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Digital innovation is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, especially if you’re a housing association.

As a customer-centric industry, housing associations need to be reviewing their technology and internal operations to ensure they are delivering the most effective communication and services to their customers. Whether that’s improving web structure or optimising portal interfaces to make sure customers get the best experience from them, housing associations need to maximise their digital potential to meet their customers’ demands.

But Yorkshire Housing already know the power of digital innovation and how it can drive the organisation forward. Having built a reputation for doing things differently by using data and technology to transform their customers services, and having gone through a recent rebrand, it was time for the group to have a website that reflected their purpose and aligned with their new branding.

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Turning houses into homes

Yorkshire Housing is the biggest housing association based in Yorkshire. With more than 20,000 homes across the region, Yorkshire Housing pride themselves on making it possible for people to have a place they’re proud to call home. As well as providing social and affordable homes, Yorkshire Housing continuously strive to tackle the housing crisis. Their mission is to build 8,000 new homes across Yorkshire by 2030 to help people get on the housing ladder through schemes, such as shared ownership and rent-to-buy.

Customers are at the heart of Yorkshire Housing, which is why the team are big on building a community and delivering a great experience for them. Innovative by nature, the business is always reinvesting their money back into the business to lead the housing association market, but most importantly, to improve their customers’ homes and their services.

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Influencing partners

To help Yorkshire Housing to continue to lead the way in innovation, the team approached us to deliver a brand-new website that reflected their vision as an organisation. After going through a successful rebrand, it was time for the team to have a website that reflected their new direction.

The current website didn’t reflect Yorkshire Housing as a forward-thinking, strong and resilient organisation. The team are continuously looking for opportunities to stand out in the housing association industry, and the dated website didn’t reflect their proactivity or ambition for the future.

One of the main objectives for a new website was that it needed to open opportunities for collaboration. Driving interest from partners and investors was key for the new website – it had to be designed in a way that showcased Yorkshire Housing as a leading organisation that partners would be excited to work with. While the website needed to influence partners to work with the housing association, it also needed to serve existing and future Yorkshire Housing customers.

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From a user perspective, the website wasn’t user-friendly and didn’t enable customers to self-serve. Heaps of buried content on the site and poor navigation made it difficult for users to find what they’re looking for with ease, and discouraged customers from engaging with Yorkshire Housing online. Not only was the website hard for users navigate, but the CMS didn’t give the team the flexibility and support to create and manage their content.

A new website would bring the services in line with the brand, attract new partners and encourage customers to self-serve online. It would also make it easier for the team to create strategic content that supported their customers.

Read on to find out how we embarked on the project by going through a discovery process to ensure the team had a website that influenced partners, delivered a better user experience and showcased the Yorkshire Housing brand and talent.

Discovering Yorkshire Housing

Our first approach was to kick off the project with a discovery phase. Working collaboratively, the discovery process gave us a bigger picture of the project. Through a series of workshops, we defined the website’s objectives, their users, current challenges, and insights into the makeup of the organisation.

The discovery phase enabled everyone to have a deeper understanding of who uses the website and to establish what their user journeys look like. As the website is used by every department and multiple types of customers, it was important that we took the time to listen to a variety of users. We needed to understand their requirements and how they use the website, making sure that we recommend features and functionality that are going to support their user journeys. That said, the discovery phase gave us the insights we needed to propel the project forward and lay the foundations for the new website design.

Reviewing and recommending a new sitemap also made sure that content was categorised appropriately and would make it easier for users to navigate the website and for the internal team to organise content on the website.

Delivering flexibility

After identifying the organisation’s wants, needs and challenges, it was clear that Umbraco would be the most suitable platform for the website. Umbraco gives the team the flexibility to create and manage content, and deliver a better user experience. A range of flexible content blocks enables the team to create different types of content and page layouts to inform investors on what they do, and guide customers on looking after and managing their homes.

With investors being an integral part to the new website, it was important that the homepage was designed with this audience in mind. The design was a shop window for partners who were interested in Yorkshire Housing and an opportunity to shout about the organisation’s work and strategy, encouraging these users to get in touch.

The website design needed to make it easier for customers to self-serve on the website. A dedicated landing page for customers would enable them to find what they’re looking for and navigate the content on the rest of the site. Being able to report a repair or get a quick update within a few steps, was a key factor for customers. Umbraco enables the team to create multiple forms for their customers, allowing them to engage with Yorkshire Housing at a click of a button.

As the team had accumulated mountains of content on the site, they benefitted from an outside perspective and training session on writing web content for SEO, led by our team. Yorkshire Housing’s communications team devised a plan for content and we supported them by creating and populating some of the content. Together we ensured the site reflected the insights from the discovery phase, desired tone of voice, engaged with users, and guided every visitor on their website journey.

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Celebrating collaboration

From the offset, the whole project has been a collaboration between Spindogs and Yorkshire Housing. By working together and introducing different expertise at various stages of the project, we were able to ensure that we had a deep understanding of the travel of direction, the brand and the purpose for the new website.

As well as listening to the Yorkshire Housing team about their requirements and challenges, we were able to guide them on the best design and functionality to support their needs and meet their expectations. As a result, Yorkshire Housing has a website that attracts investors and enables customers to self-serve online.

From the beginning, the objective was to create a website that had the ‘wow factor’. After wowing the Chief Executive with the finished website, we can truly say that we’ve delivered!

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The website is a vibrant showcase for the business, feels uniquely like us and is easy for customers to use. As they say in Yorkshire we're well chuffed with the result.

— Hannah Jowett Head of Communications & Brand

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