Saving lives at sea for over 150 years, the Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat provides emergency assistance and community engagement to the Shoreham-by-Sea area in Sussex.
The Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat wanted a fresh, modern public website to match their state-of-the-art station and rescue vessel. Their existing site was outmoded and did not adequately support their public engagement goals.
The new site was to serve as a platform to promote engagement with the community. As well as publicising the work of the lifeboat, including advertising launch dates and visitor facilities, the site would allow the public to explore the station’s history and philosophy.
Identifying their needs
The Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat needed a simple, informative website to promote fundraising, events, and visiting opportunities, and to serve as a hub for the lifeboat’s social media channels. Because the site would be largely operated by non-technical personnel, it would have to be stable, simple to use, and easy to edit.
Due to the demands of the various stakeholders within the lifeboat community, the site also needed to conform to the high standards set by the RNLI, and to form a recognisable part of the national lifeboat network. In addition to this, it needed to be integrated into various stakeholder channels, including the Lifeboat Society.
So that the lifeboat’s press-officer and other staff could use the site to communicate directly with visitors, they needed a straightforward, easy-to-use content management system which would allow them to manage events, post articles, and keep the site fully up to date.
Meeting their needs
In order to ensure the simplicity and versatility required by the Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat, we implemented a flexible, responsive platform based on a WordPress content management system.
As the site’s priority purpose was to publicise the lifeboat station’s community events and rescue activities, we designed the site around strong calls to action driving visitors to pages advertising public boat launches and happenings at the station. With the Shoreham Harbour Station was celebrating its 150th anniversary, the launch of the site coincided with the launch of a book commemorating its history, and we were able to integrate promotion for the book into the site’s design.
We chose a look for the site that reflected the modern aesthetic of the station itself, providing a platform for the wealth of high-quality media and photography produced by the lifeboatmen, which could now be published on the site.
Because of the emphasis on public outreach, we made sure that the site was able to communicate with visitors in a variety of simple, effective ways, from the ability to promote social media through integrated themes to the flexible calendar system that allowed them to categorise and promote events.
We also ensured that the lifeboat team were able to easily record and publish lifeboat services, categorising them by boat type. This means that as soon as a service is complete, the press officer can report it through the site using a set of simple, intuitive controls.
How it helped
The new Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat website engages users much more than the previous site, with a with very low bounce rate of 40%, and with users browsing more than 3 pages per session. There are several reasons for this increased engagement, with both the new site design and the improved Search Engine Optimisation and social media integration driving more visitors to the main site.
This has resulted in more inbound opportunities to engage schools and other groups, as well as allowing members of the public to have their general queries answered.
Our choice of a flexible WordPress-based site means that the site can incorporate new elements, and has already allowed the Lifeboat Station to start selling merchandise through an online checkout plugin, which was able to be installed without disruption to the rest of the site.
Thanks to a stable website and solid, dependable ongoing support, the site now sells an average of a book a day, and visitors continue to engage with the station. Thanks to the enhanced calendar system, lifeboat crew can even react to the public, updating the date and time of exercise launches in response to public demand, allowing more families to watch the boat go down the slip.