A transformative website that helps the charity save lives.



The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) are the much-loved charity that save lives at sea. They are committed to reducing drowning by 50% by 2024 through the implementation of drowning prevention strategies that educate those people at risk from drowning. To support this, the organisation are undertaking a full digital transformation programme, with the redevelopment and re-platforming of their main website being the first stage of this transformation in the digital space. This crucial first step needed to ensure that the RNLI.org is central to all digital activity moving forward. With a solution that provides improved user experiences for both new and existing supporters, as well as providing the tools that will help create significant internal efficiencies.

The charity landscape has and will continue to diversify as donors seek new ways to support causes, and so the digital transformation programme aims to ensure that the charity can respond accordingly to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive sector.



We completed full requirements gathering at the start of the project. This included:

  • Internal stakeholder workshops
  • In-depth interviews with senior stakeholders at HQ, lifeboat crew and other volunteers
  • An assessment of the current site and challenges faced with this
  • Persona and user journey mapping
  • User testing

This fed into the site structure, wireframes and creative concept development, all of which were tested and refined ahead of completion. Testing has been central across the full development of the website.


We adopted an agile approach to site development. Functionality was broken into 2-week sprints, with a release at the end of every 4 weeks. Each release passed through a rigid internal testing process ahead of delivery.

Key functionality and development challenges:

  • Re-platforming the website onto Sitecore CMS, an extremely flexible, enterprise level CMS. The CMS needed to be easy to use while providing flexibility for content owners. The old site was very template driven and restrictive, which has caused internal frustrations
  • A crucial part of the website redevelopment was improving the online donation process. Reducing the number of steps to donate, simplifying and reducing the number of form types, and ensuring the experiences are optimised across whichever digital channel is being used
  • Integration with multiple feeds such as latest lifeboat launches, weather feed and tidal information
  • The news centre is central to the RNLI.org. It is a significant area of the site and is one that is managed outside of the internal marketing teams. The RNLI have hundreds of Lifeboat Press Officers (LPO), volunteers who report on stories from their local lifeboat stations. These stories go into the website and from here are picked up by other press agencies. It was essential that the LPO content management process was the same as on the old site as re-training would have required significant investment and time. And with 20+ stories a day being published there was a large content migration process.
  • Automated deployments of the Sitecore CMS site to multiple environments including Microsoft Azure.
  • Running Sitecore in a CM / CD configuration within the Azure production environment.

Phase one launch is just the start of a significant digital roadmap that in the future will look at Sitecore content profiling, contextual personalization, engagement and campaign planning. Microsite consolidation and integration into a single Sitecore instance is also a central part of the plan.



The site launched in November 2016 with incredibly positive feedback from volunteers and supporters.

A user journey survey carried out after the website launched confirmed that the new website is informative (70%) and portrays the RNLI well (63%). In the same survey, it was agreed that the navigation was straightforward (59%).* "It makes you want to find out more and get involved, and portrays the charity as a pro-active and exciting one"

*from a sample of 956 respondents

“Whilst we have a brand new look and feel for the site that enables the RNLI to better communicate safety and prevention messages to a growing digital world, we have also implemented a back-end content management system (CMS) called Sitecore. This is an innovative and scalable solution that transforms the RNLI customer experience and operational efficiencies which will result in more lives saved at sea. The new site is a great step forward and a key piece of our digital transformation strategy now in place.”

Mel Vasseur Digital Transformation Manager, RNLI