Canal and River Trust launches new website

The Canal & River Trust has completed a full-scale website re-design and re-structure.  The new site is the result of an 18-month design and digital transformation project based on in-depth research amongst the charity’s customers and supporters.

The project was led by the trust’s in-house digital team, working with agencies Sift Digital and Torchbox.

The project included stripping back the website architecture to provide users with a cleaner, simpler navigation, focusing on four key areas of the trust’s activity.  It is also complemented with an SEO programme, to ensure the new content is visible in search results.


Function above form 

Victoria Spires, digital manager at the Trust, comments: “The Canal & River Trust is still a relatively new charity and our digital presence has a really important role to play in raising awareness of what we do.  The site has to encourage people to visit, help build links with new and existing donors and volunteers, and it also has an important transactional role with tens of thousands of customers, who might visit the site to renew a boat licence, find places to fish, or to find out about the latest canal conservation works, amongst other things.

“The research underpinning the new site included in-depth quantitative and qualitative research into both internal and external customer needs, combining surveys, one on one interviews and task-driven exercises.  This means the design reflects customer needs rather than internal assumptions.

“It was vital for the homepage in particular to inspire the emotive connection to our cause so we audited a number of large charity websites and combined this with user evidence to come up with an approach which we feel conveys a sense of who we are, making use of beautiful, vibrant waterway imagery and simple calls to action to inspire and engage.

“As well as streamlining the architecture, we’ve also taken the opportunity to audit of over 1,500 pages of content from the old site using analytics to identify what wasn’t fit for purpose and either re-working or cutting it.”


Split roles

The research conducted by Sift Digital led the trust to develop two parallel work-streams, one focusing on the website re-design itself, and another work-stream looking at digital skills and capabilities within the trust and how these could be enhanced.

Victoria concluded: “The digital transformation project is an ongoing one, but we have already seen success with initiatives such as setting up digital champions in each department, and rolling out digital content principles which all digital content producers can understand and adhere to.

“With over 100 content owners involved in creating and editing website content related to their area of expertise, continuous training, support and guidance is essential to ensuring we maintain high standards of content across the site.”

The trust’s digital team is now focusing on making further enhancements to the new site, which is built on a Bootstrap framework, making it future-proofed for further developments in responsive design. Planned functionality includes further enhancements to interactive maps, and building in elements of user personalisation to create a more tailored experience.

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