The Challenge

The first Women’s Institute (WI) meeting in the UK was held in Anglesey in 1915 to revitalise rural communities, and to encourage and educate women to become more involved in producing food. Since its humble beginning, the organisation has grown to become the largest women’s voluntary membership organisation in the UK, and comprises of 69 federations that oversees 6600 WIs with a total membership of approximately 212,000 women – and counting. Across England, Wales and the Islands, the WI provides a place for women to learn and develop skills; take part in huge range of different activities; make new friends; and campaign for issues that affect them and their communities.

Apart from being women, all WI members have a more obvious trait in common; they feel passionately about the organisation and the work they do. WI members take a very active role, both in their communities and in their WIs. The WI relies on volunteers to take leadership roles at every level of the organisation – as such, members are very invested in the running of the WI and how external audiences perceive it. As online engagement grew and developed within the organisation, the NFWI wanted a website where all WIs could update and share their own information, meetings and events, which would form part of the wider organisational site. With 6,600 WIs all potentially feeding in and interacting with the website, this was a large project from the start.

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The Solution

People visited the WI’s previous website to find out information about the organisation: to work out where their local WI is, look up what events are happening and to get access to news updates, articles, and recipes. For the new site, the cherry on the cake was the functionality for the current members. Whether new or longstanding, members needed a place to share their basic meeting information for prospective members and visitors, somewhere to promote and gain support for local projects and campaigns and an area to share ideas with fellow members.

The NFWI’s old site was sufficient in the home but challenging on the go. Being unresponsive meant there was no “wowing” potential members whilst out at events, which was something that more and more members were asking for as they use tablets and other online technology as standard. There was a clear need for a slicker, more dynamic set of content services that would help to recruit new members, particularly on the move.

The goal was easy to determine: create a responsive website that made best use of the content available, engaged with users, and enabled easy on–the-go recruitment.

Squiz delivered a new UX that gave the WI a nimble, responsive companion at all times of the day, on any device and in any environment.

To get the look, feel and functionality to a point that both established and newer members could love required extensive wire framing workshops. Fixed-width margins were removed and Squiz worked in conjunction with WI members to ensure the aesthetics of the project matched the great work they do. The Squiz QA team handled the particulars to test everything operated flawlessly out in the field.

The sheer number of institutes means the amount of potential editors that could have input to the website is high. To allow everyone to use the technology, the WI trained 65 of their federations on how to make the most of their software. Video content, step-by-step documents and general support are all available centrally. It is this free and easy access to support that empowers users to learn another skill, on top of what the WI offer already.

Squiz worked with forethought in development. Implementation methods were made far simpler in order to increase the ease of future projects and changes, particularly useful as the WI celebrated their 100th birthday in 2015.

The Result

100 years old never looked so good!

The new website runs seamlessly across all devices and lets the members get back to what they do best. Feedback was positive; users could access key information easily and relay it to any prospective members and this has led to increased engagement levels and the promotion of a more modern brand for the WI.

We’ll let the statistics speak for themselves. In the first month the WI reported a 22% rise in traffic, a 23% rise in new users and a 20% rise in tablet/mobile users.

“No project is entirely plain sailing but working with Squiz made it far easier than I thought it ever could be. Certain areas required detailed customisation which turned out brilliantly.” Charlotte Fiander - Head of Communications

We look forward to another project with the WI! Until then, it’s happy 100th birthday!

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