Lessons from a Webby-Winning Web Site

Note: I originally published on my blog but I thought this had a lot of relevance for government web sites. My point is that effective web design does not have to be complicated. In fact, by choosing simplicity you’re making it easier for readers to get the information they need.

I was excited to learn that The Nature Conservancy won a Webby for their web site, nature.org. They beat out the competition (which included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!) in the category of Charitable Organizations Nonprofit.

I worked on nature.org from 2003-2005 as a Web Producer. I think it’s a great site though, of course, I’m hopelessly biased 😉

Nature.org was recently redesigned but it follows a core set of design principles that I think helped it win the Webby. If you look at past screenshots of the site, these principles have been pretty consistent over the years. They include:

Excellent use of white space. Text on the home page is given room to breathe, making it easier for people to scan down the page and absorb what’s on it.

Strong photography. What sells nature? Great photos of nature. The photos selected for the site are more than just pretty pictures, they tell a story.

A consistent color palette. Using the same set of well-matched colors across the site provides a consistent experience, one that underscores that this is a professional, well-designed site.

Third-party validation. The home page features endorsements from the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.

Concise copywriting. Many nonprofit web site are either hopelessly wordy or incredibly vague. In a limited amount of space, nature.org manages to communicate what the organization is about and how you can get involved.

Notice how simple this is. Readers aren’t overwhelmed by flash animations or crowded blocks of content. This simplicity is a design choice that has paid dividends for The Nature Conservancy.

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Zachariah Miller

Thanks for this post. It’s an excellent reminder that keeping things simple is at the core of delivering a clear message.