At Whitespace, we each get given 2 volunteer days every year, to go out and help charities or initiatives within the community. This year, two of our Whitespacers decided to team up and put their skills to good use, by helping Rowan Alba with their website. Rowan Alba is a charity that helps alleviate homelessness across Scotland through a range of prevention services, volunteering, training and supported accommodation. 

Their existing website was launched in the Autumn of 2018 but, with poor functionality and unclear navigations, it was not helping the charity achieve its aims. But when critical issues arose with the site, Rowan Alba found themselves unable to resolve them.  

One of our UX designers, Andrea already volunteered with Rowan Alba through CARDS (Community Alcohol Related Damage Service), and so offered to help with improving the UX of their website. She was joined by Thijs van der Velden, one of our developers along with creative direction from Craig Barbour, Junior Designer. 

  

Process

 

The job was big and timings were tight, so in order to get the best results, we collaborated closely with the team at Rowan Alba to identify the website’s weaknesses. 

One of the pain points we identified were the accessibility issues across the site. Text was hard to read and key links were too light a colour to be visible. We also identified that there were multiple unnecessary social media ‘quick links’ which made the pages look cluttered and confusing.  

From user testing we identified several key issues. Firstly, the navigation was unclear and calls to action did not go where users expected them to go. On top of that, the visual language did not clearly communicate what was and what wasn’t clickable. 

Secondly, the imagery on the website looked sad and depressing and content was dense, hard to digest, and often duplicated. 

But most importantly, information was hard to find, and the site lacked search functionality. Potential donors could not find out what their donations would be used for and reported that they did not have a high confidence that their money would be put to good use. Potential volunteers were unable to read about how they could contribute their time, and existing volunteers got lost trying to find important documents. Users looking for information about training would get stuck because links were not descriptive and did not look like links. Users in need of help were directed away from the website with little explanation. 

 

Development

 

The old website was built on WordPress, using the DiVi theme, which includes a powerful drag and drop page builder. Due to the limited time we had available for the project we decided to stick with the existing infrastructure where we could.  

We worked to undo most of the technical mistakes that existed to give us a consistent baseline to work from. This allowed us to address the accessibility issues the website had from the ground up. 

We then built custom header and footer elements, as well as a completely new information architecture for improved navigation. We also built a new site search as well as a small number of bespoke components that fit the website’s needs more closely. One of those components was the video header that can be seen on the homepage, which allowed us to prominently display some of the amazing video content Rowan Alba had created, that were previously hidden away on the website. 

Some of the existing elements on the site had to be restyled and fixed, such as the Twitter feed, which we moved from the footer and gave a more prominent position on the homepage. Another one was the donation form, which we included on the homepage as a key call to action. We updated the values of the form and changed the wording to incentivise users to donate. The styling was also updated to be in line with the rest of the website, while making it more prominent. 

In all, we created 34 pages for the website, which included writing new content where necessary. The aesthetic of the website was informed by the brand guidelines provided by Rowan Alba, as well as additional visual direction from Craig Barbour. The aim was to provide a more uplifting feel to the website, but as there was no budget, the images were sourced from Unsplash, a free editorial image website. One of the images is even by our very own Adam Wilson, Deputy Creative Director at Whitespace.  

 

Results

 

In the short time since the new website was launched, we’ve been delighted to see improved metrics of the site’s performance. This includes reducing the bounce rate to 49.75% compared to the previous 52.74%, pages per session increasing to 4.42 compared to 3.38 and page load time decreased to 2.24 compared to 3.21 previously. Ongoing, we have requested user feedback to be directed to us so we can continue to improve it.  

 “Rowan Alba are delighted with the new improved website kindly created with the support of Whitespace. The team that helped us seemed to intuitively understand what we were about, and our new website now reflects that. As a small charity with no budget for marketing, this would have been impossible without their enthusiasm and generously gifted time, skill and energy. Thank you very much.”  

Helen Carlin, CEO, Rowan Alba 

“Our volunteers are everything to us. They contribute in our communities and the wider society where most others turn a blind eye. This new website makes it easier, cleaner, faster and less complicated for them to get the information they need on a weekly basis from their mobile phone. If we can make their lives easier and give them the info they need at the touch of a few clicks then that is priceless for our charity. I have directed more people to the website since the revamp than over the last four years!”  

Tracey Steward, Volunteers Coordinator, Rowan Alba

See the website for yourself and find out how you can support Rowan Alba here.