Strategy & challenges of re-designing a website for a charity



A short 10 mins filmed conversation, sound file and transcript of a talk between Craig Thatcher and Rachel Allman on the re-design of the website for Berkshire based charity, Anthony Toby Homes Trust. It covers the biggest challenges we faced and gives some advice to any charities thinking of re-designing their websites.


WATCH Short film



LISTEN TO Sound file




What was our brief?


Rachel: It was quite straightforward, really. The website was really, really quite dated and essentially needed to be refreshed and also to create something for the team to more easily update, because the one that they had wasn't easy for them to use and it was a very functional site. So I think part of the brief was to make it functional, but in a more engaging, authentic way.


Craig: I do remember and we looked at some similar websites because we developed a strategy first before we actually went into the design, didn't we? And that simplicity of look and feel was important. And I am just looking at the website now on the home page, and there was a couple of key things which came out of the conversation with the trust manager, weren't there? About what need to be communicated?

Rachel: I mean, I think the first thing the key part of our strategy was really to create something in terms of the visual experience and the words that we wrote, create something that really brought to life the feeling of being in the home either when you visit it or if you live there. It's such a wonderful place. And we needed the website to just show that straight away, which it wasn't doing. And then that was a first part of the strategy.


And then the second part was really to communicate the key messages, so what we uncovered through talking to the manager and some of the trustees was that actually, as well as offering a home and it really is a home because the residents are there for. You know, they move in and they don't really leave. It's not anything that sort of transitional. It's a solid place to live. So it's a home, but they really get to live their lives.


So part of the ethos and approach of Anthony Toby Homes is that they want their residents to be empowered to live as normally as possible, so make their own decisions, be as active as possible. So is the strap line that we created was about a 'home for living life’. And I think that that was key to the strategy was to create a site that showed that and communicated that.


Craig: I think you're right, because I remember when we met the first time, what came across was how non-institutionalised the the home was and how homely it was, which was a surprise.


Rachel: It was a real surprise and it was just uncovering something that was a really wonderful service. And so I think we both felt very strongly that that's what the site needed to do. And you needed to feel like you were walking around the house when you were on the site and get some of that really lovely feeling.


Craig: And also the other thing which I hadn’t appreciated till we met them was the of how central the residents are to the running of the home, as well.


And they have regular meetings. Yeah, they really listen to them. And and their voices are heard and decisions and actions are made based on the feedback that they get from the residents. So you're right. I mean that's more than a hygiene factor. That's something that's really special and that's something that that wasn’t coming through on the existing website. So I think that's something we’ve achieved with the new one.

What was the biggest challenge?


Rachel: The copy, once we worked out what the the strap line was going to be and kind of what the heart of the experience of the house and what made it wonderful was and the key message. Writing the copy was a normal challenge, It was fine, but I think the key challenge in honesty was actually in times of COVID, we’d identified that the photography was going to be really important because it shows the facilities, it shows the interaction with the community that the residents have, and it shows that the sort of lightness and warmth to the house.


Actually the challenge was getting that photography because of COVID. We could have obviously not shot anything, but we managed to work around it. So that was the challenge. And for a time, I thought we wouldn't be able to get anything because we weren't allowed in the house because safety and security and health, are really, really vital at the moment. So that was probably the key challenge.


Craig: Yes, and making the copy do justice to the key messages in the house. I think you achieved that, but also provided the brief to the photographer as well. So she was able to understand what it was we were trying to communicate so that when she went round and took shots of the the residents and the managers, She was able to capture some of those lovely moments.


Rachel: That's a good point. She knew what the key elements to the strategy were and she was able to then bring that to life through the photography. So it worked really well together. And then, you mentioned the COVID-19 issue, which caused a problem. But the other thing, of course in designing the website, it needed to be a very simple Content Management System because the people who are going to keep it up to date aren't experienced doing this type of thing and having done that in the past.


And just choosing a very, very straightforward template so they can change photos if they want. Obviously, staff come and go occasionally so that that needs to be kept up to date and phone numbers change. So finding something that looks professional but is also easy to maintain was a challenge.


Craig: And actually, I do remember thinking about this very early on and designing the website so it fitted the theme that we were ultimately to go with. So that all helped smooth the design.


Rachel: So choosing the theme and then designing to the theme and getting the developer to check that we were designing to the theme was all part the collaboration. Not really challenges. That just shows what happens when you're working well together. The developer that we worked with was excellent.



What was the reaction to the new website from the trustees?


Rachel: They were wonderful really wonderful. They're also proud of of and so pleased to work for Anthony Toby Homes Trust and they say proud of what they've created. And I think just having something that showed that to family members, to the residents themselves. I mean, some of them are in the photography and having an opportunity to showcase how great it is there, they're really pleased.


Craig: I must admit that especially this year, given the COVID-19 and how important care workers are, the thing I've enjoyed about this particular project is highlighting just what a wonderful thing these people do to help the most vulnerable in our society. And I probably hadn't appreciated that quite so much had it not been for the pandemic.

What advice would you give to charities who are considering redesigning their website?


Rachel: Probably two things. Firstly, I'd say it does need to be daunting, so don't be afraid of it. There can be a preconception that this type of project can be technical or just daunting and overwhelming. But it doesn't need to be at all. As we've shown, what we can actually do is make something that is much more straightforward than we've had before and that communicates things a lot more clearly. So that's the first thing. Don't be daunted.

Secondly, I'd say the key thing from our perspective is to really focus on the planning. So working out, what are the key things about your service or your home or whatever it is that you offer, what are the key things that aren't really highlighted well enough? They're not really well communicated. You don't need to work out how to communicate them because that's our job. But if you can help identify what they are, we can then find a really strong, powerful ways to bring them to life visually or through words or both, probably. Because they're the things that we won’t know and you can help us uncover them and then we can shine a light on.



Do you need help re-designing your website?


Contact Craig and he'll explain the process and answer all of your questions.