The first letter was written in 2009. It’s a lengthy and detailed look at the work of the foundation. It contained a few images, two or three charts and featured shareable sections that could be forwarded to Facebook or Twitter.
Over the following four years the letters followed a similar format, although in 2013 you can see the influence of the infographic take hold.
However for its latest incarnation, published in January 2014, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sought to extend the letter’s reach.
Partnering with POSSIBLE, the letter took on a completely new design.
Instead of discussing the foundation specifically, Bill and Melinda Gates chose to write about the three myths that keep the world from accelerating success against poverty and disease.
The letter was formatted according to those three myths. Each part can be directly accessed from a navigation bar across the top, which remains throughout the entire experience.
It’s a far more visual experience, with images providing a before and after look at the changing landscape of poverty.
There are still infographics in the letter, but this time they are optimized to get across a single idea or point, rather than conveying statistics in a scattershot manner.
Information pertaining to the letter, but may be regarded as tangential, can now be included thanks to the use of other media.
In a chapter on the arguments around aid dependence, a SlideShare has been included to give the reader an insight how foreign aid works.
This is great for any reader that wishes to drill further down into the subject.
The number of videos included with the letter has now tripled. Video is a key way to get information across in a quick and concise manner. The letter does this at its most effective in this two-minute video featuring Bull Nye.
The layout of the letter is also made more ‘readable’ by breaking up the text with space, images and other media. There are just as many words as the previous letters, but here the letter is made easier to read by utilizing more manageably sized paragraphs.
Another key feature of the letter, which improves its accessibility across all devices is that it’s entirely responsive, adapting to fit any size of screen.
The images, SlideShares and videos are also optimized for mobile and the navigation disappears into the menu button in the top right corner.
The most important feature of the letter, which not only increases the interactivity of the letter but also ensures attention is retained and the likelihood of sharing is increased, is this simple tool.
Within each chapter, a simple question is asked. Do you agree or disagree? This reveals the results of an ongoing poll in regards to the question.
At the end of each of the three chapters there is a ‘share this section’ button. According to POSSIBLE, after reading the first one or two myths, 1.6% readers would click the button. For readers who had finished all three myths, 4.8% would click on share.
The letter was expected to reach 500,000 readers. Thanks to its new highly interactive, responsive, content-rich and easily shareable design, the letter reached 1.2m people within three weeks.
Read the letter in full here: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Letter 2014