New-look website to help people with money advice

The Wales Co-operative Centre is currently running its fourth annual Tackling Poverty Fortnight campaign.

The campaign is demonstrating a number of ways in which the Centre is helping to reduce poverty through the projects it runs, the businesses and organisations it supports and the people who are the end beneficiaries of that support.

Today, we’re taking a slightly different approach by looking at a website that we’ve rebuilt as part of our financial inclusion work at the Wales Co-operative Centre – for Money Made Clear Wales.

This, from Shaun Jenkins, our Website Development Officer…

Money Made Clear Wales (MMCW) is a website that provides useful information about managing money, with it being the primary platform for information about the Discretionary Assistance Fund – Welsh Government’s scheme that provides urgent assistance to people to safeguard health and well-being.

The original site launched in 2013 and since then we’ve been able to gather some really useful data about how the site is being used; lots of additional content has also been added since launch and as the original site was also built using proprietary software it meant it was difficult taking an agile approach to the future direction of the site.

There’s not much you can’t do with open source tech so it made sense to go down that route, and after a little toing and froing between WordPress and Drupal we settled on WordPress and got to work setting up the development environment. I’m a big fan of WP as its strength comes from the size of its community (both those who contribute to the core and those who build with it daily), and most technical challenges you’re faced with, someone’s already faced them, meaning you’re able to overcome development curveballs much quicker than with other CMS’s due to the wealth of resources available. And it’s a community we’re planning to offer our own contribution to, with the MMCW theme hopefully going up on Github later this year.

The primary build time was approx. 4 weeks and the plan was to take what had worked well on the legacy site and implement it, and look at best practice across the service, advice and public sectors to design a site that was easy to use, accessible and modern. Every design decision taken was centred around the user; for example, over a half of visitors access the site on a mobile/tablet so it had to be mobile first, and as a significant number of our users could be in a challenging financial position, it was vital that information was easy to find. Accessibility was also a high priority, with some of the key accessibility features we’ve implemented being: aria labels wherever possible (helps screen reader users),  full and complete heading structure on every page, easy to read typography, descriptive links and making sure the site works (fairly) well on ie8 and when Javascript is disabled (including navigation).

The approach to accessibility taken on the build was to do as much as possible with the HTML markup, and from a design perspective, the approach was not to specifically design for people with disabilities but to be aware of potential requirements and then design based on that. What I found was that if something works well for one demographic, then more often than not it works well for others too. For example, making buttons large makes them easy to click for people using touch screen devices, and it also makes it easier for elderly people and those with limited fine motor skills too.

We also had a day’s accessibility testing with the Digital Accessibility Centre where we did a/b testing on the old and new sites with testers who had a range of disabilities. This was invaluable as being able to see how people used the site, and not just relying on data, meant I was able to gain genuine insights, not just about the pages people visit, or how long they’re on them, but also possible challenges and issues users may come across. And we’ve already been able to implement most of the issues identified!

Our aim with the on-going direction of the site is to be as responsive as possible to user needs, we’ve got a feedback form set-up and we’ll be working on a few accessibility tweaks in the New Year – we’ve set-up a public roadmap on Trello which you can view here.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to learn more please feel free to get in touch at shaun.jenkins@wales.coop.

You can follow the Tackling Poverty Fortnight on Twitter @WalesCoopCentre and through the hashtag #PovertyInWales.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *