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Many of the UK's charities are failing to make the most of the internet, according to E-consultancy's second annual Charity Website Benchmarks  report, with research conducted by iConcertina.

The study found that many charity sites have improved in terms of usability and communication, but there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to transparency and accessibility.

Some 120 charity websites were benchmarked across six core areas: usability, accessibility, communication, transparency, responsiveness and integration. We'll look at some of the headline findings after the jump...

Here are the key results from the research:

  • Charity sites performed well in usability.
    Improvements in homepage design and navigation raised their usability scores.
  • They did well in responsiveness and communication.
    Average scores in this category were 116% higher than last year, with charities maintaining their content on a more regular basis.  
  • Ratings were weak in housekeeping and transparency.
    While charities performed well in SEO, with an average Google page rank of 5.62, they scored poorly for transparency. Sites rarely offered any information on their practices in terms of social responsibility - just 17% of sites stated a policy, interest or involvement in CSR.
  • Accessibility scored catastrophically.
    Just 43% of homepages met basic accessibility standards, though most sites did provide meaningful, descriptive alternative texts for images.

The top five charity sites in the report were:

  • Cancer Research UK - This was the 2007 ‘winner’ in our benchmark study – last year it was fifth. The site noticeably improved its usability, accessibility and communication.
  • WaterAid - This site, fourth in last year's study, scored well in usability and transparency, though its accessibility score declined.
  • Royal National Institute for Deaf People - It climbed from 12th place last year, improving its ratings in usability, accessibility, communication and transparency. However, there was a decline in housekeeping.
  • Oxfam - This charity performed well in transparency and housekeeping, although it came up short in accessibility.
  • Marie Curie Cancer Care - An improvement from 24th last year. Its scores in usability and communication increased but housekeeping decreased.

Well done to all the above. However, the majority of charity sites have some work to do to meet the minimum guidelines recommended in the report and to improve their user experience.

Further reading
Charity Website Benchmarks 2007

Graham Charlton

Published 12 July, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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