Service directories can hold the key to the effective provision of services to new arrivals in an area.
Public directories can help asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, and the organisations helping them to find services that meet their needs. They can also help with signposting and strengthen referrals to organisations and map the sector to understand duplication and gaps in provision.
In a lot of areas, a directory of services already exists. To understand what is already out there, Refugee Action has compiled a list of all the main service directories in the UK.
The most important step when creating a directory is to consult with your clients about what they need. You can read about how to consult with your clients in this section.
If you determine a need exists, some important factors to consider when making a decision to create a directory are:
Choosing the right tools to create an easy to use directory is important for both the end-user and those who maintain and update it. A variety of different tools you can use to create the directory exist.
This is the simplest and quickest way to create a service directory. This platform creates a directory using Google Maps, which is available to view on nearly all smartphones, tablets and computers. You can read a step by step guide for using Maps to create a directory here.
This creates a web-based app for your clients’ smartphones. A small amount of technical experience is required, but you don’t need to be a web developer to make a directory with Glide. An example is a directory developed for the Liverpool area.
Using a WordPress theme. It will need the help of a Web Developer, but provides more customisation than Google Maps or Glide. If you already have a WordPress site, you can speak to your web developer about using a ‘Plugin’ to create the directory.
Solidaritech used a WordPress theme to help create the Help in Leeds site.
Basing the creation and design of a directory on the needs of those who you want to use it is the biggest thing you can do to make it successful.
To identify (or test the assumptions you have) about the needs of people seeking asylum, refugees and vulnerable migrants, you should consult with them regularly. If you have the opportunity to, work with local community organisations to run informal research sessions with their clients.
During the research sessions you can ask people about:
To understand whether you’re meeting people's needs, you should aim to consult with them before deciding whether to create a service directory, during the creation and after creating it.
To avoid wasted effort and money spent developing certain features, be wary of asking people purely what they want, ask about problems they face finding out about services and how they use technology.
Accessibility is making your directory as usable by as many people as possible. Inclusion is about diversity and ensuring the involvement of everyone to the greatest extent possible.
Whilst your directory is unlikely to be classed as a ‘public service’ website, the benchmark you should aim for is to comply with the legal obligation to have an accessible public service website.
English may not be the first language to many of your users. Look into translation services for the directory. The most commonly used one is Google Translate, which you can embed in the directory (the translation is good, but not perfect).
The directory should work well on phones with a slow internet connection (3G or less), and will need to be usable on old smartphones. It will also need to work across a range of browsers, the most common being Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge.
Your users may have better data speeds than 3G or faster smartphones - but making the directory quick to load uses less data and improves the experience for everyone.
Some of your users may have disabilities that alter how they interact with a website. It’s important to recognise that not all disabilities are permanent. Disabilities can exist on a spectrum.
Your users may use assistive technology to enhance their experience. Common examples of assistive technologies are:
When creating a directory of services, make sure you contact each service provider in the area and ask for their consent to display their information. Be clear about the information you’re looking to capture and present, and be ready to offer alternatives if the provider does not want their information shared.
In the event that a service provider may not want their information shared, you can set up a ‘proxy’ address and telephone number, and have contact enquires come through these proxies, so they can be assessed as safe requests or not.