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"Oh, he lives in a house, a very big house in the country."

Join me in song as I celebrate one of the most beloved institutions in the UK and the launch of its new website.

Yes, it's the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, or simply National Trust for short.

Here are some cool bits from its new responsive website, developed with Digitas LBI.

Ghost buttons...

Lovely stuff. Ghost buttons are becoming more and more common, one of our design trends of 2015.

This nice bit of CSS helps every call to action look a little more elegant and means they don't have to detract as much from content.

ghost button national trust

...including the best call to action ever written

There's nothing more to say about this, other than it's not a euphemism, and you can click through below if you'd like to go.

national trust ghost button

Colour and contrast

The National Trust is about cultural heritage, but a shorthand for that is beauty.

So, it's very pleasing that the new Trust website has such bold colouring and contrast throughout. It really does improve the experience.

Below is a selection of elements that stood out.

national trust website

national trust website   national trust website

national trust website

national trust website   national trust website

A long-arsed membership landing page

I can't capture the page in full, but go and check it out for yourself. It's a long, persuasive and content-filled page intent on increasing memberships.

Not only is it visually stunning but it caters for a number of different personas, includes seasonal detail, testimonials, FAQs and editorial ('10 reasons a National Trust membership might change your life').

Here are three of my favourite bits...

national trust join us page

national trust join us page

national trust join us page

First person stories

Who can sell your wedding venues better than the happy bride and groom?

This is great marketing, not to mention delicious typography.

The faceless testimonials shown above on the membership page are nicely presented (where the product is worth around £100), but when the service on offer is a few orders of magnitude more expensive, and part of the 'best day of your life', something more persuasive is called for.

national trust testimonial

Superbly inclusive copywriting (and the second best ever call to action)

The National Trust relies on donations, volunteers and a massive amount of good will.

Creating a website that represents the open face of the organisation starts with copywriting.

This screenshot uses decetively simply copy, all very much in an active and friendly voice.

national trust call to action

Chunky search

The search facility is really fun to use, thanks to its prominence just below the fold on the homepage, use of a chunky text field, auto-suggest and beautiful results pages.

No doubt a more prominent search bar will give the National Trust another source of data to assess regional interest in the organisation.

national trust search

national trust search results

A fantastic jobs website

There's a new jobs website, too, on another domain, developed alongside employee comms agency ThirtyThree.

It's just as enjoyable. In the new world of talent shortage, changing company culture, transparent organisations and innovation labs, the National Trust jobs website is as good as any I've seen at setting the right tone.

national trust jobs

national trust jobs

Ben Davis

Published 23 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

981 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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H G, writer at home

it is a classic example of form over function. Loads of extra clicking to find any information, huge useless graphics, hard to read due to silly background colours and full of 'so what?' quotes.

as a member and a volunteer I am RAGING that my money has been wasted on this.

over 1 year ago

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H G, writer at home

further to previous comment; the new NT website plain doesn't work. The search doesn't remember the property you are on, the email links haven't been spell-checked so don't all work, the images flick back and forth, the images are wrongly sized and the designers have forgotten that not everyone uses an i-brick. Fisher-Price design.

over 1 year ago

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H G, writer at home

(previous comment as eaten by this website which also has function problems) - NT website pig slow, full of pointless images, text on dark backgrounds, excess colours - awful. Previous one did the job. As a member and volunteer I am RAGING at the cost of this.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@HG

Things like email links can be picked up in snagging. I respect your opinion on the colouring, it's definitely a subjective thing. I'd disagree though that it's hard to read - there are web guidelines for contrast that LBi will have taken into account

As for imagery, I think a lot of what National Trust is trying to do here is attract new 'users', and it won't do that with a website that 'does the job'. It needs to inspire.

My opinion counts for little though, better to read the words in this National Trust post. 'Contemporary' and 'powerful' feature highly. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/welcome-to-your-new-website

Much respect to you as a member and volunteer, HG.

over 1 year ago

Ian Hall

Ian Hall, Oxford University Press

The new site comes with this:
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-do-i-use-the-new-website
I would regard that as a confession of a lack of usability.

over 1 year ago

Carla Nadin

Carla Nadin, Director at Renew Interiors

It's beautiful and easy to use. Well done NT! :)

over 1 year ago

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Helen Lambell, director at writer

I loved the old site - it worked. This one is dreadful. You can't find the maps, it doesn't show you places nearby and it keeps darting all over the place when you just want it to serve a purpose. Grrrrrrrrrrr. I am NOT an old fart (though have been an NT member forever) but it is driving me bonkers...

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

I like the map feature to find a walk, but you're right, it probably deserves a quicker link. I used site search, which was fine, but it was the second result. (/walking)

over 1 year ago

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Hannah Leverett, Digital & Marketing Officer at Arts Council England

Anyone with comments - I'd highly recommend you send them to the NT.

As someone who works on web projects, I know it's common practice to actively take feedback once the site is live and act on it. Although they will have done user testing, on a site this complicated you can't possibly make everything perfect before opening it up to real people.

In all likelihood they'll be grateful to have constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement to implement over the next few months.

over 1 year ago

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Steph Potter, Digital Marketing Manager at The Prince's Trust

For anyone wondering, you can capture long pages in a screenshot with the Chrome add-on Awesome Screenshot. You're welcome!

over 1 year ago

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H G, writer at home

why would I bother to do that? I want to see opening times and what's on, not endless huge flickering images.

I agree that if a website needs a 'how to use', then it is a failure. And if it is so complicated that they can't test it fully, it is also a failure.

the landing page is vicious purple, then up come the pictures just as you think it has crashed. A 'loading' bar moves endlessly across, giving the impression the site is still waiting for something. Search for a property and pictures interspersed with huge blank spaces appear.

I cannot offer constructive criticism as the new site has no functionality advantages at all. The old one was clear, usable and showed all the pictures needed. The trust doesn't attract members through its website; people join because they like visiting the properties.

I am finding as a volunteer that the trust is just as prone to manager-babble as any other company. Fortunately as a volunteer I can ignore it all and just concentrate on the people that visit, who are almost without exception lovely.

thanks for your comments, reassuring that I am not alone. But a LOT of money has just been put in the wrong place while the buildings and estates need work.

over 1 year ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Pretty, but I'm definitely not a fan.

This site has one job: to show the list of NT properties near me, with social proof such as user comments so I know which are worth visiting. Based on this, it should look like a travel site, or maybe a house purchase site.
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g186338-Activities-London_England.html

Also the terms and conditions are a nightmare, for example "1.5. You agree to these terms and conditions every time You access any part of the Site or make use of any of the Content". No I [expletive deleted] do not!!!. The NT must know that conditions based on visiting a public website are not enforceable, so why annoy people by pretending they are?
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/terms-and-conditions-of-this-website

over 1 year ago

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Tom Barker, Head of Digital at National TrustEnterprise

Hello H G, and Helen - I'm Tom and I'm the head of the team at the National Trust team who created the new website. To give you some context, we needed to improve it as our old website as it had become practically unusable for more than half our users who now use either mobile or tablet devices to browse the web and as a charity we were losing out as a result.
This is only the start however, as we’ll be building on it every month. We've therefore been listening closely to the feedback generated across channels and will be prioritising work-streams based on that feedback. For example, maps for properties will now be ready in a couple of weeks time and we'll be improving other aspects of the site accordingly.
Hannah Leverett (earlier in this stream) is therefore correct when she says it's best to contact us directly so that we can be as reactive to user needs as possible - here are our contact details: newwebsite@nationaltrust.org.uk

over 1 year ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Sorry Ben, but there is polar opposites in thinking here.

Pete wrote:
> This site has one job: to show the list of NT properties near me, with social proof such as user comments so I know which are worth visiting.

Whereas your blog kicked off with:
> Here are some cool bits from its new responsive website...

We all are so easily tempted by 'cool' that we can't hold it against you Ben!

And actually they have not gone too over the top with the bling:, when looking under the bonnet, so far as page speed is concerned.

The image downloading order could be tweaked: and it's interesting that there's a .jp (Japanese) site in amongst the tags - are they really using a Japanese ad / tracking company?
- 'http://cs.gssprt.jp/yie/ld/cs?dspid=rocket&uid=1040401888133...';

I've known retailers use .ru tags (to the Russian equivalent of google) on every page of their UK consumer site; done wrong that can slow browsers down.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Yes, I was looking mostly at aesthetics.

I still think user testing might be surprising. A lot of useful content has been moved across, it's just how people will attempt to find it.

Using search is fairly successful as far as I can see e.g. I set myself the task of finding walks in the Peak District. I used the search bar at the top and entered 'peak district'.

The first result was a page for the area, which had a link to a list of walks within it.

I agree that this approach isn't really like a travel site, where things can be filtered, sorted etc. the way that users might have gotten used to, but time will tell whether it works.

I'll aim to catch up with someone from National Trust early next year to see how it is panning out.

over 1 year ago

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A A, NT Member at Member

They've removed the "search by Map" function. I like to see via a map what properties are in a particular area to plan my trips - this is no longer possible. Clearly this new website has been designed "by designers for designers" rather with actual users in mind.

about 1 year ago

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Alan Holden, QA Manager at AuditAll

Funky - yes. Functional - no.
This website is full of "froth" and makes finding really useful information frustratingly difficult for a prospective visitor.
Who thinks it is a good idea to force a user to click on individual dates for opening times? What is wrong with a table that shows a particular property is closed every Monday, for example?
Google maps is very good for many applications - but not finding obscure entrances to NT properties.
What about maps showing other NT properties in the area? The website does not address that when a simple region map would.
This site is one of the best examples of a website employing the latest technology to suit all hardware platforms yet completely missing the requirement to convey the basic information in the simplest way. This may, of course, be due to a poor brief from the client.............

about 1 year ago

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ALEXANDER GEORGIEVSKIY, NT member at NT

After reading this blog, I would not trust Econsultancy as web design experts, as they are praising an obviously (to me) dreadful web site, which is much worse than its previous version.
It's my personal opinion, and of course it is subjective.
However, look at other comments, and you will see that almost everybody disagrees with author's opinion...
As NT member, for a decade I provided NT the "constructive criticism" feedback about their web site that they completely ignored and wasted our money on this awful design.
I can't add anything to this critique as all my main complaints were already raised by other people in this thread months ago.
I saw comments from Tom Barker, Head of Digital at National Trust, that tell me that his team is on a completely wrong way as recent re-design of website has an impact directly opposite to their objectives.
How introduction of a lot of high-resolution pictures and increased complexity of navigation may help users of mobile phones or tablets? It deters rather than attracts such users...
Moreover, mobile users will prefer to use mobile applications instead of web site, and unfortunately I must admit that new versions of NT iOS application are getting worse, I recently left a review at Apple Store on this subject.
Finally, it's impossible to find on NT website any link allowing to provide the feedback on website itself, and I had to use this blog for such purpose....

about 1 year ago

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Robert Kolb, MD at Ice Man

Here's a survey for the horrible new website: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NationalTrustWeb

10 months ago

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