From The Blob to Lex Luther

Daisy Houghton, Head of Communications and Corporate Services, Fundraising Regulator

We’ve launched a new website. Such a simple sentence*: clear, explanatory, factual. If only the same could have been said of our old site.

The speed with which we were launched in the summer of 2016 required a web presence from the off. We used the site on the very first day to demonstrate our ownership of the code, to allow people to make complaints to us and of course to describe what we planned to do. From then on it just kept growing. Two years later and we had added hundreds of pages and services including the Fundraising Preference Service, online registration, a directory of charities that have paid to support us (and a list of those who should have and haven’t) and tons of guidance (mostly on data protection). The site was starting to feel like The Blob, an ever expanding mass that we were losing control over.

Before it suffocated us we decided to make a significant change. The feedback we got from our users (aside from strongly held, mixed reactions to the photo on our homepage) was quietly damning “I find what I’m looking for now that I know where it is”. That’s fine if you come to our site regularly, but is no good if you are a first time visitor or in a hurry and we knew it was particularly unwieldy for smaller charities.

Our aims for the new site were to improve the navigation, to simplify and streamline the content and to improve the search functionality. We think we have done this (and made it prettier – lots more colours!) The team and I have spent a lot of time over the last few months on the Hemingway app trying to make the website easier to read to help our users find the information they need quickly.

We are particularly pleased with our fundraising topic pages, that summarise fundraising methods for the public and provide a quick guide and links to the code for fundraisers. Because we don’t want to be repeating this exercise in two years’ time, we have also tried to future-proof the website. We thought that we might want to include videos at some point, so to test the concept we filmed our new CEO explaining our role. Our cramped open plan office did not make an ideal shooting location so we snuck upstairs to an empty floor where we wouldn’t be disturbed. I think Gerald is secretly rather pleased with the glamorous results, though I’ve suggested he looks like he’s sitting in Lex Luther’s office.

We have a new communications manager arriving in a few weeks who will take over responsibility for keeping the site up to date and to ensure we don’t remake The Blob. Much as I’ve enjoyed the experience of helping create this new site, I’ll be very happy for someone else to be in charge for the sequel.

*Hemingway would approve!