From next Tuesday, 15 May, Scouts.org.uk will have a new homepage. We felt that Scouting needed a new homepage now, for a number of reasons.
- The previous homepage was not meeting needs of members or potential members (see below for further details on this)
- The new homepage allows us to get a better understanding of how people use it, and to test ideas in order to make improvements – you will see changes straight away. We will even take a few risks to try new things.
- On our new homepage, we will start putting our research into use (further details on this below).
- We want to celebrate the new brand with a fresh, updated homepage that better reflects where Scouting is now.
- New digital products are a critical part of the strategy, so we need to get started straight away
- Most importantly, we want to start working on how we work together, immediately. This homepage has important input from members who participated in our Digital Day workshop on designing the homepage.
So, what about the rest of the site?
The launch on Tuesday of the new homepage and a microsite to support Skills for Life is the beginning of our journey to deliver a new website for Scouting. We will be following a new process (well, new to Scouting) for the development of the new website, that we want to ensure you, our members, are fully involved in. We will be using agile methodology and an ‘Alpha > Beta > Live’ approach for development. This process is commonly used in the delivery of digital services (and technology as a whole). We will eventually replace the existing website. If you would like to understand more about the ‘Alpha > Beta > Live’ approach, Government Digital Services explain it well. We will also blog about this in more detail in the future.
The current website will stay up as we create the new one, so you have access to the information you need. But the new one will be brand new, and based on your needs. Supporting you, our members, will be our primary focus, but we will always be looking to support and simplify volunteer recruitment as well, which is key in supporting our membership as well. You will see continuous releases as we develop the new site, starting later this summer. Please contact us if you want to be involved.
The new homepage – a work in progress, a new way of working
Before we attempted to redesign the homepage, we first needed to understand how the current site is used, and understand more about our users’ needs (read more about our research process). Here is some of the research that went into into designing the homepage.
Our first step was to analyse how the website is used now
We started with the homepage and found that
- homepage users are navigating to their desired section, which is primarily the Members resources section.
- other content in the page gets little engagement
- search is not used.
We then looked at what traffic to the Members resources section was doing and found that
- despite being a subtle part of the page design, many users are navigating directly to Compass login.
- most other users are either using the side navigation to browse for the information they seek (30% in total), or exit the site.
- search is used more, but still not much
And we looked at the number of visits our users were making
- most session to the site are from returning visitors
- a large segment of users visit the site many times.
We also looked at which search terms were the most used on the site (even though the search is little used).
Scouts.org.uk top search terms
- nights away
- yellow card
- data protection
- nights away permit
We also talked to Section Leaders and Assistant Section Leaders about their experiences
Research identified some findings which we found potentially relevant for the homepage redesign (read more about the research)
- The Scout Association website is a trusted source of information, but too hard to use
- The website is the primary source for
- POR, risk assessments, checking adult-child ratios
- badge criteria
- Scouts.org.uk is not easily searchable or user friendly which is has reduced usage to only essential information. Volunteers said this is because
- it is time consuming to find information about things like ratios and risk assessments
- users have found work arounds, for instance using google to search the website
- easier tools are favoured over the website
- A quick and easy way to get programme planning help is needed, especially for badges that have recently changed
- our leaders are ambitious and enjoy creating individual activity programmes
- it is disappointing to learn of POR limitations after a plan is developed
- every leader has a need for last minute activity information occasionally
- The need for safe guarding is essential and requires continual effort, but the reward is peace of mind
- The shortage of adult volunteers is a big frustration
Lastly, we asked Section Leaders and Assistant Section Leaders questions about what we had learned so far
Users identified poor findability as the primary reasons rules and requirements on the website were so hard to use, as well as the information itself being hard to use.
Leaders spend their time on a variety of long and short-term tasks. Over the year, preparing for meetings and admin take up the almost half the time.
Members also shared tasks that they found easy and enjoyable. They said:
- ‘Planning for camp! Choosing is Enjoyable’
- ‘The meetings, talking to the kids, getting the kids’ feedback’
- ‘Coming up with ideas, researching them, and prepping’
- ‘Planning meetings because I feel valued’
- ‘Planning and going on outings’
We know this only covers a portion of our membership, but as we mentioned before, this is just the beginning, both in research and in design.
Then, we had two very quick design workshops at the Digital Day
During the afternoon of Scout Digital Day, we ran two workshops with members in a variety of roles. Our task was to define and design the new homepage based on evidence and membership priorities. We gave our workshop participants the research above. We were also interested how members used and interpreted evidence we shared, and what additional evidence they would be interested in.
From the research, what emerged for the participants were clear audiences who had clear goals, that required clear actions. They also established clear needs for additional evidence.
Members identified two main audiences and goals.
- current volunteers seeking information critical for the execution of their role
- parents looking for young people looking to join
Members felt it was critical to improve recruitment of new leaders (we need data on this to make it measurable—homepage messages are something with which we will experiment).
We then had a rapid sketching session, and an even more rapid usability testing session.
The results were incorporated into the new homepage design, which is almost ready, as we speak.
Next Tuesday, we will have a new homepage. Then, we will make it better.
Launching our design is only the first step
- We can’t make it perfect the first time, ever
- It’s critical to continue to improve, based on ever more evidence
- This method of continual improvement is supported by our development processes
How we will measure and improve the homepage, together
With your help we can continue to improve the homepage. From Tuesday, please use the new homepage! Comment here, be constructive, subscribe and contact us for more research and updates and how you can participate in design, developing, and testing.
There are many of things that cannot be addressed within the scope of a simple homepage redesign, especially when we haven’t addressed the content underneath. Together, we will keep developing, releasing, and improving. In the meantime, we think the launch of the new homepage a great opportunity to get your input.
In the following weeks we will begin testing new variations of the homepage and measuring how the homepage is used, focusing on our key audiences
As an example, here’s one method we’ll use
- “A/B testing” is a method of improving designs using data as evidence
- for example, website visitors are shown two different designs of the same thing (“variation A” and “variation B”), and the design’s performance is measured and compared by a specialised tool
But we won’t just use analytics. We will continue to use a variety of evidence types, since every type of evidence has its own inherent limitations.
- We will never have perfect evidence for what we are building, but we will work with what we can get!
- A mix of evidence helps us understand how to design better.
- Whilst upfront research is important, only evidence gathered after launch shows how real people actually use our design.
- Evidence is also interpreted when it inputs into design, and that can vary.
- Behaviour can also be cyclical (which can be difficult to capture) and so ‘longitudinal’ information gathered over time is necessary.
- What is “representative” of our volunteers changes, too.
Is this exciting and dynamic digital future for Scouts for real?
Yes, all aspects of our team supports this method, from how the pages are built, to the tools we use, to the content planning processes, to Matt Hyde’s input. We’ve planned this way of working as our foundation, focused on engaging and partnering with members, and it will continue to be a part of how we define, design, and develop our digital tools.
You are an essential part of this process
Contact us to be involved in further research, design, and testing.
Lastly, thank you to the workshop participants – their contributions were invaluable and they had ideas and perspectives we never would have had on our own. This is a collaborative homepage, and will continue to be so. We will definitely be doing workshops like this again. It was so exciting to work with you and understand your perspectives.
Special thanks to Volunteers Emily Au (Assistant UK Youth Commissioner for Governance) and Dan Collette for helping develop and run the workshops, and to Gareth Davies for his wise support.