Delightful Ethical Digital
Howard League campaigners

Research: The Howard League

Investigating the effectiveness of the website through user research and data analysis

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The challenge

The Howard League for Penal Reform is an independent organisation that campaigns for changes in the criminal justice system and undertakes research and legal work. The Howard League runs a legal service for children and young people in custody and relies on donations from members and supporters to implement change.

Since completing the most recent website build in 2015, we advanced with a research project which took a deep dive into the underlying purpose of the website from a user perspective and whether it was achieving the desired results for the organisation while also exploring some more existential ideas around the placement of the website within their wider strategy.

Two people in conversation over a coffee

The brief

Unlike a new development or brand piece, the research project was born out of conversations and communication centring around how the website has performed during the Covid-19 pandemic and whether trends that had arisen during this period were expected to be temporary or represented a wider shift in how the Howard League’s audiences were using the website.

To begin to analyse these trends, we proposed a research project which focused on a range of activities, all with the focus of tracking audience engagement, behaviour and opinion to both the website and the organisation as a whole.

The process

Focusing on a range of both members and non-members, the research project consisted of three primary activities to gain a greater understanding of the website’s purpose going forwards. 

Firstly, as a part of the user-research based process, we interviewed 11 people as a representation of the Howard League’s audiences, asking them about their use of the website, how they are involved with the Howard League and their membership. These interviewees included a criminal justice academic,  undergraduate law students and a QC barrister in order to develop a rounded understanding of the breadth of the Howard League’s audience. 

These oral interviews probed how the organisation is viewed, how their campaigns are received, why the website is used, and crucially, when. Moreover, these interviews allowed time for free-flowing conversations that unearthed more natural comments and recommendations than would be supplied via a survey.

Following the interviews, a Fat Beehive analyst carried out a review of the tracking in place and the data collected from the Howard League website, using data available within Google Analytics. Such analysis focused on validating the answers provided during the earlier interviews, as well as considering users’ relationship with cookies, how they travel to the Howard League website, what pages they land on first and what role social media plays in relationship to the website.

Arrangement of Howard League printed publications

The solution

Once we had gathered the evidence from both the interviews and analytics, we compiled a list of suggestions and recommendations which varied from simple changes to landing page content to improve SEO rankings, to longer-term projects such as reworking the homepage to highlight what the Howard League is campaigning for today. All suggestions and recommendations were compiled in a lengthy report which alludes to evidence in support of any changes recommended.

The results

On completion of the report, we drew on earlier goals developed by the Howard League and the organisation’s strategic report to develop objectives and key results (OKRs) which agree on clear priority purposes for the website along with metrics to measure them. The motivation behind this means that any changes have a basis in a clear goal that can be constantly worked towards and measured. Such OKRs include percentage increases in membership and measuring users’ understanding of their campaigns.

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