In the Age UK Information Resources team we make sure that we involve our users when writing and updating information guides and factsheets.
User feedback allows us to hear from the people the resource is intended to help. It enables us to make sure our materials are relevant, accessible, logical and useful. User involvement is also a requirement of the NHS England Information Standard which we were proud to achieve in 2015. This is a quality mark which testifies to the accuracy and reliability of our information.
We have invested a lot of time and energy into developing our methods of gathering user feedback in recent years, and we currently have three main approaches that we use – focus groups, questionnaires, and our readers’ panel.
Focus groups allow us to speak directly to the people a resource is aimed at. Each focus group lasts roughly an hour and a half and we normally talk to about seven people in any one group. Participants are asked to read the resource in advance of the meeting and we’ll then spend the time discussing their impressions, asking specific questions about different sections and finding areas of improvement. Our focus groups are recruited in various ways. For example, they may be recruited through our connections with local Age UKs. We recently tested a guide with a group of carers at Age UK Herne Bay, and another guide at the Ellesmere Port Men in Sheds group in this way. Alternatively, we may use an external recruitment company to find participants. This allows us to talk to people who are independent of the Age UK network. Attendees at these groups often haven’t engaged with Age UK before and in many instances aren’t always aware of the organisation or what we do.
Questionnaires are another way for us to gather feedback on our resources. These may either be questionnaires that we send out to targeted people to complete and return, or they may take the form of a detailed telephone interview. Participants for questionnaire involvement are usually found through our local Age UK relationships. Alternatively we may contact people who have telephoned our Advice Line – either for advice or to request our resources.
Our newest method of gathering user feedback is via our readers’ panel. The readers’ panel operates remotely via email. People can register online and we will then email them appropriate resources when we are working on them, along with a questionnaire to complete and email back to us. There are no requirements for the readers’ panel and no prior knowledge is needed.
The user feedback we collect really does influence our resources and in many cases leads to subtle but substantial changes. For example, we are in the process of significantly re-writing our Going into hospital information guide as a result of focus group feedback. This re-write includes new sections, an amended structure, and even a new title for the guide: Your hospital stay. And our Save energy, pay less information guide has also benefited from user feedback. It now contains both simple measures and more significant changes that can save you money, and in many examples it also tells you the actual saving you could make as a result of the change.
To find out more about our readers’ panel and to sign up as a member so that your voice is heard, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/readers-panel
For a full list of the resources produced by the Age UK Information Resources team see the Age UK website