In June 2021, the team behind the Digital Inclusion Toolkit hired the research and strategy consultancy, Telltale Research to conduct user research.
The website was assembled based on existing knowledge of the Toolkit project team members, and their insights into the issues faced by digitally excluded citizens. At the time, the team were unable to conduct any external research to understand exactly who the current users were, their current digital inclusion activities, and how best the toolkit could support those activities.
In total 9 interviews were conducted over Zoom with potential users from local authorities, the third sector, healthcare institutions, and the Digital Skills Partnerships. Furthermore, an online survey was carried out, which received 56 responses.
Top line insights from the research
Current landscape of digital exclusion
Awareness of digital exclusion has increased in the past 2 years, as the pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures highlighted the need and purpose of online interactions. In many ways it has provided the push towards the technological advancements of online tools that have been anticipated for many years.
While the digitisation of society progresses, the increasing issue of large segments of the population being digitally excluded expands alongside it. This pressing issue has meant that the government, the third sector, and the healthcare sector are all engaging in the development and implementation of a range of digital inclusion programmes.
Overall, this has meant that funding towards digital inclusion has become relatively easier to acquire and that there is an appetite for finding ways to address the issue, for which the Digital Inclusion Toolkit has the opportunity to play a central role.
Objective 1: Who are our users?
In the first instance, clarity was needed on who exactly the users are. From experience, the team knew that it was going to be a mix of local authorities, the third sector, and healthcare institutions, and although this rang true, we uncovered that there was a logical way to approach future work. The focus needed to be initially placed on local authorities, with content for other groups building on these foundations.
By analysing their distinct and common needs, it became clear that a distinction could be made between:
- Those that facilitate programmes: Mainly local authorities
- Those that implement programmes: Mainly third sector & healthcare sector, and some local authorities
- Those that receive help: The digitally excluded
As a result, our content and web developers are considering how the website will best be able to reflect the users based on their needs in the design of the website.
User needs and behaviour
Objective 2: What are their needs and current behaviour?
The most pressing need expressed among a range of statements we presented was ‘I need to encourage other organisations to do digital inclusion’. So it is clear that this issue needs full support.
Many appear to be at the earlier stages of their digital inclusion journey, and are currently attempting to tackle the most pressing issues: 76% said they were trying to identify the digital inclusion barriers that people face and 62% who’s digitally excluded.
When asked what they most needed help with, 44% said ‘securing investment / writing a business case for digital inclusion work’, 50% said ‘writing a digital inclusion strategy’, and 65% that they need help with evaluating the efficacy of their digital inclusion activities.
Similarly, when looking at who they are currently helping vs those that they need more advice on how to digitally include, we found that it was the elderly, people living in deprived communities and those facing high levels of inequality that were currently helped, whereas more support was needed on those with drug or alcohol abuse issues, homeless people, and people leaving prison.
In addition to specific needs, we found that needs varied depending on where they were on their journey to setting up a digital inclusion programme; those who were at the initial stages found the toolkit website incredibly useful, whereas those furthest along their journey, were interested in sharing their own experiences with others, as well as keeping up to date with the latest news, case studies, and funding opportunities.
User experience of the toolkit website
Objective 3: What did they think of the digitalinclusionkit.org website? And how can we best support them on their digital inclusion journey?
Overall, the content was well received and described as a useful set of resources. In particular, 100% Digital Leeds was thought of as leaders in digital inclusion and many were keen to learn from them.
The current format of the website presents the collated information on digital inclusion in various topic areas that lead to a range of case studies, articles, advice and guidance. We learnt that the content they needed was more often than not present, yet users needed a clearer structure to enable them to access the tools and information they were after more easily.
Furthermore, users expected more downloadable ‘how to’ guides and step-by-step frameworks that would help them to readily implement and access the information they needed in order to set up their own programmes.
The following common needs and steps were uncovered, which could represent a more transparent and easy to navigate structure:
In addition to ‘how to’ guides and case studies, to our surprise, there was a general interest in facilitating roundtable events.
Here’s the full* research report.
*The original contained video clips of research respondents commenting on and navigating the site, which brought to life the research findings. These have been removed in this public version to preserve their anonymity.