Nurturing new digital experiences at Kew

Experience: Digital design and build

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world heritage site, leading visitor attraction and centre for plant science. The organisation has ambitions to improve its digital experience for a range of users; from visitors to the gardens, or those looking at the many special events which take place throughout the year, to users who are interested in the global research conducted by Kew’s 300+ scientists.

Amidst climate change and biodiversity loss, Kew are harnessing the power of science and the rich diversity of their gardens and collections to fight for a world where plants and fungi are understood, protected and valued as holding the key to solving some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

 

The kew.org website plays a critical role in improving the wider understanding of Kew’s mission and values, increasing interest and engagement with Kew’s vital work in plant and fungal science and conservation. The website is also integral in showcasing everything that Kew has to offer as well as delivering on key commercial goals such as ticket sales and donations. Kew engaged Manifesto as digital development partner in 2018, with the aim of collaborating closely on an improved website with enhanced digital experiences for Kew’s many, diverse audiences.

 

What we did

Working as an extension of Kew’s Digital Experience team, the creatives, technologists and strategists from Manifesto first immersed themselves in the organisation’s audiences, goals and ways of working. This helped the combined team build a shared understanding of the project vision and agree on the steps necessary for delivering successfully.

 

Enhancing the user experience

Kew conducted a review of their existing site structure and developed and tested a draft information architecture for a new kew.org, balancing business requirements and an understanding of what their varied users needed. Manifesto reviewed this, as well as content, and analytics data before making a series of further recommendations for both the information architecture and key user journeys. These improvements centred around getting audiences to the content they needed more quickly and reducing pain points around common tasks such as booking tickets, finding opening times and getting directions. The designers at Kew were able to use this to develop designs and templates to significantly improve the user experience of the site.

 

Building the new website on Drupal 8

Working closely with Kew’s designers and product managers, the experienced technologists at Manifesto made a number of recommendations and completed risk assessments before rebuilding the kew.org website on the Drupal 8 platform.

The team’s approach eschewed frameworks in favour of a pattern library approach. This yielded modular design elements that could be reused across the site, providing editors with an easy way to build and publish pages to accommodate a wide variety of content and showcase stunning photography featuring the organisation’s collections, attractions, visitors, scientists and horticulturists.

The combined team brought the site to launch in six sprints. Manifesto has taken over ongoing support and maintenance of the site to ensure stability, security and scalability, and continues to work with the team at Kew on continuous improvement tasks.

 

How it went

The new kew.org website launched in March 2019, marking the end of the first phase of Kew and Manifesto’s ongoing digital development partnership. Already, the new site has seen increased user engagement, with average bounce rates down by 19.9%.

 

“Thank you all so much for the hard work that went into the build, and all the support you’ve given us along the way. I’m so pleased we chose Manifesto as our new agency partner, it’s been a really positive experience so far and I’m looking forward to the relationship continuing over the coming year. All of the team have mentioned how much they are enjoying working with you.” – Chloe Shipman, Head of Digital Experience, Kew

 

“It is a pleasure working with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Digital Experience team. Our collaboration throughout the entire project not only delivered an end product that we are all very proud of, but made it an enjoyable project too. We are thrilled to have worked on such a wonderful opportunity for RBG Kew and we look forward to working on more exciting projects together in the future.” – Natalie Volichenko, Project Manager, Manifesto

 

Manifesto and Kew will continue working together as a single team to improve the digital experience for the organisation’s diverse audiences, helping to improve understanding of plants and fungi, and their role in confronting some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

A key element will be working together on prioritising improvements to Kew’s digital experience to further develop their organisation-wide digital roadmap, uniting the team around agreed activities while continuing to provide visibility to the rest of the organisation and feed into a backlog of development tasks.

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