Paragon Community Housing Group has recently won the 2014 National Housing award for Best Digital Marketing for achievements that are centred on its new website. Hannah Elford, Paragon’s design and communications manager, explains how they are making the first steps in a digital journey.
We needed to revitalise our online presence and expand our digital services to offer choice around how tenants engage with us. We wanted to push more content online and understand how we could design content that was flexible for print and the web. It was important to understand how we could motivate users to get online, and consider what their user journeys might be.
The site was built by digital agency White October, who worked closely with us throughout the whole process. They spent a lot of time finding out what we do and how we work, helping us to set objectives based on what our tenants really wanted from the website, even if it meant challenging us. Their objective was in line with ours; to make sure every single page on the site served a clear, agreed purpose.
We knew a good proportion of tenants were not ‘web-savvy’, so if we were going to build a new website, we had to ensure people could get what they needed from it without having to search around. This meant user testing. White October were passionate about getting our tenants on board and facilitating the testing.
Now the site is live, we can tackle the digital challenges around encouraging tenants to get online and use the internet to interact with us, and to try new methods such as text messaging. Rather than just creating content, we’re beginning to understand how we might shape services that were previously delivered offline.
As the universal credit system is taking time to come to fruition, it’s a fantastic opportunity for housing providers to explore digital. The process of designing the website was iterative and continues to develop. This is a valuable approach as it proves that small changes in the right direction can speed progress. They can also avoid inaction, which is common in the sector and stems from a pressing ‘get it right first time’ mentality.
We continue to test the site with users as part of its ongoing development. We use Google Analytics, perform mystery shopping exercises and have a trained panel of Resident Inspectors who have recently carried out a Scrutiny Inspection of our communications.
We’re getting very positive feedback and here are a few recent comments:
- “Excellent! Type in ‘ASB’ and there is simply everything one needs to know. I searched for my TSO and it was very clear. I feel your website is really outstanding.”
- “The website was very easy to navigate, and the spaces were all highlighted and easy to fill in. It is a well-designed website.”
- “I’m pleased tenants were asked to help look at how the website worked and what we thought about it before it went live. When I saw the new website for the first time, I was glad they listened to feedback about using a clear typeface.”
Site traffic has increased 30 per cent since the new site was launched, and I’d suggest that it’s not only more popular with tenants, it’s helped to give our staff new self-belief too.
We’ve made an excellent start to our digital journey with a site that enables us to evolve and develop. The National Housing Awards judges summed it up pretty well when they “found the website easy, smooth to use, creatively good-looking and intuitive.”
We are integrating mobile marketing such as text messaging into everyday communications with our tenants. We also use mobile marketing to enhance our marketing campaigns and drive website traffic.
As we continue to expand digital services, and strive not to leave any of our tenants behind, we are considering creating an online tenants panel who can provide feedback and act as a sounding board for how we move services forward.
Digital services are not standing still, they are evolving. And as such we need constant feedback and an iterative approach.
Paragon Community Housing Group has recently won the 2014 National Housing award for Best Digital Marketing for achievements that are centred on its new website.
Hannah Elford is the design and communications manager at Paragon Community Housing Group.