Radio New Zealand explains its collaborative web design strategy

Last week we ran a story on Radio New Zealand’s website redesign approach, after it went to the public to ask for suggestions around design and layout. Now, we chat to its head of digital, who has filled us in on some of the thinking behind the strategy. 

As mentioned in our previous article, RNZ has taken the rather unconventional approach of going to its audience for suggestions for the redesign of its new website, something Richard Hulse from RNZ’s website redevelopment team says it’s never done before. 

He added a post to RNZ’s website recently urging its page visitors/listeners to ‘Go on – stick your beak in!’

He also uploaded some snapshots of its websites over the years, and there are some absolute pearlers:

RNZ head of digital Glen Scanlon says it’s an element of a broader approach. “It’s an element of it, and forms part of a more traditional approach to redesign work as well,” he says.

“But we thought, we’ve got this big audience and the people we need to focus on so we should give them a chance to tell us what they think. We probably have 70 responses and some people are saying ‘Don’t change anything at all’ and others pointing out when we need to do some work,” he says.

He says RNZ has external companies helping with the site, as well as an in-house designer. “We will also be doing user testing as we go along the way, as normal and all that kind of stuff. But I think it would be unfortunate if we didn’t ask people to tell us what they think.”

Scanlon says part of the inspiration for the method came from The Guardian. “ … and if we want to build a proper community that we’re interacting with, then we need to talk to them.”

If you don’t involve the audience you risk surprising them too much, he says. “And certainly as we get further into the process that will tell us a lot more in a very targeted way.”

The site won’t be changed suddenly, he says. “I think it’s not so much ‘bang’, old site’s there and then there’s a completely new site. I think it would be more of an iterative process and we will be working out the things we want to attack,” he says.

“So you will probably see changes more progressively over the next nine months or so.”

In terms of sifting through the suggestions, he says the 70 or so it has so far is manageable.

“ … and some of it is very straightforward. There’s some in forums, some Facebook, some by email. Some is very brief and some is a bit longer and goes into best practice in a way. And so you know, it’s a very manageable amount of feedback at this stage and Richard Hulse [from RNZ website re-design team] who is leading the process basically reads every bit that comes in.”

He says RNZ will definitely be looking at user behaviour and design analytics. “We’ll be user-testing changes through the process and we will be very, very serious about doing that. It has to be done, otherwise we’ll end up hacking more people off and the public outreach is a chance to get a bit of fresh thinking from people and they can have a helping hand in that.”

Things change quickly, he says, and the redesign is apart of making sure the site’s not outdated. “Things change so quickly and once the redesign is completed it’s nearly outdated by the time it’s been completed. And the site has done really well, but it does need a fresher look to it and it’s probably an easier way for people to navigate their way around it,” he says.

The new site will also incorporate RNZ’s multi-media elements, he says. “It will allow us to bring in multi-media and all the music, story-telling and content together in one place to get that really in depth feature material we have in many different parts of the site at the moment into the light a bit more.”

When gathering a design perspective for our previous story, Touchcast head of experience Mark Glenn repeated similar sentiments to Gladeye’s Tarver Graham, saying while people can be good at telling you how they think something ‘should’ be, watching them intuitively navigate and interact is hugely revealing and can identify pain-points that might otherwise be missed.

But, he says what RNZ is doing is great.

“I’d applaud any organisation that’s looking to understand what their customers really want from their digital experience. When working with technology it’s really easy to forget about people, so any approach that keeps the needs of real people at the heart of the process is a good thing. The trick is ensuring these needs reflect those of your desired audience, and aligning these needs with the business goals of your organisation.”

He says showing people rough prototypes of potential ideas is incredibly insightful as you can watch them interacting and comparing potential interfaces or approaches. “ … and [you can]find out why they prefer one over another, not just which one was more successful in use.”

He wonders whether this approach will prove useful for RNZ. “So they can then align those needs with their business goals to create an exceptional digital platform that works as well for RNZ as it does for their audience.”

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