With a new Sitecore-powered website, the Royal Institute of British Architects can better support its users – keeping the organisation at the very heart of the industry it serves.

To ensure that they continue to fulfil their mission of “driving excellence in architecture”, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) must keep up with growing demand from their community of over 40,000 members to do more digitally.

three iPads screen views for Riba

The institution therefore embarked on an organisation-wide programme of digital transformation, with an overhaul of their existing online platform a central pillar of this.

In transitioning their website architecture.com to the Sitecore Experience Platform, we have delivered vast improvements to the user experience, significant back-end process efficiencies, and a new online joining journey – giving them an exceptionally strong foundation from which to manage their future digital transformation initiatives and secure long-term, strategic success.

"Technically they’re brilliant, we’re very pleased with the new beta of our website... We wanted a company that was able to create a highly usable website for our members, and they’ve absolutely delivered on that front."

Paul Drinkwater
Head of Digital, RIBA

Doing more digitally

Like many membership institutions, RIBA has been grappling with the challenge of how best to embrace digital technologies, in order to move away from the more cumbersome paper-based processes traditionally employed and ultimately improve the member experience. It was crucial, therefore, that the demands and concerns of RIBA members be addressed as part of their digital transformation programme, particularly with regards the membership institution’s new online platform – a primary touchpoint for members seeking specialist information, resources and services.

Consequently, RIBA conducted in-depth user research with members at the outset of their transformation, to help define the key strategic drivers behind the website. These included:

  • Delivering an optimal user experience, regardless of the device being used
  • Widening the appeal of the site to all who visit including members, students and clients of architecture
  • Improving the process of creating and managing content through the implementation of a more powerful and flexible enterprise content management system

Another key challenge that the project had to address was bringing the member joining journey online. As member joining had previously been handled offline – involving multiple documents and subsequently long turnaround times – this meant thinking about how the processes at the very heart of the institution could be streamlined.

Getting started – discovery

The initial research proved extremely useful to our software consultants during the early ‘discovery’ phases of the project. In reviewing the documentation provided by RIBA alongside conducting stakeholder interviews and exploring the site’s existing information architecture, we were able to validate the key themes and priorities previously identified, producing:

  • A user story map communicating project requirements in a clear, concise way that could be understood by all stakeholders
  • Wireframes detailing how the site might look and feel, to kick-start the design process
  • An appropriate plan of action to ensure the above could be implemented in a way that enables RIBA to achieve its strategic goals

At this stage we also began to work closely with senior staff/stakeholders and RIBA’s internal Transformation Steering Group, a relationship that we then continued to build on throughout the project. By regularly reporting our progress we could share good practice across the team, and ensure that the work we were doing aligned with activity going on elsewhere. For example, it was crucially important that the website integrate with RIBA’s membership database, to provide a holistic picture of individual members – this was achieved through bespoke development work to integrate a custom API built by RIBA, ensuring that information could be shared between systems and updated in real-time, to safeguard accuracy.

Better serving members

With the direction of the project confirmed, we then set about identifying the technology that would underpin the new RIBA website, finding our ideal solution in the Sitecore Experience Platform, which combines powerful content management capabilities, exceptional customer intelligence, and multi-channel delivery. By building a responsive framework on top of the platform, we were able to provide members with access to important information and services whenever and wherever they need them. Our User Experience (UX) consultants further enhanced the site’s usability and content findability by ensuring that key areas and journeys across the site were as streamlined and intuitive as possible.

This included, of course, defining a new joining journey – in collaboration with the RIBA membership team – to consolidate a previously disparate and highly manual process that had seen the team receiving up to 20 emails a day with queries about membership, and processing over 9,000 applications a year. Another point of particular focus was RIBA’s legacy members’ area, which was completely overhauled to bring as many member services online as possible. Additionally, elements of this space were opened up to additional audiences, to help engage and convert prospective members and clients.

Architecture.com provides an online platform through which it will be able to engage its members and other audiences via digital services. As RIBA progresses with its digital transformation it will be increasing self-service capabilities for prospective and current members and clients alike – dramatically reducing administrative overhead for their internal teams, and allowing them to concentrate instead on improving the member experience.

Process efficiencies

To further reduce administrative burden for the RIBA team, we also recommended that the membership institution move away from its legacy content editing platform to the much more user-friendly, centralised and collaborative system, GatherContent. Integrated with their Sitecore implementation, this system allows RIBA to maintain control over the quality of their content, while delivering cost-savings through reduced training overheads – and as the membership institution is now better able to release timely thought leadership pieces it has also helped cement RIBA’s reputation within their industry and support their mission to uphold the highest standards within architecture.

A powerful new platform

RIBA now has a far more usable website that:

  • Is focused on the needs of their disparate user groups
  • Supports faster, more efficient processes
  • Introduces valuable new functionality to help the membership institution grow and thrive

Released in beta initially, architecture.com will continue to be iterated over time based on user feedback and RIBA’s strategic roadmap. This phase will also serve as a transitional handover period between Box UK and RIBA, during which time we will continue to provide support to the membership institution to help them eventually become self-sufficient in the running of their digital platform.

Thanks to Box UK and Sitecore, RIBA now has a strong, stable platform at the heart of its digital transformation strategy – and if you’re looking for the same, we’re just the people you should be talking to.

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