Sands

Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death) is a UK charity founded in 1978 by bereaved parents, who found that there was no access to support following the deaths of their babies. Since then, Sands has played a key role in raising public awareness of baby death across the UK.

Scope

  • User research
  • Information architecture (IA)
  • User experience design (UX)
  • Visual and interaction design
  • Development
  • SEO

The website

Background

Not only does Sands provide frontline support for parents whose babies have died, they provide healthcare professionals with the training and resources they need in order to improve the care bereaved parents receive. Sands also provide funding for both social and medical research into why babies die, host fundraising events, provide assistance to Sands support groups around the UK, run an online shop, a forum and a blog. In short, the Sands site contains a large amount of information which is aimed at quite distinct user groups.

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.

User research

First up, and working closely with Sands, we developed a series of 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.

Information architecture and prioritising content

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. Additionally, the site analytics are telling us 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. The Sands team were great to work with in every way and we are very happy with the outcome.