Case study

Open University - Natsal-3 Sex and Stats Survey

An engaging site encouraging exploration and understanding of this important survey about Sex in Britain and Wales

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Open University - Natsal-3 Sex and Stats Survey

An award-nominated solution for the Open University - providing engaging learning and exploration of the Natsal-3 survey

We fought off stiff competition to win the project not only on based on our visual design and UX suggestions but especially on the strength of our technical and analytical capabilities, since the project required the ability to apply real-time weightings and other statistical functions to the Natsal-3 survey data in a variety of highly interactive reporting options


To create a website that will present our Natsal-3 survey to all visitors and pull information from our dataset of more than 15k entries derived from Natsal-3 data, performing calculations such as presenting averages as part of a dialogue, creating a story. Of note, the dataset will be completely de-identified and anonymised. We wish to encourage understanding and exploration of the results of this important national survey. The solution will be delivered in both English and Welsh languages


To work through a detailed discovery and prototyping stage using our design and technical expertise to not only work towards and idealised CMS-based solution, allowing the OU to update the platform as and when required but also to determine a performant and interactive approach to explore the Natsal-3 data for users varying from pupils, lay-people, teachers and other professional academics

Delivered on time, to budget and exemplary feedback

The solution soft-launched to the planned day (over a four month project period) to an audience of teachers and academics and has been met with significant praise and acclamation, receiving nominations for educational excellence. The full launch will be in September 2022 when other related initiatives are ready

Great collaboration

Working with senior academics

It was a great privilege to win this project and work with various professors and other senior academics at multiple universities in the preparation and building of this solution for the OU. Disciplines covered ensured that a number of critical success factors were met:

  • Correctness of presentation and language, i.e. ensuring the experience suited a wide audience, especially pupils - this is where we proposed the Jelly Baby idea that was used in our learning outcome videos:
  • Ease of use and consistency with other OpenLearn resources
  • Presentation of key technical concepts and subject matter, including learning key statistical methods
  • Allowing users to take on board the key messages while allowing those with more interest to dive into the detail
  • Operating across all devices seamlessly

English and Welsh variants

Supported by our AI CMS on AWS

All content was populated by the OU themselves across both the English and Welsh localisations.

The AI CMS is so easy to use that we only executed an hour of training to staff in England and no training whatsoever for Welsh staff who just picked it up! This is precisely how intuitive our system is to use.

S-Digital also supplied all system deployment and hosting management via AWS, which has kept costs to a minimum and provided a scalable resource when system load increases during launches and other events.

Maintaining project clarity and control

Discovery phase and project management imperatives

Working with academics is highly creative and rewarding but in their busy, non-commercial environments adhering to deadlines can be challenging. As a result, our project management and project reporting expertise became an essential factor to meeting timelines and budgets. However, probably the most important aspect of the project management process was the initial Discovery Stage. We spent 10 weeks collaborating on designs, functional specifications, information architecture and prototypes - over 50 pages of documents, specifications and actions accompanied by a Gantt chart containing all agreed milestones for both parties was signed off after the Discovery.

This allowed us to clearly communicate progress against plan throughout the project and use progress status reports to highlight actions that could jeopardise timeframes and costs. 


Other work for non-profit organisations


We've had some fantastic feedback from all manner of pofessionals in academia and elsewhere. Here's a couple of articles issued by the OU announcing the solution:

"Sex and the Natsal surveys – how do you compare?"

"Sex stats for the British population"

I’ve done another check of the stats (%s + medians and IQRs) that the Natsal-3 Reporting Tool displays and I’m pleased to say that the stats I get matches completely, which is impressive and great news!


Professor Cath H. Mercer Ph.D. Co-PI of Britain’s National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), Co-Director for Centre for Population Research in Sexual Health and HIV
Institute for Global Health - University College London