Design For Good – feat. Blood Cancer UK

As part of the series ‘Design For Good’ we caught up with Ben Sykes, UX and Innovation Lead at Blood Cancer UK, a community dedicated to beating blood cancer by funding research and supporting those affected.

The purpose of our ‘Design For Good’ content series is to shine a light on how creative innovation can be a driver for positive change. We feature those that are making it happen, those with grand potential. Businesses and individuals that are shaking up their sector and finding ways to do things better, for social or environmental good.

Chris @ ADLIB: Can you please introduce yourself and what your role is with Blood Cancer UK?

Ben: I’m the UX and Innovation Lead at the charity Blood Cancer UK. I’ve worked at the organisation my whole career, give or take, 14 years in total. I transitioned to a digital design role in the organisation 4 years ago. My previous experience was in Community Fundraising, which seems tangential, but as a UX team of one, the research side of the role is a big part of my job. I got a lot of experience listening to and empathising with people affected by blood cancer in that role, which has helped me.

Chris @ ADLIB: Can you tell us a bit more about the work Blood Cancer UK does, and how the UX teams support this?

Ben: Blood Cancer UK are the UK’s leading blood cancer charity. We were founded in 1960 by a family who lost their daughter to leukaemia. Some may know us by our previous name, Leukaemia Research. Until 2015 our sole focus was research, so the name made sense.

But, blood cancer is a highly complex disease with over 100 types, which often results in significant unmet needs for those affected by it. In 2015, we expanded our remit to address this by introducing patient support services and advocating on behalf of individuals impacted by blood cancer.

As the UX function, my role is to make sure that the information and support we offer at Blood Cancer UK are accessible to as many people as possible who are affected by blood cancer. Currently, I’m working on a project that aims to make it easier for people to access our online health information. We’re improving the signposting, making the navigation more user-friendly, and ensuring the content is easily accessible. The goal is to provide clearer pathways, so people can find the information they need with ease.

Chris @ ADLIB: Can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome whilst working in a charity and ‘designing for good’?

Ben: Three things spring to mind which stand working for a charity like Blood Cancer UK out from the corporate market.

Firstly, people affected by blood cancer are extremely hard to profile. There aren’t really any lifestyle factors which influence whether you get blood cancer, so you have to design solutions which give people information in a way that works for them.

Secondly, we work on tight budgets. We can’t justify spending thousands of pounds a year on UX software, so we have to hack solutions using Zoom, WhatsApp, Microsoft and Google Suites. Oh, and calling in a few favours!

Finally, we know that those from marginalised backgrounds have poorer outcomes and higher unmet needs, yet they can be a challenging group to access. We’ve started incentivising for involvement in some cases to reach those audiences and design with them, but it is still not easy to access the most marginalised people in our society.

Chris @ ADLIB: What has been the key thing you’ve learned about ‘designing for good’ and your target audience specifically?

Ben: Good question! As I mentioned earlier, one of the key challenges we face is profiling our supporters. This means we need to develop solutions that cater to the diverse needs of our wide-ranging audience

We come across a wide range of preferences among people seeking information about their disease. Some prefer a brief introduction or overview, while others would happily spend hours delving into every detail about their condition.

Finding the right balance to cater to both audiences is quite challenging. On one hand, if we focus too much on providing minimal information, we risk not meeting the needs of those who seek more in-depth knowledge. On the other hand, if we include extensive content to satisfy the information seekers, it becomes difficult for those seeking entry-level information to navigate and find what they require.

To address this challenge, we aim to guide people through a journey of increasing complexity. We provide a brief introduction to a topic on the first page and then offer more comprehensive information on subsequent child pages. Although we haven’t fully achieved this approach yet, it remains one of the key challenges we’re tackling in the current project. That said, I think we’re making some really great progress and moving in the right direction.

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User Experience & Design

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Chris Nasrawi