The Royal College of Anaesthetists is the professional body responsible for the largest single hospital specialty in the NHS. It ensures the quality of patient care through the maintenance of standards in anaesthesia, critical care and pain medicine. A large, complex organisation with a diverse set of stakeholders, the RCoA needed help mapping the requirements for a new website to meet the many and varied needs of a wide range of users.

Anaesthesia is a complicated and ever-evolving field encompassing a wide range of professionals taking a multitude of paths through qualification, practice and ongoing professional development. As a result, the RCoA needs to maintain multiple brands providing services from examination booking to event registration to online learning portals, keep up with emerging trends including a more holistic approach to patient wellbeing, and work to raise the profile of the profession as a whole to attract new members and safeguard standards.

To do this more effectively, the organisation is embarking on a wider transformation project. They engaged Manifesto to help them understand their internal and external audience needs and map the requirements for a new digital platform that made user journeys simpler and more lightweight, including technology selection for a new content management system and single-sign-on for users across the entire range of services.

What we did

We kicked off the process with a workshop which brought together the key stakeholders to set a vision for the project, assess the challenges and risks and set a plan for the research and discovery phase of the project.

Research and discovery

The complexity of the organisation and its relationships, its internal dynamics, and the diverse breadth of work it covers demanded a carefully-planned and executed research phase. An initial period of desk-based research looked at the wider sector, existing web analytics and current content. We then embarked upon a series of eight workshops with both members of the public, and internal stakeholders, covering teams ranging from events to research to clinical quality, and lots of interviews with external stakeholders and audience members, spanning both trainees and qualified consultants.

A wealth of findings – areas for improvement, frustrations from current stakeholders and users, and aspirations around the new website – will ultimately inform the build phase of the website project. Bringing all this information together to inform the content, UX and design approach in a collaborative way to ensure a solution which met the needs of all stakeholders was critical to the success of the project.

User personas

Based on the stakeholder workshops and interviews we generated eight distinct user personas representing different types of audience member, from RCoA web admin to anaesthetists in training to organisational leader to member of the public. The personas characterise the needs and motivations of each user type, as well as their level of knowledge and likely browsing behaviours.

These easy-to-read personas not only provide a handy reference when designing user journeys and planning content for the new website, but can also be used as the basis for segmenting the audience and providing personalised content in conjunction with a single-sign-on system.

Digital and UX principles

We came up with five principles to guide the design of the college’s new digital platform:

Rationalise, digitise and atomise content

For various key audience groups the purpose of visiting the site is to find a very specific piece of content, sometimes only a few lines buried within a large PDF document. Breaking large and unwieldy PDFs down into their component parts and making each of these discoverable where they are needed allows for much greater flexibility around content creation.

Keep it light and make it simple

At least one key user group often accesses the site on mobile devices, from places with poor connections when they are busy performing other complex offline tasks. The site should therefore be optimised for all devices, be intuitive to use and built with low bandwidth in mind.

Encourage exploration and remove dead ends

While the site needs to ensure that straightforward tasks can be completed without distraction it must also nudge users towards other content that we know will be of interest to them. This may be content directly related to the task at hand, content related to the users previous site use or content specifically related to the user and their context.

Don’t make the user guess

Even the most engaged of anaesthetists will have little idea of how the college is structured, so content or secure areas that mirror this structure will most likely lead to confusion. The site should have the user at its heart and a structure that reflects this. Where areas of complexity are unavoidable, then the user should be guided and supported.

Be transparent

Giving users control over how information is collected and presented to them, and why they are seeing certain bits of information, is essential to avoid anything resembling ‘creepiness’. We should aim to be as transparent as possible with everything we collect on the site, whether implicitly or explicitly, and we should allow the user complete control over what is collected and how it is used.

Content report and recommendations

A good user experience is impossible without good content. As well as a snapshot of their current content landscape, we also provided the RCoA with in-depth tools for conducting content audits and determining the resource required to undertake the resultant work. We made recommendations for structuring, managing and governing content: a multi-site information architecture covering the four main subdomains of the RCoA site and the journeys between them, with suggested content workflows for both the launch of the new site and ongoing maintenance.

Technology selection criteria

We provided a high-level map of a new systems architecture that would allow the RCoA to develop a single view of the user and provide the ability to deliver tailored content based on each user’s behaviour and the context of their journey. This was accompanied by a technical selection process that scored a number of systems against the key criteria we’d identified, determining the viable options for a CMS and SSO combination that would together help the college achieve its strategic objectives.

How it went

At the end of an incredibly collaborative process, bringing in a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders, the requirements gathering process for the RCoA’s new digital platform left the college with a high-level backlog of features for the second (build) phase of the project, as well as design mockups and a new Information Architecture.


“Manifesto were chosen for this work as they struck us as very knowledgeable and skilled but pleasantly free of any digital buzzword baggage. They connected really well with our people at all levels, including our clinical members and senior committee stakeholders.  They managed to provide both solid UX/CX insight and detailed technical direction around CMS and SSO choices.  Their outputs were really thorough and the project management was strong too.  An excellent overall job – highly recommended.” – Aaron Woods, Technology Strategy Programme Director at the Collage of Anaesthetists


How this helps us on your project

We’re experienced at helping large, complex organisations connect the dots between technology, content, UX and design. Our expertise in managing the various priorities of diverse internal and external stakeholder groups helps align an organisation around strategic objectives to design solutions that not only meet the needs of users today, but that are flexible enough to respond as their priorities change.

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