Case study - SurvivorsUK
Discovery phase research and consultancy, solutions architecture, documentation, and planning.
Between December 2014 and March 2015 I worked with Coast Digital in Colchester on a project for SurvivorsUK, who are the longest serving specialist provider of emotional support and therapeutic services to male victims of sexual abuse.
We were working to modernise the site’s front-end, maintaining many of the existing systems, but totally revisiting the content, IA, features, and integrations. With the launch of the new site and online chat/SMS services, SurvivorsUK are now the first major online support service for men who are victims of sexual assault and rape.
I worked on-site for the duration of the project, alongside one of the Consultants at Coast, helping to understand requirements, performing initial research, architecting solutions, documenting information, and helping to plan the build schedule.
My work involved the following:
- Assessment of requirements in existing briefing documents.
- Review of Virtually Helping, a thesis on the subject of male abuse.
- 11 telephone interviews with Directors, Counsellors, Helpliners, and Trustees alongside another consultant.
- One of three facilitators of a focus group for survivors of abuse.
- System demonstration of the web chat.
- Research into other rape/sexual violation sites.
- Existing CMS review (WordPress).
- Google Analytics review and presentation of findings – this helped to inform our technical solutions (rate limits, development considerations/progressive enhancement, third party changes needed to streamline responsive journeys), as well as highlighting changes that needed to be made to their analytics strategy.
- Prototyping – small prototypes were created to illustrate concepts including: geolocation and re-ordering/visual prioritisation of content based on whether a user was in London or not (London counselling only, online services elsewhere), closest support services, little enhancements such as
sms:+442033221860to specifically open the SMS chat within a messaging app rather than as a phone number.
- Informal testing of a Bootstrap prototype with users at the SurvivorsUK offices.
- Testing of the prototype at Coast Digital offices using Silverback app.
- Revisiting sketches/prototype, content and functionality based on the testing findings. This included tweaking the prototype using Developer Tools to quickly play around with things like menu options, priority, and item length.
- Third party discussions – iCarol , Charity Checkout, DABs – working with partner organisations I helped to define the data structures needed, plan data migration, integration through the API (and potential future single sign on), visual customisation, form customisation, and cross-domain tracking.
- Compilation of future tracking recommendations.
- Initial view of requirements.
- Compiled key findings as a slide deck, and presented back the story so far as part of a 2 day workshop.
- Initial briefing with the developer.
- Refinement of requirements, starting to add more detail, put together solutions with developer & rest of the team including technical detail and content models.
- Formation of initial estimates and a rough idea of how the sprints may pan out/initial view of priorities.
“Working with Sally is an absolute pleasure and having recently completed a website project with her I have been thoroughly impressed with her abilities, professionalism and commitment to the task at hand. During the project Sally played a crucial role in helping to define user requirements, but where she excelled was applying her knowledge and experience of website development to offer a technical viewpoint.
Throughout the project Sally communicated proactively with the client, explaining her ideas and opinions in accessible and practical ways, a rare talent for someone with a technical background. This combined with her affable nature and positive attitude, ensured the project ran smoothly and I look forward to working with Sally again in the future.”
Tom Pretty, Digital Consultant at Coast Digital
This was an extremely challenging project given the subject matter, and in all honesty it wasn’t always easy to deal with content of this nature day in, day out. There were a number of key areas that were particularly challenging, including the following:
Terminology and phrasing
We did a lot of thinking about the right terminology. This is a difficult subject, and the advice from the counsellors that we spoke to was to always use their client’s language, however this is difficult to mirror when some people are afraid to use words like ‘rape’, especially if they don’t know if what happened to them was abuse, or don’t want to acknowledge it. The tendency from the organisation was to use generic wording like “sexual violation”, but this simply wasn’t the language that people use, and was also deemed to be “too extreme” during the focus group.
There were also really interesting considerations around privacy. Normally, web projects often aspire to be flashy and eye catching, but this was actually the opposite. Whilst we needed a clean, modern look, our focus group told us that they would be concerned about the design being too ‘obvious’, and catching the eye of people who may be around. With video being included, due to the fact that people often research in secret and late at night, it was requested to ensure that audio was off by default, and to include subtitles for if people could not listen.
Whilst the site was primarily content-based, there were a couple of points that I needed to consider with regards to integration. One of these was the new directory of services, which was intended to merge a bought data set from with an existing data set of national therapists. This was to combine organisations and individuals, each with different data attributes that had to be assessed and normalised. During the workshop we wireframed the page with the client, and the initial instinct was to have a map for results, but therapists don’t publish a full address so we wouldn’t have been able to plot these accurately. In order to return results by proximity to the user it was decided that we would use a rough, non-visible postcode for therapists so that they could be sorted, but to only display addresses for organisations.
The site had a requirement to be multilingual – with the whole site being duplicated entirely in Welsh for regulatory reasons, and select content also being provided in other popular languages. Right to left languages were discussed, but these were deprioritised during scoping activities – instead downloads of key resources were provided in select languages including Arabic.
Project tools & technologies
- Google Drive
- Google Maps / geocoding API (later deprioritised)
- Geolocation API (later deprioritised)
- iCarol online and text chat system
- CharityCheckout third party donation system
- Gravity forms
- Bootstrap for the prototype
Having worked with Coast Digital previously, it was great to be able to return to the team for another project. Despite the launch of the site being pushed back (due to the General Election and restrictions around ‘electioneering’!), this was a great project that was a real pleasure to be part of, due in no small part to an extremely switched on and trusting client, and a great team at Coast.