Independent Age provides older people and their families with clear, free and impartial advice on important issues like care and support, money and benefits, health, and mobility. Through their information and services, they currently help over a million people a year.
In 2015, the Digital and Information teams started work on a new website to provide better information and advice to their service users. Their previous website was outdated: it contained factsheets in pdf format but there weren’t many information pages available, making it difficult to find their information through an online search. As many of their service users aren’t very familiar with using the internet, the charity wanted to design a friendly and accessible website, bringing it in line with current best practice to be inclusive.
Working with partner agency Torchbox, the team designed the user journeys and framework for the new website. They needed the website’s structure to make sense to the people visiting it so they wouldn’t feel intimidated or alienated. They added ‘next steps’ boxes for users to learn more about specific topics, alongside videos that gave a simple overview on key pages.
Accessibility was absolutely crucial for Independent Age’s audience, so they made sure that all designs met WCAG 2.0 Standard and above where possible. For example, they used accessible colours and clear contrasts in background colours and fonts, made sure the font sizes were adjustable, and provided transcripts or captions of videos.
The information itself also needed redesigning. A lot of content for older people tends to be directed at their families or carers, and doesn’t speak to them directly. The team set out to rewrite their existing content and create new pages where there were information gaps. They used plain English, talking directly to older people without being patronising.
To get this right, they made use of their readers’ panel – a group of around 100 people from within their core audience group who were happy to test new content. They would send new guides or webpages to the panel, along with an online survey to gather feedback, asking, for example, was the information useful and easy to understand, was the tone of voice right, did the different sections make sense? This was a quick and effective way to get feedback from beneficiaries.
Independent Age re-launched the website in 2016. In the last year, organic traffic has increased by 40%. The website also helped to pull together all the charity’s services in one place, making it much easier for their users to be aware of all of the help and information available to them.
It won awards for Plain English in 2016 and the Charity Times’ ‘Best use of the Web’ in 2017.
The work didn’t end at launch though – the team are continuing to improve and add to the website’s features and information provided. They’re still engaging with their growing readers’ panel for all new content they publish, with over 200 people signed up to help. They also consult service users before creating any new information guides, feeding the insights back into the website.