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simplifying complexity

Case Study: Safer York Partnership

The Safer York Partnership is a group comprised of representatives from key voluntary and statutory agencies including City of York Council, North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Probation, Public Health and York CVS.

Communication with the public, the media and other local organisations is of strategic importance to the group. To support this communication, the Partnership has had a website for several years. Prior to engaging RedKiteIT, the Partnership had a website which was functional, but which also had a number of problems. The website had grown organically over time, and contained a great deal of outdated content. Due to the size and structure of the site, it had become difficult to find and remove the outdated information.

The site had its own bespoke Content Management System which had been written by the developer of the original website. The CMS was unwieldy and not at all user-friendly, with inadequate indexing of documents and pages. It had become so difficult to use that the Partnership’s web administration team were reluctant to use it at all.

On top of that, the age of the website meant that it did not make full use of the range of web design technologies that we now have at our disposal. Recent years have seen the creation of technologies such as Jquery and AJAX and techniques such as ‘Responsive’ web design. These features enable website to be made more interactive, and to work on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

The final ‘nail in the coffin’ was Google. In early 2015 Google released an update to their search algorithms which the media dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’. The much-hyped effect of this was that non-mobile-friendly websites would disappear from the search engine rankings. In that case, websites such as Safer York’s original would no longer appear in the search engine ranking pages.

However, that was not the case. What Google was targeting was mobile search results: a user searching for a website from a mobile phone might only see mobile-friendly websites in the results, but desktop computers would be unaffected.

All of these factors had combined to create a website which was no longer fit-for-purpose.


Our approach to the problem

We analysed the information contained on the Partnerships’ original website, then performed an intensive requirements-gathering session with the Partnership, in which we established their requirements and preferences for the new site. These included:

  • A user-friendly public-facing website with clear routes to important information
  • A website which was well-structured in order to achieve good indexing and page ranking within search engines
  • Integration with key social media services, such as Facebook and Twitter. These would be used as part of the combined communication strategy
  • Use of ‘responsive’ design techniques to ensure usability across a wide range of devices (including phones and tablets)
  • A website which conformed to the WCAG Accessibility standards defined by the W3c, to ensure usability by a wide variety of users on a variety of devices
  • A user-friendly and well-organised Content Management System to enable easier management of the website content

The design and build process

Having a detailed set of requirements from the client, we were able to produce a specification, outline site map, wireframes and finally, graphic designs.

The Partnership was unsure of the look of the design that it wanted, so we produced a variety of unique designs based on industry best-practice. The Partnership chose the design that it found met its needs, and we took it forward into a fully-developed interactive website.

After analysis of the clients’ needs, we recommended a WordPress-based system. WordPress is a third-party, mature CMS which is in widespread use worldwide. Its maturity means that it is a well-supported and robust piece of software. It is also extremely extensible with a wide range of validated extensions available to build on the core functionality. This enabled us to build a solution which was fully-integrated with WordPress. This was complex in its functionality but also simple for the staff to maintain and update.

The result of the development was:

  • A fully-functional website
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Easy to update
  • Socially-aware
  • Search Engine friendly
  • Compliant with industry standards
  • Simple for visitors to navigate and find information
  • Fit for purpose

Safer York Partnership website - iPad and iMac demo

The website is also connected to Facebook; when a new page is created or edited, or a blog post is added, this is automatically posted to the Partnership’s Facebook page. Much the same can be achieved with Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.

The result is a website which is integrated with the social media required to reach the widest audience. This can be used to great effect in times of need, for example the Christmas flooding in York in late 2015.


Practical use of the website

The Partnership had opportunity to test the usefulness and robustness of their website in late 2015, when large-scale flooding affected the City of York. One of the City’s main flood defences, the Foss Barrier, failed and had to be lifted; though this caused flooding to affect many homes, the flooding would have eventually affected a far greater area had the barrier not been lifted.
As it was, 500 homes were affected, leaving the residents of those homes effectively homeless.

The Partnership responded to the crisis and began to assist with finding temporary accommodation. Providers such as hotels volunteered accommodation, as did community halls – and most importantly – local residents. It became clear that central co-ordination was needed to help the residents make contact with the accommodation providers. The Safer York Partnership coordinated this effort using their website and also their Facebook page and Twitter feed. The result was that those people needing accommodation got it.

Without their website and social media, the Partnership would have found it more difficult to coordinate the campaign for temporary accommodation.