Joseph Rowntree Foundation
A new clear, consistent, and contemporary website for a leading anti-poverty research and advocacy organisation.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation works to speed up and support the transition to a future free from poverty, in which people and planet can flourish. They undertake many different types of work across all four nations of the UK. This includes insight gathering, policy development, advocacy and campaigns, impact investment, funding pioneers and visionaries, field building, and supporting those building grassroots movements. We worked with the foundation to create a new website that helps them achieve this mission.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's previous website was seven years old, and the organisation's strategy had evolved several times throughout that period, leading to a website that their team recognised was confusing for users. They had also been using the website as a digital repository for all their written content, regardless of its long-term relevance. This meant the site had ballooned in size over time, becoming cluttered and difficult to manage.
They wanted to create a site that was inviting and well organised, creating a place where users want to spend time and explore, and not be put off by complexity. The digital team at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation conceived the challenge as like a library. Their current website was akin to a cluttered, badly organised library where people struggle to find what they want. Their brief asked for a much better library, one that is inviting, with beautifully presented and well-arranged books. Our response challenged them to think beyond the library metaphor. Even the best library requires the visitor to know what they are looking for. Instead, we suggested they view their website more like a book club, where the literature is thoughtfully selected to reflect curated topics that are meaningful to the members.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation website publishes important research and policy ideas that shape the national conversation around poverty. We could see they had the right ingredients, but they weren’t combining them into a recipe that was easy for users to navigate and understand.
To tackle this challenge, we created a new information architecture (IA) for the site that grouped information together in topics that make sense to the user. We restructured the old website’s poorly defined topics into a more concise structure that reflects how real users thought the content should be grouped and using concepts that reflect the foundation’s strategic themes. This resulted in a far more effective IA, as proven by user testing that demonstrated a success score of 85%.
An Improved and Accessible Design
We created a clean, simple design for the new Joseph Rowntree Foundation website ensuring it is inviting to visitors and presents information in an easily digestible way. The previous website relied heavily on stock photography which compromised the design, and failed to accurately reflect the foundation’s important work.
Our new design reduces the reliance on photography whilst also increasing the quality of any images they do use, thanks to our integration with Frontify, their digital asset management system. This integration allows their content team to create higher quality content going forward and make far better use of the digital assets they have available.
The resulting design is clear, consistent, and contemporary. Its subtlety lets the ideas themselves take centre stage. The site also meets WCAG 2.2 AA standards, which the client was keen to achieve.
Moving to a Digital-First Mentality
One of the foundation's key functions is the creation and dissemination of research. This had historically always been done by the creation of PDF reports that were shared on the website. A huge amount of work went into the creation of those PDF files, but they were poorly represented on the website. Our user research found that most visitors prefer to have reports available as webpages rather than PDFs (or wanted the information available in both formats), yet the organisation had an internal culture focused on PDFs as the key content type.
We wanted to invert this model with the new website, with the PDF being only a backup to the main content. We created a report page that presents the foundation’s research in a highly readable format with a persistent navigation menu for jumping to sections that interest the user. This page automatically generates a PDF version from the web content. This lets the content team focus their efforts on the web page, with no time wasted manually creating PDF reports. The foundation has transitioned from a PDF-first approach, to one founded upon the creation of high quality native web content.