Digital inclusion has become a hot topic among charities. Over half of organisations are worried about excluding people or groups from their digital platforms and services, according to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2021. Moreover, one out of three charities doesn’t even know if their products are accessible to users.
However, what do we mean exactly when we talk about digital inclusion? According to NHS Digital, the term encompasses three dimensions: digital skills, internet connectivity, and accessibility – that is, how the design of digital services meets your users’ needs.
That’s why data is so important. Data is a vital resource in helping you make informed decisions and play your part in making your charity a more inclusive place in the digital world.
Almost 12m people (22% of the population) do not have the basic digital skills for everyday life in the UK. Furthermore, people with disabilities are 35% less likely to have essential digital skills.
This lack of digital skills can affect people’s ability to search and find relevant and useful information and reach the services and support your users might need.
Crisis faced this problem during the pandemic. They experienced an increase in their website traffic, partially because the organisation’s name confused users looking for information about the Covid-19 crisis. “We’re called Crisis, and the world is in crisis. This means we don’t own the word as much as we used to,” explains Justin Driskill, Senior Digital Marketing & Analytics Officer at Crisis.
For this reason, the organisation has worked to optimise their content according to the most popular terms or questions in search engines related to its topics. In that way, they can signpost to both their potential audiences and people who are looking for other content.
Some tips to start addressing these issues:
- Play with Google Analytics – Creation of segments of your audience in Google Analytics allows you to track and compare how different groups (in terms of age or location) use your website. This will help you detect different patterns that may explain differences in digital skills.
- Check the bounce rate – A big figure or unusual changes in this measure may indicate that people are struggling to find the right content or service on your website.
- Listen to users – Surveys or online interviews with users could be an affordable way to interrogate the quantitative data and your hypothesis regarding digital skills.
- Compare results – Try as much as you can to check if your users’ situation is shared with the sector or something particular to your charity.
- Optimise your content – Apply SEO techniques to tailor your content according to your users’ needs, making it easier for them to reach you.
While a broadband connection is considered a must-have for many, the Ofcom Technology Tracker 2021 reminds us that 16% of households with lower incomes in the UK still do not have internet access at home. Many of them are users of charities’ services and rely on phones to access the Internet.
According to the CharityComms Digital Benchmark, mobile traffic to charity websites has grown to 68% of total traffic during 2021. However, a recent study from Uprise Up showed two-thirds of charities websites don’t meet the minimum standards in load speed and usability for mobiles.
Recently, Target Ovarian Cancer redeveloped its website with a mobile-first approach. For this, they validated all decisions with real users and paid attention to implementation details. “Good site performance is baked into all the website builds and server set-ups,” says Amy Olson, Head of Digital.
The new site has been well-received and users highlight how easy it is to use. “This is vital feedback for us, as our priority is ensuring that anyone affected by ovarian cancer is able to find the information they want when they need it. Our new approach to iterative improvements (with a small budget for ongoing UX research activities) means we’re continually looking for ways to optimise the site, in terms of both functionality and content,” Amy adds.
Some tips to address connectivity issues:
- Dig into your data – Use your Google Analytics data to understand your audience better. Knowing their location, ages and which device they use the most to visit your website is the first step in making better decisions.
- Test your website – Use the PageSpeed Insights tool to measure your load speed and usability, both for desktop and mobile devices.
- Get familiar with the Core Web Vitals – These measures are designed to improve how users experience your website’s speed, responsiveness, and visual stability.
- Go step by step (and test!) – break down your challenge into smaller pieces and apply an iterative approach of making changes and tests them with real users.
As Shawn Henry states in his book Just Ask, “Accessibility basically means that people with disabilities can use a product.” 22% of people live with a disability in the UK, either sensory, motor, or cognitive. However, accessibility also has to do with temporary circumstances like location, health, and equipment availability, so it’s vital to think about accessibility in a broader sense.
Data is often a good starting point in detecting accessibility issues. Contrasting your data with the feedback of your users is also key, as Young Women’s Trust has done.
Some tips to address accessibility issues:
- Identify possible accessibility issues – The Behaviour Flow report of Google Analytics can help you understand how your users move into your website and potentially spot problems that prevent them from completing specific actions.
- Visualise users’ behaviour – Heatmap generators like Hotjar or Heatmap.com are valuable tools to test how users interact with your website and discover design issues that might reduce accessibility.
- Check your accessibility – Use a self-administered checklist or an automated test to check how accessible your website is. Gov.uk recommends the following automated tests: aXe, Wave, Tenon and SiteImprove.
- Take it one step at a time – Follow the detailed techniques and recommendations of the Web Content Accesibility Guidelines, a set of recommendations for improving web accessibility. Many are simple and easy to implement.
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