Royal National Institute of Blind People
The first step in transforming RNIB's digital presence
We’re working with RNIB to transform how they use digital, data and technology, driven by user-centred processes, to create a new digital platform which can be the centre of people’s relationships with the organisation.
We’ve recently launched their new website on Wagtail CMS, which is the first step towards an ambitious vision for the future. We are ultimately aiming to better meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people, equipping and empowering them to live the life they want to lead.
When we started working with RNIB, we found a range of legacy technology platforms, centred around an ageing Drupal website, with inconsistent management and storage of data in the background. This led to inconsistent user experiences, and operational inefficiencies. We identified the opportunity to move towards a modern, integrated, flexible platform which would create the foundation for future iteration and innovation.
We’re delighted to be partnering with Torchbox for this pivotal change programme. The Torchbox team impressed us throughout and demonstrated a mix of tried and tested service design, product development and software engineering approaches alongside a healthy dose of experimentation and innovative thinking. Having delivered similar scale transformation programmes for Oxfam and Samaritans, we’re confident they’ll be an excellent partner long-term for RNIB.Jim Sanders, RNIB’s Director of Innovation and Transformation
Put blind and partially sighted users first
RNIB is the UK’s leading sight loss charity, with a mission to create a world where there are no barriers to people with sight loss. Accessibility and the needs of blind and partially sighted users are the highest priority in our work to deliver new digital products and services with RNIB, which began with our discovery research and prototyping new approaches to meeting user needs.
We interviewed a number of blind and partially sighted people to understand their needs, to identify the problems with current RNIB websites and more generally how they use technology and the internet. We found that we would make a significant improvement to the experience for these users simply by creating clearer information architecture, navigation, and better content structures.
We prototyped and tested various approaches and combinations of user interface designs and content structures with blind and partially sighted users, using various types of assistive technology, to make sure our design direction and decisions were right. We also had the benefit of RNIB's in-house accessibility team to help review and give expert guidance to the work as it developed.
The RNIB site is available in an optional dark mode to help make it more accessible for people with low vision.
Our website is our ‘shop window’ for people seeking advice, information and support so it’s absolutely vital that it’s accessible, intuitive and user-friendly. From the start of our work with Torchbox, inclusive design and accessibility have been the driving force. From feedback on the designs to user testing the site to ensure it is accessible and intuitive, blind and partially sighted people have played an invaluable role in developing the website.Jim Sanders, RNIB’s Director of Innovation and Transformation
Aim big, start small
We set the shared goal of a future state where a unified RNIB digital platform enables better user experiences, with a foundation of joined-up data capture – for example when accessing services, signing up for courses, supporting RNIB through donating, fundraising, volunteering or campaigning. Improved data infrastructure leads to better understanding of people’s individual experiences – which means we can increase impact through reaching more people and having better relationships with them.
There are many steps to take towards this goal, with interdependencies between multiple projects, so we outlined a strategic roadmap-based approach to bringing the RNIB digital estate together. This approach allows us to keep working towards a clear vision, but in a pragmatic, manageable way which minimises risk and makes effective use of budget.
Create and test content to meet real user needs
Good content strategy is a critical part of delivering improved user experiences but can often be overlooked. Budget and effort gets spent on new page designs, user interfaces and the underlying technology. But a significant part of the experience a person will have when visiting a website is down to the content itself: the words they read, or hear. Does the content give them what they need?
We are supporting the RNIB team by helping design workflows and to build in-house capacity and capability in content design and user research. We’re continuing to work to embed truly user-centred content production and ongoing testing.
Build an accessible and scalable platform
The new website is built on open-source Wagtail CMS, and we made use of the GOV.UK Wagtail accelerator kit to leverage all the ‘baked-in’ best practices of using the accessible components from GOV.UK and extended it to provide a distinctive look for RNIB.
We also consolidated several legacy platforms on the new Wagtail architecture, including the Sightline Directory and RNIB Connect Radio.
We have many blind and partially sighted content editors, so the accessibility of Wagtail’s admin interface was a deciding factor for us when picking a new CMS. Alongside other key requirements like scalability, security, and platform longevity, we’re confident it will provide a highly-accessible content management experience for our whole team. We look forward to working with Wagtail and contributing to the project.Laura Morris - RNIB Head of Digital (Technology)
Create consistency in data capture, storage, and usage
Good data is the key enabler of the joined-up user experiences that RNIB’s transformation programme aims to introduce. RNIB’s data landscape is also going through a process of development and transformation, moving from various different CRMs to a more streamlined architecture.
We knew the full advantages of this work would not be available to the new website at launch. We took an approach to developing the new web platform which acknowledged this reality, and allows a phased transition to a fully integrated architecture as the CRM, data and web applications develop. This is a common challenge in the charity sector, and taking this strategic, agile approach allows us to move forward without having to run large, monolithic, long-term technology projects.
Develop sustainable processes that encourage ongoing innovation
We are working towards a future where RNIB is equipped with the capabilities to continually innovate in how digital services are developed and delivered, with the new platform at the centre. So we wanted to work with the RNIB team to use this initial replatforming project as a catalyst for bringing the wider organisation behind new ways of delivering services and experiences, by introducing:
- Working “in the open” – with open invitations to sprint demos to share progress and gain input
- Design sprints for innovation
- A joined-up strategy for content, voice assistants, conversational AI and smart technology
- A shared user interface library – developing and testing user interface patterns for the website, which can be applied to other digital products and services to create consistency for users (and efficiencies for developers)
- An RNIB “inclusive digital standards” manual to guide future work
There is much more to come – especially in improving the way people can interact with the organisation online, how data is captured, and doing more useful things with that data to create improved experiences. All with inclusive design and accessibility at the centre, focussing on the experiences of blind and partially sighted people.
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