User Research To Scope A New Digital Homelessness Initiative
by Matt Fisher, UX Consultant

There is no one easy solution to the challenge of homelessness in our towns and cities. That’s why Mark Masters, of You Are The Media introduced us to Ian Jones, Head of External Engagement at Bournemouth University and a trustee of Change for Good, a local homelessness partnership. Mark’s objective was to gather a collective of professionals to build a website that educates people’s understanding and perception of homelessness in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.

Where to start a new project?

There had been much debate and uncertainly as to how to brief a new website project in. There were many ideas and opinions, which began to feel unwieldly. What Mark and Ian needed, which we were well placed to advise, was insight and understanding on user requirements and expectations, to cut through the noise. We proposed a series of user research sessions with people who frequently visited Bournemouth town centre to gauge a reaction to Change for Good’s new initiative of contactless donation points.

Matt Fisher, UX Consultant, led the project to facilitate qualitative research sessions, through which the team was able to build a picture of participants’ understanding, attitudes and behaviours towards homelessness. Each session was split into three steps:

  1. A free task asking participants, in their own time, to learn more about homelessness in Bournemouth.
  2. Observe participants using the project’s existing website, utilising the learnings from Step 1.
  3. Observe participants using an exemplar website, utilising the learnings from Steps 1 and 2.


Through analysis and prioritisation, Matt and Emma identified seven priority findings, leading to 14 recommendations. The research revealed the importance of how a website conveys implicit trust. Participants left one website with many unanswered questions and expressed an unwillingness to donate or learn more.

In stark contrast, participants were observed spending a great deal of time on the homepage of the exemplar website, which provided significant assurance of the website’s trustworthiness and credibility. This website also equipped participants with instant recognition of how the initiative worked, through still and moving images. Participants were frequently observed understanding the concept within less than seven seconds of arriving on the website.

Experience UX have answered questions we didn’t know to ask and provided us with a strong foundation. I have enjoyed engaging with Matt and the team throughout this project and am delighted with the quality and detail of their report and recommendations.

Ian Jones, Bournemouth University

Poole High Street

In addition to website recommendations, the research uncovered the need for consistent marketing and communications as an important part of the solution. Participants were pleasantly surprised to discover what is taking place locally to support people who are homeless, due to having zero prior knowledge. However, it was surmised that, whilst frequently encountering people who appear to be homeless, people do not give it a second thought moments later.

When you start a project and step into the unknown, there is a lot of unchartered territory to figure out. Working with Experience UX is like being on an expedition with a guide, who is four steps ahead of you, cutting down the overgrowth and creating a path so everything we need becomes visible.

Mark Masters, You Are the Media Learning Community

This insight, along with our wider report of recommendation, has allowed Mark and Ian to simplify and focus the website brief, providing a clear and intuitive handover for the next stage of the project, the design and content. We look forward to continuing to support this collaborative project as this team of designers, developers and communicators set about creating the new website based on these user-led foundations.

UX Consultant Matt Fisher

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