Digital circles were set abuzz in April when Google changed their algorithm so that mobile optimisation would play a huge part in deciding where a website would sit in search rankings, a change dubbed as ‘mobilegeddon’.

Of course, Google had learnt from previous criticism and made sure we were given warning of this update, with the initial announcement in February, and plenty of advice and support before the change happened.

So the big question, with this massive change incoming and all the support available, was there any impact on Bromford? Let’s ask Google….

Not mobile friendly

Or if that wasn’t clear enough, how about this alert I received…

To: webmaster of http://www.bromford.co.uk/

Google systems have tested 1,630 pages from your site and found that 100% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 1,630 pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.

Bromford, and in fact bromfordhomes.co.uk, are NOT mobile friendly. And we’ve identified other issues such as:

  • Poor functionality for customers, especially with transactional areas like My Account
  • A poor user experience (UX) across the majority of pages
  • Key content, hidden at the end of a difficult user journeys.
  • “Content pollution” – just too much content, many pages without a defined need

Yes, this sounds incredibly negative, but I think it’s right to admit that we haven’t been doing things perfectly, and that is now impacting on the experience our customers have when trying to engage with us online. But, it’s time to change that.

Here in Comms, we’re embarking on a new project to reinvigorate our website. In the long-term, that’ll be a brand new website built from scratch, with mobile kept in mind from the start. In the short-term, we’re sorting out the UX and content we have on the site as it stands, trying to reduce that content pollution and ensure the site is easy to navigate.

In the past when we’ve built areas of our website, we’ve looked inwards and asked colleagues what they want and how everything should look. That’s going to be the first big change for the team; we’re doing a lot more research with the support of customers, to ensure we get things right for them, not us. This wont just include pop-ups on the site asking visitors to complete a survey, but also hosting regular user testing sessions and getting support from the team in the Bromford Lab.

We’re also stealing borrowing some ideas from the fantastic Government Digital Service, especially around the principles of user need. This is the idea that before any page is created, even considered, we need to ensure it has a clear purpose and audience, and that there is evidence that the need exists. Whether that need is identified through search traffic or what customer’s are asking on the phones or social media, we need proof that customers are actually asking for the content. This isn’t to be awkward, but to prevent colleagues (un)intentionally hiding important information by filling the site with, well,  fluff.

Over the coming weeks, colleagues will hear about a number of changes to the way our digital team work. These will include:

  • User need mapping for all current pages, and every page going forward
  • New amends / page request processes for colleagues (using a form on our intranet, OurSpace)
  • Introducing more strict cyclic review practices (when we re-look at content to ensure it’s still accurate).
  • Identifying Subject Matter Experts (SME) for all areas of the site, and working with them when a content review is due.
  • Creating a colleague board with these SMEs to help guide the development of the site.
  • Regular user testing sessions, hopefully every month.
  • Sprint working (agile management) meaning we’ll be making changes to the site frequently, but focused on one area at a time.

You’ll start to see the results of what we’re calling Web 2.5 shortly, with the site structure changing, changes to the names of some of the areas of the site, and some content changing or disappearing altogether.

wall

We’re going to be sharing our journey with you every step of the way, and making our roadmap public, so both customers and colleagues can see it. And all our friends outside of Bromford of course.

We’re also taking a stand back on our social media strategy, but that’s a whole different blog.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to tweet me @JarrodWilliams or email me on jarrod.williams@bromford.co.uk.

People first, mobile best. – Facebook

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Written by Jarrod Williams

Jarrod is a Digital Communications Manager at Bromford, a leading social enterprise working across Central England. He's keen to explore the future of communications through digital and social media. Find him on twitter: www.twitter.com/jarrodwilliams

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