Merging two websites in a principled way

Published:24th June 2019

By Ellie Harries, Digital Lead, Inspiring Impact programme

The Inspiring Impact programme has been on a long digital journey since it launched six and a half years ago. We’ve been through three website builds, developed various impact diagnostic tools, and have recently combined two legacy websites into one, following the merger of Inspiring Impact and the Impact Management Programme last year. During this time, the tech landscape – and our tech ambitions – have evolved significantly.

In 2018, I was tasked with delivering this latest merged incarnation of the Inspiring Impact website and it’s been an interesting project to say the least. One of the first things I did was research best practice on merging websites, but there was very little out there so I wanted to share some learnings and insights into what we did.

Here, I’ve taken a few of the Inspiring Impact programme’s guiding principles and talked through how they have informed our approach to merging the two existing websites.

Principle 1: Our activities will be designed with, not for, users

The Inspiring Impact partners are all charities or social enterprises, so we understand the challenges, but at the same time we recognise that we are ‘impact geeks’ in comparison to most. When planning, we were very aware of the need to put user testing, involvement and challenge at the forefront of the project.

 What we did

  • We decided early on to keep the existing elements of each ‘legacy’ website that we knew were valued by users. For example, we know that over 2,000 people have used Inspiring Impact’s Measuring up self-assessment tool and therefore this needed to stay a part of the new website. Similarly, the Impact Management Programme’s website had been co-designed with over 100 organisations from across England, and we knew that they liked the design, look and feel of this site.
  • Before any design work took place, we ran in-depth interviews with users to understand what they liked and disliked about the existing platforms, and to see what else they needed.
  • We actively invited challenge from our steering group, who represent a range of different users and perspectives. This helped us to keep a strategic focus, albeit sometimes throwing up unexpected curve balls.
  • We tested our assumptions at various points during the project. For example, we used a Treejack survey to test our new menu structure with users. Treejack helped us rethink how the content was organised and labelled. I’m so glad that we did this, because some things that seemed obvious to us were clearly not.

Principle 2: Using data and experience to adapt and improve our delivery

It goes without saying that data is at the core of measurement and evaluation, this is reflected by the fact that we have built a data diagnostic self-assessment tool on the new website, to help organisations understand the information they need to collect. As a programme, we need to practice what we preach.

 What we did

  •  We used the data we collected from users to make a whole range of decisions. This wasn’t a one-off process, but something that we came back to time-and-time again.
  •  Some of the content from the legacy websites had to be ditched, and we didn’t take this cull lightly. It was agonising because each bit of content had been developed to satisfy a user need at one point or another. Data from Google Analytics really helped us here, and we reviewed every page on each of the legacy websites for its number of views, average time on page and bounce rate. If users weren’t accessing certain pages, then they became candidates for the cull. However, I’d strongly argue that the Google Analytics data on its own isn’t enough to make these decisions. For example, numerous users told us how vital cultural changes were to improving their organisation’s impact practice, but few accessed the this section on the website. This insight led us to integrate the culture content from the Impact Management Programme’s website over to key pages on the new Inspiring Impact website.

Principle 3: Our support will be jargon free and straightforward, so that anyone can access and use it

We recognise that the measurement and evaluation space has a lot of jargon, and this is a challenge for charities and social enterprises, as well as for search engine optimisation. As a programme, Inspiring Impact needs to be as accessible as possible.

What we did

  • Something that became obvious from user interviews was that we didn’t have an easily accessible page on either of the legacy websites that answered the basic question ‘what is impact practice?’ This is an obvious gap, but something that we needed to be told. Now we’ve created a new page which answers this key question.
  • A few years ago, Inspiring Impact inherited the stewardship of the impact jargon buster but it was somewhat buried on the old website. After hearing how important this was to users, we made it more prominent on the new website and created a downloadable jargon buster that people can save for later.
  • We also hired an external copy editor to review the whole website before the launch, who provided us with a thoughtful review of our work—this was invaluable in ensuring consistency and reducing jargon. This was especially important for this project because content had been written by a range of different people.

Merging the two websites has been a learning curve. We’ve had to re-write and re-think more than I’d anticipated, but it’s been a real privilege to come back and work on.

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