Case Study

Rediscovering the strength of a brand

How to merge four separate brand sites into one unified experience
One Housing Redesign

Sector
Role
Challenge
Nonprofit, Housing Association
Lead UX Consultant - Information Architecture, User Research, Analytics, Workshop facilitation
Redesign the One Housing website to merge four distinct entities into one, with a singular brand and information architecture
Methodology
For this project the research had to answer the following questions:
Is the current site fit for purpose?
How does the business view One Housing and it's brands?
How do the residents view One Housing and it's brands?
How can we create an architecture that supports the core user journeys?

To this end the following research methods were undertaken:
  • Stakeholder interviews and survey
  • Tenant interviews
  • Analytics review
  • Search experience workshop
  • IA review and Treejack tests
Interview Snippets
Interview snippets
How was the site being used?
Residents were only using the website because they had to, not because they wanted to
Residents only visited the site when something had gone wrong - meaning they were already unhappy when interacting with it. Residents came to the site with a clear goal in mind such as make a complaint or report a repair. After running through these user journeys and speaking to residents it was clear this process was frustrating.
The site analytics reinforced this finding with 'complaints' being the most popular search term. 67% of customers left the site after viewing 'contact us' which we saw as an opportunity to serve additional content. Providing links to self-service sections of the site would reduce dependance on calling/emailing.

It wasn't clear to residents (or other users) what One Housing actually do.
The website didn't adequately define the purpose of One Housing as an institution. This was likely a result of the site trying to be too many things to too many people.

"What we do is actually really simple: we provide homes for people and we look after them. That's basically it. But you wouldn't know that by looking at our website."
Self service was going to be key
Residents wanted to complete key tasks such as reporting repairs and paying rent without human intervention. Having to contact customer services was seen as inconvenient.
'Contact us' was the 3rd most visited page on the site accounting for almost 10% of all page views. But 'report a repair' only accounted for 2% and 'pay your rent' 0.75%. This suggested that users were struggling to find information or complete tasks without help from customer services.

"I wish i had £1 for every time I've been stuck in a queue trying to speak to someone... Online would be quicker"
Interview sheet 1 Interview sheet 2 Interview sheet 3
Survey question showing opinion of visual appeal
The consensus was the site was visually unappealing
A heavy use of stock imagery, no clear colour palette, lack of video and interactive content was pushing people away. "It's all a bit 90s. Nothing jumps out at you and it's very static". The residents felt like the design was 'too corporate' and relied too much on heavy pages of text.
The website received an average score of 5.4/10 in terms of how visually appealing it was.


Finding homes for sale or rent proved to be a difficult task despite being one of the core business requirements
It took multiple clicks/steps just to find homes for rent/sale. Looking at other housing associations, they all had their homes clearly signposted throughout the site. It was clear at this point the websites weren't serving current or prospective customers.
Content and structure
The website navigation and structure was broken
One problem I've often seen with websites is the structure reflecting the internal business and not the way users view the content. This much was true with One Housing. The residents I spoke to often found themselves lost, confused and frustrated when trying to navigate the website. An example of this is was the 'For you' section of the site (seeing only 6% of users clicking on it). People often questioned 'For who?, for residents? for new customers' etc.. it wasn't clear.
When asked to score how easy it was to find content on the website the users either said 5 or 6 out of 10.

Too much content
Over the years the site had become bloated and cluttered. This overload of content was causing usability issues throughout the site. With content all over the place vying for your attention users were clueless about what was useful and what wasn't. The content that was there was almost always long form text pages, leaving users wanting more interactivity.
Homepage CTA's were frequently doubled adding to the overload of content
Homepage confusion
'For you', 'Report a repair', 'Paying your rent', 'My account' and 'Media Centre' all have two CTAs each on the homepage, potentially confusing customers.
"The site is busy. There's just a lot going on and I think it's a bit overwhelming with people" - One Housing stakeholder.
The IA Test/analysis process
A key part of the user mapping and journey work was to review, validate and construct a new information architecture (IA) for One Housing's websites. To do this we used the research and recommendations of the sub brands proposed by the brand agency Camargue. In order to develop a successful and optimised IA for each subdomain, it was imperative that we understood: One Housing goals & objectives and the key users, goals and objectives.
We then undertook four research tasks that informed the proposed IAs for each of the four subdomains.

I also did a Treejack study on each brand site to better understand the strengths and weaknesses. The following are the results from each study. The success rate is the percentage of tasks across all participant that resulted in a 'correct' answer.
One Housing Corporate - 74% success
One Housing Care - 94% success
One Housing Support - 91% success
Arlington - 79% success

IA Recommendations IA Recommendations 2
Recommendations
#1 Declutter the homepage, reserving the most valuable space for content and CTAs that serve the key user journeys
There were a number of key tasks users wanted to complete and these had to be immediately prominent as clear call-to-actions on the homepage. These were:
Paying rent
Reporting/tracking a repair
Finding a home

#2 Restructure and rename the items in the menu so that they're driven by user needs
It's clear that the structure of the site and the naming conventions for certain menu items had to be tweaked. These were driven by the IA recommendations found above.

#3 Get users to information in fewer clicks
Many of the user journeys required multiple clicks to get to information or to complete a task. We wanted to ensure that the key user journeys (as above) could be completed in one click from the homepage, where possible.

#4 Provide a smarter search functionality
Providing users with a greatly enhanced search functionality that gets them to tasks or information quicker and more efficiently.
This would include concierge functionality that provides contextually relevant results in relation to a search term. For example, a user could search for 'how to pay rent online'. Search results would include a page on how to pay rent online and may also include a page on how to clear rent arrears or how to set up a direct debit. The idea was to get users to content that they didn't necessarily know they wanted.

#5 Rethink the 'Contact us' page so that it contains self-help information, videos, tutorials
A large number of users could be dissuaded from calling or emailing the contact centre if provided with better self-help content.

#6 Provide a new and improved portal
There was clear demand for this product and the current solution wasn't fulfilling resident needs. This would need seamless integration with the website.
Wireframe Examples
Design Examples
Conclusion
Frustrations with the website, brand confusion, a messy IA and poor design had worn down the relationship of this housing association and its residents.
By having frank conversations with residents and working closely with One Housing employees we were able to get a clear picture of all the dots and were they didn't join up.
We took four separate brand sites and created one unified platform with a clear message and design throughout.
After this I also led the UX process on the self service portal and will be writing about that soon.

I worked on this project whilst working at Squiz in 2019
My work
Made on
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