Everyone who works for a small charity is acutely aware of the need to use online channels to increase visibility and awareness. Here at the Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT), that primarily means using these channels to reach families and ensure as many people as possible are getting the financial support they are entitled to.

Even though there is a great deal of attention paid to this facet of online strategy, in many ways, it’s the easy part. Through a combination of paid social and managed PPC campaigns, we were able to increase traffic on our website by over 100% in the first few months of this year. However, we quickly realised that we were still struggling to hit our ultimate goal – increasing the number of people completing our online enquiry form and starting the grant application process. It soon became apparent that, while we had successfully conquered the issue of bringing people to our website, we had neglected the next part of their journey – what happens when they are on the site itself.

Building a website journey for first-time visitors, with no real sense of what you can offer them or even if they are eligible for support, is no easy task. You need to get a lot of information into a small space, while not bombarding people with so much that they feel overwhelmed and give up. You need to make your tone encouraging and friendly while making clear to some people that you are not the charity for them. Most of all, you must make the navigation simple and make sure people don’t get hopelessly lost and exit the site.

Facing all of these challenges, we decided to commission a third party to conduct market research on our user website experience. This is a project that takes a fair bit of time and resource, but if you put in the hours, especially setting it up, it can really pay dividends. We found out a lot about who our audience was, where we were losing people on the website and what we needed to do to fix it.

Some examples of what we discovered are that more people than we realised were coming to our site with English as a second language, so we’ve made sure to keep everything on the website as easy as possible to understand for a non-native speaker. We also heard that people were getting frustrated at being given the same information on consecutive pages, so we have been careful not to repeat messages unnecessarily.

Off the back of the research we’ve worked on our website journey, the language we use, making navigation more user-friendly and generally gearing everything up to how the user would want it. The most important thing for us was to create a step-by-step user journey from landing page to the enquiry form, whereas before the journey was seen as fractured and confusing. It was also important that we made the user aware of their progress with each page.

We’re also incorporating is individual landing pages for specific needs. So if someone is coming to our site via an advert about disability grants, they see more specifically about how we support disabled children. If someone needs support with white goods, they can read a bit specifically about how to apply for this. It’s early days, but the initial signs suggest more people are making it through to the enquiry form and filling it in as a result, which is very encouraging.

It’s been a long road (we first started planning this project in February) but we’re optimistic that all the work we’ve put in will lead to more families in need receiving support in the future, and that’s ultimately what it’s all about.