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How to have more impact through your website

10 July 2024 By Christopher Wolf

In a world where websites are mainly designed for commerce, it’s easy to overlook a website’s potential for delivering social or environmental change.

While e-commerce sites focus on driving sales and increasing revenue (fuelling increased consumption), websites with a mission-driven focus can have the power to inspire, educate, and mobilise users towards positive action.

In this article, I will examine some pitfalls for-impact organisations can encounter when leaning on design systems primarily developed to aid commerce. I will also explore how you can create a website that can actively support your positive impact goals and objectives.

Rocket lifting out of a laptop illustration

The problem with applying commercial design systems

The digital needs of for-impact organisations are fundamentally different from those of commercial brands. When we fail to recognise this disconnect and seek to apply commercially driven design systems to for-impact websites, it profoundly affects the ability of these sites to deliver on their impact objectives.

The issues we see include:

  • A narrow focus on conversion: Commercial sites prioritise conversion rates, with a narrow focus on data-driven behaviour patterns – often leaving little space for more nuanced narrative development and alternative types of engagement.
  • Prioritising short-term gains: These designs focus on facilitating immediate transactions rather than fostering long-term relationships and community engagement.
  • Treating users as passive content consumers: Sites designed purely for retention and conversion seek to funnel users into pre-defined behaviours (buy, like etc.), missing the opportunity for active participation.

We need a new design approach

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This famous quote (often misattributed to Einstein, but that’s a different conversation!) is precisely what we, as web designers, do when we apply traditional digital design methodologies to shifting mindsets or behaviours online.

It’s a high-stakes error because, with the world in urgent transition, ensuring we’re part of the solution and harnessing the internet’s potential to be a force for positive change is more critical than ever.

The benefits of designing for impact are far-reaching:

  • Increased awareness, engagement, and credibility: Impact-focused websites engage users on a deeper level, encouraging them to join a movement or cause.
  • Spaces for connection and collaboration with and between stakeholders: These sites build trust and loyalty by focusing on inspiration and education, creating a supportive community.
  • An active environment that fosters behaviour and culture change: Visitors are treated as active participants who share, innovate, and build momentum.
  • Informed decision-making and demonstrable impact: By focusing on the right objectives, we capture better data, which informs improved decision-making and continuous improvement.

How can we design for impact?

A positive impact website needs to do more than simply sell a story of change. It must drive consistent and sustained positive action toward the organisation’s mission.

The following six steps are crucial when designing for impact:

1. Understand the website’s purpose

Start by identifying the target audience’s values, needs, and aspirations. Conduct surveys, interviews, and research to gather insights and get to the root of the core impact objective.

2. Craft a compelling narrative of change

A positive impact website should tell a story that resonates emotionally with its visitors. Use powerful visuals and clear messaging to convey your mission and vision for change.

3. Simplify the navigation

Ensure the site is easy to navigate with clear calls to action. Visitors should effortlessly find information and understand how they can actively get involved.

4. Highlight impact

Showcase your work’s real-world impact using case studies, success stories, and data.
 

5. Encourage participation

Create opportunities for visitors to engage by creating online spaces that promote connection, collaboration and creativity.
 

6. Measure and adapt

Continuously monitor your site’s performance and gather feedback. Use this data to make informed improvements and keep your content relevant and impactful.
 

We shouldn’t underestimate the power of a well-designed website to drive positive change. As change makers, we can create online spaces that inspire, educate, and mobilise individuals to take meaningful action. However, we can only do this by shifting our focus from retention and conversions to changing mindsets and behaviours.

If you are passionate about making a difference, start by thinking about how your website could be doing more to support your cause. One of our Action Plans is also a great way to start. It’s a free 60-minute workshop where you can learn more about how your website can drive improved impacts for your organisation.

Christopher Wolf

Co-founder

Christopher Wolf is a Co-Founder of Made of the World – a web design studio specialising in creating digital platforms that further action on social and environmental causes for international organisations.

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