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Understanding the Difference Between Traditional Website Design and Growth-Driven Design

In the digital age, having an online presence is not just an advantage; it's a necessity. A website is a platform for storytelling, fundraising, and community building for nonprofits. However, launching or redesigning a website can seem daunting among your other organization’s responsibilities. Cost, time, and functionality concerns deter nonprofits from beginning the process. Understanding the distinction between Traditional Design and Growth-Driven Design (GDD) becomes crucial for you and your organization to move forward.

But let’s back up and remind ourselves why a thoughtful website is imperative to your nonprofit efforts.

Why are Websites Integral to Nonprofits?

  • Enhance Engagement: Websites serve as a central hub for nonprofits to connect with supporters, beneficiaries, and the wider community.
  • Drive Donations and Volunteers: A well-designed website can encourage and facilitate donations and volunteer sign-ups.
  • Educational Tool and Information: Websites provide a platform to disseminate information and share resources, helping to inform visitors about issues, solutions, and the nonprofit's work.
  • Budget-friendly "Location": A website offers a virtual "location" where people from anywhere can learn and engage, all with low overhead costs.
  • Data Collection and Insights: Websites allow nonprofits to collect valuable data on visitor behavior and engagement levels.
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity: A well-designed website can be accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities, ensuring everyone can engage with the nonprofit.

What makes a great nonprofit website?

The most effective nonprofit websites have three characteristics that make them stand out to meet their donation and awareness needs.

  • Scalability & Flexibility
    • User-Friendly for Staff: Designed for easy updates and management by your team.
    • Handles Increased Traffic: Supports a surge in visitors without crashing, ensuring expansion.
  • Integration Opportunities
    • Streamlined Donations and Supporter Management: Makes giving donations simple and improves how you interact with supporters.
    • Compatible with Various Tools: Allows the addition of diverse external tools (like social media) that enrich visitor engagement and functionality.
  • User Experience
    • Simple Navigation and Quick Loading: Guarantees that users easily find what they're looking for, keeping them engaged and reducing bounce rates.
    • Accessible to All and Open to Feedback: Ensures the website is accessible to people with disabilities and allows visitors to offer feedback.

It all starts with your design to ensure that your nonprofit stands out and includes the above elements. There are two types of web design: Traditional and Growth-Driven.

The Challenge of Traditional Web Design

  • Difficult to Plan: Nonprofits grow and pivot all of the time. Attempting to plan and implement technology to support your evolving organization and mission is challenging.
  • High Cost & Long Timelines: Attempting to plan for your nonprofit's future in the present leads to unnecessary costs and extended timelines.
  • Limited Updates Post-Launch: Time, budget, and resources get burned out during the process, and the new site often sits untouched, requiring the organization to start this time-consuming process over again every 3-5 years.

Consequently, projects often exceed budgets, extend beyond planned timelines, and drain organizational resources. The effort and resources invested become questionable when the process inevitably repeats, highlighting the inefficiency and unsustainability of traditional web design for dynamic organizations like nonprofits.

Embracing Growth-Driven Design

Growth-Driven Design (GDD) offers a revolutionary approach to website development for nonprofits, prioritizing agility, efficiency, and continual improvement. Unlike traditional methods, GDD begins with a quick launch of a basic, operational "launchpad" website. This initial version goes live swiftly, setting the stage for ongoing enhancements based on actual user feedback, analytics, and evolving organizational goals. This strategy significantly cuts down on the initial time and financial investment, shifting towards a model that allows for adjustments as insights are gathered.

Critical advantages of GDD include:

  • Cost Efficiency: Expenses are distributed over time, easing the upfront financial load and facilitating smoother budget management.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Continuous analysis of user engagement and feedback means the website can evolve to serve better the audience's changing needs and preferences.
  • Quicker Time to Launch: A functional site promptly enables immediate engagement and insight collection.
  • Alignment with Organizational Goals: The cyclic process of GDD ensures the website remains a relevant and effective tool for nonprofit growth and user engagement.
Moving away from the traditional, often rigid approach of website design, GDD allows for a more dynamic, data-informed, and cost-effective web presence that aligns closely with a nonprofit's mission and the digital ecosystem's demands.

So you’re hooked on the GDD?! Here are the phases:

Growth-Driven Design (GDD) adopts a phased, agile methodology to revolutionize web design, structured to deliver rapid and effective results.

  • Strategy Phase: This initial phase involves a comprehensive analysis to understand the website’s objectives, the audience’s needs, and the issues it aims to solve. This includes setting clear goals, developing target personas to represent the ideal audience, and mapping out the user journey. This ensures all parties have a unified vision, forming the basis for all content and structural development.
  • Launch Pad Stage: This phase values speed and efficiency, presenting methods like refreshing existing content or using pre-built assets to establish a solid foundation. It also streamlines the website for an ideal and dynamic user experience. The focus is on launching a better version of the current site as a starting point for future enhancements rather than delaying a perfect launch.
  • Continuous Improvement Phase: This stage involves evolving based on user feedback and data. It's a cycle of assessing performance, gathering user insights, and making informed updates to enhance the site. 
In a competitive digital landscape, nonprofits must maintain an impactful online presence to remain relevant. Growth-Driven Web Design empowers nonprofits with dynamic, cost-effective websites. Its agile approach ensures continuous improvement, aligning digital presence with evolving missions and community engagement.

Learn More

Building a strong brand and mastering the art of storytelling are essential steps for any nonprofit looking to increase visibility, foster trust, and inspire action. By clearly defining your mission, values, and unique selling proposition and by crafting compelling, authentic narratives, you can create an emotional connection with your audience that drives engagement and support. 

Want to learn more about the different models of brand stories and try your hand at evaluating current brands? Watch our recent webinar, “Telling Your Story: Simple Steps to Build Your Nonprofit's Brand” with Tapp Network’s Director of Account Strategy, Lisa Quigley, and Senior Art Director Ryan Tatum.

Want to chat with us for a consultation? Reach out to us here.


Lauren Van Hise

Written by Lauren Van Hise

Lauren Van Hise is a Content Strategist with a background in Health Education, Hospitality, and Content Marketing. She is passionate about creating engaging and impactful content that helps support her client's goals and brand. Lauren lives in Wilmington, Delaware but loves to travel! Her life goal is to travel the U.S. in an RV with her pup, Ruger.