We overhauled our website, here’s what we’ve learned

In May and June of last year (2018), we asked our Leicester research community what they thought of our website. Here’s what they said:

Part of design to encourage volunteers
Call for volunteers to help redesign this website

What’s up?

  • Needs an up-to-date contact list
  • Leicester research staff need to know more about who you are and what you can help them with
  • We need a flowchart of the process involved in getting approvals
  • Training requirements are confusing
  • I didn’t know there was a website
  • Make documents easier to find
  • Difficult to navigate

It was obvious we had a problem: the Leicester research website was hard to navigate, didn’t contain information that was sought and its existence was not widely known. To explore that, we advertised for volunteers to take part in focus groups. We worked with a web agency to develop interactive tools to understand the thought processes of the volunteers. One example was getting them to arrange the current pages into groups that the audience found logical. Some pages couldn’t be categorised, which suggests they may have been superfluous!

Tip: a website will only be used if the audience finds the content they seek, so make sure you take the time to understand it from their perspective through surveys, focus groups, and one-to-one sessions.

Making the change

Over the course of the year, we have been implementing many of the changes to the Leicester research website that you can see for yourself. We have added:

  • GoogleTranslate – Leicester is one of the most multicultural cities in the UK, so we shouldn’t presume that everyone who visits our website is fluent in English
  • A table for our Standard Operating Procedures https://www.leicestersresearch.nhs.uk/conducting-research/sops/(SOPs) so that they are easy to find
  • Introduced a whole section on the research approvals process in the order you would need to complete each step
  • Navigation tools down the left hand side to make it easier to retrace your steps through the website
  • A full contacts list in alphabetical order

Tip: focus on providing the most information in the areas that are most sought for. You can find this by using tools like Quill Engage or Google Analytics. Ours are training, standard operating procedures and the approvals process. Condense areas that have little interest to focus on only the key points. For example, we reduced the Our Partners section to a single page.

Is there anybody out there?

There is little point to a new website if no one visits it, so we looked at different ways to drive traffic. One way is to ensure that fresh content is added on a regular basis, such as newsletters, press releases, events and blog posts because it gives people a reason to return. We also made it routine that every change to the website was broadcast on our Twitter page, like this:

An example of using Twitter to drive traffic to our website

We recognised that we needed to create links from our corporate websites, both internal and external, to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find us. To that end, we created buttons on the external corporate website and on the staff intranet.

Finally, we revisited our search engine optimisation and found – to our horror – that it had been disabled! So we spent many hours restoring it and populating the website with key words and phrases.

Tip: increase your chances of being visited by using your social media channels, partner website listings and search optimisation tools.

The end is in sight? Not quite…

When we finally thought we had “finished” (I’ll get back to the inverted commas later) we ran a usability test, asking individuals to find answers to a series of questions on our website. This helped us to further refine the navigation and identify content that was missing or duplicated.

Tip: When you think you’ve “finished” your website, go back to your focus group and ask them to test it to see if it overcomes the problems they identified in the first place.

Our future plans are to work on developing more interactive pages for members of the public who want to get involved in Leicester’s research, so they meet their needs. Since we developed the website, we now have a Public Research Engagement Panel who can give us a patient perspective on raising awareness about clinical trials in our trust.

And breathe…

…Then start again. A website is never “finished” because it should constantly evolve to meet the needs of the audience. So keep visiting to see our new content and follow us on Twitter for prompts! @LeicResearch