Marine Conservation Society

Joining the battle to protect our oceans

Maya Gibbs
Maya Gibbs

Product Director 16 Jul 2021 4 min read

It’s never been more important that we take action to protect our seas and the Marine Conservation Society is leading the fight. So, naturally, we jumped at the chance to help them make better use of digital to maximise their impact, punch above their weight, and achieve their ambitious environmental goals.

Digital transformation, you say? 

On paper, Marine Conservation Society is a small charity (by income), but there’s nothing small about its ambitions. Armed with external grant funding, in under two years they set out to radically transform and modernise their digital presence and infrastructure. And they’ve sought to achieve most of this during a pandemic.

We’ve embraced our role as their digital transformation and product development partner. We’ve designed, we’ve coached, we’ve developed, we’ve project managed - it’s been an exciting journey! 

First up, a shiny new storytelling platform 

Our first challenge was to bring the new brand to life on a modern, future-proof CMS. Following a series of demos highlighting the editor experience, the charity had all they needed to decide to move away from their creaking Drupal 7 platform and go all-in on Wagtail

MCS home page

Marine Conservation Society needed to increase their reach to influencers, businesses and the public. We honed in on a vision to create an immersive, storytelling platform with a strong emphasis on people-powered action to fight the ocean emergency.

We streamlined the information architecture to focus in on the two primary needs of users: understanding the problem (Ocean emergency) and how they can get involved or help (What you can do).

MCS IA
The streamlined new IA

I love the look of the new website. It is well laid out and looks really sharp. Well done! That’s a lot of work to get it looking so good.

Zoe Lyons, Comedian and TV presenter

We made use of Wagtail’s StreamFields to create visually engaging story pages showcasing the charity's amazing photography and helping to bring their work to life. And we built a Wagtail-powered donations platform to enable the team to spin up new donation campaigns in minutes, and to process one-off and recurring donations and membership fees. 

An example of a longform page type powered by Wagtail's StreamField feature.

Bringing citizen science to life! 

A key goal for the project was to provide a new home for the charity's army of volunteer citizen scientists, to easily record observations, activities and findings and manage their volunteering commitments.

Priority was given to the charity's flagship volunteering opportunity: beach cleans. We ran story mapping workshops to understand the full end-to-end journey for the beach clean process: organising beach cleans; signing up to attend them; the management of the events themselves; and the important data collection opportunity they represent (as well as the administrative workflows surrounding each of these processes). It’s a subtly complex beast!

MCS beach clean mobiles
Organising beach cleans

We focussed on designing an underlying data model to capture structured data - something that was lacking in the existing system. This will improve the consistency and quality of data being collected and ultimately reported on. As part of this we also mapped the existing data to the new structure and migrated it over to allow for continuous reporting of litter trends - a ‘mere’ 27 years worth of data.

Developing new event management functionality within the main website has allowed the charity to deprecate the separate platform they were using to manage beach clean events, giving volunteers a smoother experience on one website, as well as one fewer legacy platform for administrators to manage.

The Good Fish Guide 

The Good Fish Guide is Marine Conservation Society's flagship product: a digital handbook to buying sustainable seafood. 

GFG Illustration examples
Good Fish Guide illustrations

We started with Design Sprints to prototype and test a new system that worked for both key audiences: consumers buying seafood (me or you buying some fish in a supermarket) and businesses who source seafood (e.g. a restaurant sourcing seafood for its menu). 

Good Fish Guide Design Sprint Miro Board
Good Fish Guide Design Sprint Miro boad

A key focus was the Fisheries and Aquaculture team who administer the Good Fish Guide. Underpinning the simple and intuitive interface of the Guide is a complex data set with numerous parameters and calculations working out the sustainability of that type of seafood. The process for managing this data was laborious, manual and prone to errors.

We worked hard to create efficiency within the team managing this data and to ensure their data set is more accurate.

Good Fish Guide Database modelling
The Good Fish Guide database model
The Good Fish Guide
The revamped Good Fish Guide


The revamped Good Fish Guide.

The gnarly CRM integration

No digital transformation programme is complete without a major CRM integration project! 

When we started working together, Marine Conservation Society was in the process of rolling out their new ThankQ organisational CRM to interface with all back-office functions: fundraising, communications, marketing, education, parliamentary advocacy, finance, and sales. The goal - to ensure their systems are efficient, standards-compliant, and provide the best possible foundation for future growth.

We integrated mcsuk.org with the CRM to allow members, donors, campaigners and volunteers to sign-up, donate and stay engaged with the charity. This will provide a central source of truth, aligning all their supporter’s engagements with the organisation in one place.

We’ve loved working with the Torchbox team and are really pleased with the results. The new site is easy for the team to use and really helps us bring our work to life – inspiring more people to take action and help save our seas.

Tamsin Betti, Director of Engagement and Communications, Marine Conservation Society

Outcomes and results 

In the first few months since launch, we've already seen impressive results in site performance, administrative efficiency and conversions.

  • Average site speed has increased across all devices from 3/10 (very poor) to 9/10 (exceptional)
  • Visits have increased by 105%
  • Bounce rate has reduced by 20%
  • 1,200+ beach cleaners have logged onto their personal volunteering dashboard
  • The process for setting up and joining beach cleans has been streamlined and improved
  • Donate/members pages are the 3rd  and 4th most visited pages on the website
  • Membership has increased by 32%
  • Average monthly gift has increased by 46%
  • The Good Fish Guide receives 4000 visits a day
Maya Gibbs
Maya Gibbs

Product Director 16 Jul 2021 4 min read

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