At Nomensa’s recent Interact Conference Amanda Neylon, head of digital at Macmillan Cancer Support, described how the organisation was gradually becoming more digitally focused.

Beginning with a sobering stat, Amanda said that half of people born after 1965 will get cancer.

Macmillan’s aim is to improve the lives of cancer sufferers and support their loved ones, which means it has to inspire millions of people to help by donating their time and money.

Read on to find out more about how Macmillan uses digital to achieve its aim, but for more on this topic read our posts on 10 inspiring content marketing examples from charities and why charities need true digital transformation.

Charities are user-centred

People go to charities because they require help or advice, so Macmillan has to ensure its digital platforms are focused on user needs.

These are the nine problems Macmillan has to solve for people:

To get a better understanding of its users Macmillan created six personas.

Each one is modelled on a different information-seeking behaviour, which then informs the way in which the charity presents information to its users.

One of the personas is Amrik, a real-life cancer sufferer who came to Macmillan for help and thanks to the support he received has now turned into one of the charity’s evangelists, even appearing in promotional content.

In-house vs. Agency

Decisions over digital team structures are a headache for many businesses, as is the process of deciding which roles to bring in-house and where to rely on agencies.

As part of its project to develop new site navigation, Macmillan made the decision to bring digital skills in-house.

This included UX, UI, content and front-end designers, though the charity also works with an external build agency.

The project to create a more user-focused site threw up several challenges:

  • Macmillan had more than 1,600 articles.
  • Information architecture was clear, but deep.
  • It had to cater to the most common search criteria (type of cancer).
  • How to optimise for different devices?

Each member of the digital team was involved in the design process as they each brought different questions and insights.

When it came to testing the new search tool the team carried out ‘guerrilla tests’ where they sat in coffee shops with a laptop and asked people to try out the new site.

This was followed by traditional user-testing involving Google Analytics, Fresh Egg and outside agencies.

Different iterations of the search tool

Iterative approach

Macmillan further developed this iterative approach as way of testing and evolving new digital products.

As part of this process additional developers were hired so technical delivery could also be done in-house.

An example of one of these iterative projects is My Macmillan. This service allows logged-in users to create a personalised experience by saving relevant articles and content.

The first release of My Macmillan was used to build a business case and prove the value – a very important process for charities with small budgets.

Subsequent video user testing enabled Macmillan to identify problems and refine the user journey to suit the needs of the six persona-types.

It also provided a visual way of illustrating issues to other stakeholders.

Five top tips

And just to wrap things up, here are Amanda’s five digital tips for charities:

  • Bringing UX in-house works brilliantly for charities.
  • Collaborate collaborate collaborate.
  • Start small and iterate.
  • And iterate again.
  • The people are real – tell their stories and inspire them to tell yours.