How to create a website that not only serves as a traditional charity website does, but has the important job of providing an emergency response mechanism for those in immediate need or crisis?
Veterans Aid was established in 1932 as a direct response to the homelessness caused by poverty and unemployment among the ex-service community in London. The charity's core business is still to help those homeless individuals among the ex-military community; however its reach and impact is no longer simply London, but is now felt nationally and worldwide. It's aim is no longer to just 'address homelessness and its consequence' but, through timely intervention to prevent it and prevent it recurring. Now, many, many decades since it's inception, Veterans Aid still delivers against that pledge every single day.
Working closely with the dedicated team at Veterans Aid, we identified that the website had two core roles. In terms of the people using the site, there were two main audiences: those looking to find out more and perhaps donate or volunteer to assist with Veterans Aid's work. The first group is likely to have easy access to the internet and both the time and interest to learn more, and make a considered enquiry or approach.
However the clear, immediate audience that the site needs to serve is the ex-servicemen and servicewomen who are in crisis now. Their immediate needs are clearly very different. To this end, the new website had to to ensure some key priorities:
1. Finding help was as clear as possible, easily accessible from the homepage, and certainly not buried within the site.
2. How to access this help, and what help they would receive, also needed to be as clear as possible. There were three main ways to access help (phone, email and via the drop-in centre). With responsive mobile design, phone contact numbers are pre-programmed, with maps and simple enquiry forms (for the overseas individuals allowing for time-zone differences).
3. To clearly outline what immediate help was available (clothing and shelter) which is vitally important to those in crisis, who might be scared and confused. Tee longer-term preventative measures available, covered legal assistance, potential retraining grants, accommodation arrangements and medical assistance for potential addictions and general illness.
Working with the client, we mapped out the personas and their core user journeys; creating a simple website structure that could deliver timely information; whilst the day-to-day news and progress of the organisation had an integral news and social media integration to assist them with getting the word out to the greater public easily and continuously.
The site design is on-brand, and is clean and simple to use, making it easy to access for the people so desperately needing help. Large blocks of colour sign-posted graphics enable users to navigate quickly to their point of interest.
In terms of expressing the positivity of the message, this was something which ran through the site, including the images we used and the stories we told. The focus is on the genuinely positive outcome awaiting those in crisis, and the positive effect those getting involved can have on those most in need.
For both target groups, the sentiment, tone and visual design of the site needed to reflect the positivity of the organisation. Unlike some charities, this was about finding long-term help, not just a short-term fix. These men and women deserve every assistance, in a timely fashion without judgement nor restriction.
The result is a responsive, user-centric site with integral CMS, enabling the charity to quickly update and respond to immediate information.