Your Website is Not Cohesive – FLAW #1 in our series

FLAW #1: Your website is not cohesive.

This is the first in a series of posts detailing The Ten Fatal Flaws of Your Nonprofit Website. Subscribe using the link above to make sure you are alerted to each flaw as they are revealed.

How your website looks and works together is as important as what it says and does. According to a Nielsen Norman Group article about why a design looks good, “Visual details like fonts, colors, and alignment create a usable experience and express brand traits (such as friendliness or reliability)”.

A professional and polished website reflects your organization’s capacity and capabilities,  instills confidence and creates pride and engagement among your community.  In this blog post, we will discuss the term “Cohesion” as it relates to your website. We will also provide you with simple tips to use in refining your website. By following these simple tips, you can improve the credibility of your website and attract an audience who wants to engage with your organization!

When it comes to web design, cohesion refers to the overall look and feel of your site. In web design, you are looking to create a unified visual presence. All of the elements on your pages should work together to create a unified whole. This means using similar colors, fonts, and typographic styles throughout your site, as well as aligning your imagery and content tone. You want your visitors to get a sense of familiarity when they visit your site; everything should build on initial choices that represent your organization’s brand and your users should know that they are remaining in your website when they move from page to page.

To achieve this unification- this cohesion- take a look at your website, accounting for the following review items:

  • Do your pages have a consistent layout? Is the banner and the banner buttons at the top of your home page on your website  in the same position on each subsequent page?
  • Do all of the elements on your site match? Your elements include color; font type; and imagery (photographs and graphics).
  • Does your site have a visual hierarchy? Are the size and style of fonts and spacing between elements organized to make it easy for the reader to scan your text and easily understand the most important items on the page.
  • Does your site reflect your organization’s branding? Your branding includes other things than just colors, font type, and logo. It means your website reflects your Culture and Tone as well. What does that mean? If you are a medical clinic, handling serious issues for your user, you’d want a site that was hopeful but restrained. On the other hand if you’re a children’s museum, your website could be lighter in language and your content could reflect a more playful attitude.
  • Are the photographs original and of high quality? Take the time and invest the resources in developing your own images of real people and situations in your organization.


Good Design Layout looks like this:

Example of a good website layout design
Example of a designed webpage that offers a well balanced layout.

The essential “Layout” of your website – where everything lives page to page and the way your content is organized – can either help or hinder the flow of your site. If your pages are cluttered and disorganized, visitors will likely get lost and give up on trying to find what they’re looking for. A well-organized website will guide visitors through your content in an intuitive way, keeping them engaged and remaining on your site, moving seamlessly page to page.

Think about each webpage, and your website as a whole, like a  grid – elements should appear in the same place on that grid on every page for consistency. This will help create a cohesive online presence for your organization. Your users will intuitively know where to look to find what they are seeking and be assured that the info will be readily available.

When laying out your content on each page, start with the big picture and then drill down to the details. Begin by thinking about what you want visitors to see first- what’s the MOST important thing on that page. Then begin to fill in with the second most important piece of content, then the third, and so on. Determine how you can best present that information using a consistent visual hierarchy for every page on your website: all titles should be the same size and color, all sub-tiles should be the same size and color, etc.

Next look at your Font Type. The good use of type is critical. There are many fonts to choose from. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a good article on typeface, which is the term used to describe the different font families available. The typeface you select should be easy to read and used throughout your site for consistency. Be careful not to use too many different fonts as this can make your site look cluttered and unprofessional, one for HEADLINES and one for paragraph content is sufficient.

Now let’s talk Color. Your color scheme uniformity throughout your site is essential. Choose a few colors that complement each other and stick to them, using them consistently for different parts of your site.

Photographs and videos are an important way to add visual interest to your website and help you tell your organization’s story. But it’s important to make sure that they are high quality and consistent with the overall look and feel of your site. While stock photos can be tempting especially when you’re on a budget, it’s important to avoid using them whenever possible, they will make your website look unprofessional and generic. This blog post does a good job explaining  why you avoid using  stock photographs and what to do about it.

By following these guidelines, you can create a cohesive online presence that will help give your organization a professional look and feel that will attract and engage your target audience! Not only will this improve the credibility of your website, but it will make your site a comfortable place to return to for more information.




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