Linden Muirhead is the MS Trust’s Director of Information and Engagement. Over the past year she’s been managing the redevelopment of our website, which relaunched in September. Here she explains exactly how the new site will work even better and allow us to make more of a difference for people living with MS.
Why has the MS Trust developed a new website?
The MS Trust first went online in 1997, when the internet was a very different place. People logged on to the World Wide Web via dial-up modems. Even the simplest web pages could take several minutes to appear. And reliable information about multiple sclerosis was still scarce.
We were quick to see, however, that the technology was going to change how we published our information. In 2008, we upgraded to a new site, full of new features such as the enduringly popular A-Z of MS, online versions of all our printed information, plus some new multimedia content, including exercise videos and blog posts.
Although 2008 feels like yesterday to some of us, in online terms it’s another era. Today over 86 per cent of UK households are online. And almost 80 per cent of us are online every day, compared to less than 50 per cent of people in 2008. Over 60 per cent of us use social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And almost 75 per cent of people who use the internet now use it “on the go” – via phones, tablets or laptops.
The MS Trust has always aimed to publish information that’s tailored for individual people with MS. That means covering the right subject matter, but also publishing in the way that works for you. In June 2015, for the first time, the number of people accessing our site via a mobile device outnumbered those using a desktop computer. We knew we had to respond to these changes, and we believe with our new website we’ve taken a big step in making our information more accessible, with responsive pages that work whether you’re on the bus, looking up information on your phone, at work, using a desktop computer, or at home on the sofa, browsing on your tablet.
What else is new?
Our new publishing system means we can work much more efficiently. We can publish information quickly, responding to the ever-changing world of MS, and make this content work effectively so you can find it easily when you’re searching the site or following us on social media.
The new site is also fully integrated with our database. This means that when you order a booklet, make a donation, organise a fundraising event, buy a Christmas card or subscribe to Open Door, our small team in Letchworth can process your information quickly and accurately.
And because we can work more efficiently this means we can focus more of our energy on tailoring information that works for you, rather than handcoding individual web pages!
What do you have planned for the future?
As you’ll have seen from the article in this issue, we’re very excited about MS Decisions, our new tool to help people with relapsing remitting MS weigh up their treatment options. The interactive decision aid that’s only possibly thanks to our new content management system, helps people refine their options and make sense of the confusing amount of information now available.
When the MS Trust was founded the problem we addressed was the lack of reliable information about MS. Today we realise the problem is often that there is so much information it can become unmanageable. We believe with our new website we will be able to develop more innovative ways of helping people find their way through the noise, and find the right information, in the right form, at the right time for them.
This will only be possible with your help. Whether you have MS yourself, have a friend or family member with MS, or you’re a health professional with an interest in MS, your feedback can help us develop an even better service. We’d love to know what you think. So have a look at our range of MS information, blog posts, newsletters and more, and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.