The British Red Cross website has been relaunched this week, with the aim of simplifying the functionality, making information easier to find, improving accessibility, and providing greater integration with social media channels

I've been having a look at the new site, designed by Aqueduct, to see how well it explains the charity's aims and encourages donations... 



Compared to its previous incarnation, the new website has reduced the clutter, and introduced a clear navigational structure. There is enough space between the various areas on the page to make it easy to make sense of all the information presented. 

The clearest, and most important element on the page encourages visitors to donate to the Pakistan Floods Appeal, or to donate some clothes or other items to Red Cross shops. 

The area on the right of the page above the fold allows people to find put about the Red Cross and its activities in their local area, while the links on the top nav bar are clearly labelled and laid out: 



A post by Jakob Nielsen last year found a number of issues with charity websites in the US, which he called 'donation killers'. The main problems centred around the fact that users found it hard to get information on what their money would be used for, while poor navigation meant that some couldn't find out where and how to make a donation. 

This isn't a problem on this website. The 'what we do' link on the top navigation bar leads to plenty of information about the kind of work carried out by the charity.


The donate link is clear on the navigation menu, while there are plenty of clear calls to action on the homepage and around the site. On the donate page, there is information on the kinds of things that your donation will help with, as well as more detailed information via links on the right of the page. 


The social media integration is provided by a series of links on the homepage to the various British Red Cross profiles on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc, and there is more evidence of this integration on the blog, which contains buttons to retweet or share articles on Facebook.  

Checkout process

No less than any e-commerce site, charities should have a smooth checkout process that allows people to make donations quickly and easily, while providing the necessary reassurances about security. 

It is well designed, mandatory fields are clearly labelled, the number of steps in the process are displayed, and the amount of data entry required of customers has been kept to a minimum.

On the right of the page, a phone number has been provided so that anyone that has questions about the donation doesn't need to leave the process. 


The checkout process is almost enclosed, though the search box remains in place throughout, which is an unnecessary distraction for users. 


The process is nice and easy until you get to the payment page, but is then made more difficult by the addition of a mandatory captcha code.

This is the first time I have seen this used within a checkout process, and while there may be a good reason for it, I can't think of one. It seems likely that a number of potential donations may be lost as a result of this captcha. 


The new Red Cross website is cleaner and simpler than the old version. The new visitor to the site should be able to easily find the information they are looking for, while it is easy to find out where to donate, though the captcha on the payment page is a potential donation killer. 

Graham Charlton

Published 10 August, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (9)

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Margaret O'Donnell

Thanks for the positive review Graham, and glad you found the site easy to use!

Just wanted to respond to your query about the use of Recaptcha at the end of the donation process. We use it for probably the same reasons as econsultancy do on this comment form - to ensure that it's a real person not a bot filling in the form and to deter fraud.

While it's not perfect, Recaptcha is the most accessible and usable captcha we found but I'd be very interested to hear if other econsultancy users can suggest a more user-friendly approach or one that would distract less from the donation process?

about 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

Hi Margaret, 

Yes, the captcha thing did puzzle me. We use it because we would have a flood of automated spam comments otherwise, but I'm not sure I see the logic of using it within a checkout process. People leave spam comments on this blog to try and get some free links, but why anyone would want to spam a charity's checkout process? 

Have you had a lot of problems with automated spam in the past? 

about 8 years ago


Margaret O'Donnell

Hi Graham

It's hard to be sure, but I don't think that we suffer from spam any more than any other charitable organisation.

As a good digital team we are always looking at ways to improve the website, increase engagement, improve usability and security for our users etc. Recaptcha is just one of many initiatives that we are testing on the new website and we will be monitoring its effect on our donation process as we do with all new initiatives.

I am interested if/how other readers have introduced Recapthca on their sites and what the response been from their users? A blind friend told me the that audio captcha can be difficult to decipher sometimes, even though it's completely accessible. Even so, he still considered it the best captcha for a screen reader user and used to just reload and try the second word.



about 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

I think Recpatcha is one of the better ones, though some people are annoyed by any captcha. 

While I can see why you would use it on your blog, I don't see the reason for having it on the payment page.

Surely any barrier placed in front of the payment makes it less likely that people will donate. 

about 8 years ago

Adam Hart

Adam Hart, Flash & Motion Designer at The Engine Group

I agree with the Captcha comment, it's somewhat of an accessibility black spot. Though I do think it induces some form of confidence when entering such sensitive information, even if it's somewhat unnecessary. Or it was one of those ill-advised client demands that you just have to do!

about 8 years ago


Phil Towers

I had a look at the link Sarah sent regarding CAPTCHAS - it's an interesting one as current use of CAPTCHAS is becoming more frustrating as they become more common place and increasingly difficult to decipher. I liked the experience of the alternative Sarah sent however it felt like over engineering to me and I don't think it's any less likely to put people off applying or contributing. I sent the link round to a few of my colleagues and they had the same view - over engineering really.

about 8 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

I love the "What your donation could be used for" section! I would be much more inclined to donate to something "tangible" like that, rather than some blanket fund. 

I also agree regarding the captcha- Why would spammers attempt to sign into your checkout process? It makes sense on a blog for linking/spam seo, but I don't see the value in this application. 

about 8 years ago

Antoine Becaglia

Antoine Becaglia, Digital Strategist at WebPropaganda Ltd

A nice slick revamping of the Red Cross website. A good example that big charity need to take the plundge when it comes to web usability and functionality. The captcha is not necessary on the checkout (not sure what you want to monitor Margaret?) but would not deter any donator anyway (but if it's a test...then). I had the opportunity to work a lot with Barnardo's on their site and charities should work more on "how their site work for the webusers" if they want to bring in the cash...

about 8 years ago


Robert Goodman

While I agree with many of you on the slight annoyance of reCAPTCHA, for a charity, it actually mitigates risk.  Many scammers out there actually use charity websites as a means of testing fraudulent transactions.  Since the 3rd sector is typically slightly behind the commercial sector, charity websites become pray for these scammers.  Often, they will utilise a bot to access the donation page - and then proceed to run through a list of fraudulently acquired credit cards.  When a transaction goes through, they then realise that the fraudulently acquired credit card is valid.  In the UK, this is becoming less of an issue with Verified by Visa.  US credit cards, however, still do not require any sort of authentication and can be utlised straight away (often even without a CSC code).

I hope this is informative.  In summary, reCAPTCHA is a bit annoying - and could put off some donors, but it may also be worth mitigating risk associated with fraud.  Hopefully, as the US catches up with the UK chip and pin standard, this will become less of an issue.

almost 8 years ago

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