How to create a great charity website experience
More than 1,000 people with MS helped to create the MS Society’s friendly and intuitive new website – we sat down with CEO Michelle Mitchell to find out how.
The website is a vital source of support for over 100,000 people with MS in the UK, providing information and bringing people together to share experiences.
We sat down with Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society, to find out more about the role of the charity’s users, supporters, and potential new users in bringing its reimagined website to life, marking the first stage in the charity’s digital transformation.
Over a thousand people living with MS helped develop the website, putting their their needs, aspirations and voices at the heart of the project.
CDN: Who was involved in designing the website?
MM: We chose two groups – people we were currently connected with such as our users and members, and then people who were newly diagnosed and who weren’t currently using the MS Society.
Our aim is to attract and bring a better experience for those we are in touch with – this is particularly important for those individuals who are newly diagnosed and learning to live with the condition, but also to make sure when we were designing the website that we could attract people who we think we’ve got a great offer for.
For them, a new and improved website might be the thing that encourages them to come to us as the MS Society. We wanted to make sure their voices were heard in this process too, as future customers.
CDN: What was your process of going through the testing?
MM: We held focus groups locally as well as online and over the phone. While we were scoping our site to find out how they use online tools and what their frustrations were with our old website we talked to them about what they wanted to get from the new one.
Throughout the process roughly 1,000 users gave feedback online through surveys. We also recruited a panel of 150 people from the MS community during design and build, who informed the process, providing feedback on everything from design and content to ease of use, and we involved them in card sorting exercises, testing scenarios and qualitative feedback.
More than 800 people then told us what they thought of our beta homepage during a two week period of testing where they reviewed the site before it went live.
CDN: What did you change about the new website?
MM: People really did help shape our requirements and our vision for the website. Our new site has a refreshed design, with a new look and feel, and site architecture. We’ve created a more mobile-friendly website, with information that is easily discoverable.
The MS community told us really clearly that they wanted bigger pictures, more positive stories and better navigation.
It also has an improved search so visitors are able to find what they’re looking for, and a ‘near me’ function so visitors can search for services and activities by areas.
The site is also mobile and tablet friendly making it more accessible and enabling us to reach more people affected by MS.
CDN: What have been some of the biggest benefits for the MS Society?
MM: Just over 75% of our community have told us they strongly agree that it’s now easier to find what they’re looking for.
We’ve got an improved bounce rate and time on page, which show us that we’re reaching the right people with the right information and engaging content. We will obviously continue to work closely with the MS community – it’s their website, and we want to make sure we continue this great co-production and engagement with the community.
Phase two will be focused on making a better and easier experience for people who wish to donate, as well as making the website a more personalised, individual experience.