Some of the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that Shelter Scotland’s website has a shiny new look. Why change something that’s completely functional and looks perfectly fine, I hear you ask? Well, sometimes change is a good thing, especially when your users and your colleagues tell you that, although things are working, and they’re alright, they could be better.

We know that people found the Shelter Scotland website incredibly useful and the information provided is sound. In fact 94% of the 13,000 feedback forms we received last year said that they found the website:

  • helpful
  • easy to understand, and
  • complete with enough details.

But, as we didn’t hear from the other 700,000 people, we had to dig a little deeper to see what was working and what wasn’t. We talked to our face-to-face fundraisers, our helpline advisers, policy makers and users. We held focus groups, asked people what was working and what wasn’t and watched people as they used the site.

Our face-to-face fundraisers told us how people on the street knew about the site, but didn’t know that it contained so much housing advice. They didn’t know that they could sign up to be a campaigner or to volunteer – they wanted to get involved but they couldn’t.

Our helpline advisers told us that people phoned up to ask about disrepair with the page “Getting your landlord to do repairs” open. They asked questions which were answered right in front of them.

Our users told us that they found the text hard to read, they didn’t know how to get involved and they weren’t sure what the difference between Get Advice and Housing Issues was. Housing Issues by the way is about statistics and the housing crisis in Scotland – not the right place to look for advice. That was a quick fix; we renamed it Housing Policy and moved it in the navigation.

Our users also told us what we already knew – that when they’re on the brink of eviction they’re anxious and worried. The old pages were overly red and “shouty” and didn’t instil a sense of calmness. The pages shouted a phone number and they used it. That doesn’t help the 50% of calls we can’t answer.

They told us that they’re now consuming information on tablets and smart phones; they’re no longer only on a desktop computer. Our own stats show that mobile traffic has increased significantly over the last two years, and our old mobile website was very functional but it didn’t motivate people to get involved.

So what’s changed?

Our new site uses a responsive design which is better for search engines, better for users and better for us. We only need to work on one design and one set of content and users can enjoy that content wherever they are and on whichever device they own (except Nokia 3310s).

The navigation:

We simplified, split and removed. We removed the mega menus and simplified the channels. We want people to Get advice, Get involved or Donate. The rest, whilst still important, isn’t the primary reason why we exist as an organisation.

The homepage:

We’ve removed noise on the page. Traditionally a homepage is a land grab where each department wants their stake; they want to be represented at the front door. These days search engines send people through the windows, chimneys and the back door so we need to make the front page work hard to achieve one goal. For us that goal is to tell people who we are and get people to sign up as a supporter. This is the first step to a relationship and the first step to creating a campaigner or a donor. Without that we can’t exist.

Get advice:

We’ve toned down the red, while being careful not to diminish our brand. We’ve created breathing room, made the page scannable and removed supplemental information. We’ve integrated links and downloads into the main content and highlighted the most important bits. We’re reassuring people with videos and making them work a little harder to get to the helpline number. Users now have to click to reveal the phone number, which means we’ll now know which pages are sending people to the helpline. Those pages must work harder.

Get involved:

We want people to get involved. We want people to sign up as a campaigner, volunteer, donate, run a race, sing a song, bake a cake. We want to inspire people to choose Shelter Scotland when they run and we want to introduce people to a crazy event like the Spartan Race.

Whilst a project of this size isn’t without its teething problems we’re confident that this is a design and website which will enable us to help more people.

Here’s some early feedback from our users:

Thank you so much this page just unravels all of the jargon the council told me and they told me they couldn’t house me but thanks to this it proves they can. Thank you so much as I would not know my rights as a Scottish 23 year old man. Thanks!

Thank you so much this has helped so much and taken a load off my mind. It’s so easy to understand.

Please do send your feedback, good or bad; we’d love to hear what you think.

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