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Historic Houses

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Overview

Historic Houses represents the largest collection of independently owned historic houses and gardens.  They were formed in 1973 and now represent over 1,600 important historic houses, castles and gardens, many of them open to the public.  Typically, Historic Houses properties remain lived-in homes, and all of them have fascinating and distinctive stories to tell.

They range from famous places like Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth House, Longleat and Castle Howard to smaller places such as Stonor in Oxfordshire, Kelburn Castle in Ayrshire, and Seaforde Gardens in County Down.  And we mustn’t forget Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed.  Historic Houses ensure these historic homes stay alive and accessible for generations to come.

With no change to the brands’ visual identity for 30 years, they embarked on a new brand, produced by Johnson Banks, website, and marketing campaign to raise awareness and position itself as the UK’s ‘best cultural secret’.

Challenge

With Historic Houses being a much larger organisation than many people realise, with more properties open to the public than the National Trust or English Heritage, they needed to be put on the map.  They also have two very different audiences; the house-owners, who have joined the association for support and help with their property, and the 50,000 public members, who enjoy free access to over 300 properties.  

“When we embarked on the project we knew it was key that the project was delivered on time as the new tourism season was starting in the Spring which gave us 6 months to deliver the project from conception to go live.” Neil Rosewarn, Pixl8

Historic Houses needed to increase the number of sign-ups from the general public, focus on the benefits for public users, and raise awareness of the hundreds of houses that could be visited across the UK.  At the same time Historic Houses needed to retain the membership benefits for house-owners and introduce a much more contemporary website and branding was key.  

Another challenge was to integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM at the time of the website build. With system integration being one of our specialties we were confident that we would achieve the outcome needed.

User Experience & User Testing

Through research, Pixl8 established users’ feedback on the current site.  It was important that the site requirements were understood from a user’s perspective.  A simple survey poll asking ‘did you find everything you need?’ on the site collected qualitative feedback and gave real user data which meant informed design decisions could be made as the wireframes were completed. This was a great exercise as we learned that users were highly engaged and passionate about Historic Houses.

Testing the site with real users from the UK and internationally was key to the project.  Pixl8 ensured that all feedback and comments on the users’ experiences of the early designs were taken on board.  With the users help we were able to refine information architecture as they clicked around an interactive site map.

New  Features

  • Interactive map - users can now search for a house, castle or garden by clicking on a certain area, giving details of each
  • Geolocation to show personalised content - finding the nearest house, castle or garden.
  • Separate house pages - each house now has a mini website showing;
    • Facilities
    • Weddings
    • Accessibility
    • Opening Times
    • Corporate Hire
  • Self Service - house owners are now able to update details about their house, edit images and copy to encourage people to visit
  • Event listing - a list of events occurring at Historic Houses is now shown
  • Join online - users can now join online and send someone a membership as a gift
  • Complex CRM Integration with a Smart Impact Microsoft Dynamics solution
    • Two membership models - Individual public members and organisational house owners
    • Online property search feeding directly from CRM data
    • Subscription and renewal management
      • Including gift membership and complex pricing
    • Personalisation when logging in as a public user or house owner to find relevant information
    • Event management
    • Supplier directory feeding directly from CRM data
  • Email newsletter management utilising CRM mailing lists and website content

Outcome

Thanks to the new website, over 1,600 historic houses and gardens now have a feature-rich presence where users can step inside and explore house history, special things to see, opening times and facilities, specialist events and even use the website to plan a wedding or private function.  

The new branding by Johnson Banks, responsive website and marketing campaign to raise awareness has increased membership levels and positioned Historic Houses as the UK’s best-kept cultural secret.

“Pixl8 have really enjoyed working Historic Houses, the new brand and driving their growth plans with a website that showcases them to the world and that caters for the visiting public, association members, and house owner members who can access advice and guidance through a dedicated knowledge hub” Neil Rosewarn, Pixl8

 

Take a look at the new Historic Houses website design at www.historichouses.org and see for yourself.

Whether you have established requirements or need assistance in creating a business case for digital, we’re happy to help. Contact us for more information