Scope: Effective content for 1.5 million people

Scope is the disability equality charity in England and Wales. It provides practical information and emotional support when it’s most needed, and campaigns to create a fairer society.

Co-production with disabled people is at the heart of Scope’s service design and delivery model. Two years ago, Scope’s content team began to apply this same model to the design of the help and support content on their website.

The team incorporated the content design principles and practices developed in the Government Digital Service, which includes pair writing, content critiques and usability testing. But they needed a partner who could fit seamlessly into this process and conduct regular rounds of content research and testing with the people the information was designed to support.

Stephanie Coulshed, Programme Lead Content Design, said: “Having worked with Mace & Menter before, I knew I could trust them to do a thorough job, deliver on time and work in an open and collaborative way.”

How we work

We’ve worked on both discovery research and on testing draft content before it’s published.

Discovery research entails exploring the needs of the users around a specific topic. We recruit people with the specific needs that the content is designed to meet, for example, we may need to find disabled people who receive universal credit and are having problems paying their rent.

We explore what they know already, what else is out there, where they feel the gaps in their knowledge are and what needs aren’t being met. Based on the findings we make recommendations around the way to approach a particular topic and areas it needs to cover.

Once content is drafted, we run a round of testing. In each session we take time to understand each person’s situation so we understand the context of their feedback. We ask them to read the article and we ask questions to probe how well the article meets their needs and how it can be made more useful.

We uncover detailed insight that is then used to refine the articles as well as broader themes that feed into Scope’s longer term content strategy.

Research impact

Since 2018, the help and information articles have been accessed by over 1.5 million people. The rich insight from each round of research means Scope makes each article significantly more effective.

Testing reveals how useful the content is, how well it’s understood, how accurate the information is in a real-world context, how the tone resonates and how much confidence the article inspires. It also reveals blind spots which Scope wouldn’t have otherwise uncovered.

Some of the insights we’ve uncovered include:

  • Subject matter experts can have very different mental models of a topic from disabled people. Subject experts often talk about how things are supposed to work whereas disabled people talk about what they experience in real life. The disconnect can be significant. If Scope describes a process such as applying for a benefit as straightforward when the reality is everything but, they miss an opportunity to meet the user where they are, be credible and provide essential emotional support
  • When an important topic is touched on too lightly, this can trigger anxiety in users because it isn’t explained in enough detail to be helpful. Had Scope published this content without testing it would have caused distress to some users
  • Some language can alienate people or feel hard to understand. For users to feel a piece of content is speaking to them, it needs to be written in the language they use. People don’t necessarily use the official terms for things; there might be other vocabularies they use to describe the same thing. The testing highlights these instances and gives Scope an opportunity to use words that resonate
  • There were times when the tone used felt patronising because it came across as ‘over-familiar’. Pitching tone of voice is a complex task, and particularly so when discussing an emotive subject. Involving Scope’s users in the process is a really effective way of helping them to get this right

Following our research, content designers at Scope rework the content in line with the feedback. This means they can publish the co-designed articles, confident that the content is adding real value to the lives of the audiences they are working hard to support.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can support your content design process, do drop us a line below, we’d love to hear from you!