It’s OK to do what you need to do

Right now, things are difficult. We’re all working from home and will be for the foreseeable. Last week Co-op Digital compiled a list of acceptable behaviour and ways of working to keep in mind over the coming weeks. It’s particularly important for us to be kind, compassionate and understanding right now so we can carry on as best we can.

We’ve had the GDS ‘It’s OK’ posters up in Federation for as long as Fed has existed. With a huge hat tip to the GDS Creative team (especially Giles and Sonia), we’ve used the same format.

Unprecedented times call for new rules. The list is purposefully long and in parts it’s contradictory. What works for one person may work terribly for another. We’re all experimenting.

The list is a reminder to do what you need to do to get through this.

Co-op Digital team
❤️


We’re in lockdown. We’re working from home. It’s ok to:

  • take time to find your new routine
  • start earlier, start later, finish earlier, finish later, work in short blasts, or longer stints
  • plan your day around food
  • juggle home-working and homeschooling
  • block out ‘caring for kids/elders’ in your calendar
  • feel less productive
  • take a break
  • take annual leave
  • put your home life first
  • prioritise your mental health
  • take another break and s-t-r-e-t-c-h…
  • have days when you enjoy it, and days when you don’t
  • read the news, talk about the news, try to make sense of the news
  • ignore the news completely
  • feel overwhelmed
  • go for a walk
  • cuddle your kids, pet your pets
  • create a new playlist. Share it, blast it
  • take your time to reply
  • pause notifications – hell, turn them off altogether
  • limit yourself to a few Slack channels
  • block out time to concentrate
  • set your boundaries and stick to them
  • say: “I’ll think about it later”
  • say: “I don’t know”
  • say: “NO.”
  • tell people when you’re not ok
  • ask for help
  • have time alone, ignore everyone
  • meditate
  • take calls with your camera off
  • get cross with technology. Also, marvel at technology
  • ditch calls and try something different
  • stay in your comfy clothes, or wear your best threads
  • be business up top and comfort down below
  • make meetings shorter
  • communicate differently – remember to show and not just tell
  • push gently to get stuff done
  • take the water cooler chit-chat online
  • talk home décor, talk plants, talk tea types and top 10 biscuit lists
  • meet online for lunch or a coffee
  • be the Queen of Memes, the King of Gifs, the Slack Jester
  • share moments that made you smile
  • 😊 be kind to yourself, as well as everyone else.

 

Charles Burdett created a site which includes a way you can add what’s been helpful for you and your team during these strange times. itsok.to

Supporting each other through communities of practice

As with a lot of teams, coronavirus forced Co-op Digital into remote working this week and for the foreseeable future.   

We’re physically disconnected from our colleagues, and many of us are understandably feeling more anxious than usual. But, despite being asked to physically isolate ourselves, we do not have to work on our own. 

What a community of practice is 

A community of practice brings together a group of people who share the same profession – whether that’s content writers, engineers, user researchers – to share learnings and solve problems.  

Our communities of practice operate in safe spaces.  

When we say ‘safe space’ we’re not referring to a physical location. We mean a group of people who have similar values. People who commit to being supportive and respectful of each other – whether that’s during a meeting or call, interacting online, or working within our teams. 

We use our community of practice meetups to ask for help, critique each other’s work and ask questions. We admit when we don’t know, when we’re unsure and when things have gone wrong. 

Our communities encourage us to listen without interruption and understand other perspectives. They are spaces for security and empathy. 

They just got more important 

Staying in touch and supporting each other is now more important than ever. Our communities of practice are helping us to do this. They allow us to connect with our peers, be more creative within our work and deal better with uncertainty. 

During difficult times when we feel less in control, we tend to create deeper connections with others as natural instincts of empathy, kindness and cooperation intensify. Communities of practice are increasingly becoming a place for moral support and compassion too. 

Apart, but not alone 

This week, several teams ran communities of practice remotely. Here’s some of the feedback on them: 

Content design the content community worked around some tech issues. “‘I know it was plan C – but time-boxed Slack chats are actually pretty good!… I’ve found this really helpful, thank you.” said Rebekah Barry.  And content community lead, Hannah Horton says she thinks “community is more important than ever, but we’re going to need to think more creatively about how we work together and support each other.”

DeliveryRachael Shah “was a marvellous host” says Neil Vass. 

Engineering – started with team updates before several lightning talks and moving on to remote pair programming breakout sessions. 

Business analysists – “The topic of conversion involved how we’ve found this week – something I’ve been experiencing in other team meetings too. It’s felt super supportive,” agile business analyst Katherine Welch says.

Screen grab of video call involving Chris Winkley, Katherine, Soraya Hassanzadeh, Gary Brown. Plus a tiny Liam Cross in the bottom right.

Here’s Chris Winkley, Katherine, Soraya Hassanzadeh, Gary Brown dialling into the call. Plus a tiny Liam Cross in the bottom right.

Service design – Principal researcher Lucy Tallon said there was “loads of energy – a good break from business as usual!”  

Supporting through uncertainty 

Our communities encourage us to be open about our uncertainty. This can be uncomfortable and scary.  We might be worried about what people think. The emotional exposure can make us feel insecure and vulnerable. 

But having the courage to admit our mistakes and show our fragility, means we can deal with uncertainty better in future. It can reduce anxiety and fear when we’re dealing with new experiences, and it can help us learn how to deal with discomfort – both personally and professionally. 

Becoming comfortable with discomfort can help create a culture where people are more prepared to: 

  • work collaboratively  
  • take risks
  • try new things 
  • push the boundaries of what’s gone before 

And in doing so we come up with innovative solutions. As Brene Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston, says:


Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change… To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that.

– Brene Brown

Using courage to grow communities

By having the courage to be open and truthful about our insecurities and uncertainties, we also become more relatable. When we feel heard and understood, we tend to connect with those around us and we grow as a community. 

We can do this by: 

  • listening intently 
  • paying attention 
  • empathising with our colleagues 
  • showing compassion 
  • giving reassurance  

By doing this we remind those around us that we’re all trying to achieve a shared goal – that we’re all in this together. 

Here’s to everyone who’s offered comfort and shown compassion at your community of practice this weekthank you. 

Joanne Schofield
Lead content designer

How the Web team used the ‘top tasks’ approach to prioritise

The Web team wanted to find out why people were coming to coop.co.uk which is the start page for many other Co-op products and services within Co-op Funeralcare, Food, Legal Services and Insurance. Not knowing why people were coming to the homepage made prioritising our work difficult. To help with this, we recently did a piece of research into which tasks people want to complete when they visit the site. 

At this point, I was new to both user research and the Web team so this was a brilliant introduction and overview of my new team’s scope. 

Our colleagues in Insurance and Funeralcare suggested we use the ‘top tasks’ approach by Gerry McGovern which aims to help teams find out where they can add the most value to users based on which tasks are in the highest demand. The idea is to: 

  1. Identify the tasks users want to complete most often – these are the ‘top tasks’.  
  2. Measure how the top tasks are performing by looking at – amongst other things – how long they take to complete in comparison to a baseline timeWhether users completed the task and whether they followed the online journey we’d expected  
  3. Identify where improvements could be made. Make them. 
  4. Repeat. 

How we identified the top tasks  

image

Through analytics, a ‘what are you looking to do today?’ feedback form on the homepage, plus having a dig around the domain during desk research, we compiled a list of around 170 tasks that are possible to complete on coop.co.uk.  

To make sure the work that followed this was free from bias and therefore meaningful – it was important to compile a comprehensive list of every single task. A complete list meant we had a better chance at finding out what the customer wants to do rather than what the organisation wants the customer to do. 

First wshared the list with the rest of the Web team to sense check. Then, because we knew that customers would skimread the list when we put it in front of them, we asked the Content design community to check we’d written each task in a way that customers would understand quickly, using the language we’ve observed them using.   

After finessing, we shared with product teams in Co-op Digital and stakeholders in the wider business to make sure we hadn’t missed tasks off.  

Collaborating helped us whittle the lists of 170 tasks down to 50 – a much more manageable number to present to customers on the homepage. 

And the 6 top tasks are…

We listed the top 50 tasks in an online survey on the homepage and asked users to vote on the top 5 reasons they come to the website.  

At around 3,000 responses we took the survey down. The results showed that the most common reasons people visit coop.co.uk is to: 

  1. Select personalised offers for members. 
  2. Look for food deals available to all customers (£5 freezer fillers, fresh 3). 
  3. Check your Co-op Membership balance. 
  4. Find what deals are available in a store near to you 
  5. Choose a local cause. 
  6. Add points from a receipt onto a Co-op Membership account. 

There were no surprises here then. 

Measuring the performance of the top tasks

In the majority of cases, we found that users succeeded in completing the tasks. This doesn’t come as a surprise because each individual product team knows why their group of users most frequently use their product or service and they already have product and research prioritise in place. 

However, this piece of work did flag up that there could be room for improvement in the following tasks: 

  1. Sign into a membership account. 
  2. Change your local cause. 
  3. Add points from a receipt onto a Co-op Membership account.  

image (1)

The image above shows how long it took on average for users to see their membership balance, choose an offer, choose a local cause and to add a receipt. The orange line shows how long we’d expect it to take. The graph shows that checking a balance is quicker than we’d expected but the remaining 3 are slightly longer.

image (2) 

The image above shows how how ‘successful’ users were at seeing their membership balance, choosing an offer, choosing a local cause and to adding points to their membership from a receipt. A ‘direct success’ (shown in green, the bottom band of colour) is when the user completes the task in the way we’d expect. An ‘indirect success’ is when a user completes a task in a way we didn’t expect (show in orange, or the top band). 20% of people failed to choose an offer (shown in red at the top of the second column).

 

image (3)

The image above shows an ‘average overall score’ (where 10 is excellent and 1 is poor) and is worked out by combining the ‘success score’ (a scale of 1-3 indicating a direct success, indirect success or failure) plus a ‘difficulty score’ (a scale of 1-7 on how difficult the user found the task to complete). 

The idea came from Measuring and quantifying user experience, a post from UX Collective. 

What we learnt 

The big takeaways were: 

  1. There are a couple of tasks we didn’t think were important, but users did.  
  2. The work also helped us optimise our search. The feedback form on the homepage which asked what customers wanted to do had a significant number of responses looking for our gluten-free (GF) fishcakesThis was a result of Coeliac UK including them in a roundup of GF products. But thewerent on our site. And when people were searching for them, the search would return GF recipes. The Web team worked with the Optimisation and search team and now the GF products appear before recipes. Since then, there’s been a 70% increase in GF searches, and more pages are being looked at. People coming for GF products are now spending 2 minutes on the site – an increase of 30 seconds. 
  3. However, the top tasks approach may be more useful for teams with transactional services so that measuring it a baseline and improvements would be easier – the Web team itself doesn’t have any transactional services. 

Top tasks approach: how useful?

Overall, top tasks is useful because it gave us data that is helping the Web team prioritise, and set out my research priorities.  

The priorities list will keep us focussed and it’ll be useful to point to if there’s a request to work on something that we’ve found to have little value. Now we have data to help us push back against requests that don’t have customer and member needs at the centre. 

Now and next 

The Web team has created a task performance indicator for some of the top tasks identified so that as we make improvements to different areas of the website, we have something to measure against. 

If you’ve used the top tasks approach, let us know why and how useful you found it in the comments. 

Kaaleekaa Agravat
User researcher  

12 things we learnt about creating effective surveys

At Co-op Digital we sometimes use surveys to get (mostly) quantitative feedback from users. They’re quick, cheap and they’re a useful research technique to capture data at scale.

But they can also be a waste of time and effort if we do not ask the right questions in a way that will give us meaningful answers.

We’ve compiled a list of things we keep in mind when we’re creating surveys.

Strive for meaningful data

1. Be clear on the purpose of the survey

We consider what we want to be able to do as a result of the survey. For example, when we’ve collated the responses, we want to be able to make a decision about doing (and sometimes *not* doing) something. To create an effective survey, we must know how we’ll act on each of the things we learn from it.

We give our survey a goal and consider what we want to know, and who we need to ask, then draft questions that help us achieve that goal.

2. Make sure each question supports the survey’s purpose

We keep in mind what we want to do with the survey responses, and make sure each question we ask is relevant and presented in a way that will return meaningful data from participants. If we can’t explain how the data we’ll get back will help us, we don’t ask that question.

We know that the more questions we ask, the more time we ask of our users, and the more likely they will be to drop out.

3. Check a survey is the most appropriate format

It can be tempting to cram in as many questions as possible because it’ll mean we get lots of data back. But quantity doesn’t translate to quality. Consider the times you’ve rushed through a long survey and justified giving inaccurate or meaningless answers just to get through it quickly. When we find ourselves wanting to ask lots of questions – especially ones with free text boxes – a survey isn’t the most appropriate format to gather feedback. An interview might be.

Consider what we’re asking and how we’re asking for it

4. Use free text boxes carefully

Free text boxes which allow people to type a response in their own words can be invaluable in helping us learn about the language that users naturally use around our subject matter.

But they can also be intimidating. The lack of structure means people can get worried about their grammar and how to compose what they’re saying, especially if they have low literacy or certain cognitive conditions. For many people they can be time-consuming, and so can make drop out more likely.

If we use free text boxes, we make them optional where possible. It can also increase completion rates if they’re positioned at the end of the survey – participants may be more invested and so more likely to complete them if they know they’re near the end.

5. One question at a time

Be considerate when you ask questions. To reduce the cognitive load on participants, reduce distraction and ask one question at a time. Ask it once. Clearly. And collect the answer.

Questions like ‘How do you use ‘X’, what’s good about it, what’s bad?’ are overwhelming. And then giving a single box to collect all 3 answers, often end up collecting incomplete answers. A participant will quite often answer only one of those 3 questions.

6. Ask questions that relate to current behaviour

People are not a good judge of their future actions so we don’t ask how they will behave in future. It’s easy for a participant to have good intentions about how they will, or would, behave or react to something but their answer may be an unintentionally inaccurate representation. Instead, we ask about how people have behaved, because it gives us more accurate, useful and actionable insights. “The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour,” as the saying goes.

7. If we ask for personal information, we explain why

Participants are often asked for their gender, sex, age or location in surveys but often nothing will be done with that data. If there’s no reason to ask for it, we don’t.

When there is a valid reason to ask for personal information, we explain why we’re asking.

For example, in the Co-op Health app we ask for an email address so that we can send essential service updates. Without explaining why we were asking for it, many people were reluctant to give their email because they thought they were going to get spam. By explaining the reason we were asking, and how the information will be used, the user was able to decide whether they wanted to proceed.

Explaining why we’re asking for personal information is essential in creating transparent and open dialogue. It gives users the context they need to make informed decisions.

8. Avoid bias. Show the full picture

Give participants context. For example, an online survey might reveal a snippet of text for a limited amount of time in order to find out how well participants retained the information. If the survey results say that 90% of people retained the information, that’s great but it doesn’t necessarily mean that was conclusively the best way to present the information – that’s only one of the possible ways of presenting the text. In these cases it’s better to do a multivariant test and use multiple examples to really validate our choices.

Be inclusive, be considerate

9. Avoid time estimates

Many surveys give an indication of how long the survey will take to complete. Setting expectations seems helpful but it’s often not for those who with poor vision, dyslexia or English as a second language. It also rarely takes into account people wo are stressed, distracted or are emotionally affected by the subject matter. Instead, we tend to be more objective when setting expectations and say how many questions there are.

10. Don’t tell participants how to feel

A team working on a service will often unthinkingly describe their service as being ‘quick’, ‘easy’, ‘convenient’ or similar. However, these terms are subjective and may not be how our users experience the service. We should be aware of our bias when we draft survey questions. So not, ‘how easy was it to use this service?’, which suggests that the service was easy to begin with, but ‘tell us about your experience using this service’.

11. Consider what people might be going through

Often, seemingly straight-forward questions can have emotional triggers.

Asking questions about family members, relationships or personal circumstances can be difficult if the user is in a complex or non-traditional situation. If someone is recently separated, bereaved or going through hardship, they could also be distressing.

If we have to ask for personal information, we consider circumstances and struggles that could make answering this difficult for people. We try to include the context that these people need to answer the question as easily as possible.

12. Give participants a choice about following up

Sometimes survey answers will be particularly interesting and we may not get all the information we want. At the end of the survey, we ask participants if they’d be happy to talk to us in the future.

We also give people a choice about how we follow up with them. Some people may be uncomfortable using a phone, some may struggle to meet you face to face, some may not be confident using certain technologies. Ask the user how they want us to contact them – it’s respectful, inclusive and is more likely to encourage a positive response.

When choosing who to follow up with, avoid participants that were either extremely positive or negative – they’ll can skew your data.

Time is precious – keep that in mind

At the end of the day, when people fill out a survey, they feel something about your brand, organisation or cause. They may like you or they may just want their complaint heard. Sometimes, they’re filling out your survey because they’re being compensated. Whatever the reason, view it as them doing you a favour and be respectful of their circumstance and time.

If you’ve got any tips to share, leave a comment.

Joanne Schofield, Lead content designer
Tom Walker, Lead user researcher

2019 highlights: there’s a lot to be proud of

Today the Co-op Digital team came together at our Christmas conference to share and celebrate our successes from 2019.

This year hasn’t been without its challenges but it’s important to reflect on what we’ve achieved thanks to talented and conscientious delivery teams, communities of practice, and individuals. Their commitment to meeting colleague, member and customer needs is unfaltering.

Here’s to many more victories in 2020.

:tada: :raised_hands::skin-tone-3:

‘One web’ platform

In 2019, we’ve increased the number of websites, products and services on the coop.co.uk platform from 3 to 10. Between May and October this year we had over 4 million visitors – that’s an increase of over 200% for the same months in 2018.

Next year we’ll continue to replatform our business sites – we re-platformed Co-op Food and most of Funeralcare this year and in 2020 we’ll be prioritising Co-op Legal services and Insurance. The aim is to give teams autonomy over their own sites so they’ll be able to update content themselves and use the Design system as a guide to improve brand familiarity.

Rebekah Barry, Content designer

Funeralcare customer-facing work 

This year we got involved in the customer journey after focusing on colleagues for so long. 

photograph of team standing in front of a white board of post it notes and sheets of paper on the floor listening to tom speaking

In February, we created the ‘service map of a death’, which shows everything people do after a death. 

It includes the touchpoints with our service, pain points and opportunity. The map formed the basis for a year of digital working on the customer journey and played a part in building the exec’s confidence in our ability to deliver a great customer experience that would help Co-op Funeralcare meet its goal: increase funeral numbers.

We created ‘After party’ – how we’d disrupt recommendation and consideration in the Funeralcare market. It showed the problem isn’t around which tool people use to plan for their funeral, but how Co-op Funeralcare can motivate people to plan theirs. This piece of work stopped the exec simply buying a later life planning tool and gave them the confidence to ask us to work on the Funeralcare website. We were also commissioned to create the new visual design and do discovery into priority areas, ready to start creating new features in 2020. 

So many highlights, so little space. But Rae, Tom, Helen and Gail have smashed it out of the park all year.

Hannah Horton, Principal designer

Digital Skills team

We help teams in the wider Co-op adopt digital culture and agile ways of working. In 2019:

  • 457 people attended one of our agile masterclasses
  • we coached 22 teams in agile ways of working
  • 450 people attended a training session or workshop
  • we’ve partnered with teams on 2 discoveries

Our highlight of the year was collaborating with members of the People team on a discovery to understand how colleagues experience and understand their benefits package.

Thanks you card. It says: Thank you for all you've done through the discovery, for enlightening us on new tools and techniques and for helping us understand how we can make a difference to our colleagues. from paul and team.

Above is a thank you card – we’re very proud to have influenced ways of working and helping the team become more user-centric.

Vicki Riley, User researcher

Guardian plans

Guardian plans is part of Co-op Funeralcare and aims to improve the experience of creating a pre-paid funeral plan. Traditionally, a colleague filled in paper forms, posted them to head office and the information was typed into our system. The new site allows colleagues to add information during a meeting with a client which means it’s recorded instantly – it used to take up to 7 days. It has also improved accuracy.

This year, we tested the site in 2 regions, learnt lots, iterated and scaled up. Now, over 90% of pre-paid funeral plans from over 1000 funeral homes come through Guardian plans.

Liam Cross, Product manager

Shifts

In 2019 we’ve iterated, researched, and iterated again on the Shifts’ ‘exceptions’ feature which helps managers make sure colleagues are paid correctly for extra hours they’ve worked. We ran 2 trials involving 130 or our 2661 stores (around 5%) and now around 15% of all exceptions are managed through Shifts.

Here’s some of the feedback:

Screenshot 2019-12-11 at 15.33.39.png

Screenshot 2019-12-11 at 15.53.29

We’ve also helped reduce the most common type of payroll error by almost 49% and colleagues have praised how Shifts helps stores find cover for shifts at short notice.

In the last half of 2019 we averaged 4 releases a month (around twice as many as in the first half).

Thank you to subject matter expert Julie Haselden at head office – she’s been so generous in sharing her knowledge.

Robyn Golding, Delivery manager 

Tech ops

In 2019, the Tech ops team completed:

  • 1,065 changes (as of 10 Dec) with a change success rate of 98.21%
  • 1,127 service requests such as new starters, Leavers and access requests
  • 27 stories and 118 sub tasks since we changed to 3-weekly sprints in September

Steven Allcock, Digital service manager

Pay in aisle, Visit and SmartGap (Operational Innovation Store team)

Our team looks after 3 services used in Co-op Food stores. Here are our 2019 highlights:

  1. Pay in aisle – lets customers skip queues by paying for items on your phone. Trial in 32 stores with a significantly improved, frictionless user experience, reaching up to 1% of transactions across particularly engaged stores.
  2. SmartGap – removes a cumbersome, time-consuming daily paper process. We’ve gone from prototype, to alpha and beta within 9 months, it is now rolling out to all stores to save colleagues time, and over 20 million sheets of paper and better product availability for customers. visit-on-till-screen
  3. Visit (as shown above) – replaced the need for a signing in book with a digital sign-in on till screens. Saving colleague time, and meaning we are more compliant with asbestos and fire safety, and can better track our contractors.

Charles Burdett, Designer

Co-operate

We’ve had loads to celebrate this year but we’ve pulled these points out as our highlights of 2019. We’re proud because:

  • 12% of people are returning to Co-operate
  • feedback about the platform has been positive – for example: “How fantastic that Co-op are empowering communities!”
  • the community has added over 300 events to our ‘What’s happening’ page since July
  • there were 1,600 page views in 2 weeks for our ‘How to organise a community event’ guides
  • … and the feedback on them was good too, for example: “A really useful guide for organising community events!”, “This is great, really useful” and “Love this, what a great idea!”

Special shout out to Natalie Evans, our community subject matter expert and resident Member Pioneer. Her energy and focus have been incredible.

Ben Rieveley and Jen Bowden-Smith, Product managers   

Food Ecommerce

This year we’ve replaced the proof of concept third-party front end with our own. When the 2 were running side by side, the performance stats from 12 to 24 November showed:

  • for London traffic on mobile conversion rate increased from 3.3% to 5.15% (a 56% percent increase)
  • A 22% decrease in bounce rate on mobile

Regular workshops and working transparently have helped us create valuable relationships with the wider Co-op Food Ecommerce team. We’ve also been able to show value in our approach and have started to change the way some of the business team interact with us for guidance, as opposed to just delivery.

A great team to work with. Challenging (in the right way!). Always pushing us to think of the customer first and to be different when the easiest thing is to stick with the familiar.

Gary Kisby, Head of Web Operations

Sophia Ridge, Product manager

Digital newsletter

The newsletter gently pokes the organisation to look at future digital opportunities and threats, and it helps show public readers what we’re thinking.

48_65_94_132_small

Subscriber growth is around 170% year on year and the open rate is approximately 50%. Big thanks to beloved readers, Richard Sullivan, Jack Fletcher, Linda Humphries and everyone else who has sent stories to the #newsletter Slack channel.

Rod McLaren

Co-op Digital blog

In 2019 we published 32 posts, by 41 authors – 22 of these identify as female, 19 as male. We’ve heard from a range of seniorities but a less balanced mix of disciplines – 7 posts from researchers; 3 posts about product decisions and the same number about delivery; but only 1 post by an engineer. We’ve gained 169 subscribers – some internal, many from orgs like Citizen’s Advice and the fin tech sector.

My highlight was working with the Design team on a series of posts to support their 90 minute show and tell which explained the benefits of being a design-led business to our stakeholders.

The posts are something to point at when stakeholders would like to know more about our ways of working.

Amy McNichol

Customer and member

We’ve made a lot of improvements for customers and members this year. Here we are looking at our screens and the big screen.

mx0YD

Here are our top 10 in no particular order.

  1. We’ve made 339 changes to date with 98% success rate and 99.5% availability.
  2. We launched the Co-op app and it’s had nearly 200,000 downloads.
  3. We’ve built a single place to sign into Co-op online services (500,000 API calls a day).
  4. Fought off constant bot army attacks. :robot_face:
  5. We launched digital offers and members are making around 656,000 offer selections a month.
  6. Local causes pay out supported (£17M paid out!).
  7. This year was the first time we’ve launched with 3 new local causes in every community. This was made easier at least in part because we helped with changes to remove the need for the charities aid foundation vetting and paying out to causes.
  8. All new systems were built with serverless technology.
  9. Reduced AWS cost by more than £5,200 per month.

Paul D’Ambra, Principal software engineer

Co-op Insurance

Co-op Insurance design team won Best in Digital – Direct to Customer at the Insurance Times ‘Tech and Innovation’ awards.

insurance

The judges were impressed with our customer and metric-focused approach, alongside the lengths we go to benchmarking ourselves against competitors and better understanding the challenges customers face, now and in the future.

Azra Keely, Optimisation consultant 

Legal services

We are a new team working on a series of alphas to test if we can increase sales and product mix by using a conversational tool.

The first alpha is to help recommend the type of will someone should get. Wills are challenging to understand and research has told us they’re not at the forefront of people’s minds. We want to educate people about what wills can protect against and which will might be right for their circumstances. We are working closely with our stakeholders and we’re really pleased they’re attending our user research sessions showing they are bought in to listening to user needs.

Liam Cross, Product manager

Guardian

Last year, we completed the rollout of Guardian to all Co-op funeral homes across the UK (over 1000!). In 2019, our focus has been continued iteration and improvement.

25% of users responded to a National Promoter Score (NPS) style survey we sent out and the average rating was 7.5 out of 10 – positive but still room for improvement. We worked closely with our 2 least satisfied groups of users, to design solutions to their problems.

We developed 8 new features, eradicated 3 bits of time-consuming paperwork and simplified workflows to save over 100 hours of time to-date. We got some excellent feedback from colleagues about the changes we made. One said:

Hi Guardian Team, just wanted to say thank you for all the previous changes done recently. From a Funeral service operative point of view it has helped amazingly.

We’ve also done lots of work to increase the stability and resilience of Guardian, with some major missions to improve our release process, our backups and re-work some legacy features to keep them fit for the future.

Daniel Owen, Product manager

Co-op Health app

In May we launched the Co-op Health app. In the app you can order your repeat medication and choose how to get it – either collect it from your chosen pharmacy, or get it delivered to your door for free.  

Health Blog Post

Different GP surgeries use different systems to manage their patient’s prescription. Since launching the app we’ve integrated with more of these systems, meaning patients from 99% of surgeries in England can use our app.

In October we were also the first service in the UK to offer ‘NHS login’. This means people can choose how they register for Co-op Health – either by visiting their GP surgery or completely online (using NHS login)Around 20% of new customers choose to register using NHS login.  

Being the first organisation to use NHS login is a massive coup for Co-op. We’ve worked closely with NHS Digital, sharing designs and feedback. Massive credit to Jack Fletcher, Dan Cork, Catherine Malpass, Ben Dale, Ayub Malik, Andrew Bailey, Stephen Gatenby, Alex Potter and the rest of the Health team for making this happen.  

So far, we’ve delivered 12,447 prescriptions to customers and have a 4.1* rating in the Google Play and Apple app store. 

Joanne Schofield, Content designer

What we considered before researching with people who are visually impaired

Co-op Insurance talked about usability testing with people who are visually impaired last week on the Digital blog.   

Improving and influencing better accessibility where we can is important. This post describes how we prepared for the sessions. We hope it encourages more product teams to test with people with a range of access needs.  

1. Charities can help you recruit

We’d found it challenging and time-consuming to find participants who are visually impaired through recruitment agencies so UX designer Paul Braddock made direct contact with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Although it took a while to get approval for our post which asked for participants on the RNIB’s social media page, the number of respondents was worth it. Charities and specialist organisations that have a vested interest in – and access to – a group of people you’re trying to find seem to be very willing to collaborate.  

 2. Ask participants to bring their own device 

Observing someone using your product or service on their own device gives a more accurate indication of how they would interact with it outside a research session.  

When we asked our participants to bring their own tech, we learnt a lot about the additional software they used too. For example, one participant brought their laptop and showed us Dolphin Supernova – a magnifier and screen reader they use to zoom in on a page, read it aloud, and replace colours that are difficult for them to differentiate between. They told us they “can’t function without it”. But, if we hadn’t asked them to bring their own device, we would most likely have asked them to use one of our Macs which Dolphin Supernova isn’t compatible with. In that situation, we’d have missed out on seeing our service in a realistic context.  

3. Send digital consent forms

We sent out digital consent forms through Consent Kit before the sessions so that participants could take their time reading them with their assisted technology and understanding what they were signing up for. We knew that paper forms would likely be more time-consuming and less preferable. We also couldn’t anticipate what problems there may be with talking through and then signing digitally in the sessions so it felt important to sort out consent beforehand. 

 4. Talk about travel arrangements  

If you ask visually impaired participants to get to a venue, find out how they plan to get there and whether they’d like you to meet them off public transport. Paul met one of our participants at Manchester Victoria station. She’d never been to Manchester on her own before and told us she found big cities a bit overwhelming. They navigated the short walk to Federation House together and the chat on the way worked as an extra warm up to the session.
 

5. Allow for extra time

Factor in extra time for practicalities like travellingaccessing the building and keep in mind that participants might not instantly feel comfortable in an unfamiliar venue so your introduction may take a little longer while you help them to relax. 

A participantpersonal device may take longer to load or update than you’d expect tooOne of the participants we met had specialist screen reader equipment that took a little while to set up on their mobile phone. Around half way through the session, they felt that because they were using the zoom so much, it would be easier for them to switch to a desktop device – they said this is what they would have done at home. Changing over and setting up again also took a little extra time. Seeing this sort of thing is really insightful though, so scheduling extra time means you won’t be tempted to feel like it’s an inconvenience. 

 

6. Go off script – you might learn more

Sometimes the thing you’re testing just won’t meet a participant’s accessibility needs and as demoralising as that is, it’s better to see those problems early. So, as with any usability testing, be prepared to change direction if a participant is struggling with a task because you’re still likely to learn a lot. 

We often found that participants used the service in ways we hadn’t anticipated so if an accessibility issue came up it made sense to discuss straight away, learn from it, and then move back to the script. For example, one of the participants we spoke to zoomed into pages by default. A lot of what we discussed in the session wasn’t in our discussion guide, but we were still getting useful insights. 

Testing with people with other types of access issues

So far, we’ve only run sessions with people who are visually impaired. Of course, there are many more types of vulnerable user and testing with a range of needs is important. This is a good start though.  

If you’ve tested your product or service with people who are visually or hearing impaired, or have a motor or cognitive disability, we’d like to find out what considerations you had before running your sessions. Share it in a comment below or tweet @CoopDigital. We’ll keep it in mind.  

Catherine Malpass 
Lead user researcher 

Co-op Insurance: Usability testing with people who are visually impaired

This is a guest post about Co-op Insurance and their website, co-opinsurance.co.uk. The author is Paul Braddock, a user experience designer who works on it.

In the summer, we blogged about how and why we asked AbilityNet to carry out an accessibility audit on the Co-op Insurance website. The post explained the content, design and technical improvements we made off the back of it. To continue our work around better accessibility, the Insurance design team recently did usability testing with visually impaired users. 

In this post we share what we learnt from the testing and how we’re making improvements. 

What we tested

The Insurance team is responsible for co-opinsurance.co.uk. This includes managing the product information and financial promotions for each type of insurance. Buying journeys begin on our site but once a user chooses ‘Get a quote’, their online journey passes over to a partner’s site.

We can’t necessarily fix the accessibility issues we identify on a partner sites, but we can influence them. We’re actually in the process of creating a set of accessibility guidelines that cover our expectations of our partners.

Catherine Malpass from the Co-op Digital team and Louisa Robinson from Insurance ran the usability sessions. We focussed the testing on the travel section of the website including the buying journey. We wanted to look at how easily visually impaired users could:

  • navigate the journey
  • understand information – particularly in tables
  • interact with a pop up

We kept what we’d learnt from the audit in mind when we were considering what to test. 

Positive things that came out of the testing

During the testing, we heard positive feedback about:

  • the in-page navigation and clear labelling which helped users read and identify content quickly. One participant said it’s “fairly easy to find your way around and there’s a decent menu I can use to navigate to other insurance products.”
  • the colours on the homepage because – along with icons – they help users differentiate between the 2 products. “I like that the colours for car and home insurance are different,” said one participant. “I like having the icons next to the product names because they make it obvious and easier to navigate.”
  • the consistency of the page layout. A participant said that “the pages are similar all the way through so you can memorise where things like the next and back button are.”

Areas that need more work 

However, the testing also showed us that some features weren’t compatible with screen readers. We noted them along with recommendations for how to improve them. 

Things we’ve iterated on already include:

  1. How a screen reader reads out the prices in tables. We’ve changed the aria labels so that monetary values are read out how we’d naturally say them, for example, “thirty-three pounds eighty-four” instead of “pound symbol three three full stop eight four”. We don’t feel we should be asking people with visual impairments to work harder to use our service and we think that making this change will reduce some of the cognitive load. 
  2. How well we use alternative text (alt text). Testing threw up instances where images were tagged with the type of product or policy they were there to support. We’ve changed them so they fulfil their role of describing the content of the image. This makes the service more inclusive. 
  3. Making images clickable. The screen grab of our travel product page below shows 3 insurance products (multi-trip annual, single trip and backpacker). Each has an image, the name of the product with a link that takes them to a more detailed product page, and a line of copy to help the user decide if it’s suitable for their needs. Testing showed us that when the user zooms in on the page (common for someone who is visually impaired), or if they’re using a screen reader, the link is difficult to navigate to and then difficult to access. There was an expectation that images should be clickable, so we’ve now made each image clickable which makes the information quicker to find. 

The image shows a screen grab of our homepage below shows 3 insurance products (multi-trip annual, single trip and backpacker). Each has an image, the name of the product with a link that takes them to a more detailed product page, and a line of copy to help the user decide if it’s suitable for their needs.

Things in the backlog we hope to complete before Christmas include:

  1. How a screen reader reads icons in tables. At the moment it reads “tick” or “cross” but we’ve added aria labels so tick symbols will read as “included”, and crosses as “not included” on our next release.
  2. Test alternatives to the pop up. We saw the screen reader struggle and the participants become confused with a pop up on the single trip online journey, shown in the screen grab below. We’ll be looking at how we can give users the same information in a more accessible way. For example, we may embed the content at different points in the journey instead. 

Screen grab show a pop up prompting the user to upgrade to an annual multi-trip policy. the pop up hides much of the content on the webpage.

Things we’re encouraging our third-party partners to look into include:

  1. The live chat feature.  This feature wasn’t compatible with screen readers so thinking about how to improve it or even considering alternative ways to communicate with users instantly is one of our recommendations. At the moment, the feature also covers up content on the page so we recommend looking into how to help the user feel more in control – this might mean giving an option to remove / minimise /block the live chat. 
  2. How we present information. In the testing we saw users become a bit overwhelmed when comparing information. We recommend a review of how we display content when comparing price and cover in insurance tiers.
  3. The postcode finder. Right now, when a user starts to type in a postcode, the screen reader repeats “there are zero results for this postcode” until the field is complete. This makes it difficult for users to hear – and check – which letter or number they’ve just typed. We recommend looking into how this can be improved.

Carrying on testing, iterating, improving and influencing

Accessibility should be a consideration right from the start when we design products and services. At Co-op Insurance there’s a lot linked to our site that we cannot control but we can influence. We’ll continue to test with people with access needs and we’ll keep trying to improve the experience for everyone so it’s as inclusive as possible. 

We’ll also share our research findings, audit feedback and blog posts with our external insurance partners to help raise awareness of the importance of accessibility.

Paul Braddock
UX Designer from Co-op Insurance