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Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan launched a new responsive website last year as the proportion of traffic from mobile devices began to creep up to 50%.

The revamp has led to impressive increases in traffic and conversions, as well as reductions in the site's bounce rate.

To find out more about what was involved in the move to responsive design, including the project duration, budget, agencies involved and the impact on visitor behaviour, I spoke to Anthony Nolan's digital marketing manager Sam Butler.

For more information on how charities are adapting to digital, read our blog posts on three content strategies from the non-profit sector as well as looking at how charities use Twitter and Pinterest.

1. What percentage of site traffic was coming from mobile devices before you decided to make it mobile-friendly? How was it split by tablet and smartphone?

Before launch 46% of our visits were from mobile devices. Of those, 76% were from smartphones and just 24% from tablets.

In 2013, the site got 36% mobile traffic and 11% tablet traffic. In 2014 so far we're seeing 41% mobile traffic and 14.5% tablet traffic. 

2. What were your aims for the new site? What goals did you set yourself?

As well as raising awareness of our lifesaving work, people can also apply to join our register through our website. So it’s a very important part of our business.

One of the main objectives for the new site was moving to a new open-source platform (Drupal) to allow us to run the site more efficiently and introduce a more iterative approach to our work across digital.

It was also an opportunity to refresh the design and content to better reflect our brand and reach our key audiences as part of our integrated digital marketing activity.

3. Who built the new site, how long did it take and how much did it cost?

We actually worked with two agencies on the new site. Precedent took care of the overall redesign and we commissioned Axis12 to develop the forms on the site, including the donor application form. Working with two agencies is not without it risks but it meant each agency could focus in on their specific briefs.

The budget for the redesign was £105,000. Project management was a significant part of this project but this is money well spent considering how complex a website re-launch is.

4. How has the redesign affected visitor behaviour? 

We’re still getting very positive feedback about the new look-and-feel of the site. The metrics have been highly encouraging too. So far we've seen:

  • Overall visits increased 29%.
  • Unique visits up 34%.
  • Bounce rate down 11.97%.
  • An 8% increase in conversion rate (defined as people filling in the bone marrow registration form online).

One interesting and unexpected impact has been that our visits via Facebook have gone up 200%. The new site lets us add new content and stories more easily, and we've been sharing more on social media. Facebook is now by far the biggest referrer to the site.

5. You mentioned that you take an iterative approach to development. Can you expand on how that works in practice?

On a practical level, we’re now use the ticketing system JIRA to raise and track tickets which is based on the Agile/Scrum methodology. We’re still learning, but we’re finding it’s a really effective way of prioritising work and managing projects. 

More broadly, it means we’re now continuingly improving our digital presence and introducing new features on a rolling basis. Since our new site went live in November, we’ve already launched a new forum for patients and families, and created an interactive page to celebrate our 40th birthday. And there’s lots more in the pipeline.

6. What has been the most surprising or pleasing outcome from the redesign?

The levels of engagement have really shot up. It’s really pleasing to see our work on different channels complementing each other so well.

It’s also a much easier system for us to use. We’ve got more control over the site and flexibility to shape it to our needs. This flexibility also means we have the freedom to work with different agencies, so we now have a roster of agencies with different specialisms to suit different projects. 

7. In general how well do you think charities have adapted to digital? How about your own organisation?

I think charities on the whole now see digital as a central part of their business rather than just an add-on.

The limited resources that charities have mean you have to stay up-to-date on the best new tools out there. But you can’t do that all on your own. Meeting up with other people in the sector is so important, even if it’s just to talk about your latest projects.

At Anthony Nolan there’s a lot of freedom to explore ideas and try things out. That’s really important. And I think everyone here, from the Chief Executive down, see the potential digital now has for engagement and really making a difference, which is what we’re all about.

David Moth

Published 17 February, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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