Digital Day: Making a new homepage with and for volunteers

From next Tuesday, 15 May, 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

53% of visitors go to members; 21% of visitors exit; 14% use the top navigation; 7% search for a group; 1.5% click on the big photo; the rest of the page gets less than 1.5% traffic

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.

32% of visitors go to Compass; 9% go to disclosures; 7% search; 14% go to one of the 3 younger sections; 6% go to training; 3% use the main navigation; 2% click on something in most popular; less than 1% read 'welcome managers in scouting'; 34% exit
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). top search terms

  1. badges
  2. por
  3. nights away
  4. gdpr
  5. safeguarding
  6. yellow card
  7. beavers
  8. data protection
  9. dbs
  10. training
  11. cubs
  12. awards
  13. nights away permit
  14. uniform
  15. compass

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
  • 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.

30% spent preparing for their next section meeting; 17% spent on admin; 13% spent on prep for annual/one off section events; 11% spent communicating with parents; 8% spent training and keeping skills/knowledge up to date; 7% spent prepping for District events; 4% spent other or don't know

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.

  1. current volunteers seeking information critical for the execution of their role
  2. 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.



  1. Avatar Derren Phillips 11/05/2018 / 7:56 am

    I think the main reason that Search is not used is that it’s so rubbish; whenever I want to search the Scouts website I use Google with the quantifier…

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 11/05/2018 / 8:02 am

      I do that myself, as well. It came up a lot in the research. We are working on a solution — if you haven’t yet, do contact us if you want to join in that work.

    • Avatar Jonathan Corwin 11/05/2018 / 12:40 pm

      As long as searching (whether via the site, or via google) only brings me up the latest version of a document, and not one from 10 years ago which I later find has been superseded 5 times, then I’m happy 🙂
      For example if I search Google for scouts policy organisations and rules, why would I ever be interested in the January 2012 version? That should be archived away in a section hidden by robots.txt

      • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:57 pm

        Hi Jonathan, this is something that concerns us greatly that we will be tackling over the coming months. It is absolutely critical that the current rules be able to be accessed quickly and easily. Please contact us if you would like to participate in developing the solution to this problem.

  2. Avatar Claire Morris 11/05/2018 / 8:14 am

    Sounds really exciting I can’t wait to see the new homepage. I think all you have talked about in the blog makes perfect sense and it’s so refreshing to see that the design is being led by users’ needs. Well done to all involved!

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:43 pm

      aww, thank you, Claire!

  3. Avatar Tommy Boag 11/05/2018 / 8:20 am

    It is great to see the direction we are going with this work. Finally the association is taking on board and acting on members needs and wishes. This initiative being driven by the members for the members is long overdue. I am pleased to see you stating that this cooperation is going to be the way forward. Keep up the good work and momentum.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:44 pm

      Thank you, Tommy. It means a lot to us coming from members who have been through the more difficult situations.

  4. Avatar Richard Taylor 11/05/2018 / 8:23 am

    I am delighted to see such an open and inclusive approach being taken. I wish you all the best in your endeavour to provide the best tools our movement.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:47 pm

      Thank you, Richard. Do contact us if you want to participate in the development.

  5. Avatar Gavin Jamie 11/05/2018 / 8:28 am

    I tend to have bookmarks to the pages I want. Beavers badges is my most commonly used. I have not looked at the front page for a very long time.
    The POL link used to be used reguarly but after a long period of not being very well it seems to have died completely. Fortunately most of the content is now on OSM.

  6. Avatar Andy Loring 11/05/2018 / 9:32 am

    In the section about the design workshops at the Digital Day you said

    “Members identified two main audiences and goals.
    1. current volunteers seeking information critical for the execution of their role
    2. parents looking for young people looking to join”

    In my experience the 2nd point is broader that JUST those looking to join, it also includes current members looking for information about badges and badge requirements (for their section).

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:54 pm

      Hi Andy, thanks for you input. If I understand your comment, that is what we mean by the first point– as badge information being critical for some volunteers’ roles. A further third group might be parents of young people who are currently scouts, but that wasn’t supposed to be a large group and we don’t have the evidence for that yet.

  7. Avatar dbreakers 11/05/2018 / 9:58 am

    A major issue is the amount of out of date information (and broken links) that sit on the current site. Its also frustrating that to get the total picture on some topics you have to visit loads of different pages.

    Any new site should try to make sure information is recorded once, updated when it changes and removed when it is out of date.

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:56 pm

      Hi, I totally agree — we will be taking a clean look at the content with that in mind. That’s one of the reasons why you aren’t getting a re-skin now, but a new site, agile-ly.

  8. Avatar Andy Loring 11/05/2018 / 2:35 pm

    (Also) will the new website be optimised to be mobile friendly where possible?
    (If you need to look something up whilst at your Hut, or in a field, then it isn’t very easy to do currently)

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:41 pm

      Hi Andy — yes, it be mobile friendly. But it will take some time for all of the information you need to become mobile friendly. Is there anything in particular you use when you are in the hut or in a field?

      • Avatar Peter Day 14/05/2018 / 3:42 pm

        Badge requirements

        • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 4:25 pm

          Thanks Peter, this aligns with the research as well — the basics!

  9. Avatar Nick Jarman 11/05/2018 / 5:28 pm

    So – leaders (and Appointment Secretaries like me !) are using Compass frequently – Iuse it multiple times per day – I have a direct link to Compass on my desktop but others may use the home page – surely that is hardly a surprise

    And agreed, the search function on the HQ website is useless – I always use “scouts” then what I’m looking for in Google and know many others do the same

    I would like to see factsheets updated and made easy to find – and a list of those factsheets, their issue date and version number, ideally in a downloadable Excel format – sometimes searches bring up old versions and it is important to know we have the latest, even if it is a few years old . . .

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:39 pm

      Hi Nick, Please contact us if you would like to be involved in the development of a solution for search and other work, if you haven’t already.

      The factsheets issue is critical for us, as well. Thanks for your input on how you would like to use them.

      • Avatar dbreakers 15/05/2018 / 10:53 am

        I would reduce the number of PDF based documents on the website – they aren’t searchable, you can’t deep link to content within them and following links within them back to the web isn’t good.

        All content should be HTML based and with a last updated date/time with links as appropriate.

        As an example of this – see this page:

        * The list of ammendments can’t link to the actual content as you can’t deep link to PDF content.
        * For some reason we feel the need to provide a link to a PDF which contains a duplicate list of the changes
        * The PDFs do not provide in document navigation from the table of contents or text
        * The PDFs do not highlight changes made

        And this is for a critical document and the first page you hit after following the link from the homepage…..

        • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 15/05/2018 / 11:17 am

          Hi– thanks for your input. How content is presented is something we have our eye on — there does seem to be an extremely large number of pdfs, and we whilst we are sensitive to existing behaviours that depend on pdfs, we don’t see them as the right way to communicate this information, either. Two further problems include (1) poor readability on mobile, and (2) increased difficulty to expire, whether saved or online. The information contained is critical, and so we see addressing all these problems as important work to start on. Thanks for sharing your analysis, and do contact us if you want to be further involved in this solution.

  10. Avatar Martin 12/05/2018 / 10:15 am

    Are you including exec members who work behind the scenes but are just as active and mat need a lot of the Admin support information and easy access to it ?

    • Avatar Kirsten Lawton 14/05/2018 / 2:30 pm

      Hi Martin– thanks for your question. There were exec members in the workshops at Digital Day. We will be looking into specific needs through research, and would value your input. If you are interested in participating, please contact us.

  11. Avatar Dex Whitmore 23/05/2018 / 7:43 pm

    Can we get a Scouts Digital guide to GDPR and Scout Websites? I would have thought given the bearing deadline there would be something on here about it but there is nothing.

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