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The Trustees of Reservations

Modernizing a digital ecosystem to help protect the real one

The Challenge

Modernizing a conservation organization’s website and technology to drive in-person engagement and grow membership and other revenue sources.

The Insight

A user-friendly, personalized web experience will lead to sustained growth and involvement.

The Solution

An immersive and beautiful digital experience that brings The Trustees’ properties and cultural institutions to life and streamlines the supporter journey.

For the last century, The Trustees of Reservations has worked to preserve more than 100 properties across 25,000 acres of land in Massachusetts — so that folks can enjoy the land for generations to come.

The Trustees nurture incredible properties and cultural institutions, but many are relatively unknown to the greater community. The Trustees needed a digital presence that would help people find these hidden jewels and, in turn, help The Trustees cultivate and grow their membership. 

Lay the groundwork  

The vastness of The Trustees’ offerings spans everything from CSAs, to membership purchases, to volunteering, to ticketing. The Trustees was struggling to manage the wide variety of digital experiences across these offerings and their 100+ properties. They were offering their audiences a clunky front-end user experience. If The Trustees were not able to retain audiences, it would have severe implications for how The Trustees could drive its key metrics — visitation, membership, and revenue. 

An analysis of their revenue over the past three years showed that the digital experiences they provided to people would be critical to their initial and continued engagement and consequent growth.

That is where our strategy work came in. We created a digital roadmap that demonstrated the business need for investing in and delivering a more personalized, connected digital experience to visitors and members based on their location, preferences, and relationship with The Trustees (e.g., first-time visitor, member, donor, etc.), with the ultimate end goal of driving visitation, membership, and revenue.

We found that a major pain point was the inability of back-end systems to coordinate with each other in order to create a more seamless front-end experience. And, because the website was so inaccessible, it may have been actively preventing people from exploring the full breadth of The Trustees’ offerings. 

Modernizing The Trustees’ website would be a challenge, but with a solid infrastructure and refreshed visual identity, we worked together to transform this platform into a cohesive, attractive, and engaging resource.

GIF of The Trustees' landing pages: before and after our partnership.
Before and after map GIF

Putting Massachusetts’ unique places front and center

The Trustees of Reservations is intrinsically connected to the land and cultural institutions of Massachusetts and their site needed to show that above all else.

With a massive visual library, we highlighted The Trustees’ collection of properties and integrated details that spoke to the organization’s connection to these unique places. By incorporating natural ridge lines, wandering arrows, and custom silhouettes of their properties, we were able to capture the essence of their mission. Throughout the site, the horizon line design recalls the importance of place to both constituents and to the organization.

Pops of color, iconography, and use of large-scale photography were used throughout the site to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for visitors.

Collection of iconography used on The Trustees' site.
A collection of three homepage mockups from The Trustees' site.

Aid online discovery to foster real life discovery 

The visual design was just one piece of this digital transformation. With over 100 properties and countless events and programs to engage communities across Massachusetts, The Trustees needed to be able to clearly show website visitors what they stood for and how supporters could get involved. 

Following user research, we found that while many supporters were familiar with a few properties, the vastness of The Trustees’ offerings were under appreciated. The site’s reliance on overwhelming and unengaging lists and links didn’t foster a positive sense of exploration.

These findings informed the way we designed modes of discovery on the site from introducing an interactive map of all The Trustees’ locations, to other on-page navigation and filtering to help organize content, as well as finding ways to highlight curated experiences throughout the site to introduce potentially new properties or activities visitors may not have known about.

Passing the torch 

With the public-facing website complete, The Trustees will continue to integrate with more modern and comprehensive back-end systems to bring a more robust and personalized experience to their visitors and members. Helping this organization bring their brand to life using available assets, photography, and a more modern website back-end will allow for flexibility and growth in the years to come.

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