9.2 million people in the UK alone are offline, and 6.4 million of them are over 65, and across Europe 24% of people have never used the internet.
These people miss out on having access to services that can increase their independence and sociability, saving up to £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online and, perhaps most importantly, communicating with their friends and family that are online.
On the other side of the coin, 90% of communication between 11-18 years olds is digital and lack of Internet access is adding to the growing divide between different generations. Yet one less depressing statistic shows 75% of people offline know someone who they could ask for help.
Working with The Nominet Trust, UK Online Centres and Race Online in the UK, we refined a brief that focused on what we could create that harnessed these personal relationships and got people helping someone they knew who was offline, get on.
- 9.2 million people in the UK are offline
- 6.4 million over 65 are offline
- 90% of communication between 11-18 years olds is digital
- Offline households are missing out on saving £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online
- 24% of people in the European Union have never used the internet
- 67% of people aged 65 – 74 in the European Union never use the internet (compared to 91% of people aged 16 – 24 who regularly use the internet)
We created a free webtool that allows those comfy with the Internet to create a simplified, personalised experience of the web for those people in their lives who are new to the Internet or find it confusing.
At internetbuttons.org (and internetstarter.com.pl, internetbuttons.ie and internetbuttons.nl), people can set up a page of Buttons, which link to sites and services the person they’re helping might find useful or enjoyable. It removes all the complicated bits of the internet and makes it easy to keep going back to the places they like.
These Buttons are saved on their own personalised URL (e.g. internetbuttons.org/joanmiller), so they can be accessed from any computer and can be made their homepage. The supporting person can also add a photo and message to the page, reminding the person they are helping to call them if they get stuck.
As well as better access to personal support, there is also lots of help on the site via a permanently-available helper bar and guides to using Buttons. As their experience and confidence grows, new Buttons can easily be added, either remotely by the original creator or by the new user. Suggestions and guides to new Buttons in the ‘Ready-Made Buttons’ section allows people to explore and expand their use of the Internet comfortably and gradually.
We have recently carried out research into how internet newbies have been using the tool over the last two years, undertaking user-testing and interviews with digital inclusion specialists and tutors. Drawing on these findings we have redesigned the tool around a number of key principles:
- Wider appeal – Making the tool useful to a much larger, more diverse audience: beyond those who are ‘offline’ or those looking to help someone get online, though low level users still remain our key audience. This will give the tool scale and long term sustainability, but will also mean we should actually reach more of our key audience than we might have, via the original tool that was designed only for digital inclusion, which naturally has a much more limited appeal.
- Helping more internet novices - Broadening our key audience from just ‘offline users’, to ‘narrow users’ of the internet (those that only carry out 1-6 of a possible 18 types of online activity). Our new tool aims to get more low level users to expand the usefulness of the internet for themselves.
- Increasing social aspects – Designing the user experience in such a way that sharing recommendations with other people both via the site itself and via other channels becomes easier, increasing the number of users and encouraging helpful social connections.
Internet Buttons has been used in a really wide range of community spaces and environments for digital inclusion and literacy, where 1000s of users are finding the tool useful. We have partnerships with a number of local digital inclusion networks including UK Online Centres, Age UK and Race Online in the UK, Fast Track IT in Ireland, and e-Academia in Poland.
Beyond this, the idea of simplifying the internet down into a set of simple, easily managed buttons is proving helpful for teachers in schools, carers in care home and support workers working with young people with disabilities. We Are What We Do has also been involved in running a number of on the ground sessions with local community groups. Sessions like these are incredibly useful to not only those attending the drop-in class, but also to the We Are What We Do web development team, who are able to take the learnings from the user testings, and use these to improve the user experience.
- Over 9000 registrations since UK launch, October 2010
- Over 9000 registrations since European launches, March 2011
- Conversion rate: approximately 1 in 10 visitors creates a page of buttons
Internet Buttons is an excellent way of making the web more fun and accessible for new users. Its is simple, intuitive and a fantastic tool for onliners who want to pass on their skills and show their offline family members and friends specific benefits of the web that appeal to each individual.
Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion, founder of Race Online 2012
Internet Buttons is a fantastic tool for UK online centres because it gives our staff another way of engaging people and instantly making the internet both easy and relevant.
Helen Milner, Managing Director of UK Online Centres
Internet Buttons is an imaginative and practical tool that enables people to get their family and friends online, which will hopefully help a raft of new, previously excluded users to see the potential of the internet to enrich their lives.
Annika Small, Director of the Nominet Trust
Internet Buttons is a great example of We Are What We Do applying their unique approach to behaviour change. We were inspired by the tool and its innovative way of tackling the digital exclusion problem. Their findings around the role friends and family could play in getting someone online were compelling and we were impressed with how they built these into the product: making digital natives ambassadors of the internet, helping their loved ones do more online. We particularly liked the social element of the project, the idea of connecting people and getting different generations talking, and it was this that motivated us to get involved in the project, investing in its development and distributing it through our networks. Internet Buttons is a perfect match with Liberty Global’s own commitments to include everyone in the digital world and contributes to our work that ensures all consumers have access to our products and services, as well as the skills and the opportunities to make the most of them.
Roy Sharon, Liberty Global
Internet Buttons are great [and] user-friendly … You can set [them] up for those less familiar with the Net, to make their online experience easier and more comfortable. Commissioner Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda If we are to create a truly inclusive digital future for Ireland, it is crucial that internet usage increases among those currently not online. Internet Buttons is a really useful tool in this regard, helping to show non-users just how simple and useful the internet can be.
Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources
I love using Internet Buttons and use it almost everyday now. My daughter, Beth, set it up for me. I find it easy to keep in contact with friends and relatives through email, Skype and I’ve set up a Google calendar that is shared by the whole family. Some of my favourite Buttons right now are BBC recipes, thetrainline.com, and shopping sites such as M&S and Sainsbury’s.
Helen Schofield, 50, Internet Buttons user from Tywyn, Wales
I’ve introduced our students to Internet Buttons and they have made a world of difference to them all. Our students have disabilities including learning disabilities and it’s fantastic to see them able to access the Internet more independently thanks to your lovely buttons.
Sheila Mackay, You Can Learn It Ltd
My sister is a recreation therapist at a nursing home and she is very excited about your brilliant internet buttons! Siobhan Devlin, internet user
I set up an Internet Buttons account a few weeks ago, and have been playing – a really useful tool which we will use. Andrew Entecott, Cambridge Online
I’m definitely going to do this for my mom. No offense mom, but I think you would really like these Internet Buttons. Dawn Krause, internet user
Internet buttons – sweet interface for websites/apps for those who prefer simplicity! Gail Bradbrook, Citizens Online
Tech4good Innovation Award