Sands provides both frontline support for parents whose babies have died and healthcare professionals with the training and resources they need in order to improve the care bereaved parents receive. Sands also funds social and medical research into why babies die, hosts fundraising events, provides operational assistance to Sands support groups around the UK, runs an online shop, a forum and a blog.

The Challenge

In short, the Sands site contains a large amount of information which is aimed at quite distinct audiences.

As the site grew, important information was getting buried. Parents were struggling to find the forum and support group information; healthcare professionals were having difficulties finding the resources they needed to carry out their work; the Sands research and development team felt that their work was not equally represented on the site; both content editors and visitors to the site were overwhelmed by the many different menu options. These were just a few of the frustrations which Sands had identified and wanted to address in this phase of development.

The approach

Working closely with Sands, we developed a series of research questions designed to uncover the behaviour, needs and pain points of as many site users as we could reach. Through interviews, surveys, workshops and focus groups we gathered feedback – some of which was obvious to us and some of it surprising, which just goes to highlight the importance of user research in order to test and re-test our own assumptions. Sands user research formed the bulk of the discovery phase and provided us with valuable insights into how we could improve the website for everyone.

The results of the research suggested a major overhaul of the information architecture was required – there were hundreds of pages on the site some of which needed relabelling, moving, integrating with other pages or deleting altogether. In doing this, we needed to be mindful that the labelling of the top level menu items didn't change too much so as not to confuse or frustrate current site users. Alongside the IA restructure, we decided to adopt a simple ‘mega-menu’, allowing site visitors to see and to access the second and third level pages within the site.

Other site improvements included re-prioritising the home page content in order to give more visibility to Sands news, fund-raising events and personal stories along with more prominent links to the Sands shop, forum and social media – all of which were difficult to find on the previous site and were major frustrations for visitors. Additionally, the visual emphasis which had previously been placed on the support helpline details now encompassed the other key aims of the charity, making visible the full scope of Sands' work and helping them re-establish themselves as ‘the leading stillbirth and neonatal death charity in the UK’.

The outcome

The new Sands site has been getting positive feedback from both internal and external visitors – Sands employees on the helpline are able to find resources for bereaved families more easily; the research and prevention team feel that their work within the charity is more visible; visitors to the site are able to find their way into the content more easily; content management is now easier for all site editors and administrators.

There has been a 30%+ increase in mobile traffic since launch and a 500% increase in the number of visitors landing on the 'find a support group' page.