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Developing a Successful Website with Growth-Driven Design

Building a website can be costly, time-consuming, and a major strain on your organization's resources. However, there's no question that a well-designed website is an essential asset for your growing nonprofit. According to our Nonprofit Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, 53 percent of organizations plan to redesign their website within the next two years.

For many nonprofits, the fear of a project going wrong causes hesitancy. Luckily, these risks are typically associated with traditional website design. A more modern approach to the design and development process known as Growth-Driven Design (GDD) can help avoid common pitfalls of traditional web design.

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What Is Traditional Web Design?

A traditional web redesign project is defined as an entire top-to-bottom redesign of all web pages, assets, elements, and functionality of the site. The goal of traditional web design is to get the website as close to "perfect" as possible and launch a static site that you don't plan to change or update for a long time. There are a few major challenges with this web design process:

  • Expensive to build
  • Projects take a long time to complete
  • No opportunity for testing

The traditional approach to website development is notorious for leading to projects that are over budget, have never-ending timelines, and cause a strain on organization resources. What's the point of putting the time and effort into such a large project, only to have to repeat the process every few years?

The Growth-Driven Design approach to website development helps you avoid these common issues associated with traditional design.

What Is Growth-Driven Design?

Growth-Driven Design (GDD) is a new process for web design designed for quick launches with improvements consistently over time. It is built around optimizing website performance based on actual data, user feedback, and market trends, which makes the process more agile and effective. This allows organizations to spread out the financial burden and avoid paying for work that might need to be redone once user feedback and traffic data are analyzed.

Traditional web design relies heavily on the opinion of the small teams involved and therefore produces unreliable results. GDD is built on monthly optimization that is based on fact, allowing you to make data-based decisions that cut down on financial and administrative burdens.

The 3 Stages of Growth-Driven Design

Like any process of web design, GDD is structured around phases. This structure helps to set goals, expectations, and pacing around key strategies and deliverables needed for the project. GDD was built on an agile development methodology known as Scrum, which is an iterative, adaptable, and flexible approach designed to produce effective results in short and quick bursts of time. 


The first phase of any effective web development project is strategy. For nonprofit organizations, this is where you want to gain a deep understanding of the goals of the site, the needs of the end user, and the problems you aim to solve with the new or updated site. The strategy will ensure that your position, messaging, and direction are all clearly defined and agreed on with key stakeholders. They will provide a basis for all marketing and web content and structures that you will build in the coming phases. There are seven key steps in developing an effective strategy:

  1. Goals: Develop a clear understanding of your organization's objectives for the site.
  2. Jobs to be done: Understand the outcomes that your stakeholders are trying to achieve in interacting with your organization.
  3. Target personas: Develop fictional representations of your ideal audience for the website. Target personas help you gain a deeper understanding of who you are trying to reach, allowing messages to be more impactful.
  4. Fundamental assumptions: Uncover the core components of the website and determine which aspects are the most critical to your mission. Ensure that those have strong foundations and are clearly defined.
  5. Journey mapping: Develop the ideal path a potential stakeholder would likely take through your website to reach their goal. This includes any step that they might take throughout their entire journey, internal or external to your actual website.
  6. Website-specific strategy: Analyze and audit existing and intended technical systems that you want your website to use and leverage:
    • An audit of your existing website
    • Competitive analysis
    • User flows and web architecture
    • SEO strategy
    • Branding and visual design
    • Platform integrations
    • Technical considerations
  7. Wish list: Develop creative ideas to solve stakeholder challenges, bring them value, and hit organizational goals. This list will include specific technical elements like templates you want to use or pages you want to build and other aspects like an integrated donation form. You can use your wish list to prioritize the mission-critical aspects and build the extra features over time.

Launch Pad

Once you have your strategy in place, it's time to build the actual site. The most important aspect of a Launch Pad site as opposed to a traditional web redesign is the aim to launch the site as quickly as possible. This allows you to quickly build a site that looks and performs better than what you have today, but with the understanding that it is not in its final form. This should be thought of as a foundation on which to build and optimize over time. This process typically takes two or three months.

There are four methods for approaching this redesign for you to select from to best fit your goals and organization:

  • Refresh: Refresh your current site and use this as your foundation. This is a good fit for any organization that has rebuilt its website in the last three to six months.
  • Kick-start: Build a new website using prebuilt assets and templates.
  • 80/20: Pulling from your wish list, identify 20 percent of the items that are critical, and plan to implement the remaining 80 percent over time.
  • Launch and expand: Deconstruct the Launch Pad plan into small phases and implement slowly. Start by updating all global elements like font and color. Then identify and tackle the highest-impact pages and relaunch them page by page.

Continuous Improvement

The continuous improvement phase is a repeatable process in which you are collecting and analyzing user data, building and improving high-impact sections based on that analysis, and generating momentum as you go. This is implemented through the use of a sprint cycle — a continuous cycle of planning, building, learning, and transferring improvements to the site.

There are four phases in the sprint cycle:

  1. Plan: Focus on a metric you wish to improve, strategize ideas for improvement, and then prioritize those ideas to focus on those with the highest potential for impact.
  2. Build: Implement the prioritized ideas.
  3. Learn: Analyze data to see what is working.
  4. Transfer: Share what you have learned with the rest of your team and organization.

Getting Started with Growth-Driven Design

Did you know that the TechSoup Services team offers custom website design packages? The experts on the web development team have just launched a new Growth-Driven Design web solution aimed at delivering effective websites that are built to grow with your organization, with less up-front costs and investments to lessen the burden on your administration.


Additional Resources

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