What we’ve learnt since coop.co.uk went live

Users come to coop.co.uk to find whatever Co-op thing they’re looking for. The site’s been live for almost 3 weeks now.

To help us design the new site, we looked at how customers and members were using the old one. For example, we ordered the content so the most popular things appear first. We’ve been looking carefully at the data to monitor traffic and see if any user journeys are broken and so far, everything’s looking good.

Thorough prep paid off

We changed the old site for a few reasons: the content management system was difficult for us to develop and improve; the performance was slow and some sections of the site weren’t responsive.

The old site had been up and running for 8 years and the team that was working on it wasn’t the same as the one that set it up. Over the years, documenting different parts of the site had got messy and complicated but we knew that and planned for the problems we thought we’d face.

Positive results from our biggest change

The biggest change we’ve made is improving the search function. We stopped it searching old content so that it didn’t return results that were out of date and for the first time searches can find food stores.

Since then, we’ve seen the number of searches increase by 28% (admittedly, this could be seen as a positive or negative thing) but the number of search refinements has dropped by 13%. That’s when a user’s first search didn’t return a result they were looking for so they search again using different terms. This means people are finding the results they want, quicker.

We’re still learning though

Five days after we launched we added a feedback box on the search results page. A recurring piece of feedback that we’ve had through it is that users are struggling to add points to their Membership card.

“I went shopping and forgot my Membership card. I’m just trying to add my points. ”

“I forgot to take my Membership card. I have my receipts, can I add my points.”

We’ve now created a ‘Forgotten card. Add your Co-op rewards’ page in response to those comments.

Making things better and quicker

To help make the site quicker and potentially save on server costs we’ve been making improvements to our codebase. We’re halfway through refactoring the backend which should more than double the server response time and add improved resilience under load.

Looking at the analytics

As part of the piece work, we also looked at our old urls. I blogged back in January 2016 about why we got rid of 20 websites to improve the quality of our content. We’ve got rid of lots more since then. We took down 400 pages of information on Co-op estates and we’ve put in lots of redirects from searches. The most notable one is when people search for our funeral homes we direct them to the new Funeralcare branch finder.

Despite the cull, there hasn’t been a massive drop in the number of page views. The blue line is the new site and the orange is the old site.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 15.40.45

All this is just the latest chunk of work we’ve been doing – we know there’s still a long way to go. As always, we want to improve the site so if you have feedback, we’re keen to hear it.

Peter Brumby
Digital Channels Manager

coop.co.uk/colleagues: we’re listening to your feedback

Just before Christmas we launched coop.co.uk/colleagues, a website where colleagues can find the things they need to know about working at the Co-op. In my previous post Welcome to coop.co.uk/colleagues I explained that we built it because we wanted to make information more easily available for all colleagues, not just those who have access to the work computer. Providing one, open place to access information from lots of different older Co-op sites.

The site has been live for around a month now and, just as we requested, we’ve had a lot of feedback on it.

What people have been saying

The site allows users to leave anonymous feedback on every page. We’ve had more than 70 pieces of feedback which were almost all positive. People said:

  • “It’s great that this stuff is now so accessible”
  • “Huge tick. Transparency. Access for all, particularly CTMs (customer team members), who have little access to back office policies”
  • “Easily accessible especially when you’re not a work”
  • “Much easier to navigate than finding information on the intranet”

But we know we’ve still got more to do. People also said:

  • “Don’t we have a whistleblower number or a risk hotline?”
  • “In the opportunities section could there be a link to a section about opportunities for study and self-directed learning?”

We’ve read and thought about all the feedback and now we’ll start using it to help us, improving the site plan developments and content changes. This is all part of working in an agile way.

But we know we’ve still got more to do, it’s not finished, we’ll keep iterating.

Spreading the word

When we launched in December we deliberately didn’t promote the site very much. We wanted to give ourselves time to gather feedback and think about at any issues. Now, we’re starting to share the site with more colleagues.

We posted about it on our colleague Facebook page and got some more feedback.

Written feedback from two colleagues in our Facebook group.

We wanted to help colleagues without access to their work computer to find out about the organisation they work in. Now we need to find the best ways to tell them about the site that will help them do that. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below.

Peter Brumby
Digital Channels Manager

Welcome to coop.co.uk/colleagues

Four members of the colleague website team working collaboratively at Federation House.

We’ve launched coop.co.uk/colleagues – a new way for our colleagues to find the things they want to know about working for the Co-op.

The problem we wanted to solve

80% of colleagues either had no or very little access to our intranet (our internal website).

This meant they had difficulty getting access to relevant colleague information. For example, if a colleague without intranet access wanted to know the policy on shared parental leave or how to fundraise for our charity partnership, their only option would be to ask their manager.

Making things better

Having access to this type of information helps colleagues manage their working life. So it was fundamental that what we created was open and available on any device. The website we’ve built is both those things. It’s also simple to use and easy to navigate. We’ve introduced a new level of transparency for Co-op.

This is just the start

We started building the site 6 weeks ago with the aim of sharing what we’ve been working on with colleagues as early as possible. Now we’re asking for feedback at the bottom of each page. We want to find out what people think about what’s there already and what they’d like to see. We’ll combine their feedback with other suggestions we’ve had and use it to direct how the site develops.

Colleagues website team looking at and grouping feedback from colleagues.

Just like co-operative.coop, which we launched last week, this site was built by our in-house team. 

Doing things ourselves and working in this way means we can iterate quickly, and often. Our goal is to improve the experience for colleagues every time we make a change.

I’d like to thank the team for all their hard work: Fiona Linton-Forrest, Kyle Fyffe, Richard Higgins, Tom Walker Ian George, Steve Bruce, Nigel Jones, James Young, Daniel Magraw and Graham Davies. Big thanks also to all our colleagues from around the Co-op for their support.

Peter Brumby 
Digital Channels Manager

We’ve officially moved to coop.co.uk

Since launching our brand in May, the web address we’ve promoted and printed on things has been coop.co.uk. For those of you paying close attention you’ll have noticed coop.co.uk just redirected to co-operative.coop – but not anymore.

All 11,647 co-operative.coop pages and pdf links now use our new web address.


Why coop.co.uk?

We need to acknowledge how our members refer to us and search for us. Most people call us the Co-op and search for us without the hyphen (83% of users). You can find out more in Nick’s post ‘Why we’ve moved to coop.co.uk’.

No lost links

Changing your web address is very similar to moving house. To make sure people continue to visit, you need to tell them you’ve moved.

Google and Bing are the most important people to tell. If we didn’t do this correctly our site would be a lot harder to find.

We also made sure our old URL co-operative.coop and our even older URL co-op.co.uk 301 redirected to our new web address.

So if you typed:




It would go to coop.co.uk/about-us

Was it a success?

Making any change to your URL is risky and will normally see a drop in visitors coming to your site via search. We predicted our website would take up to two months to recover.

It’s still too early to tell how successful the change has been and we’ll continue to monitor, but a good indication is how quickly Google and Bing has recognised the change. This can take several weeks but only took a week.

More changes to come

We’re building a new version of coop.co.uk which you can take a look at.

We’ve also started to change all our other website addresses to be subdomains of coop.co.uk. Subdomains let us add a word before our URL. For example our jobs site is now jobs.coop.co.uk. Any link we promote in TV, print and so on will start coop.co.uk. So for the jobs site we would promote it as coop.co.uk/jobs.

I’ll be explaining more about URL strategy soon but if you have any questions or comments let me know.

Peter Brumby
Digital Channels Manager

Why we’ve deleted 20 websites

At the beginning of 2015 the Co-op had over 250 websites. Every department, campaign and anything with a budget wanted their own domain. As our online presence expanded, our resources stayed the same. Trying to maintain content quality and accuracy was futile.

We failed to ask ourselves one simple question… do we really need them all?

When is it time to delete a website?


For the last five months we’ve been busy removing websites. Deciding which ones stay or go is an emotive process. To keep emotion out of it we asked ourselves the following:

Are people still using the site?

Some decisions were easy to make. After looking at our site analytics, 12 websites had less than 100 visits in the last year so they were removed.

Stats showing no one is visiting the Santa Dash site
The number of visitors for our Santa Dash campaign site had flat-lined

Is the content still relevant and up to date?

I’m sure the Co-op isn’t alone in creating websites for marketing campaigns. Part of any campaign should also include how effectively you close it – unfortunately for some this was never done. They’re done now. We also created one page summaries for three sites which were still receiving over 500 unique views a month such as the 2014 campaign “Have Your Say”. In a few more months we’ll review the content again and press delete if we think it’s right.

Is it best for our members maintaining XYZ site?

It takes time and money to run a website and ensure they meet user needs. We therefore need to decide if this time and money is better employed elsewhere to benefit our members.

Are we duplicating content?

The problem we have at the moment is trying to manage very similar content across multiple sites. We’re now looking at ways to combine sites with similar content/themes and you will see the results of this soon.

Does the website fit with our digital strategy?

With Mike Bracken joining the Co-op to lead Digital we now have a clearer vision of what our Digital estate should be.

As a result we’re now starting to see tighter controls put in place to decide when a website should be created.

Lessons learnt

In a big business like the Co-op there are a lot of great ideas all vying for attention. But how do you decide what’s important?

Unfortunately we’ve been too keen to say yes to everyone instead of spending the time to decide what is best for our members and users.

If you look at our main site, co-operative.coop, we have 114 links on the homepage. 101 of those links go to another website or micro-site. It’s very easy to get lost in a maze of websites.

What are we doing now?

It takes time to review and potentially delete or migrate a site. So far, we’ve removed 20 sites and work is underway to delete/migrate another 12. For each we have to look at the user impact and how it affects the Co-op. I’m sure there’ll be more changes to come as we continue to evolve with our member needs.

The better we make our digital estate the easier it will be for our users to understand what we do and for our members to experience digital co-operation in action.

@peterbrumby, Digital Communications Manager for the Co-op

Every second counts

What will you be doing in nine seconds time?

More than likely you won’t be reading this blog. The average human attention span is eight seconds. Even a goldfish has a better attention span.

Here are my three tips on writing for the web…

1. Short and sweet

I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort - Clarice Lispector

Concise writing is hard and takes time. Do the work so the reader doesn’t have to. The quicker you get your key message across the more chance the user will have read it before they lose interest.

To find out more about the perfect copy length read this great blog post ‘the optimal length for every social media update and more’.

2. Show and tell

We all notice pictures on a web page more than the words.

Eye tracking experiments show users spend more time looking at pictures compared to text and more time looking at ‘relevant’ compared with ‘non-relevant’ images .


Adding a picture shouldn’t be an afterthought. Treat images with the importance they deserve….but don’t feel like you have to add an image. If the image doesn’t support your key message, don’t use one. A reader’s attention span is so short you don’t want to distract them from what’s important.

3. Get someone else to read it

Four sticks! No it's 3

Just because you can spell the 1,025,109 words in the English language and recite the grammar rule book doesn’t guarantee perfect copy.

We see the world from one perspective, our own, and it takes special effort to see it from someone else’s.

Getting another person’s interpretation of your copy can iron out any misunderstandings and ensure your key message isn’t lost.

Do you have any top tips on writing for the web?  

@peterbrumby, Digital Communications Manager for The Co-operative Group.

Internet Rationing: Can you survive on just 8 pages a day?

Ministry of Internet ration book
It’s easy to forget the speed of the internet can be painfully slow for some users. I’m often reminded how bad it can be when I’m commuting to work trying to browse the web with a 2G signal.

The speed of a web page can be attributed to lots of different factors but the key one is the overall page size. Over the last three years the average size of a web page has doubled surpassing the 2 MB mark and if the rate continues in 2017 it could be over 3 MB.

Why is web page bloat a problem?

Obviously the increase in page size has a big impact on how quickly we can access information when we are out and about. But what is often overlooked is the extra cost of browsing the web.

My monthly mobile data allowance and the UK average is 500 MB. This means without taking into account WiFi access I can view just eight pages (on average) a day without incurring extra cost. This figure gets even worse when you include the data used by apps.

Block ads, browse faster

Users are finding ways to stretch their daily internet ration by installing ad blockers.

In the UK ad blocking grew by 82% to reach 12 million active users in 12 months up to June 2015.

Perhaps at first glance the rise in ad blockers may seem unrelated to the increase in the size of web pages. But, an ad blockers key function is to remove content users won’t miss. According to a study by Tech Week you could save 40% of your bandwidth using an ad blocker and increase your battery life by as much as 21%.

I’m not supporting or condoning the use of as blockers but I do think their rapid adoption should set some alarm bells ringing.

As developers we want our websites to do more but this is impacting on how accessible they are. Web accessibility isn’t just about making your website easy to use for people with disabilities. It is about making sure you remove any barriers to access including the size of your web page.

Check the size of your favourite website by going to Pingdom Website Speed Test and let us know if you could survive with your daily eight page ration.

@peterbrumby, Digital Communications Manager for The Co-operative Group.