In early August 2019, we got a call from Charlie Bresler, the Executive Director of The Life You Can Save. He’d landed a grant to fund launching the 10th Anniversary Edition of Peter Singer’s landmark book The Life You Can Save and was looking for a team to help implement some landing pages on the foundation’s website to promote the free ebook and audiobook versions.
We’re not really a “landing pages” kind of agency. But we were inspired by The Life You Can Save’s mission to end global poverty, so we asked the question we ask every potential client we’re excited about: Why?
Why landing pages? Why a book launch? What’s the goal?
Charlie explained the point of the book is to increase awareness of effective giving, and therefore increase donations to The Life You Can Save’s recommended non-profits. That’s our kind of answer. It opened up an incredible opportunity for Bilberrry to partner with The Life You Can Save and create a brand new digital experience that could support both the immediate needs — book downloads — as well as the broader goals of the organization.
- Custom WordPress development
- Website design
- Information architecture
- Content migration
- Digital strategy
- Dev ops
- WP dev
- Front-end dev
- Content strategy
- Data analytics
- Project management
- Dev ops engineer
By Giving Tuesday, the day the 10th Anniversary Edition of the book was going to launch (and only 13 weeks from kick-off), we would modernize the website’s UX, streamline its messaging, and amp up conversions. While we were at it, we would also create a flexible, user-friendly CMS on top of a solid infrastructure built for thousands of simultaneous file downloads. And, of course, we’d implement some landing pages too.
A modern, streamlined site to increase conversions
The Life You Can Save is all about making smart giving simple. Their website was… not. It had a sprawling main menu housing 117 links, plus page after page of resources, stories, games, quizzes, and educational content. Simply put: the primary business goals — getting donations and distributing the book — had too much competition. Adding more content on top wasn’t going to help.
Our first step was to focus the navigation by deprioritizing any messages that distracted from book downloads or donations. The team at The Life You Can Save knew which pages needed to stay; we used that list to align on a simplified menu that shaved a whopping 49% of pages off the original. It was like turning an overgrown hedge into a topiary — which is to say, extremely satisfying work. From there, modernizing the site to match the authority and influence of its namesake book was pretty straightforward. Our updated design is polished and persuasive, blending a slick experience and smart SEO with grounded explanations that build trust.
It paid off. The week of book launch, The Life You Can Save increased donations by 70% year-over-year, and six weeks later, on-site stats were still on an upward trajectory: +86% organic sessions, +9% average session duration, and –15% bounce rate.
A robust, unified CMS anyone on the team could use
The Life You Can Save’s original website required a developer for many of its updates, and the data wasn’t centralized — updating inputs to the Impact Calculator, for example, or content on the foundation’s Australian sister site, were all done in separate systems. The process was clunky to maintain and hard to scale, especially considering there are plans for a UK version of the site. As an organization grows, it’s crucial that enough people are empowered to operate all its systems. It’s what allows workloads to be dispersed, and teams to tackle multiple initiatives simultaneously.
WordPress was the obvious solution. We designed and developed over 25 unique content modules that anyone at The Life You Can Save could use to publish new pages and update existing ones. We also built in the logic for the entire site’s tools, features, and sister sites to create a single, unified backend. The Life You Can Save now has multiple site admins, and the flexibility to add more and varying levels of access. Time per update and decreased from hours to minutes. The team is blown away by the simplicity. (Their words, not ours.)
In 18 years of working with many marketing companies, I never found an organization that was as effective as they are. Charlie Bresler, Executive Director
A content delivery network to guarantee a frictionless download experience
The Life You Can Save book was posed to launch with a bang. It had been heavily marketed and there was major PR buzz, especially considering the free audiobook download featured celebrity narrators like Kristen Bell, Paul Simon, and Stephen Fry — whose combined Instagram following is over 13.8 million.
We needed to be prepared for a lot of people requesting an enormous MP3 file at the same time without clogging the pipes. If we didn’t, downloading the files would be unacceptably slow, and it could compromise the performance of the rest of the website.
We solved this by creating a CDN that hosts and distributes the audiobook files on a separate virtual network. To date, we’ve delivered over 45,000 audiobook files without any technical hiccups.
A successful content migration with no data lost
The Life You Can Save had a six-year archive of blog posts, stories, education, and updates from their recommended charities that no one wanted to lose: it was valuable from an SEO and link-building perspective and accounted for 65% of site traffic.
No sweat. Developing a brand new WordPress site means we automatically sign on to migrate legacy content — it’s just part of the process. In three days, we built the logic, tested, and completed a mid-sized content migration of 600 pages, mapping the old content into the new website and design.
One of the most notable aspects of The Life You Can Save website redesign is the turnaround time: just 13 weeks from kickoff, through discovery and design, to launch. In a perfect world, we’d have 13 weeks for the development alone.
An extreme exercise in prioritization and collaboration
To evaluate which tasks we were going to do for launch and which would be fast-follows, we created this list of questions:
- Will this drive book downloads?
- Will this drive donations?
- What percentage of people will use this?
- If we don’t scale this back for launch, what’s the trade-off?
- What’s the trade-off if we do?
This made some decisions easy. A few features — the ability to download charity profiles as a PDF and automated footnotes — were quickly bumped to post-launch. Some required a transparent conversation:
One of the foundation’s CTAs is to take the pledge to donate a percentage of your income each year, and we had to decide if we would spend the man hours to include all currencies into the calculator, or stick to just US dollars at launch. As a group, we agreed the percentage of users who would use a non-US currency — and the risk of losing those donations — didn’t make a strong enough case to prioritize the feature for launch.
Of course, a couple decisions were downright brutal. We were interested in creating a really slick book download experience that would recognize what device a user was on and dynamically change the download instructions. And, while we agreed it could help drive downloads and a huge percentage of people would use it, it put the successful launch of the Australian site at risk — a trade-off no one was willing to make. Scaling back to an email download with instructions for every version made more sense: it wasn’t as savvy of a solution, but every user would still get what they wanted: a copy of the book.