Show yourself. Using design and narrative to move your visitors to action.

Contributor: Mariana Spada

Some useful tips to embrace narrative in your virtual space to create more engagement and achieve your mission.

Clearly communicating what an organisation does in a manner that is effective, trustworthy and engaging, is a challenge whose potential rewards fairly exceed the difficulties of the job. In this article, we’d like to share with you some ideas and best practices about how to use design and narrative to tell your story in a way that will inspire users to go beyond being just visitors to your website and become engaged in the organisational mission.

Imagine how you would react to a promoter that stops you in the middle of the street and without any introduction asks for money or time. There are no arguments behind the asking, just an expectation for a pure act. Then, try the exact opposite: picture someone interrupting your evening commuting to explain in excruciating detail the internal structure of the organisation, its history, names of the board members and what they do for fun on Sundays. And only after all of this, they give you a long list of actions for you to select from, without any guidance.

While the first one would feel more like an assault, the second a certainly pretty inaccurate, both of them are problematic in their own ways of telling not enough or telling too much. Let’s try a third and last thought experiment.

Imagine that a third person approaches you with a friendly smile, making eye contact long enough for you to unconsciously scan the way they look. Maybe they are wearing a pin or a vest with the name of an organisation you might have heard of. When they have your attention they introduce themselves and politely asking for your name, and only then they start to explain to you what is the mission of the organisation they represent. They do it in a way that you clearly understand what the problem or the issue is and its importance, and how people like you can make the difference. Everything they say is aimed at creating a personal connection, and only when that connection has been established, they ask for a very specific thing you can do to get involved. The entire exchange lasts no more than a couple of minutes, and it was efficient because it was well “designed” (that is, carefully planned to maximise the relationship between information transmission and appeal to participation).

An effective approach is important when it comes to communicating your mission to your constituents, as well as developing a comprehensive organisational narrative around it, particularly in your website or digital space.

In all these years as a designer, I’ve seen a number of websites out there that do this in a very effective way. But I also have seen multiple organisational websites that struggle with developing a narrative that is sufficiently clear in terms of a mission and objectives, and persuasive enough to move people into action.
But what is a Mission, what is an Organisational Narrative, and how they are interlinked?

First, some definitions

An organisation’s mission defines a space of action, provides a clear objective and moves people forward. Missions often are complex to define and coin, but (ideally) they should be simple to understand.

A narrative, on the other hand, refers to the logical backbone of how an organisation describes the pursuing of the mission. We could define it as well as space where the story of that organisation is told, but also like how it is told, and the tone in which it is narrated. Is not a single story, but a whole constellation of them. 

A website is not only a place to publish a long and out-of-date About Us page, host your financial reports, or, if you’re a political party, upload a PDF of your manifesto. It is a place to tell your story in a way that it will grow your supporters base and create a space for community, a digital space where your visitor will feel inspired to return over and over again to further develop the relationship that binds them together with something greater than themselves.

Second, some data

Properly describing an organisation’s mission is essential to attract potential donors. There is data that backs this statement. More than 60% of tested users mentioned they would actively look for a clear mission statement before donating, while 49% affirmed it was their primarily persuasion element when it comes to making a donation (the second element being use of donations and contributions, at 19%).

“...the most important piece of information people needed to know about a charity or non-profit was that they did and how they did it. Users were interested in details about the organization’s objectives, mission, goals and programs. They wanted to know what a charity or non-profit stood for, because people wanted to contribute to an organization that had acceptable goals, ideas and values.”

While the statement that people want to do some search for information before contributing or engaging might not sound like a particularly revelatory one, the truth is that still many organisations do not put it right. The same report alerts about how messy mission’s pages can be, and how discouraging from a user perspective.

Here we have some tips, on mission and the organisational narrative, to keep in mind when planning to design (or redesign) your website:

  1. Communicate your Theory of Change
  2. Keep Your Home / Landing Page Relevant And Updated
  3. Weave Your Narrative With Opportunities For Action
  4. Use Visuals To Communicate More Briefly And Clearly
  5. A narrative element is not only for your homepage

Communicate your Theory of Change

It is not enough just to tell what you do or aim for. You also need to convince your audience that you have a plan to achieve it. Your website is the first place it makes sense to do it. 

In 2019 we were approached by the Sortition Foundation, an organisation that aims to enhance democracy through the promotion of sortition (random selection) of citizens to citizen’s assemblies. Their previous website lacked an optimal narrative arc that would clearly explain 1) What “sortition” exactly was, 2) What was the role of the organisation, and 3) How actual people could engage with this mission. We wanted to put all of this into a coherent “story” that goes from explaining the issue, to the proposed solution, to the display of a strong voice that would also transmit the professionality of the approach to potential funders. This was the challenge that we took on with the redesign.

Keep Your Home / Landing Page Relevant And Updated

A mission may be written in stone, but the content of your homepage should not. As important as clearly showing the mission statement of your organisation on your main page, is to include dynamic elements that reflect what the organisation is currently doing to achieve it. That being said, is also important to avoid easy solutions that might feel “fake”. For instance, more interesting than just showing some nice-looking counters that communicate little to a potential supporter is to connect that same mission to a feature selection of real stories from real people that have been impacted by the work of the organisation. This is something we paid some particular attention to when ALDE entrusted us with the redesign of their website last year: the ALDE Individual Membership, the only personal membership program of any Pan-European political party, had in our opinion a lot of potential, and so we decided to put up and front some real stories of the members.


Weave Your Narrative With Opportunities For Action

Use the power of narrative to provide logical arguments to any calls to action you offer to your users. Your engagement opportunities should reflect your actions. You can do this for example by providing the necessary context to create a sense of urgency and showing how that particular ask for involvement relates to the overall arc of actions.

Voor 14, the campaign for a minimum wage in the Netherlands, provides multiple opportunities of engagement at its homepage, some of them tied to the different audiences: from a general, low-barrier call to action at the top, it continues downwards with higher bar asks.


Low barrier signup for list-building or simple action (petition signing, etc.)


A short statement making the case for a minimum wage, and links to a more detailed explanation of the campaign.


Feature calls to action necessary for the campaign.

Narrative + Engagement

A selection of real stories from organised workers across the Netherlands, and a call to action for users themselves.


A selection of local victories to show that is the organisation’s ultimate goal is actually real.


Calls to action to organise both according to place of residence and workplace.


Latest events and featured news about the campaign.

Use Visuals To Communicate More Briefly And Clearly

One of the most common mistakes when it comes to developing a narrative is to rely on using too much text. However, most users will just scan it, and if there is too much information, they might just unconsciously avoid it. Use as little text as possible (you can always redirect your users to a more elaborated version or an About page), and select the right visual elements to support your statement. 

While doing that, always keep in mind that images carry a lot of associated meanings, so use that to your advantage. ICAN —the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons that after years of efforts managed to make nuclear weapons illegal under international law— does a good job on its website using images to support its mission statement in order to communicate internationalism, effectiveness and collaboration across organisations.

A narrative element is not only for your homepage

While homepages tend to be the places where “most of the action” happens, you should remember they are not the only entry point to your visitors: many of them might arrive from other websites, sharing links, or they might be attracted to specific campaign pages. For this reason, it is a good idea to rephrase, or even repeat your mission - or at least part of it - when it comes to asking for user engagement.

Summarizing: some don'ts:

  • Relying on using only text to tell your story.
  • Being vague about what you do or what your mission is.
  • Not updating your main page(s) with up-to-date content or engagement opportunities.
  • Not linking your mission, vision, or narrative components to opportunities for engagement.
  • Using images that don’t convey your overall narrative, have problems reflecting your values, or are difficult for your target audience to identify with them.

… and some do’s:

  • Show your mission up and front on your landing page (and pages that are entry points to your website).
  • Regularly publish relevant content and new engagement opportunities, and frame them in a way that clearly shows how they are important to the achievement of the overall goal.
  • Weave as many narrative components with specific calls to action as possible.
  • Use stories of individuals to show your work and its impact.

Beyond website-based organisational narrative

The organisation's website is to help scale its impact and to be a presentation card of its mission. Saying that it must be a place where users want to return on a regular basis. It is important to provide various reasons for re-engagement. A fundamental element we should all consider is how to maintain and nurture the bond between the user and the organisation beyond the time they spend on the website. And it is a great idea for another blog post.

What about your organisation? How close do you think your website design reflects your mission and your narrative? Are you thinking about redesigning your website? Feel free to contact us at Tectonica.