You can guess by the name - it all started in a real community. River Cottage is an actual place on earth where not so long ago a team of enthusiasts started growing their own food.
The challenge for our team was to build their online home. We were commissioned by KEO digital to create the new River Cottage website http://www.rivercottage.net/ – a place on the web were the users could share experience and help each other in the "grow your own food" adventure.
This project was a chance for our team to participate in a mission even more important - embarking a movement for sustainable life style.
So the tasks were set
We had to create the cozy online home for a farm community, fully functioning and staying in touch with the real life. The original idea of our friends from Keo digital was that the users were supposed to communicate with each other, to exchange experience and goods and to participate in all the events, organized by the River Cottage team. The market as a crucial feature of each society – a virtual and a real one – took a central place in our building plans.
The building team in action!
River Cottage project’s strongest challenge was to gather together in a functional website all the existing solutions and make them work in a way that a digital community was supposed to run.
Building a community with all the range of complexity of interactions and relationships needed a precise maintenance and a community platform, which MTR Design created especially for the site. It proved to be a successful implementation since as we speak it supports more than 100,000 users of the site. The platform allows all River Cottage users to maintain personal blogs, to communicate with each other using the site forums, to ask questions in the Q&A section of the website and so on.
They are given all the advantages of the online communication as they can share experience using inMail messaging system and exchange something more than recipes. The community idea is even more strongly presented in the members’ directory, bringing users even closer together. Using Google maps feature an interactive map was created giving a chance for the users to keep in touch with their fellow river cottagers in their local area.
River Cottage is not a charity organization, but a business project, so a central role in its everyday life is promoting all sort of activities – courses, books and events. All the users are duly informed for these receiving an e-mail, so our team provided a tool for maintaining a newsletter with near 300,000 subscribers, as well as implemented Campaign Monitor as an e-mail device for all the River Cottage campaigns.
One of the most important components of the site and respectively - a challenge for the team, was creating the online shop. Now it is a market place where more than 400,000 users purchase goods – books, course enrollments, gift vouchers. The shop is well-supplied with the necessary features - membership subscriptions, promotion codes, virtual wallets, recurring payments, etc., thus propelling our client’s business straight ahead.
What else have we done?
- Setup of the hosting platform using the Amazon AWS cloud hosting service
- Intelligent automated tagging for all user-generated content (using the tagging engine developed by Neural Brothers)
- Bespoke RESTful API which powers the River Cottage Every Day iPhone app
- All social media support including – Facebook, Twitter and re-tweeting, and all other common social bookmarking tools
- Integration of the online shop with the Sage accounting software used in the River Cottage headquarters
- Integration of a video hosting platform Vzaar for a vide streaming of costumers’ videos on the site
Today River Cottage website http://www.rivercottage.net/ is the place on internet where a strong and ever growing community devoted to sustainable life style is thriving. The different events, courses and communications supported by the web site are making this community a breathing one. The site helps the River Cottage project gain even more popularity and turns it into into a successful business.
Numbers are our testimonials
- 100,000 registered users and still counting
- 300,000 newsletter subscribers
- 400,000 visitors purchasing books, courses and gift vouchers in the online shop
* The River Cottage website is owned by HWF Interactive Ltd and is managed jointly by River Cottage and KEO digital teams.
How did we handle it?
- Development of the HTML/CSS layouts for the website
- E-commerce shopping cart platform (integrated with Sage accounting)
- Server setup and administration
- Video streaming integration (using the Vzaar API)
- Third party API integrations (Facebook, Twitter)
- Custom content management system
- Payment system integration (WorldPay)
- Development of an API for the River Cottage EveryDay iPhone app
- Newsletter module integrated with the Mailchimp email marketing platform