|Screenshot of the 'new visitor' homepage|
The initial motivation behind making changes to the current website was to make it a lot easier for lenders to use on mobile devices. We noticed that over 50% of our lenders were accessing the website either on their mobile phone or tablet and yet the current website made it very difficult for them to read about our entrepreneurs, make loans or purchase gift vouchers. However, as the project developed (and after some market research among lenders) it became obvious that we also needed to use this opportunity to enhance some of the site’s features to improve user experience for both new people coming to the site and for existing lenders.
Brief history behind the original website
It was way back in September 2008 when I was Head of the Individual Supporters team at CARE that CARE and fundraising agency, Bluefrog, had the initial idea of setting up Lendwithcare. We were looking for a way to connect people in the UK with CARE’s Microfinance work and we decided that an online initiative that allowed people to make a loan themselves to someone in a developing country, might just be the innovative answer we were after.
We spent the following months doing a feasibility study, including conducting research in various countries to see how it might work in practice. And it wasn’t until June 2009 that we had developed the complicated backend system that is needed to administer the loans to and from the various countries in which we work. There are actually three websites that operate Lendwithcare; the public site that our lenders use, a Head Office administration site that we use to manage and monitor the whole programme; and a site that our Microfinance Institution partners use to upload new entrepreneur profiles and administer their payments and repayments.
After months of work, CARE and Bluefrog jointly launched Lendwithcare in April 2010 – leaving us with not much more to do than to stand by and nervously wait to see how our exciting new initiative would be received.
The start was slow and I remember obsessively watching the website as one or two lenders joined and one or two entrepreneurs finally received their funding. Thankfully the Lendwithcare of today is completely different and I am so proud that we have now supported nearly 20,000 entrepreneurs and have a passionate lending community of over 23,000.
So it seems rather fitting that almost five years to the day that we launched the Beta (first/preview) version of Lendwithcare, we are about to re-launch a completely re-designed website that not only brings us in line with modern website design but also includes a whole host of new features that our lenders have been asking us for.
Why are we doing this?
Five years ago when Lendwithcare was launched almost everyone was visiting the website from a desktop computer. Now, 54% of our lenders view Lendwithcare on a mobile phone or tablet. Unfortunately, the current Lendwithcare website doesn’t work very well on a mobile phone or tablet, it uses a side bar to convey lots of information requiring the user to do a lot of zooming in and out, and we noticed that visitors to the site were leaving the website rather than completing an action.
|Current Lendwithcare Homepage|
Modern websites are now designed so you scroll down the page which suits mobile devices very well. You will see on the new website that there is a lot more information when you scroll down the page rather than trying to fit everything onto one crowded ‘page’.
|Example of new scroll-down homepage|
We have also listened to feedback from our lenders and potential lenders. Over the last year or two we have received hundreds of suggestions and ideas on how to improve Lendwithcare and make the website more user friendly so when we decided to go ahead with this project we organised three lender focus groups. The three main themes to emerge were:
- The existing website home page assumes you have at least a little knowledge of what Lendwithcare is about, i.e. that you are making a LOAN. A number of people have told me that when they visited the website for the first time that wasn’t clear to them.
- Once you are an existing lender you want to be able to easily see how much you have in your Lendwithcare account and choose who to re-lend to.
- It is not obvious how you easily recommend Lendwithcare to a friend. The latest news, blog and how to promote Lendwithcare sections of the website were not being seen by many of you.
One of ways we have addressed the differing needs of potential lenders and existing lenders is to create two home pages. One for when you have registered and logged into the website which will give you an immediate snapshot of your Lendwithcare account and make it easy for you to start lending. And a second home page which “sells” and explains the Lendwithcare concept to a new visitor. The first time you visit the re-designed website you will see the latter of these two home pages but once you have signed in you will see the special Lender home page that has been created just for you.
The home page for existing lenders focuses on two things: Firstly it gives you an interactive overview of your loan portfolio and the impact you are making; and secondly it tells you which entrepreneurs are in need of funding and enables you to easily start lending.
As recommendations are one of the most valuable things that lenders can do we have also tried to make this much easier to do. You will notice that social sharing is integrated much more consistently throughout the site and you can view our latest news and blog from Your Account instead of having to search through the site.
I really hope you like the new website. It is very different to the existing website, and I realise that the new site will take a little bit of getting used to. Nonetheless I really hope that you like what we have done and that it inspires you, not only to go on Lending to the entrepreneurs who rely on your loans to grow their businesses, but that you will use the “spread the word” functions so we can grow our wonderful community of Lenders and help many more poor people to start or grow their business.
Leading up to the new website launch we will be giving you more “previews” and producing some short “how to” videos.
Tracey Horner, Head of Lendwithcare
You can follow more updates on the new Lendwithcare website, and other Lendwihtcare news, on our Facebook and Twitter pages.