Turning "Brochureware" into a Fun and Interactive Website

Christine Woods - 10.12.09

According to Wikipedia, “Brochureware” is the definition of a website that has very infrequently updated content. Often the site has been developed as a direct translation of existing printed materials, hence the name. Brochureware sites therefore take little advantage of the capabilities of the web that are missing in printed publication.

This is a term that I throw out quite a bit, and sometimes I wonder if people really get what I mean.  Too often I see nonprofit organizations with websites that, although informative, are filled with pages and pages of text that honestly, most website visitors don’t have the time or patience to read. Not to say that it isn’t important to educate the public about your mission and what you do, but with the short attention span of website visitors nowadays, captivating your audience is more important than ever, and you only have seconds to make a long-lasting impression.

So why is it important to captivate your audience? According to an article published by the Nonprofit Times last year, almost half your supporters are checking your organization out online before they decide to make a gift. So the obvious conclusion one could draw is this: The more your audience is captivated and engaged when they visit your website, the more likely they are to lend their support.


I thought I would call out one organization that seems to be doing a great job of educating their audience in a way that is both informative and captivating. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is an organization that I worked with closely during the launch of their new website as well one whose mission is close to my heart.  Earlier in the summer, Twin Cities Habitat launched its Housing Matters microsite, which was created to help educate the public about housing issues in the community and to provide opportunities for people to become part of the solution.  It was through this initiative that Twin Cities Habitat


The “Fast Facts”

Okay, so this is really simple, but one example of how Twin Cities Habitat is providing valuable information on their website in an interesting way is through their “Fast Facts”.  This is a constantly changing dynamic display of miscellaneous facts about the need for the services that Habitat for Humanity provides and the great work that they do. This information could have easily been displayed in a long list of bulleted points on a static web page, but displaying it dynamically grabs your attention right away.


The “Green House Demo”

The Green House Demo is an interactive house featured on Twin Cities Habitat’s Green Building website intended to teach the public about their green building practices. With the click of each mouse, the visitor can learn something new about what steps Twin Cities Habitat is taking to create homes that are not only affordable, but energy efficient and eco-friendly.

The “Memory Game”

The Memory Game is the first game launched in the Online Activity Center section of the Twin Cities Habitat Housing Matters website. The game allows the user to click on two squares in the grid until they find matching homes. The trick is remembering where they were once they disappear! This game not only tests your memory, but when you finally win by finding a match, you learn something new about what it takes to find a solution to the broken housing market.  Within minutes of trying it myself, I emailed a link to several of my colleagues and friends, if for nothing else to let them test to see if their memory was as awful as mine. Whatever the motivation, I learned something about the housing crisis that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and perhaps so did a few of my friends.












The “Action Wheel”

The Action Wheel is by far the most interactive example that we see on the Twin Cities Habitat website. It may not be quite as fun as the memory game, but it does do two very important things quite well: 1) provide an interesting way to demonstrate how any website visitor can help and 2) demonstrates the impact and creates a path for action. The other games were cool, but they didn’t really answer the question “now what?” as well as this one does. I particularly like the “Donate” option on the wheel, which quickly takes you to the secure online donation form. After “spinning the wheel” on the Housing Matters site, I made my first donation to support Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.




Want to see other examples of nonprofits educating the public in interesting ways? Below are a few of my favorites, each with its own creative way of informing website visitors about their organization while keeping their attention at the same time.

  1. Lance Armstrong Foundation Video Mixer. This mixer allows visitors to create their own music video with photos, songs, and even personal images you upload yourself. You can even send the video to your family and friends when you’re done.  See the video mixer live in action.
  2. Americans for UNFPA Women’s Issue Quiz. A simple quiz, but when you take it, you’re compelled to get involved and “make a declaration” for women’s rights around the world. Take their online quiz today…you may surprised how little you know about women’s issues!
  3. PlayPumps International’s KnowH2O Water Games. This is a really neat quiz that features sound and eye-catching imagery. It’s really fun, and best of all, once you take the quiz, you can add a PlayPumps badge to your think.MTV.com profile.  See if you knowH2O today.


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