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Visit the site A more modern and user-focused website for a leading charity supporting people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs.

United Response provides support services to adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs. They came to us to help redesign their website to better showcase the breadth of their UK-wide services, whilst also providing helpful tools and resources for people working in the care sector.

The brief

United Response were looking to move away from fairly costly proprietary software to a system that gave them more flexibility and control over their content and site structure.

The website also needed to speak to a fairly wide range of user groups – with very different needs –  spanning service users and their families, to people looking for support work vacancies.

With their 2020 strategy about to launch, it was the perfect time to see how a new website could help to achieve their strategic aims, including a more localised approach to service delivery and building a sense of community for those supporting people with learning disabilities.

Our approach

We know that when embarking on a website project with charitable organisations, value for money is a fundamental concern, which is why we like to work with WordPress CMS.

As an open source platform, widely supported by a large and active community of developers, using WordPress avoids charities getting locked into a proprietary system or becoming reliant on a single supplier. All of this made it a cost-effective and sustainable solution to help United Response reduce their overheads.

As well as suggesting a technology that fit their operational needs, we worked to create a data structure that allowed them to organise their content in a way that made to sense to how they organise internally, whilst also mapping to users’ mental models. This was particularly relevant to their service map, which links areas, service types and conditions, presenting the information in a way that’s intuitive for users to navigate but underpinned by a database that’s easy for editors to maintain.

Working with an organisation that employs over 3000 people, meant that extensive staff consultation was essential. We learnt how the organisation worked and, most importantly, how staff viewed their users’ requirements from a website. These conversations helped us to create a simple navigation that prioritised their core user journeys – for professionals, families and supporters – whilst surfacing essential resources (such as Easy Read) for individuals looking for support.

We then tested our thinking in Information Architecture workshops to ensure the hierarchy we’d established would work for the organisation now and into the future. But speaking to staff alone wasn’t enough, we wanted to hear directly from users.

We ran a design workshop with service users to understand how they prefer to be communicated with, both in terms of language and imagery. Working with users provided hugely valuable insight and led us to take a more visual approach to the website, borrowing concepts from Easy Read, such as using simple explanatory images to provide context to written navigation and headings.

It was this ‘accessibility for all’ approach that makes United Response’s website stand out from others we’ve worked on – and it’s great to have delivered something that leads by example, not letting user needs be compromised by overly ‘showy’ design.

The new United Response website is just what we requested: it has a new look which feels more modern, with a clearer layout and a more intuitive user journey. The Bureau helped bring our initial ideas to life, hosted workshops with people we support and key players around our nationwide charity, and delivered  the site on-time and on-budget. It has been a pleasure working with them. Sonia Lodge, Digital Manager, United Response

Impact and highlights

The resulting site puts the people they support, and their networks, front and centre. It has a more visual approach to navigation and labelling, to help individuals with learning disabilities quickly find information relevant to them. It also allows users to search for services close to them and quickly surface relevant results and contact details – using backend logic to help simplify the process for the user and United Response staff.

It also works to create a better sense of community for the people who are involved in supporting individuals with additional needs, signposting to helpful information and resources, and highlighting employment opportunities for support workers.

Finally, it’s a much stronger expression of their brand – positive, honest, empowering and warm.