How the Eviction Project team implemented COVID-19 additions to their online guide and provided imperative information to citizens in need.
The Evictions Project is a civic technology project that provides tenants and landlords with accurate information and useful tools for their eviction process. Creating meaningful tools and activities to help evictees prevent jeopardising their human rights is essential for the team.
When Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, declared a state of emergency, and the interim regulations regarding evictions were released due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team knew that tenants would face a series of new challenges.
The team responded by updating their Eviction Guide resource with the latest, relevant information. Within the following months, the users of the site rapidly increased. The new regulations were effective from 18 August 2020; at that time, evictions.org.za got +-2700 monthly users visitors; this rose to +-4500 monthly users post the changes.
In discussions with the project team about the increase in users during this time, the team's responsiveness to updating the site with the critical regulations was seen as crucial.
Challenge: Providing the changing regulations about evictions and demolitions during the pandemic to users.
The South African Government shared their Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert level 3 during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown in July 2021. The regulations pertained to several aspects of South African society, including but not limited to the movement of people, rental housing, funerals and operation of the economic sector. Highlighting the far-reaching effects of the pandemic on South African society.
The pandemic with these new regulations (part of the Adjusted Level 3 lockdown) brought practical and informational challenges. Therefore, the team wanted to simplify and present this information on the site. This seemed like a simple solution as the site was easily adaptable via Webflow. Thus, responsive changes can be made without the need for a front end developer.
Solution: Providing accurate and useful information to tenants and landlords about evictions in an understandable way.
Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) sent us their summarised version of the regulations; the team opted to simplify further the regulations pertaining to evictions into a simple list while hyperlinking to the source. NU is an activist organisation and law centre (and partner of evictions.org.za) that advocates for access to well-located land and affordable housing for the poor and working class.
They also wanted users to find this information quickly while on the site. So a pink button was added that directed the user directly to this page (see image below).
Results: Engagement and increased site traffic considerably
Evictions.org.za saw traffic to the site increase and good engagement with the COVID-19 regulations page.
Some of these results included:
- Evictions.org.za saw 4 500+ users and 700 returning users per month.
- The COVID-19 regulation page was our second most viewed page. 17% of all users and 14% of returning users to the site went to the COVID-19 Eviction regulation page.
- Engagement with the content was also high. For example, 3 200+ users spent 4 minutes on the page. Returning users spent an average of 4 minutes and 51 seconds on the site.
- A blog entitled ‘Evictions can be granted during level 3, but tenants will not be forced to leave their homes until level 2 lockdown’ written by Shaun Russell received 4000 views.
Benefits: Anticipating user needs and responding
The high volumes of users coming to the COVID-19 regulation page clearly shows the value of being proactive in our response to changes happening in the eviction space in South Africa. The lessons we learn as a project team serve as a lesson on sustaining the project and continuing to create meaningful tools for citizens.