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Our working principles

These principles, shared across Shelter’s digital work, are a set of core fundamentals that instruct how we work. They help people make good decisions, they empower teams, and they minimise burdensome processes. 

The idea is that if everyone follows the same set of principles, decisions made across teams are more likely to be consistent. There’s less need for work to be checked and micromanaged, and more trust. 

They're intended to be useful whether you’re a content editor, developer, marketer, UX or service designer, or campaigner. 

A principle in practice: We seek mutual understanding through conversation rather than documentation

'Too many renters live in unsafe homes, are mistreated by landlords and agents, and have few rights. So with support from Nationwide, Shelter launched its report Time for Change and a campaign calling for changes to the Renter’s Reform Bill.

‘The product team had open conversations with the Policy team, Corporate Partnerships, and other stakeholders about the purpose of the webpage and what it needs to achieve. At a post-launch wash-up, the project team in CPC had nothing but praise for the digital output.’

Sam Brady, Product Manager, Shelter

Mother hugging daughter, both looking at the camera, standing outdoors in front of a housing complex.

The working principles 

We have defined 10 principles. Get to know them and they’ll become a valuable tool in your work: 

  1. We build user-centred services as our default 

  2. We use a test and learn approach 

  3. We build for scalability through user participation and action 

  4. We work collaboratively across the organisation 

  5. We make decisions at the right level 

  6. We make evidence-based recommendations and decisions 

  7. We use web best practices and open standards as our default 

  8. We co-produce our design with end users where resource allows 

  9. We seek mutual understanding through conversation rather than documentation 

  10. We keep things simple. What we don’t do is as important as what we do 

A principle in practice: We work collaboratively across the organisation

'For Christmas 2020 we worked closely with High Value Partnerships and Individual Giving teams to deliver Shelter's first-ever all-digital carol service. The product team advised on user journeys and technical solutions to the tricky task of delivering this new product.

‘We did this in 3 release stages: recruitment, event-ready, and the page for the live event itself. On the day, we had over 18,000 unique page views and brought in over £20,000 in donations (matched by Nationwide).’

Jake Mitchell, Product Manager, Shelter

A hand holds a mobile phone showing a page of a Shelter event, overlooking buildings.

How to use them 

In simple terms, you should use the principles to guide how you work. You can either revisit them now and again to refresh your memory, or refer to them when planning a piece of work or when you have a dilemma about how to proceed. 

Because they aren’t too specific, they’re suitable for many scenarios and can be flexible and responsive. They are working protocols, not rules, meaning they can be adapted in the right circumstances. 

Where they came from 

Our working principles were, true to their spirit, collaboratively created. As part of the Digital Framework workshops, together a range of teams and disciplines explored and identified the principles that should form the foundation of our work, and composed them over the course of several months.  

By developing the principles through a process of co-design, we’ve made sure they're owned by everyone who uses them. And they aren’t static – we’ll revisit through the Communities of Practice so they’re kept relevant and up to date. 

Shelter’s guides for web content

Our Communities of Practice

The devolved model of delivering digital

Contact us about the digital framework

Have a question or comment? Found a bug? Or maybe you’d like to contribute to the framework? Use our contact form to get in touch.


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