Building Community on Change.org
With more than 100 million members in 196 countries, Change.org has experienced incredible growth worldwide. With such a large, passionate user base, we saw tremendous potential for Change.org to make the leap from petition platform to activism community.
In this vision, members could go well beyond signing petitions — exchanging knowledge, engaging in dialog, and even organizing offline activities. It would take time to get to that point, but we could start by building the platform features and tools that would pave the way.
Role: Design, front-end development (Haml, Less, Knockout.js), email design and development.
We built Petition Update pages to provide a dedicated space for petition creators to post news stories, media appearances, milestones, and other important updates about the petition.
These updates worked to deepen the relationship between petition creators and supporters in several ways:
- It keeps supporters informed on the progress of the petition, which helps validate and reinforce their support. This positive feedback loop will hopefully encourage them to sign future petitions as well.
- For those considering whether to sign a petition, bringing in press coverage can establish credibility and gravitas for the issue.
- Petition creators can use updates to enlist more help from supporters, through actions such as crowdfunding, contacting the decision-maker, or simply sharing the news update.
Design-wise, Petition Updates take a form similar to that of a blog post: headline, byline, body, and an area to embed rich media. A strip of social buttons makes it easy to share with friends and followers and bring greater awareness to the campaign.
At the top of the page is a header bar that identifies and links to the associated petition. At the very bottom, pagination controls facilitate browsing through the chronology of updates.
To inform supporters when an update was posted, I designed a new notification email that featured a summary of the update, with a call-to-action leading to the Petition Update page.
The Petition Update notification was the first in series of re-engagement emails that we were creating. To support these efforts, I designed and developed a suite of email templates that could support a range of layouts and content.
Email development is tricky, and there were a number of technical challenges to overcome. I used techniques like fluid layouts and conditional targeting, plus a lot of QA-ing with Litmus to make sure the emails looked great and performed well.
A Warm Welcome
We also began migrating existing lifecycle and transactional emails to these new templates, which presented the perfect opportunity to revisit and make updates to the content.
As one of the first touchpoints for new users, the Welcome Email was a great place to start. We felt that it could definitely use a more personal touch.
Our first change was to congratulate users on signing their first petition, right in the opening paragraph. This validates their support, and reinforces the connection between that initial petition and their new membership on Change.org.
Furthermore, by celebrating this first win, we hoped to inspire users to take further action on Change.org. Accordingly, the welcome message segues into a list of personalized petitions, framed through the lens of either local or social.
The local version features petitions specific to their region, evoking the idea of partnering with nearby members to create positive change for their community.
The social version brings in Facebook friends for a more familiar welcome. By highlighting the petitions that friends have signed, we promote causes that the recipient is also likely to support, and introduce a bit of social-influence effects.
Petition Update pages have taken off dramatically, becoming one of the most active areas on Change.org. Petition creators have been enthusiastically posting updates, and the addition of commenting has created a place for real dialog around the issues.
Email notifications have become a substantial traffic-driver of returning users to Change.org, and the email templates I helped create deliver communication to millions of Change.org users every day.
This project taught me how important email remains as a channel for engaging users, and greatly expanded my knowledge in email design and development.