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Digital projects

Our journey towards a more personalised experience

Digital Project Manager, Ellie Donithorn, gives me the low down on Macmillan’s ongoing aim to give our users a more personalised website experience.

What’s new?
We have created an exciting new feature allowing users to find their nearest information and support centre. Here’s a quick how-to:

  • Step 1: Enter your postcode into the search box on the right-hand side of the page, or hit the ‘locate me’ arrow to let us find you.

Screenshot of new feature with the 'locate me' arrow circled for emphasis







  •  Step 2: View your nearest information and support centre, information about opening times, and other suggested centres within a 30-mile radius.

Screenshot of feature displaying your nearest information and support centre as well as those further out











  • Step 3: Click on your preferred centre to view its location on a map, opening times, and centre-specific contact details.

Snapshot of support centre page complete with map and additional contact details














And there’s more! If you have a My Macmillan account, you’re logged in and you’ve saved your postcode, our new function will remember this information and pull up that support centre automatically.

What was the problem before?
Our research showed us that a third of people are using their smartphone to access healthcare information. This means it’s more important than ever for us to provide users with an online experience that gives quick and comprehensive results on the go.

We identified that the process of finding your nearest support centre on the Macmillan website was unnecessarily lengthy. It was taking around five clicks for our users to find the information most relevant to them, so we decided this was something that needed to be addressed.

How will we track its success?
We won’t know whether or not this feature is useful to our users straight away. We’ll be tracking the number of people that click on the name of the centre as well as on the link that takes you to any of the suggested support centres. This will give us an indication of engagement with the new feature, so that we can decide whether or not this is the kind of functionality that enhances user experience.

Can we learn from any obstacles that occurred?
Every project has its obstacles. This new feature needed to be low risk in terms of minimum disruption to our existing web templates. Currently this feature sits on very few pages and it would be great if it was visible across a larger number. However, this is very likely once we get a feel for how helpful our users find it.

What inspired this project?
Personalisation is such a hot topic in the wider digital world, so we want to make sure we’re doing as much as possible to address it at Macmillan. We drew inspiration from websites like Amazon and Netflix, for which personalisation is key. Even the ability to log in and revisit your last interactions, or have your last order (of information booklets perhaps) automatically compiled, would be a great future venture. Just Eat is a website that people may be familiar with that does this very well!

What’s next?
We’re working on further enhancements of this feature, which will mean that we can make the information users want from the Macmillan site even more relevant to their needs. For example, displaying support centres that are ‘cancer-type specific’ and thus, most relevant to the user. And in our volunteering section of the website, we plan to show our users the volunteering opportunities that are most local to them.

It’s about creating a bespoke experience that prioritises information according to the user’s needs and interests. And this is step one of greater things to come from Macmillan.


Questions about this post? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @mac_digital. We’d love to hear from you!

Volunteer gardening

Nominet Trust: Using digital technologies to address social issues

I read this interesting article from Dan Sutch at Nominet Trust this morning and thought it was really relevant to the ways that we try to use digital technology here at Macmillan. I thought it might be useful to talk about one of our projects Team Up, and what we’ve learnt in relation to some of the points in the article.

First a quick intro to Team Up if you haven’t heard of it (check out the website). It’s an online platform to connect local people with spare time to people with cancer who’d like help with housework. We’ve been piloting it in Brighton and Hove since September 2013 and we went live with our responsively designed website in February 2014.

I think that on the face of it, Team Up doesn’t seem like a new idea. You’d probably think that something almost exactly like it already exists in your community, but we’re pretty sure that it’s unique to the charity sector. The ‘localised innovation’ that Dan refers to in his article is exactly what we’re trying to do, putting ourselves right in the middle of the community and working with them to create a digital product that they want to use, one that’s ‘tailored, relevant and innovative.’

Team Up was conceived in the model of the disruptive ‘sharing economy’ based on the idea that as a community we can share resources to make sure that every member of the community has what they need. People were already taking their neighbours’ bins out or picking up a pint of milk for them, but by producing ‘creative and well designed interventions’ that additionally are secure and simple, Team Up hopes to create the ‘radical change’ that Dan talks about in his article. By ‘designing around consistent, regular practices and linking to people’s existing activities, new ideas can more quickly be adopted.’ In many ways, the fact that Team Up seems like something you’re already doing is the key to its success. Because it’s quick, effortless and you can do it from your mobile, even people who wouldn’t normally offer to help a neighbour will get involved.

Dan says: ‘It’s quick to create and test an MVP…[but] we need to be mindful of how long most social tech ventures take to grow and scale’ and we completely agree. We launched our MVP in record time and though we got the site up and running speedily, the number of registrations has been a slow-burn rather than a landslide. Piloting Team Up in one city rather than rolling it out nationally has allowed us to test, improve and perfect the model before promoting it more widely. Scalability has never been far from our thoughts though and we’ve worked to ensure the model is scalable. We think that starting small and proving the concept is a sensible approach, but future-proofing your product for natural growth is essential.

Using digital technology to ‘organise and mobilise resources (people, time, money) in ways that can ensure the effect is greater than the sum of its parts’ is exactly what we aim to do with our digital (and non-digital) work at Macmillan. Our aim is to reach and improve the lives of everyone living with cancer, and to inspire millions of others to do the same. Digital is an obvious way of reaching millions of people and, if used in the right way, of inspiring them to mobilise for your cause. Team Up’s simple online platform seeks to eventually mobilise huge numbers of people to give small amounts of their time. Individually it’s arguably not much, but en masse it means that nobody has to face cancer alone.

Nominet Trust is committed to realising the potential of technology for social good. They know that it offers us new ways of addressing some of the UK’s biggest social challenges. Visit their website to find out more. You can read Dan’s article in full here.

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