CHANGE Illinois

CHANGE Illinois

Designing a website to advocate for legislative reform

A lot of site redesigns make the site easier to use for the public. But the true mark of success is making the site easier to use for the people who have to edit it. All those nice, new pages and widgets are worth nothing if the WYSIWYG editor makes a content producer want to pour coffee over their keyboard. A maze of back-end build up and confusing publishing privileges will leave a site languishing, and result in everyone craving another expensive redesign in 14 months.

CHANGE Illinois fights for better governments and elections on behalf of everyone in the state. Their potential audience is wide: Illinois is rife with corruption, and millions of people want to see reforms. But CHANGE Illinois’ website was ill-equipped to aid in effective advocacy. It was slow, clumsy to navigate, and frustratingly difficult to update. CHANGE Illinois had everything they needed to succeed, but their website was holding them back.

I collaborated with CHANGE Illinois to provide a publishing platform that would let their small, nimble team work as fast as they do at everything else. The existing site was built on WordPress, which was an important requirement — but the content structure was confusing, and the editing tools were outdated. I addressed both of these things in tandem with the public-facing design, making sure that every field and template correlated with a clear, obvious location in WordPress.

CHANGE Illinois home page

Of course, what about the site itself? It was clear that CHANGE Illinois needed a stronger visual identity, and a design that better surfaced recent news and advocacy opportunities that are a significant part of CHANGE Illinois’ work. The new site excels at this, with an effective homepage that does all of the above, and still summarizes the nonprofit for the uninitiated. Article pages are engaging and easy to read, and use related content to aid in discoverability. And the whole site loads fast, using modern optimization techniques and efficient templating.

CHANGE Illinois home page

But the last step to activating CHANGE Illinois’ audience required something more ambitious. Working with the organization’s staff, I designed and developed a searchable map that helps Illinois residents find and contact their legislators. Built using the Google Maps API with a custom interface, the tool provides a complete breakdown of county, state, and federal officials — with integrated contact forms that make it easy to demand lawmaker action.

The map features a layer that highlights state and federal districts, and shows a resident what their districts look like. Aggressive redistricting has shaped political power in Illinois, and disenfranchised voters in the process. It will take years to undo the damage — but supporting organizations that are willing to step up to the challenge is a good place to start.

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