Your forms deserve better than “submit”


When your audience is ready to take action, give them a gentle reminder of what’s at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t you hate it when you’re looking for something in your house and the moment you walk into another room, you forget what you were looking for?

This can happen when you’re signing up for something online as well. Filling out forms can feel a little invasive, and by the end you may be thinking, “Why am I giving away my email address, zip code, and place of employment again?”

Of course, you don’t want this to happen when someone is signing up for one of your events or filling out a donation form. One way to get people to finish filling out your forms is to have a strong call to action, even in this final step.


To do:

Of course, you need good website copy and a visible privacy policy. But what’s often overlooked is the “submit” button. Instead of saying “sign up,” “submit,” or “download,” tell them what they’re downloading or signing up for. Try something like “send me resources,” “download the report,” “be a mentor,” “join the community,” or “donate supplies.”

These buttons naturally stand out from the rest of the text, so don’t waste this opportunity to tell your visitors why they should give you their information.

Making it easy for your audience to take action


Without the gate, my bunnies would be running around the house. What barriers are keeping your audience from taking action?

I have two bunnies that roam around the house all day while I’m working. I don’t want them to go into my bedroom because they have chewed through more cell phone chargers than I care to count. So I put up a doggy gate to keep them in the living room area. They could jump the gate if they wanted to, and once in a while they do. But for the most part, it’s too much effort and they’re content enough in the living room. However, if I removed the gate, the bunnies would be running around all over the house in no time!

I think a lot of us are like that – we’re generally content where we are, but if a few barriers were removed we’d gladly take the opportunity to do something else.

On your website, there are a lot of potential barriers preventing people from completing various tasks. Small changes can have a big impact on retention and form completion rates.


To do:

Take a look at your website and imagine that you are visiting it for the first time. If you have a hard time pretending you aren’t familiar with the site, have someone else help you out with this task. As you explore the site, think about potential barriers visitors may encounter to:

  • Find out information about your programs
  • Share pages via social media, email, and print
  • Register for events
  • Donate
  • Sign up for the e-mail list
  • Contact your staff with specific questions
  • Access important documents and information
  • Search for something they need

In your analytics, look at your top exit pages. If your donation and/or registration pages are on the top of the list, you definitely need to make some changes now.

Write down the potential barriers people might encounter such as long sign-up forms, lack of detailed information, or buried content.

Choose two or three barriers to address now and make a plan for tackling the rest.

Here are some ideas:

  • Be clear about how much time it will take to complete a task. Be honest, because if you say something will take 5 minutes and it actually takes 10, people will not be happy that it took more time than they had planned for.
  • Reduce the number of fields you use in your forms. Even if most of the information isn’t required, a long form will turn people away.
  • Make information in PDF documents easily accessible.
  • Include a short introductory video to explain what your organization does and how to use tools on your website.
  • Have multiple ways for people to contact you, and make contact information easy to find.
  • Make sure your layout is printer-friendly (you may need to work with your web designer to make adjustments).
  • Add “share” buttons (try tools like AddThis or Sumome).

8 free tools to test if your site is ready for mobile

Mobile is here to stay. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile you’re not only losing out on visitors, but also potential subscribers, volunteers, and donors.

There are many mobile-testing sites out there and these are my favorites. These free tools can help you identify and prioritize ways to optimize your site for mobile.

While these tools can give you an idea of how your website might look on different devices, there’s no substitute for actually trying out your site on real phones and tablets. I’ve found that some elements look the same on these test sites as they do on my phone, and some are quite different. Use these tools as a resource while you’re building a site, but be sure to test the final product on a few mobile devices.

Three of these eight tools are by Google. If you’re trying to improve your SEO, you care the most about how your site ranks in Google so it makes sense to use their tools.

1. Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test

This is a quick and easy test to verify if your website is mobile-friendly. Just plug in your web address and wait a few seconds for the results!

Google Developers mobile test

Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test


2. Google Chrome

You don’t need to go to a separate website to check how your website will look on mobile devices. When you’re using the Google Chrome browser, press Ctrl + Shift + C (or Cmd + Shift + C on a Mac). Click on the mobile device icon and select the device you want to test from the drop-down list.

This is a quick and easy test that’s useful when you’re building a site or when you want to show someone how your mobile site looks on a moment’s notice. The only downside is that you can’t see how the site looks when you rotate a mobile device.

Google Chrome mobile test

Google Chrome mobile test



This is a simple, user-friendly tool to see how your site looks on various devices. Use the “My favourites” feature to bookmark the top mobile devices people use to access your site. site for testing mobile websites mobile test options


4. Screenfly

Test how your site looks on desktop, tablet, mobile, and TV. You can generate a link to easily share the results. They also have tools to help you build sitemaps and wireframes.

Screenfly mobile test

Screenfly mobile test


5. mobiReady

Use mobiReady to test multiple sizes of mobile devices at once. Compare your site to the top 1000 Alexa sites to see how “mobile ready” it is. MobiReady also gives very specific recommendations so you can see what needs improvement.

mobiReady mobile test

mobiReady’s recommendations for improvement


6. Dyanatrace

Use this tool to compare your response time to other countries and industries. See what percentage images, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and text take up on your mobile and desktop sites. Also see the breakdown of the response time for how your page loads so you know exactly what is slowing your site down.  You do have to exchange your contact information to get their report and they offer a free consultation to help you identify ways to improve.

Dynatrace mobile test

Dynatrace moblie test


7. W3C mobileOK Checker

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that works with organizations and the public to develop web standards. They have a handy mobile checker that will give you specific recommendations on how to make your site more mobile-friendly and let you know which changes are a top priority.

W3C mobileOK Checker

W3C mobileOK Checker


8. Google Developers PageSpeed Insights

Use Google’s tools to test the speed of your website for both mobile and desktop. Also get specific recommendations to help you increase your speed.

Google Developers PageSpeed Insights

Google Developers PageSpeed Insights

Your homepage is old news. Here’s what you can do about it.

Entering through the front door of a house is similar to entering through the homepage on a website. Nowadays, more visitors likely come to your site through other pages so you need to plan for it.

Entering through the front door of a house is similar to entering through the homepage on a website. Nowadays, more visitors likely come to your site through other pages so you need to plan for it.

Imagine if you threw a party at your house and your guests came in through windows, the basement, the porch door, and the garage door as well as through the front door. It would probably catch you off-guard, but the guests may also be a little disoriented and not know where to go.

This may be what’s happening with your website visitors. Nowadays, a lot of people may be following links on social media or other websites to get to your site. Many of those links point to a specific article or resource instead of your homepage. It’s more important than ever that your visitors know how to find information on your site, no matter which page they visit first.


To do:

Review your analytics and see which pages are your top “landing pages.” These are the pages on your website that your visitors see first. Your homepage will likely be at the top of the list, but you may also have a few others that are popular landing pages as well. Take a look at the top five, not including the homepage. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will visitors understand the context of the content? For example, if it’s a “step 8” in a series of 10 steps, will they know that they should also check out previous steps before working on number 8?
  • Will visitors be able to easily find information about your organization from that page?
  • Is there a clear call to action?


Here are some suggestions to improve your landing pages:

  • Add an introduction to the page that gives context.
  • Use breadcrumbs to help visitors understand where they are on the website.
  • Link to related content. For example, if there are 10 steps, have clear links to the previous and next steps. Or, point them to more resources or articles in that category.
  • Use the “related content” feature in AddThis to automatically suggest another article.
  • Add information about your organization in the footer so visitors can understand what your organization is about no matter which page they are on.
  • Make sure the call to action is clear and not tucked away in a sidebar or on another page.

Too much of a good thing: How to prevent content overload

People are busy. Highlight your best content so you don't overwhelm website visitors.

People are busy. Highlight your best content so you don’t overwhelm website visitors.

Which seems less daunting:

“See our 10 most popular blog posts”

–or –

“See all of our 1,698 blog posts”


Let me guess. You chose the first one, right?

People are busy and they want information that’s helpful. Reading through a list of 10 blog posts is going to take much less time than sifting through 1,698 of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to archive most of your posts or reduce the frequency of your posts. If you highlight your best work, you can still keep your library of content without overwhelming your visitors.

Hopefully by now you’ve identified what kind of content is “evergreen” and “time-sensitive” and a plan for archiving the time-sensitive pieces (if not, you have a little work to do to catch up, but that’s ok – you’ll get there!).

You may have some categories of evergreen content that has a lot of resources or articles in it. In this case, it’s important to highlight the most recent and/or most popular pieces of content so visitors don’t have to sort through a long list.

For example, let’s say you offer classroom activities to improve early childhood development and every year you add 20 new activities. At this rate, the list will get long very quickly. Arranging them by date or in alphabetical order will help keep the activities organized, but it can still be overwhelming to sort through so many activities. To help out your visitors, at the top of the page showcase your five most popular activities, or highlight the two most recent ones.


To do:

You have several options to make it easier for your website visitors to navigate long lists of content:

  • Highlight the most recently added resources or articles at the top of the list
  • Highlight the most popular resources or articles at the top of the list (look in your analytics to find out which content is most popular)
  • Create a hybrid of “featured” resources or articles that includes a few of your most popular pieces of content, as well as some that were recently added.
  • Write a blog post of your top 5 or 10 most popular resources in a particular category
  • Create multiple ways to sort your content

Note: Besides writing a blog post to highlight your top articles, you will likely have to work with your web designer to implement the rest of the suggestions. These will be relatively small changes that will make a big improvement in your site, and are worth the investment! Plus, if you have your web designer help you with the changes, it will help save a lot of time in the future because the feature will be built in to your content management system.

Warning: You may be turning people away before you talk to them

If your contact information includes an “info” email address, a contact form, and/or a phone number that takes people through multiple prompts before reaching a real person, you’re likely turning people away.

If your contact information includes an “info” email address, a contact form, and/or a phone number with multiple prompts, you’re likely turning people away.

“Hello. You’ve reached the Wildlife Conservatory. Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed. For hours, press 1. For directions, press 2. For volunteer opportunities, press 3. For information on photography permits, press 4. For special events, press 5. For all other inquiries, treat yourself to an ice cream cone because you’ll be much happier than being on hold for 40 minutes listening to a 30-second clip of elevator music on repeat.”

I hate those menu options too. They drive me nuts.

If your contact information includes an “info” email address, a contact form, and/or a phone number that takes people through multiple prompts before reaching a real person, you’re likely turning people away.

People don’t trust “info” email addresses and contact forms because they don’t think they’re sending an email to a real person. Often, they’d rather leave the site than spend their time writing a message that they think will never be read or responded to.

Similarly with a phone number that leads people through multiple prompts, I can’t think of anyone who’d rather listen to those prompts than talk to a real person. Even if they stick it out through the prompts, they may be annoyed by the time they talk to someone at your organization. This is not the first impression you want them to have.


To do:

For your email address, you have several options:

  1. If there is one person who answers the emails that go to your “info” email address, put their email on your “Contact us” page instead. People are more likely to trust an email that’s going to “” than “”
  2. If you have multiple people checking the “info” email address or contact form submissions, it may not make sense to change it to one person’s email. On your contact page, reassure them that someone will reply to their email and let them know how quickly they can expect a reply.
  3. Include contact information for specific requests such as media inquiries, information about your services, and volunteer opportunities. Your audience will be happy to send an email directly to the appropriate person. This also reduces the amount of emails to the “info” address that need to be sorted through. Make the “info” email address available as a last resort if their request doesn’t fall neatly into the main categories.

For your phone prompts, take a look at your call volume and types of inquiries you receive. Review these questions:

How many calls do you receive on a daily basis? If you receive a significant number of calls, it’s likely worth it to have prerecorded messages for your frequently asked questions and/or prompts to send callers directly to the staff person who can answer certain questions. If you only receive a few calls per day, you might consider eliminating the prompts and assign one person to answer calls.

For prerecorded messages, do you update them on a regular basis? If not, you may be confusing your callers. Either make sure someone is assigned to update the recordings frequently, or eliminate the recordings altogether.

Can you consolidate any of your prompts? For example, the hours, location, and parking information could likely be one message.

Are there any prompts you should eliminate? For example, if you have a prerecorded message for volunteer opportunities, you’re missing the chance to connect with potential volunteers one-on-one and find a project that meets their skills and interests. Or let’s say you have a prerecorded message with information about photography permits, but you still get a lot of people who want to speak to a live person about that topic. Perhaps your message doesn’t have enough information, or it might be a topic that people need to ask specific questions which requires talking to an actual person.

Do you need to include the sentence, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed”? Do the same people call so frequently that they actually have your menu options memorized? If not, this explanation may not be necessary.