Our new beta website

 

Later this month, we will be releasing the beta version of the new Scouts website. This website is the culmination of a year’s work, designing a new website from the ground-up that aims to deliver on our Skills for Life plan launched in May 2018.

Our new website, unlike other digital developments we have released over the years, will be publicly available in its ‘beta’ phase. We have been testing a prototype with a group of volunteers, and now we’re sharing this working version of our website to get feedback, giving you the chance to shape our tools and improve their quality.

What this means in practice is that our new site will contain some – though not all – of the information currently on scouts.org.uk. It won’t have the full functionality we have planned for it, and some information may be unavailable at the start. Scouts.org.uk will still continue to function as our main site until we have created a website that we are satisfied fulfils all of its functions and more. For the time being, you’ll still be able to access member resources and read our news from the same pages you usually visit.

One of the key objectives for our new website is the rationalisation of existing sites into a single source of truth – that’s why, alongside adding information to the beta site, we are working on improving it, too. We’ve already transferred some information which will be accessible from day one, and we’ll continue to add more.

As well as providing a new face for our organisation with a mobile-first design, the beta website will provide visitors with access to our new programme planning tool.

The new tool has been developed in collaboration with a group of section leaders from our Community of Interest, and national volunteers such as Wendy Human (UK Commissioner for Programme Assurance), Graeme Hamilton (UK Commissioner for Programme Delivery) and Andrew Sutherland (our lead volunteer in developing this new digital programme planning tool). It is designed to complement other tools you may use in the administration of Scouting, such as OSM, and provides access to our badge and activity content, helping leaders plan sessions with their sections using live and up-to-date information. This first release is aimed at Cub leaders, but we will be adding Beaver content by the end of this year and Scout section material during 2020.

We hope the programme planning tool becomes a key part of a section leader’s digital toolkit and makes it easier for anyone – whether you’re an old hand or just starting out – to give our Scouts skills for life.

Why are we releasing our site to the public in its ‘beta’ phase?

In the digital age, we need to be much more flexible and responsive in how we develop new online services. For the Scouts, this means involving our members, our strongest asset, from the beginning. We’ve been lucky to test, change and develop our beta website in collaboration with volunteers, but now we’d like to share our work with a wider group and gather even more feedback. We will use this feedback to continue to develop and improve the website in the future and we will regularly update you with what you have told us and what we are doing about it.

To tell you more about our new website, we’re hosting a webinar on Wednesday 8thMay. Starting at 7pm and lasting approximately 30 minutes, we’ll be covering details of our new website, its functionality and how you can feed back into its continued development. To join the webinar, follow the link below.

https://scouts.org.uk/digitalwebinar

For those unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and available to watch on this blog from Thursday 9thMay.

We’re interested to see what you think of our new website, and hope you’ll enjoy being a part of its development.

WATCH: Technical infrastructure webinar

Last night, the digital team hosted an interactive technical infrastructure webinar. Hosted by our Digital Product Manager, Rachel Davidson, and our Solution Architect, Jeff Nayler, the webinar covered upgrades and improvements to the architecture underpinning our digital systems, namely our transition to the Public Cloud, our development process and lifecycle, and our future infrastructure plans.

For those who couldn’t attend last night, you can watch the webinar in full below:

You can download the slides used in our technical webinar here.

To learn more about our infrastructure, or to become part of our digital Community of Interest group to assist with future testing, please get in touch.

Technical infrastructure webinar

On Tuesday 12th March, the digital team will be hosting an interactive technical infrastructure webinar. Starting at 7:30pm and lasting approximately 30 minutes, the webinar will cover work undertaken over the past year to upgrade and improve the architecture underpinning our digital systems, including:

  • Our transition to the Public Cloud
  • Cloud Native development
  • Our software development lifecycle
  • DevOps

The webinar will be hosted by myself, TSA’s Digital Product Manager, and you will hear from our Solution Architect, Jeff Nayler. There will be a chance to ask questions at the end.

If you are interested in learning more about our technical infrastructure, please click or copy the link below into your browser at 7:30pm on Tuesday 12th March to join the meeting.

Join here

For those unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and available to watch on this blog from Wednesday 13th March.

Analytics overhaul and a few stats

We have undertaken a full review and overhaul of our approach to website analytics on scouts.org.uk. This led to integrating Google Tag Manager, embedding our use of Google Analytics even further and using tools like Hotjar to help us better understand how people are using the site, and how we can improve it.

These are starting to provide some really interesting results.

We have already spoken about how we set up Google-powered search on scouts.org.uk and shared some of those results where we saw some good evidence to show it made a positive improvement.

We wanted to share a few more top-line analytics with you. We’ll continue to do this, especially as new features and products are introduced to ensure that we’re as transparent as possible about their effectiveness.

Having continued to improve the search, it has been interesting to see what the most-searched terms are.

Top searched-for items in January 2019: (Jan 1 – Jan 31 2019)

  1. GDPR
  2. Badges
  3. POR (policy, organisation, and rules)
  4. Safeguarding
  5. GDPR training
  6. Census
  7. Nights away
  8. Module 1
  9. First aid
  10. Beavers

As well as providing search information, Google Analytics provides information on where users visit the website from – this is called the Source of our traffic.

We found that most of our website traffic comes from organic search – i.e. people searching for Scouts pages on Google. Next were people typing the website URL directly into their browser, and third was where users had clicked links from social media on to the site.

Top traffic drivers in January 2019: (Jan 1 – Jan 31 2019)

  1. Organic search
  2. Direct
  3. Facebook
  4. Bing
  5. Yahoo
  6. Twitter

Google Analytics also provides us with information on what files visitors are downloading from our site. This is particularly useful for analysing how popular content on members.scouts.org.uk is. The three most popular downloads in the last month have been uniform diagrams.

Top downloads in January 2019:  (Jan 1 – Jan 31 2019)

  1. Cubs uniform diagram
  2. Beaver uniform diagram
  3. Scouts uniform diagram
  4. Adult Training Scheme overview
  5. Nights away form

We will continue to share insights on how people are using the site as the new analytics overhaul beds in and we get more data. We want to ensure that we’re being evidence driven in our approach to any changes or new products that are introduced. If you have any interesting analytics from your own Scouts sites you wanted to share, please share in the comments.

Prototyping: what it is and why it’s useful

We mentioned in our end of year roundup that we were developing a prototype of our new programme planning tool for section leaders.

We’ve been testing this with a Community of Interest group and, during those tests, explained the purpose of a prototype within the wider context of the tool’s development.

Prototyping is a crucial part of the design of any modern tool, so we thought we would go into more detail about why.

 

What is a prototype?

A digital prototype usually takes the form of wireframes. Wireframes are simplified designs which help to keep a viewer’s focus on the substance of the product rather than the designer’s visual choices, like which font they used.

Images like this are intended to demonstrate the functionality of a tool. Copy may not be finalised and images may be lacking but the viewer is aware of the purpose of the page.

Where a wireframe becomes a prototype is when a tool links these images together. There are various online services that provide this functionality, such as Marvel, InVision and Axure. We’re using the latter to prototype our digital programme planning tool. Linking wireframes together allows a static page to emulate a functional tool.

 

What is a prototype for?

A prototype is intended to help viewers test what we have designed without distraction. The aim is to see if the user can fulfil their goals on their own. It isn’t the time to critique colours or image choice, hence the rectangular box with an ‘x’ in the middle which acts as a placeholder for an image.

This helps to evaluate ideas and, through testing, to learn what we didn’t know. That lesson could be how people react to the placement of a button, or what users are expecting from your tool. A prototype will help you develop and test the function, as opposed to the visual form.

Because a prototype is not the finished product, it can prove integral to ensuring development is on the right track, before going too far in the wrong direction. Being careful to avoid bias, user engagement through prototyping can help to keep the development of your tool focused on creating a positive user experience.

What next?

Once you have a prototype you and your testers are happy with, you can start to create the visual design, or the form, of your tool.

Creating a digital tool like this means constantly balancing form and function. It is incredibly easy to do one or the other – the hard work is striking the right balance.

To learn more about our digital programme planning tool, or to become part of our digital Community of Interest group to assist with future testing, please get in touch.

 

End of year roundup

It’s been a busy year for us in the Digital team. More of the projects in the Skills for Life plan are starting to get up and running, and we’ve been planning in Digital supporting them with a clear, volunteer-focused direction.

As we head into the Christmas break, we thought we would produce a short roundup of what we’ve achieved this year and what’s on the cards for next year.

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Search: a quick update on performance

The new Google powered search has been running now for 3 months, so it is a good time to check in on its performance.

Whilst there are some remaining issues with search turning up out of date information, we have been steadily trying to remove the more common content that ends up polluting peoples’ search results. This is an ongoing job.

Generally though, the search appears to be working better for people. The ‘Search Depth’ – the number of pages visitors view after getting results for the search term – is down 12% when compared to the previous year. This is great news, as it implies that more people than ever are finding what they need through search first time.

The real area of improvement however is the ‘Search Refinements’ metric – the frequency with which visitors perform a second search immediately after the first. This is good news because it means that more people are getting the results they are looking for first time.

This has improved by a mighty 31% when compared to the previous year.

As always, please do provide feedback to us using the widget on the search results page so we can continue to hone the way this works.

Digital Day: building connections

Like the rest of the Digital team, I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who showed an interest in the Digital Day, and especially to those who attended the event.

Digital Day workshops

Together with Malcolm McKee and David Kitchen, both District Commissioners and members of the Digital Advisory Group, we ran several workshops at the Digital Day focusing on ‘Tackling Technology Together’. We thought about the three main themes of the Digital Strategy but quickly decided to focus on ‘Getting the Basics Right’, since there’s so much to talk about on that theme alone.

Both workshops featured robust, passionate discussions, which I think we all enjoyed! We weren’t just there for fun, though, we wanted to come out with some concrete proposals from attendees on two questions: what should we fix first? and how can we work together?

What should we fix first?

We asked participants what they considered to be the most pressing problems in Scouts technology and to rank them by priority. After considerable debate, the results that emerged were:

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Digital Day: Helen Murray’s presentation

At the Digital Day we were joined by a diverse range of volunteers, staff and partners to help drive forward our digital work at Scouts. Thank you to everyone who joined us.

On the day, Chief Digital Officer Helen Murray shared our new digital strategy and roadmap for the next five years. If you couldn’t make it, check out her presentation in full:

You can see Helen Murray’s presentation deck here.

Improving Search

Background: The evidence
From the beginning, we’ve had lots of anecdotal information pointing to searching as a major problem with the website. We’ve seen comments on Facebook groups and on the digital blog. The Info Centre often gets calls just to find information on the website that should be searchable, but isn’t. And we used it ourselves.

This is supported by quantitative and qualitative evidence. Members expect search to work: it’s a basic.  Search came up repeatedly as a critical user issue in interviews, with leaders quoting the oft-shared work around of adding “scouts” to their Google searches.  Improving search and making information easier to find were the most popular website requests from our recent survey of Leaders and Assistant Section Leaders.

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