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Overview

The Skills Builder Partnership is an award-winning social enterprise. Their mission is to ensure that everyone builds the essential skills to succeed. The organisation works across 450 schools and colleges, 130 skills-building organisations, and 100 top employers.

This recipe details how the organisation built Skills Builder Launchpad, a new online resource platform for individuals aged 11+ to build essential skills at every stage of life.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since March 2020.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Skills Builder Partnership’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a service user with limited time, I need short modules that can be completed at my own pace
  • As a service user, I want to understand how modules progress so that I can be guided through my learning journey
  • As a service user, I want to review modules I have completed to recap my learning
  • As a service user who would like to share how I have applied my skills, I need a way of recording examples of my skills in action
  • As a member of staff, I need to access the content management system so that I can manage the site and troubleshoot user issues

Software and tools used

WordPress

WordPress is a popular website builder tool and content management system.

Cost

Free for a basic account. Business accounts are £20 per month and offer more advanced design tools, storage, plugins, and 24/7 live chat.

There are also a number of pricing options to register domain names and other associated hosting costs.

Considerations

WordPress is a well-known and well-supported platform that offers many ‘out of the box’ features for free. It comes with many intuitive content management tools that can be easily shared with diverse teams, and is mobile responsive as standard.

It also supports a wide range of free and premium plug-ins that can be added at any stage, and can support activities such as enhancing search, SEO or content management.

WordPress also integrates with the chosen Learning Management System (LMS) outlined in this recipe, called Sensei. Both are owned by the same organisation and have the same level of support and security in-built.

One limitation is that to customise beyond the ‘out of the box’ features usually requires a developer with WordPress knowledge.

Sensei

Sensei is an LMS that integrates effortlessly with WordPress sites, enabling teams to create courses, lessons and quizzes.

Cost

Sensei is free to use.

Considerations

Sensei is a free, open-source platform that integrates easily with WordPress as they are owned by the same company.

Many features are based on native WordPress functionality.

Sensei is completely customisable, mobile responsive and comes with in-built reporting functionality.

There are some learning curves to manage to become familiar with the system, and you need to follow the Sensei nomenclature (e.g. Courses, Lessons) for the platform to work seamlessly.

Reporting does exist, but is limited – though reports can also be exported into CSV format for further use.

WP Engine

The WP Engine platform offers a suite of site building and management tools for WordPress.

Cost

WP Engine is available via a tiered subscription model. Basic subscriptions start at £20.00 per month.

Considerations

WP Engine is built specifically to support WordPress and as a result is easy to set up and run with a WordPress site. It is competitive in terms of price and its ‘basic’ offering is usually sufficient for small to medium-sized charities and organisations.

WP Engine offers 24/7 support, daily back-ups, a free staging site and a number of free themes that can be used to style the WordPress site.

The cost for WP Engine does jump quite steeply if you need to upgrade. If you need to support more than one site, or receive more than 99,000 web visits per month the cost will rise from £20 per month to £70 per month.

Recipe steps

1. Understand the need

Consider your users’ needs and assess where there may be increasing demand.

Conduct a series of focus groups with your users to understand their needs and what your service should offer to meet these.

Consider whether your service is going to be broad or focused.

2. Build out the modules

Map out the learning journey.

You can use existing content that you have. It will need to be reframed in the context of your new strategies.

Identify what these strategies are, practise these strategies, and articulate how to apply these strategies.

3. Work with a digital partner

Source a digital partner if you do not have the necessary expertise in-house.

Maintain open and transparent communication with your partner through shared design boards such as Miro, and platforms for shared documentation that you can both use to ensure that the versions you’re working on are always up-to-date.

Have complete transparency and ensure you hold weekly meetings to touch base.

4. Conduct user-centred workshops

Present the research you have done to your digital partners and focus on building personas, user journeys, and understanding acquisition. As a result, your digital partner can help you to prioritise functionalities.

5. Consider out of the box solutions

You or your agency can consider out of the box solutions.

Make sure that the software is easy for both your users and your team to use.

Consider your timeline and how this may impact the solution you’re choosing.

6. Conduct user testing

Present a prototype of your service to a group of users who are representative of your stakeholder groups.

Feed the outcomes of that testing into iterating the design of the platform.

This is also important to see how the modules work for user learning.

7. Quality assure your platform

Go through the preview version of the site to understand and draw out any final tweaks that need to be made.

8. Soft launch your product

Gather feedback from 1:1 touchpoints with users.

Gather feedback from other teams or other close partners.

Feed this back into your continuous work.

Guidance

Be clear what is possible at different points of your project, especially regarding your timeline.

Ensure you’re definitely on the same page as developers.

Be open that there will be things that you have to de-scope. Be clear on what your priority features and functionalities are and make confident decisions on what stays and what goes. You can then build a roadmap for future development as you go along.

Risks

If you’re trying to implement this quickly, you won’t have as much time for testing or to iterate designs before moving through to development.

There is a risk of rushing decisions and moving too quickly to the next stage, especially if the stage you’re at isn’t quite finished.

Thanks

Many thanks to Skills Builder Partnership for contributing this recipe.

Licence

This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Skills Builder Partnership and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on April 20th, 2021. Last updated August 6th, 2021