Watford Community Housing (WCH) own and manage more than 5,000 homes in South West Hertfordshire. Their focus is on providing homes for lower income households with a commitment to putting tenants at the heart of everything they do.
The business works closely with residents to ensure they deliver a continuously excellent service which heavily involves their website. To do this, their website needed a complete design and rebuild to meet both customer and stakeholder expectations, as well as their evolving business needs. The team at NetConstruct were their agency of choice to undertake this project.
The existing site was difficult to maintain and update. Built on a bespoke CMS meant WCH were overly reliant on their previous agency to make changes. A new website was required to overcome these obstacles while fully embodying their new branding.
It was also integral to the project to reflect the growing ambition and complexity of the Group, which incorporated a commercial arm and several joint venture companies. With the launch of their new branding, there was an opportunity to build a site that provided control and flexibility to WCH’s marketing team.
Understanding their users
WCH wanted to engage real users in an effort to understand more about their challenges. The discovery phase of the project was key to achieving this. As part of our solution, we created user personas, conducted a UX workshop with key stakeholders alongside focus groups with tenants to understand how the new website could help overcome common challenges.
During the workshop, we implemented tasks to flesh out persona requirements helping stakeholders think about their missions (tasks on the site), mind frames (what was driving them) and methods (the functionality that would help them achieve their mission). The personas we defined included current tenants, job seekers and partners and the results were included in the outputs documentation, forming a number of recommendations.
Developing required functionality
WCH already had a good idea of the functionality requirements and the areas of the website that needed improving which were confirmed during the research phase of the project. It was important for information to be presented effectively, and the website to behave intuitively, providing a simple yet effective user journey. New technical elements were implemented on the website including:
- Versatile page layout/publishing options allowing for a variety of page types including news stories, customer advice, corporate information and job opportunities.
- Consideration for accessibility laws and best practice, including options for visually impaired users.
- User-friendly media management, manipulation of images and the ability to crop within the CMS.
- The ability to schedule content and preview content in a true setting prior to publishing.
- Interactive forms and surveys - these were backed by user-friendly mechanisms for the collection and use of data so it can be actioned effectively.
Implementing New Brand Designs
Alongside practical features, the site required a fresh and modern look, pushing the boundaries of what others have done in this sector. WCH’s new branding was key to this and we needed to effectively embrace it to better reflect the personality and culture of the business.
The UX workshops conducted in the research phase allowed our design team to understand exactly which audiences we needed to prioritise content for. The process also revealed the beliefs and behaviours of users groups alongside the requirements our designs and templates needed to create the best possible user journey. Focusing on the outputs of this research, we were able to devise a content model providing users with the optimum route to information on site.
“We are really happy with our new website, which has been well received by customers and colleagues alike. We are grateful to NetConstruct for their support in helping to manage the whole project from start to finish, and for delivering a user-friendly, modern site that meets our brand aspirations.”