Designing our way out of a microsite culture

When I first started as a Digital Product Manager at Breast Cancer Care, I was aware that I had a limited window of impartiality, so I decided to use it to conduct a front-end audit of the site. I wanted to see what some of the main challenges of the role would be before I knew anything about our digital history or ways of working.

At the end of the audit, I’d examined every forgotten corner of the site, identified the areas I felt presented the biggest user experience challenges and created a list of seventy-six questions I wanted to spend the next few months gathering answers to, either internally or through user research.

A key challenge to solve

One of the biggest issues I noticed was our tendency to create microsites for every new campaign or fundraising activity. Internally this was taking a great deal more time than it needed to, and meaning quite small pieces of work were stealing the team’s attention for months at a time.

Externally I worried about the user experience implications of treating each activity as separate from the site as a whole, particularly as the microsites were so difficult to navigate to and from, and often contained a number of subsidiary pages that took users away from the actions we wanted them to complete.

Talking to people around the organisation, I realised a lot of this practice had developed because the site offered internal teams no good alternative. We didn’t have a sophisticated suite of content types to cater for the various ways we wanted to engage the outside world in our work, which left staff little choice but to begin almost entirely from scratch each time.

How we tackled the problem

To solve the problem we started working with the design agency William Joseph to create a new suite of content types, so that the site could better cater to user needs as well as our internal requirements. The first type we began working on was a flexible, modular and mobile-first campaign template, which is currently being used to showcase eleven of Breast Cancer Care’s key campaigns and fundraising activities.

Following the success of this approach, we set about creating a full suite of new and updated content types that are now in use across the site and better meet both the user and our internal fundraising, campaigns and information needs. These include types for:

The end result

Through this approach we’ve found an enormous reduction in the time and resource needed to create engaging content during key campaigns, activities and other peak periods.

We’ve been able to up-skill digital champions around the organisation to create more of their own content and reduce reliance on agencies to create landing pages on our behalf.

Brand-wise, the site has benefited from a vast improvement in standardisation and consistency, which proved difficult to achieve with so many agencies each interpreting our brand guidelines in slightly different ways.

Finally and most importantly, we’re now in the second year of using our new suite of content types and have seen a marked improvement in engagement and conversion to our key activities and campaigns.

If you’d like to see an example of a campaign page in action, you’re welcome to sign up for a Pink Ribbon Walk this summer. (See what I did there?)

This post was first published via Just Giving.

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