Professional membership organisation Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) asked IE Digital to redevelop their website – streamlining content and placing a renewed emphasis on the user experience in phase 1. In phase 2 we transformed the member experience with a highly functional self-serve portal for members.
ABDO is the leading professional body for Dispensing Opticians, which campaigns to advance the profession and raise its profile.
For the digital transformation, IE Digital integrated the website with ABDO’s existing CRM system, Integra NG by Advanced, to simplify and automate a number of processes from membership applications and renewals to examinations and CPD.
When IE Digital began working with ABDO, we redeveloped the public-facing website to streamline the content with a new, user-centric information architecture.
The new site significantly improved the user experience for key audiences. It is much more accessible for users with visual impairments and is fully responsive on all devices. It also sells the benefits of ABDO membership far better than before, driving conversion for new members.
The much bigger phase 2 project involved a complete digital transformation for the members-only portal. This required an extensive integration with Advanced’s charity management software and membership database, Integra NG. We began with a thorough discovery phase to plan out what was to become seven Agile sprints.
ABDO’s main goal was to move an array of back-office processes and financial transactions online, allowing a self-service approach for members. We split phase 2 into several areas of digital transformation:
- Membership sales and renewal functionality – including applications, online renewals, digital membership certificates, and paperless direct debits.
- Examinations functionality – including online eligibility checks, application forms, live exam result updates, and dynamically generated qualification letters.
- Continuous professional development (CPD) functionality – including allocation of points, certificates, feedback surveys, and questionnaires.
- Online magazine with paid advertising – a new revenue stream for ABDO, enabling the promotion of job vacancies and external products/services. Dispensing Optics (DO) Online is available to the public, but members can log in for access to exclusive news and features.
- Shop for physical and digital products, built in WooCommerce.
- Self-serve members portal – including personal details management and communication preferences for e-newsletters.
Automating the admin around many core processes would mean huge efficiency gains for the ABDO team. Meanwhile, their members would benefit from a more personalised, seamless user experience.
The team at IE Digital has worked hard to take on board our requirements and come up with creative and innovative ways to deliver a great website for our members. We are delighted with the attractive and functional website, and the member portal has been genuinely transformational for ABDO and its members.
IE Digital’s consultants went through every line of ABDO’s brief in detail, to validate the scope of work and create an overarching six-month plan for the various Agile sprints.
This was a collaborative process involving IE’s consultants and developers working alongside the ABDO team and their NG CRM expert. We created detailed user flows to map out each of the key processes in detail. IE identified seven Agile sprints and fleshed out the details of each, providing a starting point for a backlog of tasks.
ABDO’s core team already had extensive expertise with the WordPress content management system, so it was decided early on use WordPress for the new site and systems. This was to be IE’s most complex WordPress development to date.
For the Delivery step of this case study, we’ll take a detailed look at the digital transformation work involved in just one of these sprints: sprint 4 – Membership functionality.
ABDO membership is mandatory for students working towards Fellow of British Dispensing Opticians status, but optional once fully qualified. To encourage member recruitment and retention, we ensured the new public website articulates the undeniable benefits of membership much more clearly.
When IE landed, the annual renewal process was extremely resource-intensive for ABDO. It created a huge amount of admin between December and January, and again at the start of the academic year. The process took weeks, giving a poor experience for members.
IE Digital streamlined these processes and introduced online self-service and automation.
Process mapping and wireframing
We mapped out the membership process in detail, looking at the user journeys for applicants, members and ABDO staff. As well as enabling online applications and renewals, we needed to process online payments, manage paperless direct debits, and allow members to apply for their Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) online.
We worked closely with Advanced and ABDO’s contracted NG expert to translate the technical details into simple user flows. We pinpointed every front- and back-end requirement, and every web-to-CRM interaction. We then identified the many API interfaces that we’d need between the website and NG.
From here, our UX designers created low fidelity mock-ups – wireframes – for the key areas of the website.
Agile, iterative approach
Although the discovery phase was very thorough, we knew we wouldn’t get the full picture until we started to develop each aspect of the functionality. By working in an Agile way, we had the flexibility to adapt as we uncovered more layers of complexity.
Member application, on-boarding and renewals
For non-members, their journey begins on the public site. The secure online form leads the applicant through the process and takes their initial payment. Once approved, a member account is created and they receive a welcome email.
Each new member can now be processed in under 2 minutes, reduced from 15 minutes often spread over at least a week. A massive 87% time-saving.
For new members the onboarding process includes:
- Creating a login for the members-only website.
- Viewing their membership certificate – automatically generated as a PDF.
- Updating their personal details and workplace information.
- Joining the Locum Register.
- Setting up paperless Direct Debits for renewal payments – through integration with Bottomline PTX.
- Applying for free Professional Indemnity Insurance.
Users receive a triggered email reminder at renewal time. This links to a pre-populated form so they can check and update their details. Built-in logic manages any permitted discounts and payments are processed securely.
Impact on membership applications and renewals process
This digital transformation has already produced some exceptional results. The more streamlined process has lowered the barriers to membership renewals.
- A 4-fold increase in members renewing early.
- 42% decrease in membership renewals requiring back-office administration.
- 68% of new Direct Debits used the new paperless system in the first year.
- The membership team can now keep up with demand – even at the busiest times – with HALF of the previous resource.
Member engagement has also improved, with higher uptake of the benefits of membership.
The transformation was recognised by the Association for Association Executives, being named a finalist in the the Association Awards UK 2021. The membership portal was shortlisted for Best Digital Transformation.
A transformed experience for members
These new systems have revolutionised several complex, manual processes into seamless user journeys with minimal manual intervention. As well as managing their membership and personal details, members can now access a range of other benefits. Everything from the CPD programme and Business Support Hub, to exclusive articles in ABDO’s online magazine. This provides a much richer experience for members and keeps them regularly coming back to the site.
Like most websites, the ABDO site continues to evolve. Since the roll-out of phase 2 there have been a number of smaller enhancements to improve functionality or the overall experience. ABDO make regular use of our support helpdesk to deal with any questions or small changes.
Of course, with so many of ABDO’s processes managed online, a robust support and maintenance programme is essential. The membership renewal cycle in December/January and the peak application period for students in the summer are both mission critical for ABDO, so their systems have to be extremely resilient.
ABDO’s transformed website and membership portal are hosted securely on AWS and benefit from IE Digital’s Premium support service. We offer ABDO a bespoke website monitoring package to always ensure continuity of service, and especially during these peaks.
Meanwhile, IE Digital’s support team keeps on top of all the essential security updates within WordPress and other key systems to make sure nothing is left vulnerable. Every update is carefully tested and managed before roll-out to ensure none of the many APIs and processes get ‘broken’.
We continue to work with the membership organisation to improve the website and support their ambitions.