Set of principles launches to help charities improve digital service design

Melanie May | 31 May 2018 | News

New resources, including ten guiding principles, aimed at helping nonprofits improve their digital service design launch today (31 May).
Now live, a dedicated, independent website houses the ten principles, which have been co-created by tech for good organisation CAST and a number of non-profit and funding organisations.
The principles are specifically designed to align with the needs, language and practice of the UK social sector, and aim to provide clarity on what ‘good’ looks like when developing digital services to help grant-givers and nonprofits develop more effective digital services so saving money and delivering better outcomes for service users.
They include ‘Start with users and keep them involved’, ‘understand what’s out there’, ‘build digital services not websites’ and ‘be inclusive’.
In addition to the principles, the site holds example stories of how organisations such as Breast Cancer Care, Refugee Action, 360Giving and Alexandra Rose have used the principles in practice, resulting in better outcomes for a charity and its service users, downloadable and printable posters of the principles to help charities communicate and advocate for good digital practice, and lists of tools and tips suggested by other nonprofits.
Earlier this year, CAST conducted research with nonprofits and grantmakers of all sizes into the tools they use to deliver digital services. They found digital design principles were commonly used by the most successful organisations to help them ‘build the right thing in the right way’, acting as:

Over 50 organisations, from small nonprofits to tech for good funders, fed in to a process of in-depth research and testing to create a list of sector-wide digital design principles, facilitated by CAST. According to CAST, the new list builds on existing sets of principles, with advice and examples specifically relevant to UK charities, and aims to counter some of the fragmentation and miscommunication in the sector and offer clear direction and support for all nonprofits.
Dan Sutch, Co-founder and Director at CAST, said,

“Too many charity services are still failing to respond to the changing digital behaviours and expectations of their users. Digital service delivery urgently needs to become a core competency, not a ‘nice to have’. We wanted to bring together sector organisations to co-design a dynamic resource that helps navigate this shift. Tech can be a powerful tool but it’s how you use it that’s important – these principles are a way of saying ‘here’s how we do it right’ and we hope to see them embedded into organisations’ culture and practices.”


Janet Thorne, CEO of Reach Volunteering, added:

“At Reach, we’ve found that if you are designing or delivering digital services, conventional methods won’t work. You need to approach things differently, so it’s really useful to have a set of clear, jargon-free principles that spell out what ‘good’ looks like so that everyone, including staff, trustees and funders, understand the approach and can pull in the same direction.

CAST is to use, test and refine the principles over the coming months, and is also inviting more charities to participate. It is seeking more nonprofit case studies to add to the site, with charities that have a story of digital service design embodying one of the 10 principles invited to submit it to