As a non-profit making organisation, CIAT represents Chartered Architectural Technologists and professional Architectural Technicians, and is the only UK based body which assesses and awards qualifications to Architectural Technology professionals.
CIAT has been online since 1998, starting out with a basic, four page website. Back then, the website had no scope for user interaction and given that updating content was difficult for non technical users, pages tended to remain static.
In-house development of the website became a priority but the website was still not achieving its full potential. Recognising that it was the Institute’s main portal into the wider business world and that it had the potential to be a key tool for communicating with members, other Institutes within the industry, students,
staff, press and the general public, CIAT decided that a major overhaul of the website was needed.
It was imperative that the website should provide a true reflection of the Institute’s ethos, objectives and - most importantly - the work and roles of its members. With technology at the very heart of the Institute, the website had to be at the forefront of innovation, with smart, intuitive tools to ensure it could be used and managed by non-technical administrative staff. To achieve this, it was clear that the help of an external provider was needed and work with Pixl8 began.
Working closely with CIAT, the website was redesigned and Pixl8’s content management system, Preside, was implemented. This meant that CIAT staff had control of site content and could update pages with ease, whenever required. Other Pixl8 modules including news, events, email management, surveys and forums were also added, providing a professional, interactive website that could be updated quickly and simply by the CIAT team.
The new website was launched in 2007 and proved to be an enormous success.
Keen to build upon the success of the website, the CIAT team gathered feedback from website users and surveyed a cross section of its members to find out how best to refresh the website and move forward. They then discussed these ideas with Pixl8 and formulated a set of requirements for updating the website. The key aim was to make the site more user-friendly and much more dynamic with increased interactivity and a clean, fresh look and feel.
The updated CIAT website was launched in February 2010 to coincide with the 45th anniversary of CIAT. The website had a fresh design with dynamic header content, improved navigation and wider pages to make the best use of space and to standardise with current computer monitors. In terms of content, new features wereadded for Who’s Who (showcasing members in different regions and CIAT staff), Case Studies (showcasing specific people and projects) and Events. Content for these pages is added by CIAT staff using Preside, and can be related to other pages on the site - for example, events might be related to regional pages.
The Member’s Area of the website was also enhanced with increased interactivity on the forums, the ability to download documents and a new online shop. Previously, merchandise could only be purchased by mail order with payments made by cheque, but now products and subscriptions can be purchased online.
When the new website went live in 2010, it was immensely successful, with benefits for members, CIAT staff and general users. Members were able to interact on the forum, instilling a sense of community and communication improved with the new email newsletter feature.
The ability to survey members online means that the Institute can keep up to date with what members want (including suggestions for how the website can be improved) whilst regional members could log in and update their own pages using the Preside content management system.
With the addition of new content areas in the latest update, staff can now have complete confidence in directing enquiries to the website for news and information, with the added bonus of reduced printing costs and of course, a far more environmentally friendly approach!
The new online shop has brought its own set of benefits for everyone. As a non-profit organisation, the Institute relies on merchandise and subscriptions for income. Previously, all purchases were made via mail order or by telephone; now members can browse and buy online as they would expect to do on a modern website, providing a better service for them and freeing staff to concentrate on other things such as keeping site content up to date.
All feedback has been positive and the number of visitors to the website has increased, helping to enhance the profile of the Institute, its members and their work.
When the Institute first set about finding a solution provider, their main challenge was to find a company who understood the philosophy of a professional, non-profit making organisation and the needs of its different audiences (members, staff, general users, etc).
Adam Endacott (Acting Communications Director at the CIAT) confirmed that whilst budget considerations were important, the main reason for selecting Pixl8 was - and continues to be - its people. The two companies have built a strong working relationship. The CIAT felt able to make suggestions and be confident that these would be interpreted in line with the Institute’s philosophy. The development process was very much an inclusive one, with regular progress updates, previews and user testing on Pixl8 development servers.
With their website proving to be an ongoing success, the CIAT are very aware of the need to keep things fresh and are keen to move forward with new ideas once budgets allow. Two current ideas include the implementation of online membership applications and Pixl8’s Library facility. Adam Endacott feels that Pixl8 have a great insight into the needs of the CIAT and is confident that they will continue to work together to build upon successes to date.