Making the network of UNISON websites make sense: a first step

For a long time, I’ve been very concerned about how to make UNISON’s web presence make sense for members, activists and the public.

UNISON has hundreds of websites. There’s our national site, of course, but there’s also sites for some regions (but not all); micro-sites for some large campaigns; sites for many branches (but not all); sites for some of our key tools like the Organising Space (but not all). A visitor to these sites may not understand what information that site does contain – and more importantly what it doesn’t contain and how to find the thing you’re looking for if that is the case. If you’re on the UNISON South West site how do you get to our massive knowledge base of help topics? It isn’t clear as there is no quick link to it.

There are also many areas of UNISON work that are only profiled within the UNISON national site but are limited by not having a site of their own. Things like our international work, our Self-Organised Groups, and certain regions. By existing within the national site, they are quite hard to find as they are very low down the structure, but they are also unable to communicate to their specific audiences as well as they might as every news article appears as if it is a national story, every event is a national event and every download is a national download. Which means that at times they aren’t allowed to publish everything they might as it would overwhelm the news stories, events and downloads of national importance.

Our latest changes

Today, we rolled out the latest in a series of changes we’re making that should, over time, help us to make the full network of UNISON website more cohesive, easier to navigate and use. What are these changes? Read on to find out.

1. Global navigation bar

UNISON website global navigation bar

The most visible change is the purple bar at the top of this screen. This is our ‘Global navigation bar’ that we’re hoping will, over time, appear at the top of all UNISON sites. This has links to key UNISON sites and sections – the national site, our Join UNISON microsite, Help materials, regional sites, My UNISON, our new Branch Finder and others.

2. Cross-site search

Cross site search
The second change is a bit harder to spot, but has required a lot more behind-the-scenes work. When you search the UNISON site, you will now see a line below each result saying something like ‘Article found on the X site’. Our search is now cross-site! Unfortunately, it is still limited to a small number of sites that are delivered through our central website platform (for the geeks among us, this is run on WordPress). The Eastern and South West regional sites, this digital blog and the British Sign Language site are the pioneers here. However, over time we’re planning to massively increase the number of sites we deliver through the central website platform – including, in time, offering branches an option to run their websites this way.

Steps forward and back

Making such a complex website network make sense for our users isn’t easy. I fully expect that the latest changes will be a little confusing, particularly while they only apply to a small sub-section of UNISON sites. However, the digital team will be running some detailed user-testing later this year that will focus on how to make navigation between and across sites as intuitive and seamless as possible, including honing search results for them.

In the meantime, we fully expect there to be some bugs in the system (there always are when you make major changes, particularly behind-the-scenes ones) – so let us know on if you find any!