An introduction to User Experience

User Experience (UX), which is new at Scouts, is about making the digital products you use as useful and usable as possible. The UX team, right now just me, is responsible for designing the right products well, and then continuously improving them. To do this, I work closely with you, our members, as well as other members of the team here at Headquarters.

There are three main parts to UX:

Research Design Analytics
This is how we determine what would be helpful and valuable to you. This is where we take the research and make it into a product, like a website or an app. This is where we evaluate how well the products are working for you and make improvements.
Hand drawn image representing research Hand drawn image representing products Hand drawn image representing analytics

These are a repeated cycle of continuous improvements (you might hear it called iterations). We don’t just make it once and let it go. We want to make sure it’s the best it can be, and that it changes with the times as needed.

Members’ contributions are critical to each part of UX.  We can’t do any of them without you. We have started working on involving members, and will be sharing what we do here on the blog and in other ways.

Our first steps are focusing on the basics, such as:

  • looking at analytics which help us understand how you use the existing website
  • understanding your experience as it is now through conversations with volunteers
  • conducting research to find opportunities to better meet your needs

All three will be important to improving the volunteer experience, our first primary focus.

UX will have a long-term, as well as short-term, impact on Scouting.  Our responsibility is to bring you, our members, into the process and to support you in the way that best suits you. We know that won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach, and we don’t know what that will be.  That’s what we will find out together.

Our goals are to:

  1. help make journeys that are more user-centred and are measurable
  2. improve the value and usefulness of digital products to all our audiences
  3. provide integrated experiences that support Scouting
  4. support member involvement across all Scouting
  5. discover audience problems, develop insights, and create solutions, as well as measure results


  1. Avatar Peter Cathcart 14/12/2017 / 4:29 pm

    Sounds spot on to me. Thank you.

  2. Avatar Andrew Rush 14/12/2017 / 4:31 pm


    It’s encouraging to read your post.

    If I may, I think that this is exactly where Gilwell has fallen down before, so I not only wish you luck but hope that you are successful in maintaining this good start.

  3. Avatar Matthew Burrell 14/12/2017 / 4:35 pm

    Hi there!

    I’m a Business Analyst working with digital tools and user on-boarding for a leading Finance Company, but more importantly I am a County Commissioner! 🙂

    If you need any help, just shout. Probably can’t commit loads of time but always happy for review BETAs or wireframes


    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/12/2017 / 1:57 pm

      glad you have your priorities set 😉

      Thanks for the offer of help, we will keep track of your speciaisation

  4. Avatar Mike 14/12/2017 / 4:45 pm

    I think you need to concentrate on what we have now – and ensure it’s completely up to date, removing out of date material so that it can’t be accessed. I can put up (for now) with a clunky website while that’s done

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/12/2017 / 10:33 am

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for posting. We are aware of the problem of out of date and inaccurate material on the website, and are looking into fixes for this. We’ll address it fully as part of new development. Are you concerned particularly about any other specific content? I will contact you directly.


  5. Avatar Howard Hills 14/12/2017 / 4:48 pm

    Does your project scope include Compass or just the website.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/12/2017 / 10:38 am

      Hi Howard,

      Thanks for commenting. We are not working on a single project but all digital activity, so our work will cover more than the website. At the moment, we are not planning on looking into Compass immediately.


  6. Avatar Mark Westwood 14/12/2017 / 5:37 pm

    We’ve heard similar things before, during the switch from scoutbase to and with the phenomenal effort that generated a user spec for what became compass (but the spec wasn’t delivered). I’m hoping that some lessons will have been identified from those experiences of generating user input to help with the way ahead.

  7. Avatar Annette Payne 14/12/2017 / 6:25 pm

    Good to hear you are following good software design practice.I am a Lecturer in Computer Science and teach User Centred Design and HCI (Human Computer Interaction) so great to see. Good luck. I am also a DC so happy to help out with any testing.

  8. Avatar woodsrbRoger Woods 14/12/2017 / 7:03 pm

    I think that’s great you’ve talked the talk, but you now have to walk the walk and its the latter part that has been missing in TSA.

  9. Avatar Andrew Burt 14/12/2017 / 7:59 pm

    This is great to read.
    I am a GSL and a technology PM with experience of software product design and test, currently working in test for Telecomms solutions. I would love to help, although as others have stated my time may be limited. I have found the whole Compass experience quite frustrating from a number of angles, one of which is how to provide feedback from working with compass and the process it supports.

  10. Avatar Roger Liscoe 14/12/2017 / 8:09 pm

    Compass needs to work on iOS & android tablets. it dosen’t

    • Avatar Helen Murray 15/12/2017 / 10:49 am

      Hi Roger, thanks for your comment. Whilst Compass works on iOS and Android tablets, it isn’t responsive to all screen sizes, so it will still appear in the same format as if you are using it on a desktop. You can see more information in our Compass FAQs here: Please let us know if you are having any additional issues and we will get in touch with you directly.

  11. Avatar Paul Spencer 14/12/2017 / 9:21 pm

    Spot on!

  12. Avatar Claire Morris 15/12/2017 / 10:26 am

    Hi Kirsten,

    Sounds spot on to me. The user experience is really key. I’m probably teaching grandmother to suck eggs but once you understand the processes you’ll be able to see how the systems support them (or not, as the case may be). I’d hazard a guess that many/most volunteers are using information systems in the course of their day job which are rather more advanced than those they use to support their Scouting work and hence the frustration. I hope you’ll be able to achieve a leap forward through concentrating first on processes and people and then fitting the technology to support that.
    I’m happy to help if I can as my day job now is Scouting!

  13. Avatar Richard Hunt 15/12/2017 / 11:23 am

    I think it’s massively important to remember that we have 9500 scout groups plus districts and counties and ASU’s. These have a variety of role holders and a variety of skill sets. One UX is unlikely to work for all.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/12/2017 / 2:44 pm

      Totally agree!

  14. Avatar Tommy Boag 15/12/2017 / 11:52 am

    Hi Kirsten,

    Good to see we are finally getting our act together on this subject.
    Appreciate the idea of analytics but there are a lot of areas we know don’t work already without having to spend time reconfirming this. I realise some things will take a long time to sort but there must be a few small quick win items that people use that could be improved right away.
    I am concerned you are looking at everything and you will be stretched far to much to really sort everything out.
    This is a mammoth job and you can’t do this on your own. You will need to get a large team to help you on this. Please try and do a few things well than everything poorly.
    I fully agreed about the problem with old and out of date material still coming up form searches.
    As has been said from the previous article we made a mess of compass and need to move on now and perhaps eat a bit of humble pie and integrate OSM as our default system which would sort out a major problem in one swift move.
    Happy to help out if you need a hand.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/12/2017 / 3:15 pm

      Thanks for your input. We will be sharing our ways of working here on the blog, so be sure to follow.

      If you have specifics about the out of date material showing up in search results, please share.

      • Avatar Tommy Boag 21/12/2017 / 1:49 pm

        I do a lot of work with QSA participants and all the old versions of application forms and support materials are still coming up in general searches on the internet. Getting rid of them would be a great help to start with.

  15. Avatar Martin 15/12/2017 / 10:22 pm

    I’m a recently appointed joint cub leader. OSM was put in as the best way for us to work efficiently and have been finding the system fantastic, though there are some bits that could work better – adding local badges for instance. Compass is a pain, as a person on training (and having developed a trainee led database in the past) I would like to update where I am with my experience and notes, and then inform my verifier so they can go in and agree or not, however the system is designed such that all the work is done by the trainer. On top of that – I had problems searching recently, then when I tried to log an issue – the logger was also playing up, however there was nowhere else to report the issue, not even a contact address. Looking forward to the change coming, though realise its better to take a bit longer and get it right than be quick and make it look bad. (S,H,E,Q,IS,C Risk Advisor as a day job)

  16. Avatar John Day 16/12/2017 / 10:09 am

    On matter that could be introduced immediately which would improve the current website would eb to ensure that all pages included a “last update..” comment. This would enable users to know if things had changed. This would be a simple policy to implement but I have asked successive Chief Commissioners to arrange this to no avail.

  17. Avatar Clive Hailey 17/12/2017 / 1:20 pm

    Hi Kirsten,

    It all sounds great and we look forward to having Scouting brought properly in to the Digital Age with products that actually work and for which we the members have been allowed to have some input. The Compass debacle was made worse by the fact that the phenomenal amount of extremely constructive feedback and practical suggestions provided by exceptionally talented and qualified members was totally ignored!

    Really impressed to see the offers that have already been made by responders to this blog and hope that they will be taken up!

    I’m no expert but have tested new software and websites, was a Compass Superuser and currently train leaders in our District how to get the best out of OSM and of Compass (a hard task!) so I think I know what to look for in a new product.

    I do know that the current website has loads of useful material on it (yes, some out of date) but without an effective Search Engine it will never be a useful tool – it wastes too much of our time in searching!

    Good luck.

  18. Avatar Kiff 19/12/2017 / 9:21 am

    UX is not new to TSA. It has been explained in great detail before during Dixie and the UKSN Platform. The new understanding of what UX is and how it is important in the delivery of a digital stratergy it what is new and welcomed.

    Please build on this understanding with items like Gamification and the difference between the UX needs or an intranet and a public webpage.

    I am very keen to see the continuation of the UX work on the Network Platform to move it from a MVP into the scoped platform that it was meant to be.

  19. Avatar Howard Hills 20/12/2017 / 7:14 am

    To follow up my previous question on scope here is a comment about the Member Area of the website>

    Comment on User Experience

    There is a fundamental issue in the mix of using the member site to launch new initiatives, crisis management and as a reference site.

    The result it conflicting information and information that is hard to find or forgotten.

    Example 1. A recent discussion on the managers in scouting Facebook page on is it OK to post pictures of children at scouts events on social media or send it to the press. One member knew the answer is on the website: but I defy you to find it if you do not know the answer exists. The original document was circulated as a fact sheet and some of us will have kept copies (I am a trainer so I keep this sort of stuff).

    Example 2. The new management training was launched in January 2017 with a series of pages which are still listed as launch information and not yet incorporated into the main stream of reference material. For example I can find the module “providing direction” through training>learners>learning materials> but the hyperlink goes to a list of all the Independant learning materials rather than just those supporting that module. Surprisingly if I am a new manager in Scouting and start at the welcome managers in scouting page there is no mention of training for managers.

    Example 3. Youth Shape has been running three years now but there are two main menu items, one clearly a record of past and this year’s promotion of youth shape the other a mix of reference material and launch material.

    I have run out of examples but there are other times when I am asked questions on training courses; I know the answer is on the website but not always in POR but I can’t easily find it. Some of the pages I have mentioned above no longer have a place in the hierarchy, in other words if you look at the top left of the page there is no menu sequence.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 21/12/2017 / 11:55 am

      Thanks, Howard — this is helpful.

  20. Avatar Tony Crackett 23/12/2017 / 5:39 pm

    Sadly, this was pretty much the message that came from the original team that was called “Getting IT Right” and gradually changed into Compass. A lot of volunteers put a lot of time and effort into identifying user requirements, but once the system supplier was selected communication with the user group just stopped. The result was not just that compromises were made, but probably the wrong compromises were made. Furthermore TSA forgot that one of the main reasons for change was that the predecessor adult records system (MMS) was creaking at the seams and was full of wrong data. They then proceeded to rely on an untested (at least by real users) conversion of that data into Compass. For my District for example they managed to unfrock three Reverends, and give one of them a sex change!

    If you are to succeed it will be absolutely essential to be very explicit, in advance, about what you are dellivering and what you are not delivering yet. Manage the expectations. Coomunicate, communicate, comunicate – and not just the good news.

    It might be a good start to publish the inquest report into what went wrong with Compass.

  21. Avatar sally Beadman 07/01/2018 / 4:40 pm

    Hi i am a gsl and unlike most of the above though i work on computers all day. i am very much a front end user. if you would like anything testing or feedback by a normal person, with basic skills i am happy to help.

    As a GSL and a cub leader i would like a scout owned IE free to my group system like OSM where i can plan my meetings ,find activities, and manage the finances of the group with ease, i would like my data secure so i no longer have to store paperwork.

    i would like the website easier to locate information ie search what age can a child start beavers ?? i would like a system where i can load ideas to share and other can share there plans and ideas with me.

    We are a small village group and i have no one who can help me create my own web page for my group. we have only been running for 2 years and i can find no support that i dont have to pay for.

  22. Avatar Norma Brandon 22/02/2018 / 12:45 pm

    You’ve got a massive challenge Kirsten. How are you going to break your initiative down into deliverable chunks that will make the most impact that we can start to see the results of this year?

    We started at County last year with the aim to improve IT support for groups – making use of what is currently available we have an ongoing intiative to provide OSM and encourage all groups to use it. I think that we’ve made a big difference to the ability of groups to keep accurate records, plan their programmes, have easy access to lots of activity ideas, help the groups manage payments (it worries me how many leaders take hundreds of pounds in cash of an evening for events and keep it at their home overnight) and keep their personal and badge records up to date giving the parents responsbility for updating personal information – freeing leaders up to run fun evenings with their sections meeting all the requirements to record the activities to the benefit of the young people.

    Hopefully you’ll identify the right priorties that make the biggest differences to the majority of scout groups and districts first – but please make your intiatives compatible with what groups, districts and counties have had to do due to lack of leadership in IT from TSA since the COMPASS implementation.

  23. Avatar Andy Loring 14/03/2018 / 5:34 pm

    As others have said, as a Business Analyst who is used to working on user requirements for large scale (IT) projects, I’m happy to help if needed (in what ‘spare time’ I have alongside other Scouting commitments).

    I know you’ll be aware of this, but I guess your biggest issue with UX (especially in terms of interpreting web analytics) is separating out the different ‘Users’ involved, which range could from:
    – ‘outsiders’ who are trying to find out about Scouting, or where their nearest group is
    – Youth members (and their parents/carers), who may just be looking for badge information
    – Section Leaders (with varying levels of IT proficiency!), who may be looking for rules or resource ideas
    – Managers (GSLs, commissioners …), who may need to deal with specific enquiries on technical questions, as well as tools associated with line management.

    And all of these could be at local (group, district, county), regional/area or national level…

    Good luck, but it sound encouraging with the work that is already going on.

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