Read Easy UK
Read Easy UK was about to gain a significant PR boost, thanks to a charity appeal with Richard Madeley on BBC Radio 4. To capitalise on this, the charity needed a top-notch, accessible website to support its goals to increase donations and recruit volunteers.
Read Easy is a national charity that recruits, trains and supports volunteer reading coaches. These coaches give one-to-one tuition to adults who struggle with reading – a hidden problem affecting millions of people.
With the launch date set and a massive uptick in web traffic expected in the short term, testing and resilience were crucial.
With a BBC Radio 4 appeal on the horizon, Read Easy decided it was time to refresh their outdated website. They brought in IE Digital to create a new site that would showcase their life-changing work, and really put the charity on the map.
In England alone, there are 2.4 million adults who struggle to read. These people are often hidden from view. They feel ashamed to admit they can’t read, so they just ‘fake it’ through life. It often takes some major turning point for them to decide to take control of their lives and seek help with reading. This might be the birth of a child, redundancy, or losing the only person who knew their secret and supported them.
This is when Read Easy’s team of volunteer coaches gets involved. They can change people’s lives by offering one-to-one reading support. But in order to help more aspiring readers, the charity needed to bring more volunteers on board, and drive up donations too.
A site to attract donations and volunteers
The BBC appeal offered a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the charity to reach a massive audience and share the impact of their work. Read Easy was selected for the appeal by a committee of charity sector experts, through a rigorous application process that begins a year ahead of broadcast.
Capitalising on this incredible exposure was essential, but the Read Easy website was holding the charity back. It was confusing to navigate, too text-heavy, and looked dated. To make the most of the BBC appeal, Read Easy needed a bolder, more dynamic experience for prospective volunteers, and a more effective donation journey.
IE Digital held a workshop with the Read Easy team to explore the key audiences for the new website and prioritise their content.
Through the workshop process we identified two key audience groups:
- Supporters – volunteers, coaches, individual donors, and corporate donors.
- Beneficiaries – adults who want support to learn to read (readers) plus local organisations/agencies who might refer these people.
When designing the website’s user experience, we gave supporters and beneficiaries a 60:40 weighting. That’s because 80% of beneficiaries come to Read Easy via local referral agencies or other organisations.
Volunteers and supporters
Volunteers are the backbone of the charity, running local groups and acting as reading coaches. We needed the website to connect with potential volunteers on an emotional level, as well as providing clear information on what the roles entail and the training available. Read Easy was also keen to recruit volunteers from more diverse backgrounds and attract pioneers to set up new groups in urban areas.
Donors and funders are also important supporters, but while individual givers tend to follow their hearts when choosing a charity to support, corporate donors tend to make more rational decisions, so need clear information on the difference they’ll be making.
Read Easy’s beneficiaries are adults who struggle to read and have reached a turning point in their lives, driving them to reach out for help.
The website needed to be accessible and approachable for people with a limited reading ability from all backgrounds. They have often had a tough time in school, so it was important to show how Read Easy takes a one-to-one coaching approach, rather than a more intimidating classroom environment. We needed to lower the barriers for learning, build their trust, and let them know that they are not alone.
Designing the user experience
Our UX designers mapped out user flows for each key audience and designed the website structure and content hierarchy. Then we created storyboards to show the site’s visual design.
It was crucial that the Read Easy website shouldn't look child-like, which could be off-putting for adult Readers.
For the visual design IE agreed the key success needs with Read Easy:
Our web designers drew inspiration from the Read Easy logo, brand guidelines, and colour palette. Orange and navy blue are the brand’s primary colours, and we added vibrancy to the site with a generous helping of their secondary shade, teal.
We used organic shapes – including the sweeping curves of an open book – for a warm, welcoming feel. We also introduced letters as a subtle background detail to show the learning element, while keeping the visuals designed for an adult audience. Iconography also had an important part to play across the site, to be more accessible to users with low reading ability.
Accessibility through audio and video
Quite often, people who struggle to read don’t use screen readers as they don’t yet ‘own’ the problem. We added an audio icon to welcome users with a friendly voice clip, to help visitors to understand what's on the page and how to use the site. Read Easy’s content managers can choose from default audio across the site or customise it to include details for the specific webpage. We made the phone and audio icons ‘sticky’ on the page, so they are easy to find, wherever you are on the site.
IE produced a series of five short films, which introduce the charity and shine a spotlight on their brilliant people. The films give a voice to Read Easy’s beneficiaries and volunteers, and demonstrates the real impact they have on people’s lives. Our explainer film (below) sits on the homepage, and the other films introduce the viewer to a Reader, a Reading Coach, a Coordinator and a group Pioneer, to tell their stories and explain more about the process.
The site also meets AA standard WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines.
Straightforward donation process
Read Easy makes its money go a long way, and the donations page makes this clear by showing the difference just £10, £40 or £100 can make. We integrated with Donorbox to make it easy for users to give, either a one-off or a regular donation, without ever leaving the website.
The new site is more engaging, with a fresh design and intuitive navigation. We’ve brought Read Easy’s fantastic success stories to the fore with Reader testimonials. And we carefully chose photography to position Read Easy as a modern, diverse and inclusive organisation.
We also incorporated a ‘find a group’ postcode search to help readers and their referrers identify their nearest group for one-to-one support, and volunteers to get involved.
Digital marketing recommendations
To support Read Easy’s small team, IE Digital prepared a digital marketing recommendations document to help them drive visitors to the new website site. This included specific recommendations for the brief period of the BBC appeal, and ideas for the longer term.
The document pulled together tips on content writing, organic search optimisation, and keyword targeting. We also recommended strategies for social media (including targeted paid advertising), email marketing, building quality backlinks, and ongoing content creation to maximise inbound traffic.
The WordPress CMS is simple to use, with no unnecessary complexity. We provided a set of editable page templates, and the ability for Read Easy to create new pages from a variety of predefined components and styles. We delivered full CMS training for the content editors via video conference and screen-share.
The BBC appeals offer tremendous exposure to the featured charities, and experience showed that Read Easy could expect massive volumes of website traffic on the dates of broadcast.
The appeal was to be aired shortly before Sunday worship on Easter Sunday, then repeated that evening and again later in the week. The total audience could be in the region of 1.3 million listeners, and some appeals bring in as much as £100,000 in donations. IE Digital put a robust launch plan in place to ensure the site could withstand the demands.
Stress testing the site for launch
IE Digital created a detailed deployment plan and liaised with domain registrars and other third parties, to make sure everyone was up to speed. And we took a full back-up of the old Read Easy site so they could still access their legacy content.
We upgraded Read Easy onto a higher support package for the duration of the BBC appeal and planned our most rigorous testing regimen for any website launch. The site was heavily stress tested to ensure that the crucial areas like the donate function could withstand large volumes. We also held back some of the more resource-intensive features on the website until the appeal period was over.
Success for the appeal and the website
When the appeal broadcast it brought in a week's worth of traffic to the site in just one day. At one point we had 511 concurrent users on the site, but all our precautions paid off and the site coped perfectly under the additional load. Just as we'd hoped, Read Easy received thousands of new visitors to the site, who checked out important content on volunteering, pioneering new groups and of course, learning to read.
With the crucial week navigated successfully, IE rolled out the remaining key functionality, including the postcode search to find the nearest Read Easy group.