Over the past year, I’ve been working with a friend and colleague from the tech-sector on various consulting services for non-profits. As someone who comes from the non-profit sector, working with a trained UX (User Experience) Designer has been enlightening. Here are 5 take-aways that I have learned from my dear friends in the tech-industry that non-profits can start utilizing in their day-to-day:

1. Always ask your client (or audience or Executive Director) what they want, at least five times.

The first answer will be their ‘elevator pitch’. The rehearsed statement they have made to many people, many times before. Their needs will be filled with industry-jargon, like “capacity-building” and “reaching underrepresented audiences”. Don’t let your client be content with a surface-level answer, keep following-up with clarifying questions. You will get a better product at the end of the day.

2. Map out what works

Whenever my colleague and I work with non-profit websites, the first thing we do is create a wireframe analysis of the site’s content. (What pages are active, with what content, which links to other content?) With the current state of the website’s affairs laid out, it’s easier to see what groups together naturally, and what may need to be reconfigured.

3. Focus on personas

Focus groups can help with sorting content and testing usability, especially if you are able to derive what UX Designers call “personas” from segments of your target audience. Personas are fictional members of your audience, representative of larger demographics or identities. Being able to understand your personas, and view your business from their eyes, will enable you to effectively anticipate the types of functionality and access they require.

4. The ‘iPhone’ Rule

Make your product, business or service so easy to use and understand, that a 9-year-old or a 90-year-old can do it, and it will sell itself. The key is anticipating the needs of your audience and being able to reflect it in your mission so seamlessly, it appears as a flawless product because you kept your audience’s experience at the heart of its’ design.

5. Branding matters

Many times, that statement translates into “how Google-able are you?” But that misses the mark. An organization’s branding can be boiled down to how informed the general public is of your business. Just as analogous as Starbucks is to coffee, your brand should immediately cultivate an image, statement or action in the public’s mind. Effective branding involves more than just your marketing expert on staff. It takes a grassroots awareness of the effectiveness and success of your organization.

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