On Thursday 14th July, Digital Pathfinders held a workshop to help businesses from Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland to understand their website users from a design thinking perspective.
 
The aim of the workshop was to help businesses create user personas and stories in order to understand their needs and empathize with them. This would enable them to make informed decisions and changes to their websites which are user-led and arm them with strategies which can be used to better serve their customers. 

The Workshop

The workshop began with an introduction to the Digital Pathfinders programme and the team. Digital Pathfinders helps SMEs, charities and social enterprises across the North East to grow by adopting digital technology. Afterwards, businesses got to know more about each other through a range of fun icebreakers. 

To kickstart the workshop, we began with the theory and process of design thinking, a user-centred approach that involves 5 stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test. 

We focussed the session on one attendee’s particular website; Sheona from Northumbria Community Trust. This was so we could focus on one website and one issue, and bring a new perspective with lots of minds working together. 

By looking at the user needs of the Northumbria Community Trust site, we were able to create user personas for the site. We then proceeded to give each persona a story and a reason for why they would be visiting the site. This then allowed us to see the journey that a user might take throughout the website which highlighted frustrations along the way. From the user journey, we were able to form one problem statement from the site by looking at who the user might be, the reason for visiting, their needs and which goals were not being met. 

Afterwards, over lunch, we looked at what 'user experience', 'site maps' and 'wireframes' are and their importance in the discovery phase of a website build. This helped us understand why the design thinking process of understanding and dealing with issues on your website is so crucial. 

Following lunch, we had a jam-packed interactive afternoon. We focused on the problem statement we had created earlier in the day and looked at competitor websites to see what worked well and what didn’t. Using the positives from competitors' sites, we were given a task to sketch out 4 (very sketchy) wireframes for the homepage of the Northumbria Community Trust website, then pick out which one we thought was the best and explain why. 

 So, What Did the Business Think?

The whole purpose of the session was to get us thinking about our own websites from our users' perspective, and although there was a lot to take in, most of the attendees left that afternoon realising some of the ‘quick win’ changes they needed to make to their own sites.

Sheona, from the Northumbria Community Trust, said: "The whole team were very professional in their delivery and made it a fun day to learn new things. They were also attentive to the diverse needs of the attendees and dealt with queries extremely patiently. I would highly recommend the Digital Pathfinders team and their partners."

What's Next?

We aim to continue with similar workshops like this in the future after the website workshop was so successful.  Watch this space for the next workshop happening in Autumn 2022. 

You can also access free digital support with the Digital Pathfinders programme. If you’d like to find out more or to check your eligibility, you can access the website here or send an email to hello@digitalpathfinders.uk. 

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