs addressing.

Accessibility was another area that, although steps are being taken by the majority to incorporate into their website, isn’t up to scratch. Seven of the 10 websites tested didn’t have captions where they showed video content, and half of the websites didn’t have good colour contrast.

Hilary Stephenson, managing director of Sigma, said:

“Through our research evaluating and testing these websites, what has stood out is that some in the third sector don't appreciate usability and accessibility, or see the true value of digital, so are therefore reluctant to invest resource into it. What we are trying to achieve with this report is to highlight some considerations that the sector simply can’t afford to avoid anymore. We understand the limitations, especially for smaller organisations, but any investment into digital can offer great returns for charities small and large.

“The main concern in the report is the issue of mobile. Embracing trends understandably isn’t a top priority for the third sector, and we aren’t suggesting that every not-for-profit needs its own mobile app - but if they don’t soon adopt an adaptive or responsive website at least, this is likely to become a big issue.

“Another concern uncovered was that although many of the websites are taking steps to becoming accessible, it’s still not quite hitting the mark. Half of the websites had a bad colour contrast, and only two had captions on their online videos. As many of the websites we tested are targeting the general public and a number of these users may have a disability or impairment that affects how they navigate a website, it’s crucial that websites are accessible.”

“Overall, the report uncovered many interesting findings that we hope will help those operating in the not-for-profit space. Now we have identified the specific areas for improvement, charities now need to work hard to bring their websites and digital platforms up to the standard they should be.”

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