2016 highlights – summer – I *did* walk 500 miles

Summer 2016
– the 1 Million Step Challenge

When I was two months in to the three-month 1 Million Step fundraising challenge that my charity, Diabetes UK, launched this summer, I blogged about my progress on the charity’s blog site and shared some tips with my fellow walkers.

I’m proud to say I did complete the challenge, though it took me an extra week or so to do it! And thanks to the generosity of my family and friends, I raised £230 – 115% of my target.

What it was like to take part

I found it interesting that, even though I had already been tracking my steps for nearly three years, and had taken part in other walking challenges in that time, something about this particular challenge really motivated me to reach the overall target of 1 million steps.It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

It was a significant challenge, since the average UK adult is said to walk only 5,000 steps a day, and my average tended to be 7-8,000 a day.

Since I started step tracking in November 2013 it has motivated me to walk more than I ever did before. I find myself taking the long way around where possible, and trying to walk rather than hop on a bus or tube – to the extent that 2014 was the last year that I bought an annual season ticket and from 2015 I started walking as much as possible.

Both my Dad and his Mum had Type 2 diabetes and I know that a combination of this family history of the condition, plus our ethnicity (South Asian on that side of my family) as well as my age and gender mean that I’m at increased risk of developing the condition myself. Those are the factors I can’t change. But the factors I do have control over are my weight and waist size, so making walking part of my day seemed like a good way of reducing my risk of Type 2.

Despite all the health benefits, it can still be hard to make sure you walk 10,000 steps a day, and my average tends to be closer to 7,000. So, seeking some extra motivation, I was really happy when we at Diabetes UK launched our new 1 Million Step Challenge this summer. More cause to walk, while also fundraising for a good cause.

It takes me about 10,000 steps to cover five miles. 10,000 x 100 = 1,000,000 steps, which = five miles x 100, which = 500 miles. Hence “I will walk 500 miles” became my earworm for the summer. (Sorry for passing it on to you too.)

I had a combination of different motivations and practical steps to keep me going towards 1 million. See if any of them could work for you.

I found these practical steps helped:

  • Walk for my whole lunchbreak – and schedule these walks into my calendar so that they’re less likely to get sidelined.Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.
  • Combine it with reading if I’m somewhere safe to walk while reading, like a park.Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.
  • Can also combine it with writing, if inspiration strikes – I wrote some notes for this blog post while walking in the park.I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.
  • I love taking photos and Instagramming, so walking gives me more opportunities to do that.I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.
  • I’m interested in architecture and the city I live in (London) – and there are always new places to discover.If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • If your job permits, try having meetings while walking – a Walk-and-Talk, for those who remember The West Wing – though I must admit, I haven’t tried that one myself yet.
  • Make friends with other Fitbit/fitness tracker users – apparently on average Fitbit users walk an extra 1,000 steps a day for every Fitbit friend they have.

And I had various things to motivate me:

  • The challenge itself provided motivation – to complete a big personal goal – especially one that you have shared with lots of people.
  • Staying healthy, for me and for my family – including improving my chances of avoiding Type 2 diabetes.
  • Fundraising in memory of my Dad, for a good cause and a charity which not only employs me but has helped my family and so many others affected by all types of diabetes.
  • It’s a nice little reward when you get a 1m Step Challenge or Fitbit badge for doing a lot of steps in a day or reaching the latest equivalent distance – such as the Great Wall of China – and it helps you push on towards the next milestone.
  • And it spurs you on when you see how well other participants and Fitbit friends are doing, through the 1 Million Step Challenge website, the Fitbit app and social media.

It was so nice seeing people sharing their steps and milestones on social media. How do you motivate yourself or make walking – or any physical activity – part of your day? Please share your suggestions and experiences in the blog comments, on social media with the hashtag #1millionsteps. It would be great to hear from you.

What it was like behind the scenes

Although we don’t have a formal innovation team or group at Diabetes UK, in recent years we have tried to come up with new ways of providing support and services, and new ways of fundraising to make it possible.

Back in 2013 our then Events Fundraising Manager, Mark Fox, came up with Swim 22, a fundraising challenge where participants swim 22 miles – the equivalent to a Channel crossing – across three months in the relative comfort of their local pool.

Swim 22 has been a great success. Taking the Agile approach that I had introduced, we started with a minimum viable product in 2013 on our main website without agency involvement. Building on the success of the first year, in 2014 we worked with our agency Manifesto to build dedicated sign-up forms, a distance tracker and shareable content such as progress badges, all based on the Acquia platform.

For the 1 Million Step challenge, we were able to go from a moment of inspiration early in 2016, for an event that wasn’t even in our original plans for the year, to build and launch for 1 July. This included registration and recording functionality along with progress badges – again all through Agile, taking the decision to launch with a minimum viable product based on the Swim 22 platform and requiring very little adaptation.

It allowed us to launch another effective fundraising product, supporting our prevention and healthy lifestyle message – with minimal budget and with our comms focused online and therefore with relatively low costs. We have been able to tap into the fitness tracking trend of the past few years, provide a mass participation fundraising event with a low barrier to entry than some sporting events – requiring no specialist equipment other than a pedometer and no facilities other than a place to walk.

Despite a fairly low barrier to entry, all along I have been conscious that despite the simplicity of the concept, the step target could be offputting for people who are less able to walk, so as part of our review and plans for development, I will be advocating different levels of target reflecting different levels of ability and achievement – in the hope of starting and encouraging more people to take their first steps to positive behaviour change.



2016 highlights – winter – ‘100 things I wish I’d known about living with diabetes’

While most reviews of 2016 have understandably been dominated by negativity, I thought I’d look back ón some of my professional highlights from the year.

Winter 2016
– 100 things I wish I’d known about living with diabetes

After about nine months’ work, including one pilot run in November 2015, we launched our campaign, ‘100 things I wish I’d know about living with diabetes’, on 15 February 2016.

Crowdsourcing content

It centred around a free book of 100 tips about diabetes that we crowdsourced from people living with the condition. We asked people from our networks and at our events, but the highest proportion of tips came from supporters online. There’s a well-established diabetes online community, which Diabetes UK is an active part of, and we knew they could be relied upon to share some great tips.

But the majority of people in the online community have Type 1 diabetes or are parents of people with Type 1 and we wanted to make sure that all types of diabetes were represented in the tips – or at least the two main types. So I made sure we asked all our email subscribers for their tips too, as I knew we would be able to draw on a wider range of experiences – and again, they didn’t let us down, providing the majority of the tips that made it into the book.

Choosing 100 tips for the book

We were lucky enough to receive more than the 100 we wanted for the book – well over 1,000 in fact. Some were variations on the same tip from several different people. To try to make sure the tips would be useful and suitable to the widest range of people affected by diabetes, the final 100 were selected by our Clinical team and a panel of people living with the condition, with our Brand team facilitating and curating the selections to ensure balance.

We finally managed to whittle down to 100 for the book but selected extra tips that would be used on social media, in follow-up email journeys, in our membership magazine and in other channels. We also enlisted some of the contributors to take part the TV ads we were filming at the turn of the year, to be broadcast from 15 February.

Emails for ongoing engagement

As well as being a key source of tips, we used email to keep in touch with everyone who submitted tips, including extra comms for the selected contributors to keep them posted throughout the months-long process before the book and the campaign launched.

We also planned and created tailored email journeys for five different audience groups, for people who ordered the book and opted in to further email comms.

Testing through a pilot

Our agency, Arthur, suggested a pilot campaign, more limited in content and geographical scope but a way of testing that all of the ad formats, tracking, forms and processes were working.

Initially, I wasn’t entirely convinced this would be worthwhile because it wasn’t a completely representative pilot, and because of the limited time between pilot and full roll-out (made even shorter by the Christmas break) we wouldn’t have much time to evaluate and make improvements. We didn’t run any of the social media marketing – paid or organic – at this stage, and nor did we have the TV ad campaign to promote the book. We did have a plan B ready for social media in case people ordering the book started to share images, share the link to the order form, etc, but we didn’t need to activate it.

In the end, the pilot did prove to be really useful because it helped us iron out any final issues with the mechanics and processes for ordering the books (including SMS for callback orders, straightforward phone orders, and orders through an online form).

It also helped us to check that the triggered email journeys were working and to tweak some of the content in the emails to improve them for the full UK-wide campaign in February.

And it told us that print ads in consumer magazines were way more effective than digital display ads, so we could adjust the media placement for the main roll-out.

But one thing the pilot didn’t prepare us for was quite how much a TV ad campaign, launching in primetime, would increase responses.

An overwhelming response

It was planned to be a four-week TV ad campaign, and with even the most optimistic estimates from our agency, based on outperforming top campaigns with other similar clients, we did a single print-run of the books we felt would comfortably cover the demand and leave a buffer of extra copies.

The pilot, with its more limited reach, followed the expected pattern.

When the TV ad launched during a primetime ITV soap on Monday 15 February, we saw unprecedented demand and took enough orders in the first week to use up all remaining stock.

This meant another print run, a curtailing of the TV ad campaign by about half, and acceleration of redeveloping the order form to include a PDF ebook option (which was orginally planned for the very end of the campaign).

Meeting a genuine need with authentic content

As well as the TV ads, the success of the campaign was also thanks to the authenticity of the crowdsourced content – real, often surprising, tips about living with a lifelong condition, all by people living with that condition themselves – and the genuine usefulness of the tips.

It got a great reaction on social media and elsewhere, with countless positive comments (some of which are captured in this Storify), higher-than-average engagement rates with our follow-up emails (helped by being very tailored to the different audience groups), and very few complaints, even when there were delays because of needing such a rapid reprint. We even spotted a copy on sale on eBay at one point!

It’s a campaign that I was proud to lead the digital comms for, one that I worked on in some form during pretty much every day in the nine months or so leading up to the full launch and which in recent months I’ve also spent time evaluating and planning next steps for.

I was also proud when the campaign won a Gold award and two Bronze awards at the DMA Awards in the autumn.

Diabetes UK won gold for the best healthcare campaign .

We also won two bronze awards, for best integrated campaign and best customer acquisition campaign.

Taking on the 1 Million Step Challenge to raise funds for Diabetes UK

Since the start of July this year I’ve had even more motivation to do 10,000+ steps a day and track my fitness using my Fitbit.

I’ve been taking part in Diabetes UK’s three-month fundraising event, the 1 Million Step Challenge, and there’s now a little under one month to go.

I’ve written a guest blog post for the Diabetes UK blog site – I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear from you about how you’re getting on with your fitness challenges and tracking:

Fitbit, the Quantified Self and behaviour change

My step-by-step guide…

I was introduced to the concept of the Quantified Self in 2013 – a combination of a presentation by a colleague and a BBC Horizon programme called ‘Monitor Me’.

My connection with mHealth goes back a bit further, to when we at Diabetes UK developed a smartphone app called Diabetes UK Tracker, based on extensive user and market research, from 2010 to 2011.

But I didn’t really start tracking my fitness myself until two years ago this month, when I attended an event on behaviour change run by Alcohol Concern but covering a wide spectrum of behaviour change research, programmes and digital tools.

There was a prize for the most engaged participant and I was delighted when my live tweeting and sharing of photos led to me being chosen as the winner.

My prize was a Fitbit Zip. A simple pedometer that clips to your clothing. I had tried phone-based pedometer apps before but the main issue was always how quickly they drained the battery, as well as doubting how well they could really measure our steps, especially when not always on your person.

The Fitbit Zip links via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone and you simply have to tap it (usually a few times, quite hard) to activate the sync.

To be continued …


Today is one year on since I became a vegan. Initially, Veganuary 2014 gave me the chance to try being vegan for the month of January – but what I learned in that month, combined with the support (and amazing cooking) of my already-vegan wife, convinced me to stay vegan and helped me to stick with it.

So now I’ve had a whole year of learning how to be a happy, healthy* vegan, I thought I’d share some of that info with you and – I hope – help you if you’re trying Veganuary or otherwise new to veganism. A big part of this post will be recommendations for vegan foods, and places to eat or buy them, as well as sources of info and recipes… so I’ll come back and add to this list when I discover new ones. (With big thanks to my wife, who is great at research and discovered so many of these.)

Just a quick caveat – I live in London, so most of the places are based in the capital, but there are a few elsewhere or with branches outside London.

People and information

Vegan London is a useful resource, especially for restaurants, broken down by area of the city.

The Fat Gay Vegan has been a brilliant source of vegan information, inspiration, news and more – especially on his Instagram feed.

Some other vegan Instagrammers

As well as @fatgayvegan, here are some other people and places I follow who post varying degrees of vegan-related content on Instagram, including pics, videos and comments about food, products, events, recipes and more…









Food favourites and eating out

As I mentioned in my blog post at the end of Veganuary last year, one thing you get used to when you’re vegan is checking the small print of ingredients on foods in shops and on menus. Allergens are usually highlighted, which helps, but it’s a shame that more food producers don’t use a vegan symbol in the same way as they commonly use a vegetarian symbol. It’s the same in many restaurants, although some have a vegan menu if you ask, and lots will get creative if you give them a bit of notice of what you need.

For example, many places will happily substitute or omit ingredients; Pizza Express goes as far as letting you bring your own vegan cheese for them to add to your pizza; and Carluccio’s has a vegan menu on request.

Restaurants, cafes and shops

I was grateful that Ruby Violet was closed for the month of January 2014 – it helped me avoid temptation during Veganuary! Thankfully alongside non-vegan ice creams they do lots of nice sorbets, suitable for vegans, including great strawberry and chocolate ones.

Manna restaurant serves delicious vegan food – I think the entire menu is vegan. You can also buy Manna cakes at Vegan Cross and Earth Natural Foods (see below).

Tibits is a small and well-established chain of restaurants – I’ve now eaten many times at their central London branch, and the range of food is excellent. It’s a vegetarian and vegan buffet, you pay by weight(!) and food is clearly marked as vegan, etc. Highly recommended.

Cookies and Scream bakery – they serve amazing vegan cakes, bakes and shakes from a counter in Camden Lock Market. Hard to choose a favourite but their chocolate doughnuts and brownies are delicious. The service is fantastic too.

Vegan Cross aka Vx (and home to the Secret Society of Vegans – see @ssov on Instagram, above) is a great vegan shop in King’s Cross, which sells “vegan junk food”, with usually a good range of dairy-free cheeses, cakes, sandwiches, rare imports, plus lots of other things such as clothes, trainers and bags, as well as mugs and other merchandise.

Earth Natural Foods – this shop in Kentish Town is not exclusively vegan but it sells a lot of vegan foods and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

The Gate restaurants are vegetarian with vegan options; I’ve tried the Islington branch and enjoyed the food there.

Inspiral Lounge cafe and bar in Camden Town is all vegan (except you can ask for cow’s milk in drinks).

Basilico – this is the nicest vegan pizza I’ve tried – takeaway-only, I think, with two vegan options (including vegan cheese) and you can customise your toppings.

Vantra Vitao restaurant – I tried this when they were based in Soho and the food was nice – but be warned – they don’t serve alcohol…! 😉

Amico Bio is my newest discovery – I’ve just tried the Barbican branch of this Italian vegetarian restaurant, whose menu is almost all vegan-friendly too, or with vegan options available on most dishes. A really lovely restaurant with a welcome variety of dishes and friendly service. Will definitely be returning.


Vegan cheese

I’m yet to find a vegan cheese that is much like dairy cheese in terms of texture or consistency, especially when melted. But these have been the best vegan cheeses I’ve tried so far:



Veganic Vegan Pizza Cheese – on the GoodnessDirect website.

Vegan ice cream

I generally prefer Booja Booja or Swedish Glace.

Vegan snacks

Nakd are excellent, and supporting Veganuary this year.

Clive’s Pies do quite a few vegan/dairy-free pies and other snacks – stocked in places like Earth Natural Foods.

Most dark chocolate is vegan but take care to check it doesn’t contain milk or milk powder. Seed and Bean and Hotel Chocolat are among the chocolate makers with  – quite a few vegan options.

‘Eating Animals’

I didn’t read this book by Jonathan Safran Foer until just after I decided to become vegan but it reinforced the decision. It was a great, wide-ranging and detailed piece of investigative journalism through storytelling – very harrowing in places. Breathtaking and often sickening to read some of the unbelievable techniques used to manage meat production on a massive scale.

But as the book’s title suggests, the focus was just on production of meat for consumption and not of dairy products, eggs, or any related items such as leather, wool, gelatine or other things often just called ‘animal products’, or animal testing for cosmetics or toiletries. However, given what the book uncovers, it feels to me that (while worthwhile) just becoming a vegetarian is not going far enough as a response. I would appreciate a book as well written as this but that also gives a wider picture about how the meat trade is connected with other industries.

Also, the book is mainly focused on the US, so although the foreword makes it clear that practices are not much different in the UK, I would appreciate a UK-focused version of the book – I think it would help to address any differences in scale and perhaps cultural attitudes to meat production and consumption – and whether terms such as ‘organic’ or ‘free-range’ are as effectively worthless as they seem to be in America.

Do let me know in the comments if you know of such a book/article/blog. Or let me know what you thought of Eating Animals.

* A note about staying healthy

I’m not saying veganism is a simple path to instant health. In fact, I’ve probably been more ill this year than I have for a few years – but only slightly, and none of it seemed to be connected with my eating habits, as it was mainly back pain or other signs of getting a bit older! But I’m still very healthy overall, managing to go to the gym regularly and have lost weight around my middle (something I had tried and failed to do before becoming vegan). So I think a next step for me will be looking into how vegan athletes combine their fitness and eating habits – I think there are various vegan runners and at least one vegan bodybuilder who blog about their experiences.

It’s also worth pointing out that as a vegan you might need to take a vitamin B12 supplement or eat B12-fortified foods – the latter commonly include some nutmilks, some other dairy replacements and some cereals. I’m not qualified to give medical or dietary advice but you will find info about nutrition for vegans on the Veganuary website – with specific info on B12 – and on NHS Choices, among other sources, and you should always ask your doctor if you want to discuss your options.

Veganuary 2015

So, Veganuary is back this year and it’s bigger than before, with lots of useful information, recipes and stories. If you take up the challenge this month I wish you well and I’d be interested to hear how you get on.

The value of user research

Redeveloping the Diabetes UK online risk score – a test for Type 2 risk

In my post about becoming vegan I mentioned how it had helped me finally reach a fitness goal – of reducing my waist size. If you’ve met me you might not think I have a particularly large waist and you might wonder why it was was a goal for me to reduce it – but working for Diabetes UK I’m conscious of really how relatively small your waist size needs to be before your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is increased. Especially when, as in my case, this is combined with age, family history of the condition, and my particular ethnicity.

There has also been coverage in the press today (31 July) about Public Health England’s report on the relationship between Type 2 and obesity – for example, on the Diabetes UK websitethe Guardian and BBC News online – with a clear emphasis on waist size and belly fat as a measure for Type 2 risk.

Online risk score test, version 1 – mid 2010 to mid 2013

Diabetes UK launched its online risk score www.diabetes.org.uk/riskscore – to test your level of risk of developing Type 2 – on 1 July 2010. Developed with the University of Leicester and the University Hospital of Leicester NHS Trust, a paper version of the questionnaire is used in face-to-face tests at Diabetes UK events. Answering seven questions gives a score from 1 to 47, which puts you into one of four risk levels: Low, Increased, Moderate and High. If you score 16 or above – Moderate or High – we recommend you see your GP for a blood test, with the option for users to be sent an email with a GP referral letter attached.

We in the Digital team at Diabetes UK developed an interactive online version of the tool, with the agency Nonsense, on a small budget, in a quick turnaround time, working closely with the charity’s Clinical team of diabetes healthcare professionals. The first iteration centred around photos and testimonies of real people, each with one of the four risk levels. After answering each question, the user saw a pop-up with a comment from the relevant case study, and their final result was also accompanied by a case study.

As a charity with a limited budget we were unable to make significant improvements to the risk score until 2013, when we received funding as part of charity corporate partnership. In the meantime, I did develop a handful of user stories to inform possible development should funding become available.

Last month the online risk score passed the milestone of 500,000 uses since launch, and on 1 July it reached its fourth birthday, so, with a lot of recent media coverage about the issue of type 2 risk, I thought now would be a good time to blog about it, and what has happened in the year since I embarked on the redevelopment.

Aims of the revamp, mid 2013 onwards

The charity planned a major outdoor and online advertising campaign to help identify some of the seven million adults at most risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The advertising in autumn 2013 encouraged people to see their GP or take the test online so, we wanted to ensure the test would be effective.

I knew from our initial user stories that we had to update the technology (with the advent of touchscreens, and responsive mobile design) but also wanted to fully optimise the test by understanding how people used the tool and any problems they faced. So we commissioned ethnographic 1-1 user research with current users of the risk score, focusing on the most at-risk C2DE socio-economic groups – taking place in users’ homes, with their own devices.

The testing told us we had to improve the risk score before making it a key part of the campaign. Some changes were because technology had moved on, but most were because of insights into how users in the target groups approached and used the tool. Personally I found the testing results very eye-opening. There were low levels of digital literacy, even if people were using more up-to-date devices such as smartphones.

Our redesign addressed the following issues.

Wrong measurements:

  • Users did not actually measure their weight or waist size – eg giving their jeans waist size, which can be smaller – so the importance of accurate measurements needed to be stressed up front and with each relevant question
  • We saw that this would be exacerbated if using on a mobile device, having just seen an ad when out and about, without a tape measure or scales to hand – so we realised that a reminder for mobile users to re-take the test at home would be useful.
  • Usability issues, especially on touchscreens – eg unable to operate ‘slider’ controls, or preferring to type in values.
  • Some users didn’t realise that the sliders required actual measurements to be input – instead they just chose a position based on a more general ‘low to high’ or ‘underweight to obese’ scale.

The critical issue here is that this under-reporting means that many users would be scoring too low and not being placed in the right result for the risk band (Low/Increased/Moderate/High).

We found it would help if we show users their actual, numerical risk score too – to show how close they are to the next level up or down.

‘Test mode’ vs ‘learning mode’:

  • Users were in ‘test mode’ while taking the test, expecting to be able to work their way through the questions quite quickly without distraction.
  • As such, they weren’t in ‘learning mode’ and tended to miss or ignore the pop-ups, or felt they got in the way.
  • Preferred a simpler, cleaner design for the questions.

Conversely, users expected more information at the end:

  • Disappointed by the promised ‘full report’ just briefly reiterating the score/probability they’d seen on screen.
  • Expected fuller, personalised information at this point (after the test) about the questions and their answers, and what impact this had had on their final result.
  • Also hoping for more information about what to do next – more compelling/urgent, and more practical guidance (what to do, who to speak to).

Sharing or recommending by social media or email:

  • All users thought that this function meant their personal, individual test results would be shared – rather than just a link to take the test.
  • Needs to be clear to the user and the people they share with why it’s important to take the test, how common Type 2 is, how many people are undiagnosed without knowing it, etc – to reinforce the need to test, but to find a balance between highlighting key reasons to take the test (eg ‘you might have one of the risk factors, it’s a common condition, with many people undiagnosed’) but depersonalising it (eg ‘I’m not saying you are overweight’).
  • No-one wanted to share the test before they got their results.They couldn’t see why they would recommend the test – would their friends/family find it offensive – would they be suggesting they were unhealthy/overweight?
  • No-one wanted to share the test before they got their results.


  • Some users also found the numbering of the screens at the bottom confusing – positioning and design not distinct enough from the main input screens.

The revamp

The main elements of the 2013 revamp were:

  • Responsive redesign, so that the test scales and reformats to suit multiple screen sizes.
  • Introduction of an alert to save to home screen if it senses a user is using a mobile, and offer of a reminder email – so users can more easily take the test when they’re at home, with scales and a tape measure.
  • Cleaner/clearer design for each question screen, stripping away pop-ups of case studies.
  • Improved language on all questions – eg making it clear what counts as a close relative, and giving a wider range of options for ethnicity.
  • Clear emphasis on the importance of taking actual, current measurements of weight and waist size, and not relying on memory, estimation or jeans waist size.
  • Much improved results screen – including:
    • giving a full breakdown of points per question, what the scoring means, and which risk factors can be addressed (eg weight, waist size), which are simply genetic (ethnicity, family history of diabetes) and which will change over time (age)
    • showing your full score in points, as well as which of the four risk bands you are in, making it clearer how close you are to the next risk level up or down
    • reserving the case study content until after seeing your results, instead of throughout the test
    • giving clear links to information on the Diabetes UK website about what to do next to reduce your risk.
    • allowing simple social media sharing but making it clear that only the test, not your results, would be shared.

Results since the revamp

We provide risk assessments in person at our programme of roadshows across the UK, as well as in pharmacies of our corporate partners. This helps us to assess more than 25,000 people each year. And in a typical year, before the redesign, we had between 75,000 and 100,000 uses of our online risk score.

Using digital media for an online version of the risk score, promoted through our email marketing, social media, grant-funded Google Adwords account and through users sharing the tool, helps us to reach at least three times as many people as the face-to-face risk assessments that require more staff and financial resource, and rely on footfall.

In fact, with the success of the redesign we have now reached 300,000 users online in the past year (July 2013 to June 2014) – 12 times as many as we can reach through face-to-face assessments.

We saw immediate improvement in usage, referrals and results following the redesign.

  • Year 1: 100,000 uses
  • Year 2: 75,000
  • Year 3: 75,000
  • Year 4: 300,000 (25,000 pre-relaunch, 275,000 post-relaunch)

The relaunched test saw more uses (30,000) in the fortnight of the ad campaign, than it saw in the previous three months (25,000). We have seen more uses (245,000) in the nine months after the end of the campaign than we saw in the whole first two years (175,000).

Since relaunch, from 275,000 tests, the test has referred 75,000 people to their GPs.

This compares with 28,833 people referred after 175,000 tests in the previous 27 months, and shows the benefits of user-centred redesign, supported by focused audience research, and a boost from advertising.

Significantly, the proportion of people being referred increased from 16.5% to 27.3%, suggesting that the redesign and improved usability reduced the under-reporting of weight and waist size.

Passing the 500,000 mark:

On 10 June the online risk score passed the landmark of 500,000 uses since its launch nearly four years before. This was partly helped by a journal article predicting a large increase in Type 2, covered by the national press, and including a link to the risk score from a BBC online news piece. In fact, on the day, I watched the counter jumping up and up with every browser refresh – so much so, I thought it would be ideal for a quick Vine.

But even without this boost, we were already seeing the residual effect of the campaign and the effect of the redesign, and increased public awareness supported by regular media coverage of the issues.

And by its fourth birthday, with less than a year since the redesign, the online risk score had passed 550,000 uses – doubling the number in less than a year since the redesign, compared with the number of uses in the previous three years+.

User survey results:

We send follow-up emails to users – an average of 2,500 a month begin an email journey to support them in making lifestyle changes.

We surveyed 8,900 people who used the online test in the month following the relaunch:

  • 97% found the test easy to complete
  • 90% found the online experience helpful; just 2% disagreed and 8% were neutral
  • 83% said they would visit their GP; 38% already had – leading to 49% of these being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
  • 85% said they would now eat more healthily
  • 81% said they would exercise more.

Next steps

We’re not stopping there – we are now looking at the existing user stories that we haven’t had development funding for before, such as an offline electronic version for use at roadshows and other events, to help address the current issue of timelag between the data passing from point of capture and going into our CRM system for email follow-ups.

And we plan to do further assessment of the follow-up emails after this year’s programme of roadshows is complete.