Understanding stakeholders' needs, influences and their existing environment is essential for any organisation successfully delivering a service online. For Parkinson's UK - the leading organisation providing support and information on the condition - acquiring deep level insight into their users was critical in moving their organisation forwards in the digital sphere.
Parkinson’s UK’s website acts both as an essential information source and a community hub for people affected by the condition across the country. People go there for a broad range of reasons, and knowledge of Parkinson’s varies greatly between each visitor. The charity's digital team wanted to ensure that the website and its onsite community provided just as much support to someone newly diagnosed as it did for carers, family members and people who have been living with Parkinson’s for many years.
The team were aware that even though the majority of visitors were service users, their experience was being hampered by difficult navigation, buried content and a lack of personalisation. They weren’t seeing expected levels of onsite interactions and put simply, they feared the site was delivering a poor user experience.
We set about analysing not just their main website but their entire ‘digital universe’ (i.e. all existing websites and social media), to check whether all elements were in alignment and really met the needs of their audiences. We wanted to find out what their users really needed and which audiences should be approached over which digital channels.
Before we embarked on user research, we knew it was critical to gather internal requirements and look at alignment within Parkinson’s UK. We talked to all key stakeholders, from senior management through to the operational team, helping them focus on organisational priorities and reach consensus on the best route forward. This exercise laid the foundation of the new digital strategy and informed the rest of the project.
During the research phase we undertook a detailed series of interviews, polls and questionnaires, and carried out both a usability appraisal and content audit of the current site. By speaking directly to the people using the website, we were able to gain insight into their needs, their difficulties, what they really wanted from the site as a service and how it had an impact on their lives.
The research was a collaborative effort between our digital strategist - who gathered information and consensus internally within Parkinson’s UK; our community manager – who researched the fine detail of their onsite community interactions and made recommendations as to where individual engagement would most effective; and our Head of User Experience - who steered the research, rigorously tested each insight and maintained a high level of quality throughout the entire process.
Outputs from the research enabled us to draw persona profiles based on real people, and build a series of use cases: goal-oriented user scenarios that would help create the user journeys and inform the information architecture (IA) and wireframe designs. We created a working prototype from these wireframes and robustly tested them on a sample pool of users.
By asking existing users of Parkinson’s UK to inform the research and testing the outputs on a group of real service users, we have ensured that the resulting website will be truly user-led, rather than a product of internal requirements, when it is launched in early 2013.
Parkinson’s UK have a detailed understanding and appreciation of what their users want and need from them. Users will be treated as individuals when they come to the Parkinson’s UK website – a deep level of personalisation planned in to ensure a deeper level of engagement is reached.
They have a robust content plan, clear navigation plan and most importantly, a digital strategy they can use to develop their online offering with. The wireframes and IA provide a reliable backbone on which to build great content that will be read by the right people when they need it most.
"As a result of the research carried out by Sift Digital, we now have a very strong evidence base on which we are developing and delivering our new website and strategy. The insight they gave us into the needs of our different online audiences has been invaluable - and it means we will be able to provide more personalised support and information for people affected by Parkinson's."
Liz Winthrop, Head of Digital, Parkinson's UK