The Challenge

Having been established in Edinburgh in 1854, ICAS  (The Institute for Chartered Accountants of Scotland) can boast the title of world’s oldest accountancy organisation.

They’ve come a long way since their beginnings of serving an all-male, all-Scottish customer base, now engaging with a diverse and inclusive membership of 20,000 business professionals that work in over 100 countries worldwide. Their global reach too, is represented in the diversity of memberships, 50% of which reside outside of Scotland.

ICAS provide professional qualifications to their members and train the next generation of business leaders using a range of resources and channels including traditional teaching methods and digital content.

Like the majority of businesses globally, ICAS have seen their customers change. The rise of the ‘Millennial’ and the evolution of technology mean that customers’ demands have changed and they expect different types of resources.

This example is displayed fittingly by the closing of the ICAS library. Historically ICAS would serve their customers through print-based collateral, invitations to live events and by stocking a library full of literature that members could purchase or borrow from. In 2012 however, out of their 20,000 members, only 40 borrowed a book. Members wanted access to digital resources, on-demand, from wherever they are in the world.

ICAS were also quick to realise that they were not just competing with other accountancy firms on digital experiences. The younger demographic of customers are comparing their experiences on with all other engagement across the web and are quick to avoid poor design and usability.

Businesses must change to serve shifting user behaviour. Failing to do so results in your organisation falling behind in the customer-centric arms race, something no one can afford to do in today’s buyers market.

For ICAS, becoming truly customer-centric meant closing the gap between what they offer, and what customers expect. Revolutionising meant changing far more than just the website, it was about transforming everything from operational processes to staff training, whilst bringing the whole organisation on the journey.

To go forward in their project, ICAS first took a step back and listened to their users and staff to outline where the old website, though fit for purpose, was left wanting.

Finding the resource you were looking for needed to be a simpler process; articles were hidden behind layers of information architecture. Multiple gateway pages made the user journey longer than necessary.

Internal processes, or the lack of them, exacerbated the issue of finding content. Little workflow governance, no SEO strategy, and a devolved web author model to 40+ staff members resulted in hard-to-find content being uploaded to the site.

The Solution

To transform their business and become customer-centric, ICAS partnered with Squiz for two main reasons:

  1. Squiz Matrix is built around being customer-centric, both in terms of ease of use for our clients and the quality of end products for their users.
  2. Integrating the Squiz suite of products gave ICAS the opportunity to plan a strategy revolving around our powerful search platform Funnelback, and further personalise experiences with marketing automation.

Powered by search

Squiz and ICAS worked together to build a website that centred on search. Doing so would unlock the content already at their disposal and shorten the user journey between query and answer. Microsoft recently cited the average attention span of a user to be 8 seconds, so it’s important to get your customers on to the pages they are looking for as quickly as possible.

To unlock their content, it was first important for the web team to understand what resources they had to use, moreover what they could archive when migrating to the new site.

By using Funnelback Search, ICAS could master their content and gain visibility over the entire system. All their content was audited to assess its findability, and where needed, ICAS could amend metadata fields, correct spelling, and add content authors. All of which are vital in unlocking the power of content by increasing its SEO. Funnelback also references all formats of content and ICAS are now able to integrate rich media and text when returning search results, further increasing engagement.

By taking these steps, users would find what they were looking for, quickly and easily. But simplifying the search process was only one step in creating a cleaner, more engaging user experience.

Information architecture

Removing the majority of information architecture wouldn’t be a step that many organisations are confident to take, but this is exactly what Squiz helped ICAS to do. In fact, so much was removed that the website was left with two main layers i.e. the home and article pages.

This simplification of the website architecture promotes search by efficiently using homepage space. Squiz Matrix and Funnelback Search populate dynamic tiles with personalised content when a user either uses the search bar, or clicks on provided navigation filters. These filters sit prominently on the left hand side of the homepage and take their name from the gateway pages on the old site.

New website, new culture

For a digital strategy to be successful, it’s very important that everyone in the organisation is on board. When everyone pulls in the same direction, it’s easier to reach your goal.

ICAS had thought about this factor and overcome their previous issues of devolved governance and varying author skills by running training days for over 100 ICAS staff.

Everyone was trained in writing for SEO and mobile, no matter their position within the company. This was a win-win situation for ICAS as not only was all content produced at higher quality, but also less resistance to change was encountered. Staff were aware of the reasons why changes were being made, and understood their importance in the newly search focussed website and SEO strategy.

User Testing

With such a revolution in the design and development of the website, testing was an important process. Would the reliance in a users ability to search be well placed?

ICAS worked with user experience experts to run user testing, a lot of user testing. An HTML prototype of the was given to varying demographics of the user base to test key user journeys. All reported a marked increase in ease of use and navigation in the new site and showed that both the search bar, and the new navigation filters worked well in serving users with the resources they looked for.

The Result

The key milestones from initial analysis to creating functional specs and build to launch were all met in timely fashion. Working in an agile way with Squiz got all ICAS stakeholders invested in the project and meant iterative improvements could be made to the design of the site as the project progressed.

Since going live in April 2015 ICAS has reported searches increasing by 300%. The use of tiles and the increased range of content on offer also made the site more engaging, reflected by a 225% increase in page views in 2015 compared to 2014.

Redeveloping with mobile in mind had also proven successful, mobile sessions went up 93% (YOY) and catered to the increasingly younger audience that ICAS serves.

Implementing future changes was made simpler by the search-focused approach. With every author aware of the SEO strategy, new content will be produced as accessible as possible, and so used to best effect. Similarly any future brand changes can be implemented with ease by uploading different imagery and content to the dynamic tiles.

By involving the staff throughout the project, ICAS gained support from all their stakeholders. Web authors find the CMS easy to use and enjoy the lack of dependency on the central editorial team when making content updates. Because staff know the reasons behind the changes they needed to make when producing content, they are interested in seeing the results. Analytics are increasingly called upon to evaluate engagement, intern driving continuous improvement.

Feedback from customers using the new site was positive. The website has changed the impression of ICAS, who are now seen as industry leaders and up-to-date with current issues in the profession.

In terms of next steps, it’s all about driving further personalisation. The new web presence was the building block to transforming the ICAS culture, and they now plan to deliver continuing improvements in an agile and response way.

Squiz are proud to have been on this journey and look forward to what 2016 brings for ICAS and their members.

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