Reflections on inheriting a website project

A few weeks after launching www.impactsupport.org, Rachel Tait, programme manager, reflects on joining a project in the crucial months before completion.

Inheriting websites in progress can be a particularly thorny challenge. In December 2017, four of us joined the Impact Management Programme team - Gemma Hampson as Head of Operations at Hactar (our digital partner), Ellie Harries as a freelance digital project manager, and Kathryn Dingle as project officer alongside me at NPC. 18 months of work had already been done in the programme but a big milestone was on the horizon for 2018: the launch of a brand new website.

The website was being designed to help charities and social enterprises get started with impact management. The work done already was vast…

  • over 100 charities and social enterprises attended co-design events around the country to share their hopes for the site and test bits of content.
  • the team came up with a credible look and feel for the site.
  • staff spent months writing content that didn’t require an impact dictionary.
  • sitemaps attempted to show how users could get from one bit of the site to another.
  • our comms team was thinking about how to reach as many people as possible.

Given that Gemma, Ellie, Kathryn and I were all new to the programme, we had to find ways to get up to speed, overcome challenges and keep momentum going. Here’s what helped us…

Knowing the principles of what a good website looks like for the users
In addition to our colleagues knowledge and experience, the co-design work had produced invaluable written insight into what users wanted and needed in a website about impact management. Content needed to be jargon free, short and lead to clear actions. Having the outputs from co-design sessions kept us focused on building something that responded to real people’s needs.

Adapting roles and responsibilities
As a small team we continuously adapted to what the project required of us. Sometimes this meant thinking creatively about page layout and illustration choice; other times it meant combing through content for inconsistencies. Our NPC colleagues Matthew and Theo brought much-needed fresh eyes to the content upload stage. It was hard to predict what we’d be doing in advance, so we reviewed progress and agreed tomorrow’s priorities at the end of each day.

Identifying our own minimum standards and sticking to them
As is normal in tech projects, we had a long list of bugs and tweaks during the build. We needed priorities. Ellie identified 5 things that we could not launch the website without, ranging from our data diagnostic to GDPR compliance. We prioritised those ruthlessly and gave each other permission to let other features slip, knowing we could pick them up again after launch.

Preparing to learn and improve from launch day onwards
Websites are never ‘finished’. We made sure we were ready to learn from users as soon as the website launched. Here’s how we do this:

  • Our comms strategy helps people find out about the site.
  • Google analytics helps us track how people engage with the content.
  • Our help pop-up is a quick way for people to ask questions and share feedback.
  • We chat to users on Twitter
  • We will survey our mailing list subscribers
  • We will do some face-to-face user testing at one of our upcoming peer learning events

In a month or two when we’ve got a critical mass of feedback and ideas, we’ll decide what to change, then keep on testing and tweaking… that’s what impact management is about after all.

If you haven’t checked out our free impact management tools & guidance yet, hop over to www.impactsupport.org