National Trust : Asking the interested parties

A properly resourced mechanism for involving key users in a redesign.

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The Site

National Trust, an independent UK heritage charity, has encouraged a dialogue with visitors about a new site design before its launch. National Trust’s website features a universal purple strip banner at the top of pages that contains a message inviting users to try out the new ‘beta’ version of the site currently in development. Clicking ‘Visit it’ opens the new version in a new window. The beta site has its own universal banner, inviting visitors either to give feedback on the new version or return to the ‘old site’. A Feedback button is also anchored to the right-hand edge of the browser frame. Opting to give feedback leads to a forum-style page where comments can been left for the site’s developers to consider and other visitors to see. All the comments on view have received full and informative replies from National Trust staff members. Most thank users for their feedback, explain why certain design decisions have been made and state that the feedback will passed to specific and relevant teams.

The Takeaway

In using a banner to encourage comments on its beta site National Trust is following the examples of Google and Twitter, which employed the device just prior to their recent redesigns. For the Trust the mechanism is a particularly focused and efficient way of soliciting comment from its core supporters i.e. the existing community of users that it cannot afford to alienate. The manner in which it is managed indicates that the commitment to involving ‘customers’ in the redevelopment has been built into the project – enough ‘consultation time’ has clearly been allowed in the schedule and adequate resources devoted to it. Equally important in the context is that the feedback section is being managed as a dialogue rather than, as on many sites that offer a feedback channel, a suggestions box. Clear and explanatory responses from staff add to, and often temper, the lively and at times heated discussions. This gives immediate assurance that the organisation is listening to and engaging with respondents (and is geared up to do so). That reinforces the expectation raised in offering the forum, and so binds in supporters as well as encouraging quality feedback.
First published 15 December, 2011
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